Jennifer, Clemens Mill | December 1, 2017
This past year, our country has had to mourn three great men. These men stood out from the rest in many ways, but perhaps mostly for their love of words.
For many years we were able to listen to Stuart McLean’s radio show on CBC called The Vinyl Café. On Sunday mornings with mugs of tea in hand, we could listen to all of the great music he had chosen to play that week. Interspersed with the songs were his wonderful stories—about Dave and Morley, and their kids Stephanie and Sam; about people he encountered on his trips throughout Canada, and also funny or poignant life moments that were shared with him by his listeners. Every week he would shine a light on little towns across Canada, and celebrate the people that lived there and their traditions, in a way that made us feel as if we’d been there and met them ourselves. How I long to turn on the radio and hear him say, “It’s time now for the Vinyl Café Story Exchange.” If you feel this way too, you can still hear Stuart on his podcasts, or read his books and soak up his optimism, his humour, and his kindness.
Leonard Cohen was a singer, songwriter, musician, novelist and painter, but perhaps most of all, he was a poet. His songs gave voice to his poems, and brought them to life. You might remember hearing his deep, resonating voice sing songs like Suzanne, Closing Time, and Hallelujah. He is in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, has received numerous awards and honorary degrees from both Dalhousie and McGill Universities and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Check out our collection of Leonard Cohen’s work.
Most recently, our country lost Gord Downie, the charismatic frontman for the beloved Canadian rock band, The Tragically Hip. Gord was known for writing songs about people and places in Canadian history—Wheat Kings, At the Hundredth Meridian; Bobcaygeon; Fifty Mission Cap. He turned our history into lyrics and sang us our identity. On the CBC’s Q radio show, Torquil Campbell aptly described Downie as “the gold standard of how to be an artist and how to be a person.” He made Canada stronger by making us care about our past, and our future. Most recently, Gord drew our attention to the residential schools that were funded by the Canadian government in a misguided attempt to assimilate First Nations children into society. He wrote a book and album called Secret Path which is the story of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who died while trying to walk home from a residential school, which was 600 km away.
These three men showed us the fabric that makes up our country, one stitch at a time. Even though they are no longer here, we are a better people for having known them. They pass the torch to us now, to find the beauty, to hear the stories, to tell the truth.
Rest in Peace.
There were many other great Canadians that were lost this year, including writers, athletes, politicians and actors, among others. To learn more, have a look at this slideshow created by legacy.com.