Happy Newt Year: a social-studies teacher really likes my book on Gord Downie

By Steve Newton

Happy Newt Year everybody!

January 1 is often a day of reflection, going over the previous year’s highlights, so let’s get reflectin’.

As a rock writer, 2018 had some memorable moments. I pulled off my eighth interview with guitar hero Joe Satriani, for one thing. I had my first chat with Gerry McAvoy, the longtime bassist for one of the most under-rated and astounding pickers of all time, Rory Gallagher. I also got to see one of my favourite all-time bands, the Drive-By Truckers, in the cozy confines of Vancouver’s Imperial Theatre.

And a few months ago I got the hard-rock world all a-twitter by breaking the news that a reunited AC/DC had been spotted in town.

But the big deal for me was getting my first book published.

It was a photo-packed “beer-table” book titled Gord Downie, about the frontman of the Tragically Hip, who I’d interviewed five times during the band’s 1989-1996 heyday. It was a labour of love, but not everybody loved it.

I got quite a bit of flack from hardcore Hip fans who felt I was exploiting the death of Downie, who passed away from brain cancer just a few months before the book’s release in February. But I really wanted to say some things about the Canadian rock legend, and the band in general, whose music I’d adored for years. Just because somebody dies doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about them, or that you have to wait until it’s “okay” to do so. Especially when the tone of your writing is 100% positive, as per the editor’s wishes.

So even though there was nothing negative about Downie in the book, and it was a full-on tribute to him, some folks didn’t like the fact that it existed. That was a bit of a downer at times, for a first-time author, but it was also balanced out by the occasional rave review, like the one I got today:

Hello Steve Newton,

I received for Christmas 2018 from my daughters a copy of your recently published book on Gord Downie. It meant a great deal to me. I just finished reading it this morning. Thank you for this opus work as it represents fascinating research, a tremendous collection of photo journalism, beautiful layout, and your excellent commentary and story telling.

As a Social Studies teacher, I share with the students this great cultural Canadian rock&roll story, and also explore the Secret Path story to address Canadian Indigenous history and issues. I share your passion for guitar-based rock and have been playing keyboards, guitars, and doing music since childhood. I hope we could meet some day.

Cheers, Rod

Newt note: There was no payment of any kind made to Rod in exchange for the above comment. I’ve never even met the guy!


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