While most Canadians recently spent a few minutes reflecting on the first anniversary of The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie’s death, only a select few worked with the group as producer One of those people was Steve Berlin, the multi-instrumentalist for American rock group Los Lobos who produced the band’s 1998 album Phantom Power and the group’s followup Music @ Work in 2000.
“I love those guys,” Berlin said regarding the group in a recent interview with this reporter. “Gord was…I was very, very lucky to call him my friend. He was a unique individual and those records were very, very important to me. The fact they turned to me and they really had no reason to. The point was if they hired me to make those records I’m not sure who they thought they were hiring or who they thought I was. I was very lucky to work with them and I think about them all the time.”
Berlin said he was unaware of the group’s feature-length documentary Long Time Running celebrating the band’s highly emotional 2016 national arena tour. However, he definitely made a point of seeing the group during that final trek.
“I was very lucky I got to see it and hang out with them a little bit,” Berlin recalled. “I went to Calgary for that show and I cried my eyes out the whole show.”
Perhaps the strangest aspect for Berlin was seeing Mother Nature play a hand in him seeing the Aug. 20, 2016 show, the night the Hip played its nationally televised final gig in Kingston at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.
“The last show they did in Kingston we were playing in somewhere in Southern Indiana (note: Madison’s Ribberfest in Madison, Indiana to be exact),” Berlin said. “We were doing a festival and I really wanted to see the show and experience it but we were literally on stage the exact same time as the Hip.
“And it was so weird. Literally, there was a clear blue sky and we were just about to go on and out of nowhere this thundercloud shows up and opens up. And it’s like Biblical rain. So the show was cancelled and I got to see the final show. It was really weird. I found the stream. It was a tough day but again I was so honoured to be a part of that story that I can’t even express it.”