Ahead by a Century

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Ahead by a Century"
The Tragically Hip Ahead By A Century.jpg
Single by The Tragically Hip
from the album Trouble at the Henhouse
ReleasedApril 22, 1996 (1996-04-22)
GenreAlternative rock, Folk rock
Producer(s)Mark Vreeken, The Tragically Hip
The Tragically Hip singles chronology
"Ahead by a Century"
"Gift Shop"

"Ahead by a Century" is a song by Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. It was released as the lead single from the band's fifth studio album, Trouble at the Henhouse. The song reached number one on Canada's singles chart,[1] and is the band's most successful single in their native Canada. It was one of the ten most played songs in Canada in 1996.[2] The song was nominated for "Best Single" at the 1997 Juno Awards.[3] The song was certified platinum in Canada in 2016.[4]

"Ahead by a Century" was the final song performed by the band at their final concert on August 20, 2016.[5] CBC Television used the song for their highlight montage to close their coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics.[6] It subsequently was also used for the opening titles of the CBC/Netflix series Anne with an E.[7]

On October 18, 2017, the day Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie's death was announced, "Ahead by a Century" was the single most played song on Canadian radio.[8]


The song is one of several Tragically Hip singles which were developed from improvised bridge jams during live performances of the band's signature song "New Orleans Is Sinking".[9]

The song begins with an image of youthful romance, with a young boy and girl climbing a tree to talk and ponder all the possibilities that life holds for them.[10] The original lyrics, which were performed at least once live before Downie rewrote them to their more familiar form, were more overtly sexual, with the boy and girl climbing the tree solely to touch each other's "cunt" and "cock".[10] Downie subsequently explained that the intended theme was one of innocence — "It's two little kids, and they don't know what a cunt is and they don't know what a cock is—they just heard them called that" — but said that after he was convinced by the band's guitar technician that the audience would not hear that theme through the shock of the explicit terminology, he went through an intense but rewarding week-long process of rewriting the verse to communicate the idea in a more accessible way.[10]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video was directed by Eric Yealland and filmed on a small farm in Brooklin, Ontario. The music video won the award for Best Video at the 1996 MuchMusic Video Awards.[11][12] The video was also nominated for "Best Video" at the 1997 Juno Awards.[13]


In 2016, Hey Rosetta! performed the song during their set at the CBC Music Festival, altering some lyrics to reflect Downie's recent announcement of his diagnosis with terminal glioblastoma.[14] In the same year, the Toronto-based Choir! Choir! Choir! dedicated a performance of the song to Downie following the diagnosis.[15]

On the January 1, 2017 edition of CBC Radio 2's The Strombo Show, a tribute special organized to celebrate the Tragically Hip's 30th anniversary, the song was performed by both By Divine Right as a standalone song, and Barenaked Ladies as a medley with the song "Chancellor" from Downie's solo album Coke Machine Glow.[16] Following Downie's death, Barenaked Ladies added "Chancellor/Ahead by a Century" to the setlists for several shows on their concurrent concert tour.

In 2017, an Inuttitut-language version of the song, incorporating traditional Inuit throat singing, was released by the Nunavut-based folk music band The Jerry Cans.[17]

At her concert at Toronto's Massey Hall on October 30, 2017, two weeks after Downie's death, Tori Amos performed the song.[18] She indicated in her introduction that she had not previously known the song at all, but learned it for her Massey Hall performance as a special gift to her Canadian fans.[18]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[25] Platinum 80,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b "Top Singles – Volume 63, No. 21, July 08 1996". RPM. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  2. ^ "If Hip can win twice, Socan Shania". Archived from the original on September 20, 2004. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  3. ^ "1997 Juno Awards". MetroLeap Media. Archived from the original on 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2009-12-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ "Gold/Platinum". Music Canada. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  5. ^ Noronha, Charmaine. "Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip holds final show". The Associated Press. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  6. ^ CBC Rio 2016 Olympics Closing Montage – YouTube
  7. ^ CBC Music, The Tragically Hip provide theme song to new Anne series, 16 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Tragically Hip album sales, audio streams soar after Gord Downie's death". CTV News, October 23, 2017.
  9. ^ Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider, Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-992-9.
  10. ^ a b c "In anticipation of the Hip playing "Ahead By a Century" in Vancouver tonight, here's Gord Downie talkin' about it". The Georgia Straight, July 24, 2016.
  11. ^ "Best Video Winners 1991–2003". MuchMusic. Archived from the original on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  12. ^ Howell, Peter (1996-09-20). "Morissette wins 4 more trophies at video awards" (Pay-per-view). Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  13. ^ "1997 Best Video". junoawards.ca. Archived from the original on 2014-05-31. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  14. ^ "Hey Rosetta!'s Tribute To The Tragically Hip Makes Fans Emotional". Huffington Post, July 23, 2016.
  15. ^ "Choir! Choir! Choir! sings “Ahead by a Century” in a touching tribute to Gord Downie". chartattack.com, May 27, 2016.
  16. ^ "All your favourite bands covered the Tragically Hip for Strombo’s Hip 30 tribute show". Chart Attack, January 2, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Jerry Cans Share Inuttitut Cover of the Tragically Hip's "Ahead by a Century". Exclaim!, June 29, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, "Tori Amos covered the Tragically Hip at Massey Hall". Now, October 31, 2017.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 3028." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  20. ^ "Top RPM Rock/Alternative Tracks: Issue 2974." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  21. ^ "The Tragically Hip Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  22. ^ "RPM Year End Top 100 Hit Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  23. ^ "RPM Year End Top 100 Adult Contemporary Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  24. ^ "RPM Year End Alternative Top 50". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  25. ^ "Canadian single certifications – The Tragically Hip – Ahead By A Century". Music Canada.

External links[edit]