Ahead by a Century

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"Ahead by a Century"
Single by the Tragically Hip
from the album Trouble at the Henhouse
ReleasedApril 22, 1996 (1996-04-22)
  • 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, and is the band's most successful single in their native Canada. It was one of the 10 most-played songs in Canada in 1996.[1] The song was nominated for "Best Single" at the 1997 Juno Awards.[2] The song was certified platinum in Canada in 2016.

"Ahead by a Century" was the final song performed by the band at their final concert on August 20, 2016.[3] CBC Television used the song for their highlight montage to close their coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics.[4] It subsequently was also used for the opening titles of the CBC/Netflix series Anne with an E.[5]

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.[6]


The song is one of several Tragically Hip singles which were developed from improvised bridge jams during live performances of one of the band's signature songs "New Orleans Is Sinking".[7]

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.[8] 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".[8] 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.[8]

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.[9][10] The video was also nominated for "Best Video" at the 1997 Juno Awards.[11]


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.[12] In the same year, the Toronto-based Choir! Choir! Choir! dedicated a performance of the song to Downie following the diagnosis.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

At her concert at Toronto's Massey Hall during her Native Invader tour, on October 30, 2017, two weeks after Downie's death, Tori Amos performed the song.[16] 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.[16]

In 2022, set to a children's choir rendition, it was used by Canadian Tire for its 100th anniversary television commercial.[17]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[26] Platinum 80,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "If Hip can win twice, Socan Shania". Archived from the original on September 20, 2004. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  2. ^ "1997 Juno Awards". MetroLeap Media. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ Noronha, Charmaine. "Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip holds final show". The Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 21, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  4. ^ CBC Rio 2016 Olympics Closing Montage – YouTube
  5. ^ CBC Music, The Tragically Hip provide theme song to new Anne series, March 16, 2017.
  6. ^ "Tragically Hip album sales, audio streams soar after Gord Downie's death". CTV News, October 23, 2017.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Best Video Winners 1991–2003". MuchMusic. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Howell, Peter (September 20, 1996). "Morissette wins 4 more trophies at video awards" (Pay-per-view). Toronto Star. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  11. ^ "1997 Best Video". junoawards.ca. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  12. ^ "Hey Rosetta!'s Tribute To The Tragically Hip Makes Fans Emotional". Huffington Post, July 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Choir! Choir! Choir! sings “Ahead by a Century” in a touching tribute to Gord Downie". chartattack.com, May 27, 2016.
  14. ^ "All your favourite bands covered the Tragically Hip for Strombo’s Hip 30 tribute show". Chart Attack, January 2, 2017.
  15. ^ "The Jerry Cans Share Inuttitut Cover of the Tragically Hip's "Ahead by a Century". Exclaim!, June 29, 2017.
  16. ^ a b Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, "Tori Amos covered the Tragically Hip at Massey Hall". Now, October 31, 2017.
  17. ^ Chris Powell, "Canadian Tire’s ‘hip’ centenary celebration". The Message, March 23, 2022.
  18. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3027." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 13, 2023.
  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 August 30, 2016.
  22. ^ "RPM Year End Top 100 Hit Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  23. ^ "RPM Year End Top 100 Adult Contemporary Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  24. ^ "RPM Year End Alternative Top 50". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  25. ^ Lwin, Nanda. "Top 100 singles of the 1990s". Jam!. Archived from the original on August 29, 2000. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  26. ^ "Canadian single certifications – The Tragically Hip – Ahead By A Century". Music Canada.

External links[edit]