Grace, Too references


Picture Gord paddling the stage in his imaginary canoe. He did that a lot, especially during this song. Here's why:

Hip Head Greg Campagna: "I thought I would share a story with you... a couple years ago our radio station had a contest where you could win Gord Downie in your living room and one of our jocks broadcasted his show live from the kitchen with Gord in this guys house. It was really a treat. Playing road hockey with Gord is something I'll never forget. "Grace, Too" came up and Gordie said that a teacher of his when he was a kid had a canoe that was named "Grace, Too." Every summer they would see him often with his canoe and they would ask him what "Grace, Too" meant. Every time he would tell them a different story about it."

Awesome, eh?

Beyond the title, the popular interpretation of "Grace, Too" is that of a simple solicitation; a lady of the night and her off-putting and over-eager John. While this explanation is just as plausible as my own, and proves the theory that every Hip song can mean something different to every Hip fan, I tend to accept a more nuanced reading of "Grace, Too" which the below evidence seems to fit.

Before applying for his rock-star license and embarking on a rock and roll career, Gord Downie studied film at Queens University. In fact, the title "Day For Night" is taken from a Francois Truffaut film of the same name. As you can read in other entries, "Day For Night" and other albums make reference to terms used in French (and now Hollywood) film making such as "cinema-a-clef," "tableaux vivant" and the eccentric 1926 French film-noir classic "metropolis." Having wasted many an hour in pretentious film studies classes myself, it was in one of those dark classrooms where I first noticed the links between "Grace" and the quintessential "noir" film.

The lyrics from "Grace, Too" may have been inspired by the plot from one of the pioneering and most celebrated films of the "noir" genre: 1944's Double Indemnity. "Film-Noir," or "black film," itself refers to the French style of film making that heavily influenced Hollywood after World War II. Having been made on the cheap in post-war France, (Causing the films to be literally dark and cast in shadows) the genre specialized in gritty, pessimistic, often crime centered stories. Picture the exact opposite of "The Sound Of Music" and "The Wizard of Oz." Double Indemnity announced that credible and lasting "film-noir" had arrived in Hollywood. Every familiar film-noir parody where a sophisticated man in a double breasted suit and fedora exchanges quick, often mildly suggestive language with a chain smoking, quick-witted, femme fatale; can be traced to this film.

"...He said I'm fabulously rich
C'mon just lets go
She kinda bit her lip
Geez, I don't know"

"Double Indemnity" features a man, at first reluctant, but later emphatic, who is drawn into a plot to kill the husband of his new femme-fatale acquaintance. She on the other hand is at first the mastermind of a scheme intended to make both of them rich, and then literally "lip-biting" reticent as the film rolls along.  

"...There'll be no knock at the door
I'm total pro, that's what I'm here for
I come from downtown
Born ready for you
Armed with will and determination
And grace, too"

As the story progresses, the two conspirators discuss her idea of hiring of a professional. Perhaps feeling as if his male ego and capabilities are being questioned, our main-man declares that he can do the job like a pro. He's sophisticated, he's rough and ready;  he is from the city after all. Sneaking into a house undetected and killing a man is just another day at the office for this tough guy. Besides, he'd be willing to do anything for her.

"...The secret rules of engagement
Are hard to endorse
When the appearance of conflict
Meets the appearance of force"

Downie told the authors of Have Not Been The Same: The Can-Rock Revolution  that the above lyric was a critique of the language of the United Nations and the complicated processes that are used to ineffectively delay or to justify after-the-fact, the inane and unending process of people killing people.

The appearance of conflict and force also meshes with the Double Indemnity line of thinking. The characters in the film discuss how the murder can be made to look like an accident while following the intricate plot they've set out. They agree to stick to the plan, obeying their personal rules for the before, during, and after phases of the killing.

"...Armed with skill and its frustration
And grace, too"

Frustration and a double-cross eventually undo the plotting of our film villains. But not before we see an eloquent and exaggerated death scene, complete with Hollywood monologue, as well as a woman who despite having criminal intent, can't bare to have her reputation soiled or sullied in any way. As with most starlets of the era, and in keeping with the iconography of "pure womanhood" evident even in films like these, a woman can be a crook, a liar, a cheat and a scoundrel... but with her perfect make-up, her coiffed hair and her ("...I'm ready for my close-up...") specialized soft lighting, she'll always have grace, too.

EXTRA: In the Day For Night's lyric booklet, certain words are highlighted in bold throughout. Here's what they say when put together:

Metropolis noir, take a look at this photograph, book, make me feel. Insanity, move through night, bemused, winter in the dark. I'm helpless with space. We're no longer relevant, emergency. If there's glory in miracles, it's that they're reversible.

This is amazing:

Choir! Choir! Choir! and the people of Toronto sing 'Grace, Too.'