Canadian rock star and The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away Tuesday evening aged 53, his family confirmed in a Wednesday statement.
“Last night Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by,” the statement read. “Gord said he had lived many lives. As a musician, he lived “the life” for over 30 years, lucky to do most of it with his high school buddies. At home, he worked just as tirelessly at being a good father, son, brother, husband, and friend. No one worked harder on every part of their life than Gord. No one.”
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was finding it difficult to hold back his emotions following the sad announcement.
“Gord was my friend,” he said. “But Gord was everyone’s friend … our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had. And not just loved it in a nebulous ‘Oh, I love Canada’ way, he loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.”
— Drew Cashmore (@drewcashmore) October 19, 2017
Another Trudeau tribute to the legendary singer and songwriter.
There will never be another one like you, Gord. Rest in peace my friend.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 18, 2017
Downie had been suffering from glioblastoma, an incurable form of brain cancer, diagnosed in December 2015. He made it public in May the following year, just before the release of his group’s latest album, Man Machine Poem.
Downie’s tour with The Tragically Hip that summer – his last – culminated in a Kingston concert, broadcast across the length and breadth of Canada.
Before the illness got the better of him, Downie devoted his final months campaigning for a better and healthier Canada and, indeed, the world. “No one worked harder on every part of their life than Gord. No one,” as the family statement said.
The legendary musician was instrumental in launching the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, which works toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through cross-cultural education, and the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research which has till date raised $1.7 million.
In September of 2016, Downie made a trip to Ogoki Post to meet with the family of Chanie Wenjack, the 12-year-old who froze to death after running away from a residential school and request their permission to use the story on his album Secret Path.
Sheila North Wilson, a grand chief representing Northern Manitoba First Nations, who had joined the singer on the trip said:
“He portrayed the true picture of what reconciliation is by standing up for Indigenous people and standing with them, showing love and compassion.”
Prime Minister Trudeau is not the only political figure who has mourned Downie. News of the legendary singer’s death reverberated across the Parliament halls and provincial legislatures across Canada triggering a wave of heartfelt tributes and condolences.
Wednesday’s session of the House of Commons observed a moment of silence in honor of the departed singer.
NDP MP Charlie Angus honored Downie with an impassioned tribute which included Hip lyrics.
“Mr. Speaker the boy, Canada’s boy, has gone home to fiddler’s green. We are devastated by the loss of Gord Downie. The Tragically Hip has been the soundtrack of our nation. That cranked up, rowdy arena-rock band that was both profoundly intimate and profoundly Canadian,” he said. “Go to the angels Gord, and rock that choir. We will watch those constellations, and you, reveal themselves one star at a time.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in his Tuesday statement that Downie was “an artist and advocate who made a great personal effort to advance reconciliation and raise awareness of First Nations issues in Canada.”
Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen was not far behind showering Downie with glowing tributes.
“Gord and the Tragically Hip started playing for Kingstonians in small pubs in the 1980s. Quickly winning over the hearts of Canadians, they rose to be known as Canada’s band thanks to Gord’s stories through song, his wild antics, and his rantings on stage,” he said. “Perhaps what is most remarkable about Gord is that he chose to use his fame in a way to build up others.”
Federal Heritage Minister Melanie Joly referred to Downie as “one of our greatest Canadian icons.”
Gord Downie, you are and will always be one of our greatest Canadian icons. Your musical legacy and strong advocacy will always live on.
— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) October 18, 2017
Toronto Mayor John Tory extended his condolences to Downie’s family, his Hip bandmates, and to his millions of fans. He has ordered “the Toronto sign be lit in red & white today to honor Gord Downie. The sign will be dimmed tonight at 11 p.m. to mourn this great Canadian.”
On behalf of the people of Toronto, I extend my heartfelt condolences to Gord Downie’s family, his Tragically Hip bandmates and his millions of fans.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) October 18, 2017
I’ve asked that the Toronto sign be lit in red & white today to honour Gord Downie. The sign will be dimmed tonight at 11 p.m. to mourn this great Canadian. #TragicallyHip
— John Tory (@JohnTory) October 18, 2017
Several celebrities also offered their condolences and tributes to the great Canadian.
Canadian country music artist George Canyon tweeted his condolences to Downie’s family and fans saying that he leaves behind “an incredible legacy of music.”
Very saddened to hear the passing of Gord Downie.
He leaves an incredible legacy of music. My heart goes out to his family and his fans.
— George Canyon (@georgecanyon) October 18, 2017
Actor Mike Smith of The Trailer Park Boys fame, who plays Bubbles on the mockumentary series, said he had “great memories” filming the music video for “The Darkest One,” with Gord Downie.
Such great memories filming this.
“Off to a time and place now lost on our imagination” https://t.co/ALG1Xi82li
— Bubbles (@MSmithBubbles) October 18, 2017
And here’s a couple from the lesser mortals of this world.
— Andre Ruhigisha (@AndreRuhigisha) October 18, 2017
— Citadel_Dreamer (@Citadel_Dreamer) August 21, 2016