On today’s date in 2017, legendary Canadian artist Gord Downie died at the age of 53 following a two-year battle with an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma.
Downie shared his diagnosis with Canadians in May 2017, on the same day his Kingston-based band The Tragically Hip – rounded out by Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fay – announced a final summer tour. The 15-show “Man Machine Poem” tour became a cultural event as Canadians from coast to coast tuned into a free CBC broadcast of the final concert, which was held in Kingston, Ont., on Aug. 20, 2016.
Downie has also earned widespread praise for his support of Canada’s Indigenous people. During the band’s final concert, he took a moment to declare: “It’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there but it isn’t cool, and everybody knows that. It’s really, really bad. But we’re going to figure it out. You’re going to figure it out.”
Following the band’s final tour, Downie released Secret Path, which tells the story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack with an accompanying 88-page graphic novel and animated film.
In 1966, Wenjack died of exposure and hunger after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont.
“Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story,” said Downie in a statement to mark the album’s release. “This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were.”
Shortly before his death, Downie announced he was working on another solo album, this a double album entitled Introduce Yerself, which featured 23 songs and was released on Oct. 27, 2017.
SURROUNDED BY FAMILY
Downie died surrounded by his children and family, according to a statement on the band’s website.
Last night Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by.
Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious time as he always had – making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss… on the lips.
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.
We would like to thank all the kind folks at KGH and Sunnybrook, Gord’s bandmates, management team, friends and fans. Thank you for all the help and support over the past two years.
Thank you everyone for all the respect, admiration and love you have given Gord throughout the years – those tender offerings touched his heart and he takes them with him now as he walks among the stars.
Love you forever Gord.
The Downie Family
CANADIAN RECORDING ARTISTS: THE BANDS
In 2013, Canada Post featured The Tragically Hip on 63-cent Permanent stamp (Scott #2655a-2656) printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper using five-colour lithography. The Canadian Recording Artists: The Bands issue featured three other acts—Rush, the Guess Who and Beau Dommage.
The Hip stamp depicts a photograph of the band with their logo to the bottom-left and “CANADA” to the bottom-right corner.
Each stamp in the series measures 32 mm by 32 mm with simulated perforations. The official first-day covers were cancelled in Winnipeg, Man. (the Guess Who); Toronto, Ont. (Rush); Kingston, Ont. (The Tragically Hip); and Montréal, Que. (Beau Dommage). The stamps are available in booklets of 10 stamps, a set of four booklets and a souvenir sheet of four stamps.
Throughout their career, The Tragically Hip won 16 Juno awards – more than any other band – and received the Order of Canada; a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award; an honorary fellowship with the Royal Conservatory of Music; a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame; and an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.