Gord Downie, the poetic lead singer of the Tragically Hip whose determined fight with brain cancer inspired a nation, has died. He was 53.
Downie died Tuesday night “with his beloved children and family close by,” the band said in a statement on its website Wednesday morning.
In the wake of his diagnosis with glioblastoma — an incurable form of cancer — the musician became a symbol of perseverance in the face of his mortality.
“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,” the statement said.
Downie spent the last chapter of his life raising funds for brain cancer research and advocating for the rights of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.
“Gord said he had lived many lives,” said the statement, which was attributed to the Downie family. “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.”
Downie, one of Canada’s most revered singer-songwriters, penned a steady stream of 1990s rock radio staples including “New Orleans Is Sinking,” “Blow at High Dough,” “Courage (For Hugh MacLennan),” “Ahead By a Century” and “Bobcaygeon.” While Hip albums released in the 2000s didn’t produce nearly as many hits, the band hung on to its unofficial status as Canada’s favourite rock band.
While the Hip was frequently described as quintessentially Canadian, Downie had dismissed the suggestion that he set out to celebrate his homeland in song.
“I haven’t written too many political lyrics,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press in 2014. “Nor have I written any pro-Canada lyrics, any kind of jingoistic, nationalistic cant…. That stuff doesn’t interest me and I don’t even know if I could write that if I tried because I don’t really feel it.