The news was announced in a statement from his family via the band’s website, which partly read: “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.”
Downie’s death comes a month after the release of the band’s documentary, Long Time Running, which showcases a behind-the-scenes look at the band on tour. But while fans and friends knew this day would come after The Tragically Hip frontman announced his illness in May 2016, it still comes as a shock to all who knew and loved Downie and the Hip and doesn’t make the loss any easier.
Fans clamored for a ticket when the band announced its farewell “Man Machine Poem” tour across Canada, hoping to see the man in action before he lost his battle to cancer. Dates on the 15-show tour sold out immediately. The final show in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, was broadcast live across Canada and drew millions across the country to their TVs and the streets in large viewing parties — nothing could be more Canadian.
And that was The Tragically Hip. Pure Canadiana. The band never had huge success in the U.S., but with a unique talent for telling Canadian stories, it didn’t matter, because Canada loved them. The band, which sold eight million copies of their albums over the course of their career, got their start in 1983 at Queen’s University. In addition to Downie, who was born February 6, 1964 in Amherstview, Ontario, the band had four other members: guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay.
The Hip began playing shows in Kingston and eventually word of mouth led to them landing a gig in Toronto, where they wowed the crowd and grew in popularity ever since. As frontman of the band, Downie possessed a great talent for communicating with listeners through his heartfelt voice and lyrics, which could strike a chord with a poet and an everyman alike. Downie would comment about writing and singing, saying he truly was giving you a piece of himself. In an interview with the CBC, he remarked, “I think my body’s giving subtext and with my voice I’ll give you the confines of my heart…”
And listeners and critics felt it. With hit songs such as “Bobcaygeon,” “Poets” and “Ahead By A Century,” the band won 16 Junos — the most by any Canadian group. The Hip received many other honors including the Order of Canada, a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame and an induction to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, to name a few.
Downie would spread his wings from the band and release solo projects of his own, with his latest offering, Introduce Yerself, posthumously due for release on October 27. He would also go on to become a voice for Indigenous peoples in Canada, working to open up dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to reconcile past wrongs. Downie also had a love for the environment, acting as a board member on the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper charity.
Indeed, Gord Downie has impacted Canada and Canadians in many ways, leaving the country’s heart heavy with news of his loss. He is survived by his four children, whom he had with former wife Laura Leigh Usher.
You can read the full statement from Downie’s family regarding his death below.
Feel free to tell us about your memories of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip in the comments section below. ~Alexa Caruso
“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“