Gord Downie, frontman of beloved Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, has lost his battle with brain cancer. He was 53 years old.
“Last night, Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by,” his family wrote in a statement (via Rolling Stone). “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 was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in December 2015, which he revealed publicly in May 2016. Rather than dwell on the prognosis, however, Downie sought to live out his final days to the fullest. He and The Tragically Hip reconvened for a new album, Man Machine Poem, and embarked on a lengthy farewell tour in their native Canada. A documentary chronicling the tour entitled, Long Time Running, recently premiered at TIFF and was acquired for distributed by Netflix.
Teaming with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, Downie also tracked a new solo album entitled, Introduce Yourself. The double LP will now be released posthumously on October 27th.
Altogether, Downie’s music career spanned 35 years, including 13 albums with The Tragically Hip and six as a solo artist. In 1983, he formed The Tragically Hip with high school classmates Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair. In the subsequent decades, the Hip proved to be one of their country’s most successful musical acts. Nine of their albums hit No. 1 in Canada and they received a record-setting 16 Juno Awards. Though they never achieved similar success in the US, the band was booked to play SNL in 1995 — after some prodding by fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd. The Hip’s music inspired a generation of Canadian musicians, including Broken Social Scene, Barenaked Ladies, and Tegan and Sara, among others.
“Gord said he had lived many lives,” a statement from his family added. “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.”
In tearful remarks made to reporters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it,” he said. Watch his full statement below.
Revisit a few of The Tragically Hip’s more notable selections, as well as the trailer for Introduce Yourself: