The death of Gord Downie is a massive story in Canada, but it’s also being covered around the planet. For example:
The New York Times
In the first week of January 2016, the Canadian singer-songwriter Gord Downie paid a visit to the Bathouse, the recording complex that his band, the Tragically Hip, owns in a small town outside Toronto. Rising early each morning, he put on a snowsuit and walked a short distance from the studio to the frozen shores of Lake Ontario, where he sat and hand-wrote lyrics in the cold.
About 10 days earlier, Mr. Downie had told friends that he had an aggressive, deadly form of brain cancer, which ultimately ended his lifeon Tuesday night at 53. Nearly six more months would pass before he shared the news of his illness with the public, in May 2016, followed by a short summer tour with the Hip, as the band is known, whose emotional finale was watched by millions worldwide. But first, Mr. Downie wanted to make one more album.
“Gord knew this day was coming,” Mr. Downie’s family said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
While the group did not make a significant impact in most of the rest of the world, in Canada the Tragically Hip were a national institution, a source of pride second probably only to Rush in terms of familiarity and affection, but unlike that group, the Hip wrote about their home country; a rough analogy might be Bruce Springsteen to New Jersey or Billy Joel to Long Island. The extent of the almost patriotic fervor with which the band is revered in Canada is reflected in the fact that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — a longtime fan of the band — gave a tearful tribute to Downie that aired on Canadian television Wednesday morning.
Downie, who received the Order of Canada in June, was an unofficial ambassador to the country, the leader of a band that best represented Canada and the nation’s media have been providing wall-to-wall coverage of his death all morning as if mourning a head of state.
Since revealing his diagnosis publicly in May 2016, Downie went full force, creatively and physically: he pushed himself (his doctor advising and monitoring his health) to embark on a farewell tour with The Tragically Hip — with bandmates guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker, bassist Gord Sinclair, drummer Johnny Fay — to promote their latest album, Man Machine Poem (recorded before knowledge of his cancer), and embrace the profound love Canadians of all ages had for him. The Tragically Hip had been going strong more than 30 years.
Additional reporting here.
Tributes poured in from the prime minister to the locker rooms of the National Hockey League.
Downie’s death was expected; he had battled an incurable form of brain cancer for almost two years.
But despite his diagnosis, he continued to tour, produce new music and campaign for indigenous rights.
An emotional Justin Trudeau has paid a tearful tribute to singer Gord Downie.
Downie, the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, died aged 53 after a battle with brain cancer.
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau at times struggled to speak as he said the singer was someone who wanted to make the country a better place and will be sorely missed.
He said: “Gord was my friend but Gord was everyone’s friend, that’s who we were.
The Tragically Hip have achieved stratospheric success in their home country of Canada since forming in 1984 with nine of their records reaching number one in the charts. They released their thirteenth studio album, Man Machine Poem, in June 2016.
Downie, who served as the band’s lyricist, released five studio albums, his most recent arriving in October 2016.
The band, which released its first album in 1987, has a huge following within Canada but has only had limited international success.
During his final show, Downie called out to Mr Trudeau, who was at the concert, to help fix problems in Canada’s indigenous communities.
He is survived by his wife and four children
In recent years, Downie, who has been called “Canada’s unofficial poet laureate”, had worked to support the indigenous people of Canada with the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. Wenjack was a First Nations boy who died in 1966 while attempting to escape from a residential school designed to assimilate Aboriginal Canadians.
His final project, a solo album entitled Introduce Yerself, is due for release on 27 October.
“For almost five decades, Gord Downie uncovered and told the stories of Canada. He was the frontman of one of Canada’s most iconic bands, a rock star, artist, and poet whose evocative lyrics came to define a country,” Trudeau said in a statement. “The Tragically Hip’s music invited us to explore places we had never been — from Mistaken Point to Churchill — and helped us understand each other, while capturing the complexity and vastness of the place we call home.”
“Gord did not rest from working for the issues he cared about,” he added, “and his commitment and passion will continue to motivate Canadians for years to come.”