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Passings: Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip (1964 - 2017)

by VVN Music

We knew his time was short when he announced last year that he was suffering from incurable brain cancer, but his constant working and releases made it seem that he was doing well against the disease.

Gord Downie died Tuesday (October 17) night as a result of that cancer.  He was 53.

His family posted on the Tragically Hip'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

Downie grew up outside of Kingston, ON and met his future bandmates while attending Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute. The Tragically Hip were formed in 1983 by Downie, Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair. Other than just a couple of lineup changes, the band remains the same today.

The band played throughout Ontario until seen by MCA president Bruce Dickinson who signed them to a contract. Their first album, 1989's Up to Here, went to number 9 on the Canadian charts with the rest of their twelve studio albums reaching the top three including nine number 1's. A compilation album, Yer Favorites, and a live album, Live Between Us, also topped the charts giving them a total of eleven.

Their singles didn't fare quite as well although they had two number 1's, "Ahead by a Century" (1996) and "In View" (2006) along with six others that reached the top ten.

In 2001, Downie also embarked on a solo career, starting with the album Coke Machine Glow (2001 / #26 Canada) and followed with four additional sets including Secret Path (2016 / #4 Canada), his album about 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack who died in 1966 after running away from a government forced Indian Residential School.  Gord also published a graphic novel at the same time on the subject.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on Downie earlier today, saying "he wanted to make [Canada] better. He knew as great as we were, we needed to be better than we are. And that's why his last years were devoted to Chanie Wenjack and to reconciliation. This is something I have certainly drawn inspiration and strength from.

"We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it."

Gord suffered a seizure in December 2015 and it was during the ensuing exam that he was found to have a glioblastoma, a treatable but non-curable form of brain cancer.  He and the band did not make the public aware of the diagnosis until May 24, 2016 and, during that summer, the Tragically Hip mounted a farewell tour across Canada. Their final show, on August 20, 2016 at Rogers K-Rock Centre in hometown Kingston, was broadcast nationwide by the CBC. 

Downey's final solo album, the two disc Introduce Yerself, is set for release on October 27.

Gord and the Tragically Hip were inducted onto Canada's Walk of Fame in 2002 and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2008.  They also received sixteen Juno Awards including three Entertainer of the Years (1991, 1993, 1995) and three Group of the Years (1995, 1997, 2017).