Condolences pour in for Gord Downie, Tragically Hip frontman
Published Wednesday, October 18, 2017 9:50AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 19, 2017 10:07AM EDT
The death of the Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie has prompted an outpouring of condolences and celebration of his musical legacy from fellow artists, politicians, and luminaries in Canada and around the world.
The legendary 53-year-old singer-songwriter died Tuesday night “with his beloved children and family close by,” according to a family statement posted to the Hip’s website.
Actors Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen, Toronto Maple Leafs legend Doug Gilmour, and Bubbles from The Trailer Park Boys have all taken to Twitter to express their feelings about Downie’s loss. More than 100,000 people tweeted about the Canadian music legend on Wednesday morning, according to Twitter Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted in both official languages “There will never be another one like you, Gord. Rest in peace my friend.”Trudeau added that “Canada’s identity and culture are richer for Gord Downie’s work.”
The prime minister eulogized Downie in an emotional public address, referring to him as “Our buddy Gord.” He praised his love of Canada and dedication to repairing ties with Indigenous communities in his later years.
“This is something that I have certainly drawn inspiration and strength from, and we are less as a country without Gord Downie in it,” Trudeau said.
There will never be another one like you, Gord. Rest in peace my friend.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 18, 2017
Music journalist Alan Cross said the Tragically Hip served as “Canada’s house band” during its more than three decades in the limelight, adding “there were few more Canadian cultural institutions.”
“Now we are going to have an honest to God moment of national mourning for this guy and this band,” he told CTV News Channel.
Artist Jeff Lemire, who collaborated with Downie on his fifth studio album that was accompanied by a graphic novel, collectively titled “Secret Path,” published a heartfelt blog post on Wednesday detailing how the pair and Gord’s brother Mike Downie met in a Toronto coffee shop four years ago to discuss the project.
“I love you, Gord. You changed my life and made me a better man and a better artist. I will see you again,” Lemire wrote.
“Secret Path” tells the story of a young Anishinaabe boy from the Marten Falls First Nation who died in 1966 while trying to return home after escaping from a residential school. The album won two Junos Awards in 2017.
Downie’s death sent shockwaves through the halls of Parliament, as well as provincial legislatures across the country. Politicians and First Nations leaders in the countless communities he visited throughout his lengthy touring career expressed their condolences.
House of Commons held a moment of silence for Downie to being Wednesday’s session.
NDP MP Charlie Angus gave an impassioned tribute to the departed artist peppered with Tragically Hip lyrics.
“Mr. Speaker the boy, Canada’s boy, has gone home to fiddler’s green. We are devastated by the loss of Gord Downie. The Tragically Hip has been the soundtrack of our nation. That cranked up, rowdy arena-rock band that was both profoundly intimate and profoundly Canadian,” he said. “Go to the angles Gord, and rock that choir. We will watch those constellations, and you, reveal themselves one star at a time.”
Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen, whose riding includes Kingston, Ont., where the Tragically Hip was formed, reflected on how the band emerged from its humble beginnings, and applauded Downie’s work on behalf of Indigenous communities.
“Gord and the Tragically Hip started playing for Kingstonians in small pubs in the 1980s. Quickly winning over the hearts of Canadians, they rose to be known as Canada’s band thanks to Gord’s stories through song, his wild antics, and his rantings on stage,” he said. “Perhaps what is most remarkable about Gord is that he chose to use his fame in a way to build up others.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called Downie “an artist and advocate who made a great personal effort to advance reconciliation and raise awareness of First Nations issues in Canada,” in a statement on Tuesday.
Bellegarde and his wife Valerie wrapped Downie in a starblanket in a ceremony last December.
“I will always be moved by the powerful moment last December at our Assembly when we honoured Gord for his work,” he wrote. “Today, he begins a new journey among the stars, but his music, his art, his work and his memory will always be with us.”
Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson tweeted that he was,“Deeply saddened to hear that Gord Downie had passed.” The Tragically Hip played its first gigs in the city and culminated the Man Machine Poem Tour there on Aug. 20, 2016.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called Downie “a legend who transcended entertainment and showed us all what courage in the face of adversity looks like.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted that “a piece of Canada has died.”
Conservative MP Tony Clement said he has attended a total of eight Tragically Hip concerts, and recalls an early show in 1986 in the band’s native Kingston.
“We’re all going to miss him,” Clement told reporters on Parliament Hill. “It was a huge loss. I guess we knew this day was coming.”
Federal Heritage Minister Melanie Joly called Downie “one of our greatest Canadian icons.”
Gord Downie, you are and will always be one of our greatest Canadian icons. Your musical legacy and strong advocacy will always live on.— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) October 18, 2017
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wrote, “We’ll miss you, Gord Downie. Artist, inspiration, ally of Indigenous people and great Ontarian. Condolences to family, friends and bandmates.” Horwath also included a quote from the much-loved song “Ahead By A Century.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory took to Twitter to call for the “Toronto sign” in front of city hall to be lit in red and white in honour of Downie. A tweet from the official City of Toronto account confirmed the sign will be dimmed at 11 p.m. in the singer’s memory.
I've asked that the Toronto sign be lit in red & white today to honour Gord Downie. The sign will be dimmed tonight at 11 p.m. to mourn this great Canadian. #TragicallyHip— John Tory (@JohnTory) October 18, 2017
Actor Ryan Reynold tweeted, “So long, Gord. Thank you,” with a Canadian flag emoji.
Legendary Canadian rock trio Rush tweeted “It’s a sad, sad day for Canada and Canadian music . . . rest in peace Gord. . . and thank you.”
Actor Will Arnett tweeted, “RIP Gord Downie. We loved you man.”
Filmmaker, podcaster, and fan of all things Canadian, Kevin Smith wrote that Downie's "beautiful lyrics romanticized all things Canadian."
Actor Seth Rogan tweeted simply, “RIP Gord Downie” with a Canadian flag emoji.
Canadian country music artist George Canyon praised Downie’s “legendary music” tweeting that his heart goes out to his friends and family.
Very saddened to hear the passing of Gord Downie.— George Canyon (@georgecanyon) October 18, 2017
He leaves an incredible legacy of music. My heart goes out to his family and his fans.
Actor Mike Smith, known for playing Bubbles on the mockumentary series The Trailer Park Boys, reflected on collaborating with Downie in the music video for “The Darkest One.”
Such great memories filming this.— Bubbles (@MSmithBubbles) October 18, 2017
"Off to a time and place now lost on our imagination" https://t.co/ALG1Xi82li
Former Toronto Maple Leaf Doug Gilmour said he was “heartbroken” by news of Dowie’s death.
Heartbroken today. Few Canadians touched this country like Gord Downie. Thank you for everything you gave us. My deepest condolences. pic.twitter.com/00DdU6IVZn— Doug Gilmour (@DougGilmour93) October 18, 2017
Singer-songwriter k.d. lang tweeted a message of condolence with a clasped hands emoji.
Swift rebirth Gord Downie.— k.d. lang (@kdlang) October 18, 2017
The NHL Players’ Association tweeted a photo of Downie wearing a Tragically Hip toque with an emblem resembling the official NHL logo, writing, “The soundtrack of car rides to practices, bus trips to tournaments, and dressing rooms across Canada. Hockey was a part of you and you will always be a part of hockey. Thank you, Gord Downie.”
The soundtrack of car rides to practices, bus trips to tournaments, and dressing rooms across Canada. Hockey was a part of you and you will always be a part of hockey. Thank you, Gord Downie. pic.twitter.com/kHj8iPlUa4— NHLPA (@NHLPA) October 18, 2017
Massey Hall, the iconic Toronto concert venue where the band once recorded a live album, tweeted “We extend our sincere condolences & love to the Downie family & friends. We love you Gord & you will be missed.”
While Downie’s enduring place in Canada’s cultural landscape has been firmly established by legions of fans since he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a terminal form of brain cancer in December 2015, Cross said his personal legacy still remains somewhat of a mystery.
He said the band, Downie, and his family have been virtually silent about his activities since he completed a solo project set to be released next Friday titled “Introduce Yerself.” “We are going to find out, I think, what Gord was doing in these last months as he was facing the end,” Cross said.
“We’re going to be talking a lot about his work with Indigenous people.”