Gord Downie to release solo album, graphic novel next month
Published Friday, September 9, 2016 7:14AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 9, 2016 11:14AM EDT
Gord Downie has announced he is releasing a new album and graphic novel that tell the true story of a 12-year-old indigenous boy who died while trying to run away from a residential school.
The project, called "Secret Path," is set to be released Oct. 18, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the death of the boy, Chanie Wenjack.
"I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him," the Tragically Hip fronman said in a statement Friday.
Wenjack died in 1966 while trying to walk the 600 kilometres from the residential school back to his home on the Marten Falls First Nation, northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. His body was found near railway tracks near Kenora, Ont., 60 kilometres from the school. He had died of exposure and hunger.
Downie writes that when he read of Wenjack’s story, it greatly affected him.
"Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada's story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable,” he writes.
Downie wrote Secret Path first as 10 poems, which he then recorded as songs in November and December, 2013.
He’s planning to release the album on Oct. 18, accompanied by an 88-page graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lemire. “Secret Path” will be available as a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with album download.
Proceeds from sales will be donated to the Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at The University of Manitoba.
Downie and a small group of filmmakers made a two-day visit to Marten Falls earlier this week, accompanied by grand chiefs from the area and representatives of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Downie visited Wenjeck’s grave and met with his surviving family members. Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson told CTV News Channel the meeting between Downie and the Wenjack family was “so moving and so emotional.”
She said she was impressed that Downie, who is terminally ill with brain cancer, made the journey to visit the First Nation.
“You could tell the emotions were very high and he did very, very well for having limited strength here and there. You could see the resilience in his face,” Wilson said from Marten Falls First Nation.
“His brothers (Mike and Patrick) were here as well and they were just so supportive and so loving to the community. And the community really loved them back.”
“It wasn’t easy for anyone, but at the same time it was because it was beautiful,” she added.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was grateful for Downie’s efforts to shine “much-needed light” on this dark chapter of history.
“His humility, sincerity and artistry is matched only by his determination to tell the story of Charlie Wenjack and all youth from the Residential School era youth who never made it home,” Fiddler said in a statement Friday.
“We are confident that this project will spark national interest in our shared history and help move all Canadians towards the path to reconciliation.”
Here is the tracklist for the upcoming album:
1. "The Stranger"
2. "Swing Set"
3. "Seven Matches"
4. "I Will Not Be Struck"
1. "Secret Path"
2. "Don't Let This Touch You"
3. "Haunt Them, Haunt Them, Haunt Them"
4. "The Only Place To Be"
5. "Here, Here and Here"