EDITORIAL: Gord Downie – Canada’s man in Canada’s band

A nation mourns the passing of the Tragically Hip’s iconic frontman

Wednesday was sombre across the nation as we learned that Gordon Edgar Downie had passed away at 53 after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer.

It was only two years ago that the Tragically Hip frontman and lyricist announced he had glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer that promptly put Downie and the band’s life into perspective. The Hip hit the road, playing every major Canadian city – they began with two shows in Victoria – because Downie said he “wanted to say good-bye face to face to face.”

If you were fortunate enough to be there, you might remember it as the moment you started to brace yourself for the inevitable, as you stood under the same roof as those five boys from Kingston, Ont. probably for the last time.

That didn’t make Wednesday any easier.

It’s rare that you get the opportunity to bid farewell to anyone before their passing, let alone someone you’ve likely never met (but felt you’d known your whole life). But that was Downie. He was a rare bird who had a unique approach to words, songwriting, dancing, to being Canadian and to making Canada better.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau teared up as he told Canadians, “we are less as a country” and everyone from the NHL to Ed the Sock to your aunt posted on social media. Downie’s lyrics have been everywhere since, like a giant electronic game of telephone where we all got to say, this was the part when he moved me. That’s the thing about the demise of a brilliant mind, it’s never really so because we get to carry pieces of it forever.

Since the band first took the stage in 1984, they continued to throw the best parties in some of Canada’s biggest and smallest towns. Whether you’re reading this in print or online, it just goes to show the way the band blurred the lines of generations. The Tragically Hip was your grandpa’s band, your buddy’s band and your band. Here in Victoria “rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night.” It couldn’t help but feel like the tears of an entire country in mourning.

No one loved Canada, with all its good and the bad, more than Gord. No one straddled the line of celebrity and down-to-earth everyman more than Gord. And no one looked better in denim than Gord.

Just Posted

Stop work order at Sooke salmon hatchery devastates volunteers

CRD steps in as some volunteers give up their efforts

Double lung transplant gives West Shore man second chance

Co-owner of West Shore Barber Shop grateful for every minute of the 16 years transplant has provided

Home where Proctor murder took place removed from Langford’s Affordable Housing Program

Langford woman almost purchased home, decided against it after hearing history

City says traffic pattern on Bay Street Bridge will stay as is until October

Commuters began facing long waits on Tuesday morning after the east-bound lane was closed

Hallmark movie filming in Oak Bay

Shooting for ‘Sunshine’ continues into June across Greater Victoria

VIDEO: 76th annual Swiftsure sets sail Saturday

Longstanding competition takes off from Victoria’s Inner Harbour May 25

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve investigating after sea lion found shot in the head

Animal is believed to have been killed somewhere between Ucluelet and Tofino

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Volunteers already rescuing fry from drying creekbeds around Cowichan Lake

It’s early but already salmon fry are being left high and dry

So, they found ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’

Dave Tryon, now 72 and living in North Delta, will reunite with long-ago travelling friends in Monterrey, Calif.

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

Most Read