Canada Just Lost a National Treasure

Tragically Hip's Gord Downie dead at 53
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2017 9:51 AM CDT
Canada Just Lost a National Treasure
Gord Downie salutes fans at an NBA game in Toronto on May 5, 2017.   (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP File)

After he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie didn't wait for death to take him. He embarked on a sold-out concert tour, released a solo album, raised money for cancer research, and put a spotlight on issues affecting indigenous Canadians, leading to his appointment to the Order of Canada, reports CTV News. And yet Downie "knew this day was coming"—and on Tuesday, the singer-songwriter passed away "with his beloved children and family close by," according to a family statement on the band's website. Known worldwide for hits "New Orleans Is Sinking," "Ahead by a Century," and "Bobcaygeon," Downie, 53, was better known in Canada as a homegrown boy playing in a rock band with his high school buddies.

An inimitable performer known to kiss his bandmates on the lips, Downie and four friends started the Tragically Hip in Kingston, Ontario, in the early 1980s, gaining traction nationally a few years later. The manager who discovered the band later said "the first time we heard [Downie] open his mouth, we just went, holy s---," per the CBC. The band found international fame in the 1990s but never strayed far from home, where members were honored with a 2013 postage stamp and star on the Canadian Walk of Fame. Following his cancer diagnosis in 2015, Downie spent his 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," the statement says. (More Canada stories.)

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