Gord Downie, the crazed Canadian troubadour who united a nation as front man of the Tragically Hip, has died. He was 53.
In a statement posted on social media, the band confirmed that Downie quietly passed “with his beloved children and family close by” on Tuesday night.
We’ve written many words about how special this man was, how he gave us courage in the darkest of times, how he could electrify an entire arena even in the twilight of his life. So right now, let’s just celebrate Downie by watching him in his element: on stage, wandering off into his own ingenious nebula.
It was July 1, 1992. For Canada’s 125th birthday, the Hip began the day by playing a festival in Halifax, before flying to Barrie for an afternoon gig, and then jetting across the country to play a Vancouver festival. Here’s that last show at VanCity’s Thunderbird stadium, which saw the band debut songs from their classic album Fully Completely to B.C. audiences. Watching Gord introduce stories from what would become a seminal piece of Canadian folklore is a sight to behold.
Notice the way he tells those stories — dancing, miming, speaking in tongues, meandering into stream-of-consciousness verses. Watch him show up on stage and say, for no discernible reason, “Hello and welcome. My name is Maurice Duplessis.” At another point in the show, mid-song, he tells us “that story about blowing every single one of the provincial ministers.” Dude was a manic, swaggering, explosive, rambling poet, each ravenous howl and insane non-sequitur a testament to how he never reined it in, surrendering himself to the music fully and completely. Canada’s
Lizard Wheat King. We’ll never have another like him.