An emotional Justin Trudeau cries discussing the death of Gord Downie
Tributes poured in from the prime minister to the locker rooms of the National Hockey League.
Downie’s death was expected; he had battled an incurable form of brain cancer for almost two years.
But despite his diagnosis, he continued to tour, produce new music and campaign for indigenous rights.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a tearful statement in Ottawa after the news broke. The politician had awarded Downie the Order of Canada for his work campaigning for reconciliation with indigenous people, and he had attended the band’s final show in Kingston, Ontario, shortly after Downie announced his cancer diagnosis.
“We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it,” Mr Trudeau told reporters, his eyes brimmed with tears.
Downie’s music touched many Canadians in part because of his unabashed love of his country; his songs are peppered with references to Canadian towns, history and obscure hockey references.
A fanatical hockey fan, Downie name-dropped his idol, Boston Bruins defenceman Bobby Orr, in his song Fireworks, and composed one of his biggest hits, Fifty Mission Cap, about the 1951 disappearance of Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bill Barilko.
Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie dead at 53The most Canadian band in the world
“He’s a huge inspiration to all of Canada. He has a lot of fans in this room, all over Canada, and all over the world,” said current Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly.
“When you read about his career, and everything, he was something special.”
Downie’s influence on Canadian culture and music was keenly felt by many Canadians in the entertainment industry, too.
Canadian musician Kevin Hearn, whose band The Barenaked Ladies rose to popularity around the same time as The Tragically Hip, christened the Hip “Canada’s house band”.
Progressive rock band Rush said it was a “sad sad day for Canada and Canadian music.”
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