The Tragically Hip Says Farewell As Frontman Gordon Downey Faces Terminal Cancer

The Tragically Hip has been a staple of the Canadian music scene through decades, but that reign is coming to a close, as frontman Gordon Downie prepares to step out of the music world, due to having been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Before the band hangs it up, however, Downie and the rest of The Tragically Hip will be finishing up a tour with three final Toronto concerts. Gordon and his bandmates aren’t making these last dates a wake by any stretch of the imagination, but instead will deliver the passionate rocking sounds for which they have become known, hoping to give Hip fans some final, great moments to remember.

The Tragically Hip Retires With A Three Decade Retrospective

Formed in 1983, The Tragically Hip has been entertaining music lovers with their unique mix of grunge and hard rock for over 30 years, and as lead singer Gordon Downie prepares to face his last days battling brain cancer, the band hopes to give Downie, as well as their fans, a truly memorable blowout. Billboard reports that The Tragically Hip’s final tour has been a huge success with their most recent concert performing in a 20,000 seat sell out, which included backstage, standing-room-only passes in addition to more traditional seating.

While Gordon Downie’s illness was known to most of those 20,000 fans and to his fellow band members, The Tragically Hip concert kept things on a high note, save for one moment.

“It’s a tough world; it’s a tough gig,” said Downie, alluding to the brain cancer forcing him to abandon his beloved fans and friends.

The Tragically Hip consists of guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay in addition to singer Downie. Together, the band has made a special mark in their hometown of Toronto, earning them their own special day, as Mayor John Tory declared Wednesday “The Tragically Hip Day” in honor of the group of musicians.

Gordon Downie Accomplishes Something Few Ever Do

The Globe and Mail points to Downie’s final performances with The Tragically Hip in suggesting Gordon is one of the few people to get to perform at their own wake, and yet anyone attending these final concerts would say that mourning was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Unless it had been publicly revealed, many have said no one would know by Downie’s on-stage antics that The Tragically Hip frontman was dying.

The Tragically Hip is often noted for their poetic lyrics and the way in which they combine folk music with rock, giving audiences and music lovers a transcending experience in listening to their songs. The songs, many of which are stories as much as they are melodies, are so ingrained in the hearts of fans that audiences have been singing along with The Tragically Hip throughout this farewell tour. Most of these experiences were joyous celebrations of The Tragically Hip’s 30-odd-year existence, but, at times, the reality that they would all soon be mourning the loss of Gordon Downey hit home, leaving many fans in a momentary melancholy.

That mournful sadness didn’t overtake the crowd for long, because, as usual, The Tragically Hip’s set was far too lively to permit it. The band jumped into songs such as “New Orleans Is Sinking” and “Little Bones,” along with an extended list of hits from the past three decades to keep fans entertained. Even that wasn’t enough, though. Gordon led his fellow Hip musicians into an encore set of “Escape Is At Hand for the Travellin’ Man,” “Poets,” and “Bobcaygeon,” before opening up a second encore that featured the songs “Daredevil” and “Grace, Too”.

When it was all over, Gordon Downie said his goodbye, the last chance he would ever have to do so in such a public venue.

“Goodnight everybody. We’ll see you down the road somewheres, alright?,” Downie said, blowing kisses and waving, before finally exiting.

[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]