Gord Downie is dead. CBC News reported that the beloved Tragically Hip frontman died on Tuesday, October 17 after a long struggle with an aggressive brain tumor. Downie shared his struggle with his heartbroken fans and organized a country-wide farewell tour after the 2016 cancer diagnosis announcement.
Downie was known for his ability to bring together people who would never otherwise have known each other. With his distinctive voice and ingenious lyrics, Gord helped create many bridges in the “diverse array of music lovers” who came to Tragically Hip shows.
“The Hip,” as they are affectionately known, first formed in 1984 while band members were still high school students in Kingston, Ontario. Only three years later, they released their first self-titled EP and were an instant success.
After thirty years, 13 studio albums, countless hits like “Bobcaygeon” and “New Orleans is Sinking,” multiple Juno awards and nominations, several of Downie’s solo projects, and induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Gord Downie’s Tragically Hip high school band is still enormously popular. CTV shared that Downie himself is considered to be a music icon in Canada, although he is less well-known among American music fans.
Downie was so beloved that even Stats Canada tweeted a remembrance of the iconic singer and songwriter.
A statement on the Tragically Hip website announced Downie’s death and spoke about his determination to keep living life to the fullest.
“Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious 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.”
Toronto CTV wrote that the brain tumor that killed Gord Downie was an incurable glioblastoma multiforme whose cause is unknown, although recent research suggests that it could be linked to genetic mutations.
More than 1,000 Canadians each year are diagnosed with this “highly aggressive” form of brain tumor, and it is a death sentence for 96 percent of the victims. It’s nearly impossible to beat, and average life-expectancy after diagnosis is 18 months.
More men than women develop the tumor, which most often hits between the ages of 45-75. A glioblastoma is particularly difficult to treat because the tumor grows tentacles that reach into surrounding brain tissue.
Dr. Peter Dirks, a senior scientist in brain tumor research at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, explained that the fingers of the tumor embed themselves in delicate parts of the brain “where you just can’t remove it.”
Gord Downie was diagnosed with the GBM, as the tumor is sometimes called, in December 2015 after he suffered a seizure. Gord, his family, and his band dealt with the terrible news in private before announcing Downie’s condition publicly in May 2016 and setting out on their national farewell tour.
Downie also used his last months to raise funds for further research on glioblastoma multiformes.
R.I.P Gord Downie. You will be missed.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]