CTV reports that Gord Downie, longtime frontman for the widely beloved Canandian rock band the Tragically Hip, died last night. Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year; upon learning of his diagnosis, Downie and his band embarked on an emotional, cathartic farewell tour of Canada. According to a statement from the band, Downie died at home last night, surrounded by family. He was 53.
Downie was born in the Toronto suburb of Kingston, and he and his friends formed the Tragically Hip as teenagers in 1983. The Hip started out as a cover band, but they quickly became their own thing, with Downie writing expansive and literary songs about, primarily, life in Canada. The band released their self-titled debut EP in 1987 and followed it up with their first full-length Up To Here in 1989. They became an immediate sensation in Canada, and they remained a national treasure right up until the end. And while they never broke through elsewhere, the people of Canada remained tireless advocates for them. When, for instance, the Hip were musical guests on Saturday Night Live in 1995, it was at the invitation of guest host Dan Aykroyd. They released 13 albums overall, and their most recent was last year’s Man Machine Poem.
Downie stayed busy outside the band, as well. He released his debut solo album Coke Machine Glow in 2001, and he collaborated with a number of Canadian artists over the years, including Buck 65, City And Colour, Fucked Up, and the Sadies. Downie and the Sadies released an entire collaborative album, 2014’s And The Conquering Sun, together. Downie also worked to support environmental causes and the cause of indigenous people in Canada. Last year, after his cancer diagnosis, he released Secret Path, a project that included an album, a graphic novel, and an animated film, all of which were built around the discrimination that indigenous people in Canada have suffered. He recorded one final album, the double LP Introduce Yerself, with Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew; it’ll come out later this month.
Below, watch some videos from Downie’s long career.