Gord Downie, the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, died Tuesday night surrounded by his loved ones. He was 53.
His family announced the news in a statement published on the Canadian band’s website and Facebook page on Wednesday. “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,” it read.
Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in December of 2015, though Tragically Hip withheld the news from fans until the following May. With tears in his eyes, the singer performed his final concert with the band in August as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder paid tribute.
“Gord said he had lived many lives,” the family’s statement continued. “As a musician, he lived ‘the life’ for over 30 years, lucky to do most of it with his high school buddies. At home, he worked just as tirelessly at being a good father, son, brother, husband and friend. No one worked harder on every part of their life than Gord. No one.”
The Downies thanked “all the kind folks at KGH and Sunnybrook, Gord’s bandmates, management team, friends and fans” for “all the help and support over the past two years.” The note concluded, “Thank you, everyone, for all the respect, admiration and love you have given Gord throughout the years – those tender offerings touched his heart and he takes them with him now as he walks among the stars. Love you forever Gord.”
Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen were among those who mourned the loss of Downie on social media as the news broke.
“For almost five decades, Gord Downie uncovered and told the stories of Canada. He was the frontman of one of Canada’s most iconic bands, a rock star, artist, and poet whose evocative lyrics came to define a country,” Trudeau said in a statement. “The Tragically Hip’s music invited us to explore places we had never been — from Mistaken Point to Churchill — and helped us understand each other, while capturing the complexity and vastness of the place we call home.”
“Gord did not rest from working for the issues he cared about,” he added, “and his commitment and passion will continue to motivate Canadians for years to come.”
The prime minister was visibly emotional discussing Downie’s death later on camera. “We lost one of the very best of us this morning,” he said. “Gord was my friend, but Gord was everyone’s friend. It’s who we were. Our buddy, Gord, who loved this country with everything he had — and not just loved it in a nebulous, ‘Oh, I love Canada’ way. He loved every corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life. And he wanted to make it better.”