US & Canada

Canada mourns Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces Gord Downie before The Tragically Hip's show in Kingston, Ontario Image copyright Prime Minister's Office of Canada
Image caption Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces Gord Downie before The Tragically Hip's show in Kingston, Ontario

Across the country, Canadians are mourning the death of Gord Downie, the 53-year-old lead singer for the band The Tragically Hip.

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.

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Media captionJustin Trudeau: "We lost one of the very best of us"

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.

"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."

Canadian Hollywood stars Seth Rogen and Ryan Reynolds also tweeted their sorrow at the singer's passing.

Comedian Dan Aykroyd, who helped book the Tragically Hip on Saturday Night Live in SNL, said it was the "end of an era".

"Gord's writing, voice, music, dancing and genuine energetic talent in service of us all will be vital forever in our national, common emotional core," he said in a statement.

On social media, fans shared their favourite lyrics to Hip songs, memories of meeting the singer as well as times when The Tragically Hip provided a soundtrack to their lives.

From Toronto to Edmonton, cities have been honouring the singer and his connection to Canada by lighting bridges and signs red and white.

Fans have been laying candles and flowers in Springer Square Market in The Tragically Hip's hometown of Kingston, Ontario. A candlelight vigil will be held in the city on Wednesday evening.

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