Mourn­ing Gord Downie


Mu­sic lovers from coast to coast are mourn­ing the death of 53-year-old Trag­i­cally Hip lead singer Gord Downie.

Fol­low­ing the pass­ing of mu­si­cian, poet, phi­lan­thropist Gor­don Downie comes an out­pour­ing of re­spect and reflections on the life of the late 53-year-old On­tario artist best known as the front­man for the Trag­i­cally Hip.

Lo­cally, com­ments from north­ern Nova Sco­tia, New Brunswick and be­yond were ev­ery bit as dy­namic as the an­i­mated front man; at times suc­cinct, and other time raw and full of emo­tion.

They marked the be­gin­ning of re­mem­ber­ing “A life well lived.”

One area mu­si­cian, Keith McFad­den, had a chance en­counter with the leg­endary front­man just a few months be­fore pass­ing away Oct. 17. Per­form­ing with the Hal­i­faxbased out­fit Wal­rus and re­port­ing in some­where in be­tween Wash­ing­ton and New York City as the band tours the United States, McFad­den shared his mem­ory of meet­ing Downie in June when the two ap­peared at the same Toronto mu­sic fes­ti­val.

“He’s a good man and he’ll al­ways go down in our books… he was back­stage at Field Trip fes­ti­val in Toronto. He put his Sa­cred Path al­bum out on a la­bel called Arts and Crafts. We’re on a side­car la­bel called Madic Records, so we were just kickin’ around and I saw him come out of a porta-potty and just in pass­ing said ‘Hey Gord,’” McFad­den re­called. “He was pretty tired look­ing and def­i­nitely in his best spir­its given his con­di­tion. I only had a few words in thank­ing him for his work and what­not. He was kind of quiet. I’m sure he gets that a lot, but he grinned a bit and thanked me. Put my hand on his shoul­der and just wished him the best I could.”

Many Cana­di­ans have seen Downie per­form, ei­ther with his band or side projects, while oth­ers have en­joyed their mu­sic at work, amongst other places.

Here are their thoughts on the pass­ing of the Cana­dian mu­si­cian.

Si­mon Turner, Amherst

“Sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble, any­where in the world, if you turned in the Hip you felt like you were home and not alone.”

Amy Chap­man, Amherst

“Gord was a ge­nius, he was pas­sion­ate, kind, and tried to use his celebrity to make the world a bet­ter place. His work in bring­ing light to the hor­rors suf­fered by our Indige­nous peo­ple tells a story of the man he was. He left this world bet­ter than he found it, in my opin­ion. I’d call that a life well lived.”

An­drew Ross, Springhill

“Gord was unique. He wasn’t one of those artists that pig­gy­backed off of other artists. What he felt was what ended up on the track at the time. If I would com­pare him to any­one it would have to be Hen­drix as both were mu­si­cal ge­niuses.”

Pa­tri­cia Good­ing

“Hate the word “quin­tes­sen­tial” it’s been so overused, but he was the essence of how we want to see our­selves as Cana­di­ans, not per­fect but striv­ing to get there and he had the tal­ent to ex­press that jour­ney in a way we could re­late to.”

Nick Ra­fuse, Amherst

“An artist and group ca­pa­ble of em­brac­ing change, new gen­er­a­tions, and new ideas. Watch­ing that tran­si­tion from a truly Cana­dian blues-rock band into some­thing new and spe­cial, though I didn’t re­al­ize it at the time, was ab­so­lutely a sin­gu­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. Think­ing back to col­lege and re­mem­ber­ing how of­ten you could hear “Ahead By a Cen­tury” across cam­pus, whether it was on the ra­dio, some­one’s stereo, hum­ming it to their Walk­man or croon­ing it to the girls in the hopes of at­ten­tion. They touched so many gen­er­a­tions, in a way so few can.”

Trevor Cle­ments, Char­lot­te­town, PEI

“He wrote songs that mat­tered and he wrote songs about Cana­dian his­tory. Saw The Hip in Monc­ton once. It’s hard to pin­point any one par­tic­u­lar mem­ory but those songs were part of the sound­track to life. There were songs I wasn’t so into but al­ways had the feel­ing if I dipped into the mean­ings and lyrics and lis­tened more that I’d find the gem.”

Terri McCormick, Amherst

“That voice.... those lyrics. My heart is break­ing.”

Dustin Hat­field, Monc­ton

“For me, Gord’s voice brings me back to be­ing 12 years old, in the pas­sen­ger seat of my mom’s 1990 Cav­a­lier, driv­ing the old Pug­wash road at about 7 a.m. We went once a week to Karate for 2 years, and there was some­thing about the time that we hap­pened to be driv­ing, that Ahead By A Cen­tury ended up play­ing al­most ev­ery trip we took. This mem­ory is the sin­gle most vivid, sun-bleached, care­free mem­ory I have from my child­hood. It’s some­thing that I’m in­stantly re­liv­ing ev­ery time that song comes on, and I can play it like one of those road trip mu­sic mon­tages from a 90’s movie in my head, and for a minute there’s just noth­ing else. Gord’s voice, and The Hip’s mu­sic, re­ally, were the back­ground mu­sic for most of my for­ma­tive years. He’ll be deeply missed by many of us.”


Springhill High School grad­u­ate and Hal­i­fax mu­si­cian Keith McFad­den (left) and Wal­rus band mate Jor­dan Mur­phy (right) met the late Gord Downie this sum­mer at a Toronto mu­sic fes­ti­val.

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