Canadian icon Gord Downie of Tragically Hip dies

NHL News

TORONTO — Gord Downie, who made himself part of Canada’s national identity with songs about hockey and small towns as lead singer and songwriter of iconic rock band The Tragically Hip, has died at age 53 after a battle with brain cancer.

A statement on the band’s website said he died Tuesday night “with his beloved children and family close by.” The statement did not give a cause of death, though he had been diagnosed earlier with brain cancer.

Since The Tragically Hip’s first album in 1987, the band has provided a soundtrack for the lives of many Canadians. “Ahead by a Century” and “Bobcaygeon” are among the best known songs.

While Canadian musicians Drake, the Weeknd and Justin Bieber have made waves internationally, The Tragically Hip built a huge following of die-hard homegrown fans.

An emotional Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wept in Parliament while talking about Downie on national television in a statement to reporters.

“We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it. We all knew it was coming, but we hoped it wasn’t,” said Trudeau, his voice breaking. “I thought I was going to make it through this, but I’m not. It hurts.”

Trudeau also said in a written statement that “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.”

“He loved every hidden corner, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life. And he wanted to make it better,” Trudeau said in Ottawa.

Downie is survived by his wife and four children.

The hockey world reacted strongly to the death of Downie, who wrote the song “Fifty Mission Cap” about Bill Barilko, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1951 and then died in a plane crash that offseason.

Locker rooms around the NHL played Tragically Hip music, and many players commented on the loss.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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