Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke down in tears talking about the late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie on Wednesday.
“Gord’s command of language was profound,” Trudeau said of the “rockstar, artist and poet” whom has praised in the past. “He painted landscapes with his words, elevating Canadian geography, historical figures and myths. When he spoke, he gave us goosebumps and made us proud to be Canadian. Our identity and culture are richer because of his music, which was always raw and honest — like Gord himself.”
Downie died on Tuesday night, per his family, with his children close by. His passing was not unexpected as the musician had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor last May. Still, he continued to play shows with the band throughout the summer on a nationwide tour that raised 1 million Canadian dollars (about $800,000) for brain cancer research.
“In the wake of his diagnosis, Gord only fought harder for what he believed in: social justice, environmentalism, and reconciliation with indigenous peoples,” Trudeau said.
In 2016, Downie released the solo album “Secret Path” and accompanying graphic novel, which told the story of Chanie Wenjack, an indigenous boy who died while trying to escape a residential school. Later that year, Downie and his brother Mike announced the The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund to support reconciliation.
For his philanthropy, Downie was awarded an Order of Canada along with other Tragically Hip members in June 2017. He was also bestowed an eagle feather by the Assembly of First Nations in Dec. 2016.
“Gord did not rest from working for the issues he cared about, and his commitment and passion will continue to motivate Canadians for years to come,” Trudeau said. “On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to Gord’s family, friends, bandmates and crew members, and his many, many fans. He will be sorely missed.”