Canadian singer/songwriter Gord Downie died on Tuesday of brain cancer. He was 53.


Downie made a place for himself in Canadian rock music with songs about hockey and small towns. He was also the lead singer and songwriter of band The Tragically Hip. A statement on his website announced his death on Tuesday “with his beloved children and family close by.” The statement did not give a cause of death, but the singer had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.

The Tragically Hip released their first album in 1987 and gave many Canadians a soundtrack for the Canadian ways of life. “Ahead by a Century” and “Bobcaygeon” are two of their better known songs.

While other Canadian musicians, such as DrakeThe Weeknd, and Justin Bieber, have set their sights on international sales, Downie and the Tragically Hip built their foundation in their home country. “We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it,” said teary-eyed Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau. “We all knew it was coming but we hoped it wasn’t. I thought I was going to make it through this but I’m not,” he said, his voice breaking. “It hurts… He loved every hidden corner, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life. And he wanted to make it better.”


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In a written statement, Trudeau said 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.”

Downie was diagnosed with an aggressive and incurable brain cancer, called a glioblastoma, in Dec. 2015. The band made the news public the following May and said they would mount one more Canadian tour, despite Downie’s illness. Tickets sold out almost immediately, and the band’s final show was broadcast nationally for millions to watch.

Downie later admitted that he had needed six teleprompters during the concerts or else he’d have forgotten his own lyrics. But still, the singer remained an amazing showman. “Gord knew this day was coming — his response was to spend his 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,” read the statement from the Downie family.

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