Gord Downie, the frontman for Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, died Tuesday, his family said in a statement posted to the band's Twitter account.
"Last night, Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by," they wrote, adding that he "knew this day was coming — his response was to spend the precious time as he always had — making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a live well-lived, often sealing it with a kiss ... on the lips."
Downie announced last spring that he'd been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer but toured anyway following surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. After all, the band's album, Man Machine Poem, was in the can and the tour was already booked.
In a 2016 interview with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, Dr. James Perry talked about accompanying Downie on his final tour from the dual perspectives of an oncologist and lifelong fan of The Tragically Hip.
"Most people (with glioblastoma) can't return to their job, at least at the level they did before," Perry told the network. "It’s unbelievable what he’s able to do. He's performing better than he has in years. No doubt drawing on all of the emotion and the crowd, no doubt knowing that this may be his last time in front of such a major audience."
Downie formed The Tragically Hip in 1984 with high school classmates Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fray. The band, who started out doing covers, eventually became known for original songs like Ahead By a Century, Wheat Kings, Blow at High Dough and New Orleans Is Sinking.
Their first self-titled EP was released in 1987 and their breakthrough debut full-length album, Up to Here, was released in 1989. Since then they have released 14 studio albums, two live albums, one EP and 54 singles. Nine of their albums have reached No. 1 in Canada. They have received numerous Canadian music awards, including 14 Juno awards, the equivalent of the Grammy in Canada.
Downie also produced three solo albums beginning in 2001, as well as a collaboration with fellow Canadian indie darlings The Sadies.
Downie's final live performance took place in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ontario in August 2016. Downie later told the Canadian Broadcast Corporation that he needed six teleprompters to help him remember the lyrics. He also made an appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had been in office for less than a year at that point, to address problems in Canada's aboriginal communities.
Trudeau remembered him on Twitter Wednesday, writing, "There will never be another one like you, Gord. Rest in peace, my friend."
The prime minister later choked up during a CBC interview about the singer's place in Canadian culture.
"We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it," he noted. "And he wanted to make it better. He knew as great as we were, we needed to be better than we are. And that's why his last years were devoted to Chanie Wenjack and to reconciliation. This is something I have certainly drawn inspiration and strength from."
Rush, another of Canadian's best-known bands, tweeted, "It's a sad sad day for Canada and Canadian music ... Rest in peace, Gord ... And thank you..."
Fellow Canadians Seth Rogen and KD Lang also remembered Downie on Twitter.
There will never be another one like you, Gord. Rest in peace my friend.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 18, 2017
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