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.
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 was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable brain cancer, in December 2015. When the band made the news public the following May, expressions of sorrow poured in from across the country.
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