Following the passing of musician, poet, philanthropist Gordon Downie comes an outpouring of respect and reflections on the life of the late 53-year-old Ontario artist best known as the frontman for the Tragically Hip.
Locally, comments from northern Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and beyond were every bit as dynamic as the animated front man; at times succinct, and other time raw and full of emotion.
They marked the beginning of remembering “A life well lived.”
One area musician, Keith McFadden, had a chance encounter with the legendary frontman just a few months before passing away Oct. 17.
Performing with the Halifax-based outfit Walrus and reporting in somewhere in between Washington and New York City as the band tours the United States, McFadden shared his memory of meeting Downie in June when the two appeared at the same Toronto music festival.
“He's a good man and he'll always go down in our books… he was backstage at Field Trip festival in Toronto. He put his Sacred Path album out on a label called Arts and Crafts. We're on a sidecar label called Madic Records, so we were just kickin’ around and I saw him come out of a porta-potty and just in passing said ‘Hey Gord,’” McFadden recalled. “He was pretty tired looking and definitely in his best spirits given his condition. I only had a few words in thanking him for his work and whatnot. He was kind of quiet. I'm sure he gets that a lot, but he grinned a bit and thanked me. Put my hand on his shoulder and just wished him the best I could.”
Many Canadians have seen Downie perform, either with his band or side projects, while others have enjoyed their music at work, amongst other places.
Here are their thoughts on the passing of the Canadian musician.
Simon Turner, Amherst
“Sitting at the kitchen table, anywhere in the world, if you turned in the Hip you felt like you were home and not alone.”
Amy Chapman, Amherst
“Gord was a genius, he was passionate, kind, and tried to use his celebrity to make the world a better place. His work in bringing light to the horrors suffered by our Indigenous people tells a story of the man he was. He left this world better than he found it, in my opinion. I'd call that a life well lived.”
Andrew Ross, Springhill
“Gord was unique. He wasn’t one of those artists that piggybacked off of other artists. What he felt was what ended up on the track at the time. If I would compare him to anyone it would have to be Hendrix as both were musical geniuses.”
“Hate the word "quintessential" it's been so overused, but he was the essence of how we want to see ourselves as Canadians, not perfect but striving to get there and he had the talent to express that journey in a way we could relate to.”
Nick Rafuse, Amherst
“An artist and group capable of embracing change, new generations, and new ideas. Watching that transition from a truly Canadian blues-rock band into something new and special, though I didn't realize it at the time, was absolutely a singular experience. Thinking back to college and remembering how often you could hear "Ahead By a Century" across campus, whether it was on the radio, someone's stereo, humming it to their Walkman or crooning it to the girls in the hopes of attention. They touched so many generations, in a way so few can.”
Trevor Clements, Charlottetown, PEI
“He wrote songs that mattered and he wrote songs about Canadian history. Saw The Hip in Moncton once. It's hard to pinpoint any one particular memory but those songs were part of the soundtrack to life. There were songs I wasn't so into but always had the feeling if I dipped into the meanings and lyrics and listened more that I'd find the gem.”
Terri McCormick, Amherst
“That voice.... those lyrics. My heart is breaking.”
Dustin Hatfield, Moncton
“For me, Gord's voice brings me back to being 12 years old, in the passenger seat of my mom's 1990 Cavalier, driving the old Pugwash road at about 7 a.m. We went once a week to Karate for 2 years, and there was something about the time that we happened to be driving, that Ahead By A Century ended up playing almost every trip we took. This memory is the single most vivid, sun-bleached, carefree memory I have from my childhood. It's something that I'm instantly reliving every time that song comes on, and I can play it like one of those road trip music montages from a 90's movie in my head, and for a minute there's just nothing else. Gord's voice, and The Hip's music, really, were the background music for most of my formative years. He’ll be deeply missed by many of us.”