Gord Downie, Dead at 53

Gord DownieGord Downie was 53. He was the lead singer and songwriter for The Tragically Hip, my favourite band of all-time.

I'll never forget the day I heard Blow at High Dough on Q107 back in '89. I picked up Up To Here and never looked back. I've since seen them twelve times, meticulously documenting the setlists each time. I was lucky enough to see them one last time on August 12, 2016, a show I'll never forget.

I'll also never forget watching the final Tragically Hip show in Kingston from Ingonish with my oldest daughter as we openly wept together. Gord wasn't just a rock star, he was our national poet, our conscious. Most importantly, he was ours. Hip fans get it. If you don't, it's probably better for us that you don't understand.

We all knew this day was coming, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. And damn, does this ever hurt.



I didn't know what to do, so I went down to my podcast studio and recorded something for Toronto Mike'd subscribers. Just 26 unscripted minutes of me talking about the Hip while playing some Hip.

Update 2:

I had one more story I wanted to share. This is my Hallelujah story.

Share this entry

Comments (62 - click here to join in!)


F$%k cancer.

October 18, 2017 @ 8:45 AM

Rick C in Oakville

Just heard this on Newstalk, very sad, RIP Gord.

October 18, 2017 @ 8:47 AM

The Voice of Reason

Mike, my condolences. Far too young to pass.

October 18, 2017 @ 9:04 AM

Mike from Lowville

R.I.P. Gord. You will be truly missed but your legend lives on.

October 18, 2017 @ 9:06 AM


Hopefully the same usual suspects will not chastise and/or mock others for posting
about their grief or offering of condolences. Now is not the time to get into debates
about the merits of the band's music or any recognition that they have received in the
past or will undoubtedly garner in the weeks and months to come. RIP Gord Downie.

October 18, 2017 @ 9:06 AM

James Edgar

Gutted. Blow at high Dough didn't resonate when I first heard it in my car on a seriously crappy radio but New Orleans is sinking cut through the bad sound . And I've been in love with Gord's words ever since. Expecting this and still feel like i just got hit with a few baseball bats this morning.

RIP Gord

October 18, 2017 @ 9:11 AM


Let's just see what tomorrow brings
Wheat kings and pretty things
Oh that's what tomorrow brings

October 18, 2017 @ 9:23 AM


Thanks for Music!
Glad I was able to see you on a few occasions always a good time! RIP! Peace and Much Love

October 18, 2017 @ 9:27 AM

Brother Pete

I knew this day would come but I didn't think it would hit me as hard as it has. Gord's music was the soundtrack to many wonderful summer nights in Toronto. I remember my brother and I trying to get tickets to one of the Hip shows. Just to see them once. We got tix. When Fifty Mission Cap came on and Gord was singing about Barilko they shone a light on his banner at the ACC as Gord sang...gave me goosebumps.

Rest easy Gord. Thank you for the wonderful memories.



October 18, 2017 @ 9:35 AM


I'm glad you took my up on the suggestion. I will listen to this.

Lots to talk about next time we're together at the end of the month. This is incredibly sad.

I love you man.

October 18, 2017 @ 9:44 AM

Lyle Lanley


October 18, 2017 @ 10:00 AM


‪Something we could no longer contain...All it's delicate fear...Let's swear that we will...and We're headed for home...‬And Grace, Too

October 18, 2017 @ 10:23 AM


‪Something we could no longer contain...All it's delicate fear...Let's swear that we will...and We're headed for home...‬And Grace, Too

October 18, 2017 @ 10:23 AM


Your unscripted, off-the-cuff tribute to Gord Downie has more meaning and emotional
resonance than any of the numerous file obits that I have read over the past hour.
Great reminisces on your part as well as excellent track selection. I'm sure that the Man
himself would shake your hand and tip his cap in salute for this fine tribute. You have
definitely earned your stripes with this piece.

October 18, 2017 @ 10:25 AM

Tyler Campbell

Thanks for doing this Mike, will listen when I'm in a private place. He meant so much to me, and though we all knew this day was coming, I wasn't ready for it.

For me, he started out as the lead singer of a band I really liked, and he morphed into one of the people I admire most in the world.

What a gift he was.

October 18, 2017 @ 10:28 AM


I yelled at Ben Mulroney this morning when he broke the news on Canada AM (or whatever the fuck it’s called now). I’ve never cried about a musician’s death before so this is a strange feeling for me. I was crushed when Kurt Cobain died, but that was different. This is genuine sadness. I openly wept at the ACC when I saw them live for the last time August 10, 2016. I openly wept on my couch while I watched the Kingston show. I openly wept this morning. Canada mourns your loss, Gord Downie. Thank you for your existence. We’ll always have the music.

October 18, 2017 @ 10:34 AM

The Voice of Reason

Hopefully, someone starts a Cancer Fund to assist in the legacy of Gord Downie. A great prototype would be the "Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund". Like The Hip, I was not a fan of Dio's music, but the man himself touched many people in positive ways.
Mike, here is your time to assist in keeping Downies Mission alive. Use your platform to springboard to something positive from this sad day.

October 18, 2017 @ 11:25 AM


I first heard about the Tragically Hip back in 2001. I was online in an internet cafe and chatting with a couple of Canadians about this and that. I do not remember either of them but I do remember that both of them suggested that I listen to The Hip. Now, the band hadn't penetrated the Indian rock music crowd and hence I had never heard of them before that day. I remember one of these sites where you download limited individual mp3s from various bands so I checked out a few. And I played the song Ahead By A Century. And I was hooked. My fav songs of band also includes Wheat Kings, Bobcageon, Courage, 38 Years Old, New Orleans and Problem Bears.
Goodbye Gord, I will keep playing your music until the end.

October 18, 2017 @ 12:02 PM


"Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler's Green"

From one of my favourite Tragically Hip songs. RIP Gord.

October 18, 2017 @ 12:43 PM

Urooj Islam

How he handled the last couple of years of his life was one of the most incredible and inspirational things I have ever seen and I say this as someone who can't even name a Hip song.

This man was one of a kind in how he handled adversity.

October 18, 2017 @ 1:06 PM


It's a sad time, but what a gift he gave to his fans and to Canada with the way he faced this. It was announced publicly that he was ill, the band did a final tour with that memorable final televised performance. It's not often that a person can prepare themselves and others for their death; Gord got that chance, and he said his goodbyes in a way that his fans will cherish for the rest of their lives.

October 18, 2017 @ 1:11 PM

Andy Sorensen

What I just wrote on Facebook on Gord:

(This is a long one, so stick with it)

So Gord Downie passed away last night. If you’re Canadian, you know the name, you know the music of the band he led, The Tragically Hip. If you’re not, you might not, which is a shame.

The thing that attracted me the moment I popped “Music at Work” into a library CD Player was that we were dealing with something different here. This felt like a true labor of love, as opposed to something manufactured to, pardon the pun, be Hip. I had to hear more, and I did. The whole catalog is that.

The albums and music kept coming, when one day Gord announced the news: Terminal brain cancer. The guys would one final tour across the country they so loved, Canada. The final show was broadcast nationwide in Canada on the CBC, both radio and TV from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario.

I had to work that night, and by the time I got off I figured it was done. They’d played close to three hours by that point, I understood if Gord was tired and had shut it down. I tuned in CBC Radio’s app to see what was going down in Kingston for the walk home. They were starting the third encore, something they hadn’t done all tour, almost to say “We knew.”

I had gotten a tip-off from a Tweet from Toronto sportswriter Bruce Arthur on the final song (CBC’s feed was ~30 seconds behind), and I can point to the spot where I stood in place, Part tears, part reflective on what I was listening to, and part proud of Gord that he made it.

If this post at all made you curious about Gord and the Hip’s legacy, a documentary made about that last tour hits Netflix everywhere but Canada next month. I know I’ll be watching and that emotional walk will be replicated.

October 18, 2017 @ 1:31 PM


What a great band. Gordon will be missed.

October 18, 2017 @ 2:51 PM

Nikola M4

Rip Gordy love you

October 18, 2017 @ 2:52 PM

sc: frowsy1

R.I.P. You will be missed.

add me on snap frowsy1

October 18, 2017 @ 2:54 PM

Be Like Mike


Absolutely brilliant.

Legacy is about memory. Your personal tribute based on yours moved me to tears.

Thank you.

RIP, Gord.

October 18, 2017 @ 6:50 PM


I'm not a fan of the Hip at all, however, they are an iconic Cdn. band who never forgot about our country & that's what I appreciate from them. Yes Cancer sucks as I have been through it & fortunately gone with surgery in time.
Gord may you rest is peace & start singing tunes in heaven with the rest.

October 18, 2017 @ 6:58 PM


When the news broke, stations started playing their pre-recorded tributes. It was glossy faux mourning for mass consumption. It was soulless.

Then here, of all places, I find true authenticity. A real fan with real emotions sharing an absolute tribute.


October 18, 2017 @ 7:37 PM


I only saw them once. Back in 1984 at a dive bar in Kingston when they still had a saxophone player and no Johnny. Gord was 'interesting', to say the least. Obviously I had no idea of the potential that was there.

The Hip's music really was the soundtrack to our lives. I'll miss his presence in the national debate about what it means to be a Canadian.

BTW, does anyone know why we never here the "Killer Whale Tank" live version of "New Orleans Is Sinking"? In the 90s it seemed like it was the only version you heard, but I haven't heard it played on the radio in years.

October 18, 2017 @ 8:38 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


I don't know, but I did write about Killerwhaletank here: http://www.torontomike.com/2003/12/killerwhaletank.html

97.7 HTZ-FM played it that day in 2003, and I'd hear it there often.

October 18, 2017 @ 8:44 PM


Delcan: Noted is that Z103.5 played Courage after his death was announced. Totally out of band for then so congrats to Scott Fox Kat Callahan for doing that. I agree, the tributes offered by radio are often too cliche.

If you like in-depth radio try CKUA for that type of stuff. When Tom Petty died they did a brilliant tribute to the guy without the cliche and the usual 4 songs you're tired of hearing. I can only imagine what they'll do for Gord Downie

As for Downie, I most admire his focus on aboriginal rights & Chanie Wenjack. Chanie was a kid who was stolen from his parents and put in an Indian residential school. He escaped and later died from the elements along a railway track near Kenora. He just wanted to go home to his family.

Downie showed us the good AND BAD side of this country. He's the only artist I know that's approached the Native Residential school & 60's scoop stuff. It's one of the ugliest parts of Canadian history. Good on him.

October 18, 2017 @ 9:51 PM


I'll give 93.5 The move credit. They also played some Hip songs yesterday morning. They even said that even though The Hip was not on their playlist, they are playing them out of respect for Gord.

Thought it was a nice gesture

October 19, 2017 @ 8:20 AM

Jason from Sudbury

This is sad. While we all knew this day was coming, we didn't expect it to be so soon. RIP Gord.

October 19, 2017 @ 12:59 PM

John M.

I hope no one takes this wrong way. It is sad to see anyone die so young, and I am Gord Downie's age so I think it is very young. Clearly his fans feel his loss.

However, I have never felt so alien.

I was born in Ottawa the same year Gord was born. I have lived my whole life in Ontario. I just never was a fan of the Tragically Hip.

Last year, if you had asked me to name one member of that band or one of their songs, I doubt I could have.

Now I hear that Gord's death will be one of those "I'll never forget where I was" moments. Our Prime Minister cries talking about it.

I have no connection to Gord Downie and yet it seems like everyone else has strong ones.

Gord Downie, R.I.P.

October 19, 2017 @ 1:12 PM


John, I can relate.

I liked the older Hip songs but did not like the newer stuff at all.

I feel bad for Gord the person. My mother passed from Brain cancer so I knew what he and he family were up against. Always sad to see someone go through something as horrible as that especially young like he was.

October 19, 2017 @ 1:20 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@John M.

When the Hip were playing their last show in Kingston, all of my friends were posting on Facebook and Twitter about the Hip. It really did feel like I was sharing the moment with the entire country. I excitedly showed my wife....

Then, she showed me her Facebook. My wife is not white, and her many Facebook friends, consisting of her large extended family and friends, are primarily non-white. It was clear this world was rather indifferent to the entire happening. It was a real eye-opener to me.

We were on a road trip to Atlantic Canada, and coming through Quebec we stayed at her French-Canadian cousin's house and I learned from the conversation how the Hip was primarily an English-Canada thing. I concluded from this trip that the Hip didn't resonate with Canada, but white-English Canada. There are exceptions, of course, but much of Canada is neither white nor English.

And it goes without saying that not all of white-English Canada feels what I feel for this man and this band. That would be crazy. After all, there were Canadian homes that did not tune in the men's gold medal hockey game in Vancouver in 2010.

When our PM cried, it made me feel better because I had just cried for the first time at the death of someone I didn't know personally. He was feeling what I was feeling, and reacting the exact same way.

October 19, 2017 @ 2:08 PM


My brother has lived in Kingston for a year and a half and he wasn't even aware of Gord
Downie's passing until i told him about it last night. He and his wife had been out and about
yesterday and apparently they did not run into any of the makeshift memorials that instantly
sprung up. Not quite sure how you miss seeing that, especially in the man's own hometown,
but in my brother's defense, he and my sister-in-law aren't exactly into what is hip (no pun
intended whatsoever!!).

October 19, 2017 @ 2:25 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


With 93.5's sister station Boom 97.3 going all Hip all day yesterday, it would have been easy for them to gently push people there for the Hip chatter, so it's pretty cool they broke format and played some Hip.

I drove to the airport last night and heard so much Hip on 102.1, 88.1, Q107, 97.7, 94.9, 107.9... so much Hip! It was great....

October 19, 2017 @ 2:26 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


To miss the news yesterday you'd have to avoid all Canadian news sources: radio, television, social media, media websites... and you'd have to avoid someone telling you the news and the memorials you mentioned. It's pretty amazing he could go the entire day without learning Gord had passed.

October 19, 2017 @ 2:28 PM


My brother and his wife don't have cable and although they do have full-Internet
access, I don't think that they use it very often nor do they listen to the radio, even
online. It is almost like they are living some kind of Modern Amish lifestyle, which is
most hilarious because my sister-in-law is a doctor!!

October 19, 2017 @ 2:31 PM


It was 1988, my older cousin and i drove to Florida when he introduced me "Up to Here" think we wore out the cassette. It was love at first listen. Which lead me back to their self titled album

I remember in March of 1990 borrowed my Mum's credit card, called on the high school payphone and landed 4 tickets to see the hip at the concert hall in Toronto. I screamed in joy people were wondering if i were insane, and they kept saying "the tragically who?"

The opening act i remember to this day a southern rock band called "Flies on Fire" who really got the show going.
The show was Intimate, hot and sweaty. Gord and the band and arm length away and were absolutely fantastic. Gord being Gord and the band keeping up with his antics.
With out ears ringing, we hopped on the Subway, with our shirts soaked of sweat, a smile i could not wipe off my face for days, i was hooked.

For those who who didn't evolve (stay with them) with their music over time, i highly recommend picking up their newer material (In Between evolution onward) . Even his solo material worth a listen to.
I feel for his family especially his kids and his band-mates who lost a brother.

Lets hope some material come out of the vault over time.
Gord, you inspired a nation!
Rest in peace

October 19, 2017 @ 3:31 PM


Flies on Fire!! Wow, haven't thought about that band in over 25 years!! Q107
played a song of theirs called "Cry to Myself" back in 1991 for a little awhile. Pretty
sure I have both of their albums somewhere in my collection.

October 19, 2017 @ 3:35 PM

Bryan Hendry

Yep, bought their CD's right after that show. Hello Mr. Daniels was my fav.
Definitely a blast from the past.

October 19, 2017 @ 3:59 PM

twins from bolton

Only tears I had with a musicians death was with John Lennon.
Many others have passed since then & can understand everyone's reflections about their life.
Gord was a true Cdn. icon & we all knew that day was going to happen. A sad day for sure for everyone. No tears from me & hopefully passed away peacefully.
Enough, get over it & Gord is in a better place now.

October 19, 2017 @ 4:32 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Instead of the highly insensitive and selfish "enough, get over it" and "no tears from me", maybe you should just sit this one out?

October 19, 2017 @ 4:44 PM

twins from bolton

Gord is in a better place now, not suffering with cancer (Which I had). As I mentioned he was an Icon to Cda. & their music, but not a fan.
Insensitive & selfish?? Just my thoughts.

October 19, 2017 @ 4:52 PM

The Voice of Reason


I am also not a fan of the group, Mike can attest to that. The man however did leave a huge impact on many people. His life should be celebrated as he deeply impacted his fan base on a personal level.
The sadness of his passing can only be rivaled by a few Canadians in recent memory. Jack Layton although did not agree with his politics and possibly Jean Beliveau.

October 19, 2017 @ 5:03 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

To borrow a line from one of my favourite movies, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole.

When Dave Matthews passes, I won't go posting on tributes to him letting the world know how much I disliked his music.

October 19, 2017 @ 5:07 PM

twins from bolton

So much for so may years Mike

October 19, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

twins from bolton

So much for so may years Mike

October 19, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

Urooj Islam

@ Toronto Mike

That's a really interesting anecdote about how your wife and her family perceived this situation over the last year or two.

My Pakistani born parents were just as confused yesterday as to why sports networks and their websites were leading off with the story of a musician's passing because they literally had no idea who Gord Downie or the Tragically Hip were.

There's definitely something lost in translation between anglophone/francophone and white/non-white lines when it comes to the Hip.

Great point.

October 19, 2017 @ 6:30 PM

twins from bolton

Above mssg. should read - So much for so many years Mike.

October 19, 2017 @ 6:45 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


And I appreciate that! Over a decade of comments. That's why I told you what I'd tell my own brother or son.

It's just not the time or place for that. 😀

October 19, 2017 @ 6:49 PM

Urooj Islam

Also great tribute episode about Gord Downie, Mike, very educational for me as a guy who knew nothing about him or the band.

You should do a Kick Out the Jams Hip Tribute with another superfan, I would listen, I want to learn what made him and the band so special to this great country.

October 19, 2017 @ 8:24 PM



Mike's point about the his family & people in Quebec having little knowledge of Gord Downie is a valid point. It points out that Gord is not so much a Canadian hero as he is a hero to a generation of Canadians. There is a difference. Further, it points out the bias in media which focuses on a certain demographic. A good example was the death of Jack Layton. Voice of Reason said this was a "moment" in Canadian history. As a guy who spend the last 11 years in Western Canada, I can tell you that's an inaccurate statement. It's more a Toronto moment.

Gord Downie espoused the values of Canada, both good and bad. Unfortunately his fans often do not. Their perspective of Canada is quite regional. And sadly, few people seem to remember him for his contributions to aboriginals which I suppose is ironic because it was the last thing he choose to do with what was left of his life. One would imagine that had some importance to him.

October 19, 2017 @ 8:37 PM

Gary M

A Toronto moment? Layton's breakthrough was in Quebec.

October 20, 2017 @ 3:09 AM


@Gary M

Layton won Quebec but he has always been a Toronto darling. His win in Quebec was only natural because he stomped on the Bloc who are really just a french version of the NDP. Regardless, they don't have the deep roots with Layton that Toronto does.

October 20, 2017 @ 8:22 AM



How dare You? Dave Matthews is awesome. For Christ sakes he has his own wine!!!

October 20, 2017 @ 1:59 PM

David B

I listened to the For Gord episode yesterday. Ironically, I was driving through Ingonish just as you got to the part about sharing the final concert stream with your daughter. A heartfelt and touching tribute with some added personal notes. Very well done!!

October 20, 2017 @ 4:27 PM


As mentioned many times previously, due to budgetary reasons I subsist in a one channel
universe but lucky for me that one channel happens to be CTV! So I am quite glad that I was
able to watch last night's commercial-free screening of the Tragically Hip documentary "Long
Time Running." I never managed to see the band perform live so even thought the circumstances
of this film weren't obviously optimal, other than their live album and Youtube videos, this film
was the next best thing. Also, I'm absolutely sure that I could not have been more impressed with the group's musical tightness and sense of brotherhood. In my opinion, not enough attention is
paid to their amazing rhythm section of Gord Sinclair on bass and Johnny Fay on drums. Favourite moments included the snippets of "So Hard Done By" and the more complete performance of "Grace, Too." Depending on the day either "Road Apples" or "Day For Night" are my personal
faves from the Hip catalogue, with "Trouble at the Henhouse" not too far behind. I will most definitely watch this film again when it is re-broadcast in several weeks!! Don't think that I've seen
anyone braver (in the public eye, that is) than Gord Downie in my lifetime, except for perhaps
Terry Fox.

October 21, 2017 @ 9:25 AM


Just finished listening to your previous guests from the Geeks and Beats podcast's
tribute to Gord Downie. It is definitely worth a listen for anyone who might be interested.

October 25, 2017 @ 11:17 AM

Leave a comment

Only 62 comments? C'mon, we can do better... Leave a comment above and let's keep this conversation going!

« John Dunsworth, Dead at 71 Toronto Mike'd Podcast Episode 272: Peter Bulut Kicks Out the Jams! »