Gord Downie – The Canadian Poet

David Selles

It has been just over a week since the legendary lead singer of The Tragically Hip passed away of cancer at the age of 53. While his passing away was somewhat expected, it was still heart-breaking when the announcement came from his family.

Downie was more than just a musician, he was a poet. His lyrics spoke to many demographics around Canada. Downie’s music could impact people in ways that other musicians could only dream of.

His lyrics spoke about Canada in ways that only he could. All of his songs were beautiful poetry.

When the news came out of his passing, touching tributes and messages came pouring in from coast to coast to coast.

These tributes show just how much The Tragically Hip frontman meant to this country.

His death had people reminiscing about concerts they had seen. It had people saying, “I was there when Downie played his final concert.”

And Downie didn’t just touch the lives of people who loved music. He touched the lives of people from the sports world to some of the best comedians.

One of the comedians that gave a tribute was Rick Mercer.

Mercer changed his well-known rant from his usual political perspective to a Gord Downie tribute.

In his rant he talked about the outpouring of emotion over Downie’s death was nothing like he had ever seen before. He said it was so big that Mercer half expected Gord to show up on the National and announce another tour. Mercer told a story about how Downie called him to ask if he was pronouncing the town of Isle aux Morts in Newfoundland the way Newfoundlander’s would say it. Mercer said he was but that if Downie wanted another opinion that he could phone Mercer’s dad. Mercer’s dad phoned him later in the week to tell him Gord from Kingston had called about the town. Mercer finished his rant by saying that he didn’t know Gord Downie well, but that he would miss him like he knew him very well and that everyone would because Gord listened to people like Mercer’s dad.

It’s stories like this that show what kind of person Gord was. Downie was never one to flaunt his title as the lead singer of the Hip or that he was this successful song writer. Gord would find ways to tell other people’s stories like few people could and he will be greatly missed because of that.

But Downie also sang about Canadian sports icons.

One of his songs that speaks to me the most is 50 Mission Cap. This song tells the story of former Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barillko. In this song he talks about how the Leafs legend disappeared on a plane heading for a fishing trip. Being the big hockey fan I am, I loved the lyric The last goal he ever scored, won the Leafs the Cup.

It was lyrics like this that Downie was known for. His ability to take stories from small communities and make them into his own poetry was why so many people fell in love with The Hip.

Gord Downie once said:

“This is no dress rehearsal. This is our life.”

And Gord lived his to the fullest.

We will miss you Gord.

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