TORONTO – Gord Downie, the lead singer for one of the most quintessentially Canadian rock bands, The Tragically Hip, has terminal brain cancer.
The band announced in a statement Tuesday morning that the dynamic lyricist and performer learned of the illness in December.
“Since then, obviously, he’s endured a lot of difficult times, and he has been fighting hard,” the statement said.
“In privacy along with his family, and through all of this, we’ve been standing by him.”
Despite the dire diagnosis, Downie has decided to launch one more tour with the band this summer.
“This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us,” the statement said.
“What we in The Hip receive, each time we play together, is a connection; with each other; with music and it’s magic; and during the shows, a special connection with all of you, our incredible fans. So, we’re going to dig deep, and try to make this our best tour yet.”
The Kingston, Ont., band formed in 1984 and would launch their self-titled debut EP in 1987. Their first full-length album, “Up to Here,” in 1989 turned them into bona fide rock stars with hits including “Blow at High Dough” and “New Orleans Is Sinking.”
Downie’s performances of “New Orleans Is Sinking” in concert would become one of his trademarks. He regularly thrilled fans by reinventing the hit with different lyrics during an extended musical interlude.
The specialist treating Downie, neuro-oncologist Dr. James Perry, will hold a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday morning to discuss the singer’s condition, details of which have not been released.
The Hip’s managers, Bernie Breen and Patrick Sambrook, will be there to take questions, but neither Downie nor his band mates will be in attendance.
The announcement also said the band will not discuss the matter further because “the music will stand to answer all.”
The group’s 14th studio album, “Man Machine Poem,” will be released on June 14, the statement said.
The Tragically Hip announced the news on its website and social media early Tuesday morning and reaction has been swift.
“This is so sad. The Hip alone has gotten me through some of the best and worst times of my life,” wrote Sarah Theresa on the group’s Facebook page.
Amber Lachambre wrote: “This one hurts. He’s not the voice of a band, he’s the voice of our country.”
Actor Jonathan Torrens wrote on Twitter: “No band in our history has embraced/defined #canadianity more than The Hip. Gutted by this news. Gord IS Canada.”