Gord Downie diagnosed with brain cancer, announces summer tour

May 30, 2016

There’s no other band in the nation’s history that has resonated as deeply with Canadians as The Tragically Hip. That’s why last week’s news—that singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last December—provoked an outpouring of grief and well-wishes rarely seen with public figures in this country.

Downie has an incurable form of cancer called glioblastoma. It originates in the brain instead of spreading to it, and he underwent surgery and six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to help treat it. Glioblastoma spreads quickly, and is one of the most common causes of cancer death in Canadians aged 40-60. The tumour has reacted well to the treatment, shrinking in size, but again, is incurable. It was discovered during a trip to the hospital after Downie collapsed and had a seizure on a sidewalk in his hometown of Kingston.

Despite the sad news, The Tragically Hip also revealed plans to tour their upcoming album Man Machine Poem in July and August. The tour is only in Canada, and is comprised of just a handful of dates, so tickets will be tough to come by. The pre-sale started at 10 a.m. EST today, with tickets for the general public going on sale on June 3 at the same time of day. It’s not necessarily the Hip’s final tour—successful treatment of Downie’s cancer is able to prolong his life—but you won’t want to miss it.

Downie has been so many different things to Canadians: an extraordinary singer, an unhinged, electric performer, an unparalleled lyricist, a historian, a great guy, a national treasure. His contributions to the country’s cultural identity is irreplaceable, and the idea of a future here without his voice is hard to swallow. First and foremost, Downie is a poet. See him recite (and act out) fellow Canadian poet Al Purdy’s At The Quinte Hotel below. (And a cover of the Hip’s “Flamenco,” recently recorded by Feist, here).


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About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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