TORONTO (NEWS 1130) – Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, the Tragically Hip reported on their website early this morning.
His managers say the band’s frontman is determined to “blow people’s minds” with a raucous Canadian tour.
Downie, the band’s lead singer and primary lyricist, says the band will do one last tour, but has not given any dates.
A specialist treating Downie says the singer is facing one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer but has been cleared to perform.
Dr. James Perry, head of neurology at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, says Downie has already undergone some treatment but it’s “too early right now” to understand his full prognosis.
“It’s my difficult duty today to tell you that Gord Downie’s brain tumor is incurable. He has one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer called Glioblastoma — or GBM for short — and it’s one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in Canadians between the ages of 40 and 60 years old.”
Downie has already undergone six weeks of radiation, combined with chemotherapy medication and is continuing with chemotherapy maintenance.
“In the last several weeks [he has] rallied tremendously. In fact, last week, he had a very important MRI scan of the brain that showed that all the swelling in his head in the left temporal lob area has decreased substantially and the amount of tumor that we’ve seen residual has clearly shrunk — and he’s doing very well,” says Perry.
He adds there’s a very wide spectrum of possible outcomes for patients with the type of brain cancer Downie has.
But Perry says Downie has recovered much of his physical, mental and emotional strength and it’s safe for him to tour with the band this summer.
Perry says he is impressed by Downie’s resilience and courage to stay ahead of the news about his diagnosis.
“For many people… it’s daunting to actually reveal your diagnosis — How do I tell my kids? How do I deal with this with my co-workers? — let alone somebody that is truly a national treasure.”
Downie is 52 years old and has four children. He is married to Laura Leigh Usher.
He is known for songs like ‘New Orleans is Sinking,’ ‘Bobcaygeon,’ ‘Ahead by a Century,’ and ’38 Years Old.’ He also wrote the poetry book, ‘Coke Machine Glow,’ which was released as an album under the same name.
“For people who don’t know the back end of radio, there’s a thing called CanCon, where we have to play a certain percentage of Canadian-made music… but we do that happily with the Tragically Hip because a lot of people really love the Hip,” says Tara Jean Stevens, who hosts Morning Glory with Kiah and Tara Jean on Vancouver’s Jack FM.
“For me, I actually love Gord Downie as a solo artist more than I’ve loved him as a rock star in the Hip,” she tells NEWS 1130. “When I was younger, I was actually one of those obnoxious 22-year-old poets and I loved him for his poetry. One of my favourite albums of all time is Coke Machine Glow and that’s definitely something I’m going to put on for my kids tonight.”
Stevens says you never know what you are going to get when you see Downie perform, whether with the Tragically Hip or solo.
“One time I saw him perform in Stanley Park with a random band he had brought in from Vancouver. It was a terrible concert but I still love the guy!”
The Hip formed in Kingston and have since toured Canada from coast to coast to coast, as well as around the world. They have won 14 Junos and been inducted to both Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years. #Courage
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 24, 2016
Downie was diagnosed with cancer in December. Despite the “very tough news,” the message read, Downie “has been fighting hard.”
“Through all of this, we’ve been standing by him. So after 30-some years together as The Tragically Hip, thousands of shows, and hundreds of tours … We’ve decided to do another one. This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us.
“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.”
Details on the summer tour will be announced tomorrow.
The band thanked their fans for their continued love and support.