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Tributes to Gord Downie

As Canadian musicians tearfully reflected on the legacy of Gord Downie on Wednesday, many used a word the late Tragically Hip frontman himself belted out onstage in his signature howl: "Courage."

Downie's advocacy on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, his fortitude in touring one last time, and his fundraising efforts during his fight with terminal brain cancer were incredibly brave and galvanized a nation in a way that will be felt for decades, said his peers.

"He's a national hero," said Rush frontman Geddy Lee. "There are lots of different ways that people handle this kind of thing and mostly, if you look at people like David Bowie, et cetera, how they handled their illnesses, they chose to handle it very quietly — and he did not.

"He wanted to go out doing what he loved to do, and trying to do as much good with the time he had left, so for me that's a courageous act."

In May 2016, Downie revealed his diagnosis with glioblastoma, an incurable form of cancer. He died Tuesday night "with his beloved children and family close by," according to a statement on the Tragically Hip's website. He was 53.

"I think that he took that personal tragedy of his own illness and used it in a most admirable way, and in a way that I think is helping Canada and Canadians move forward into our next century," said former Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page, who got choked up during a phone interview.

"This is a man who did so much more than (politicians) who've spent 30-year careers avoiding issues," added an equally emotional Sean McCann, singer and former Great Big Sea guitarist.

"He advanced the reconciliation (with Indigenous Peoples), he put the pressure on (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau — hopefully it will work."

"We were waiting for the shoe to drop but for a while there it looked like Gord would live forever," said McCann, who planned to spend the rest of the day walking and listening to Downie's music.

"Quite frankly this has hit me pretty hard," added Lee, pausing for a moment so he wouldn't cry.

"I think when we saw him up there (on stage) we thought he could beat the devil. To wake up to that news (of his death) just reminds us of how vulnerable we all are.

"It's a terrible loss for this country and it's a terrible loss to what Canadian music is. It's a profound loss of an amazing person."



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