Death & the Lead Singer

This past week, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were ablaze with the final concert, presented live on Canadian TV, of The Tragically Hip–a band I’d previously never heard of, but who are apparently legend in Canada.

Now, I’ve been around through George Strait’s final tour’s last concert, so I’d seen Facebook on fire for a retiring singer before–after all, I live in Texas, where he’s King George, or even more iconically, just George.  He’s religion around here, like Gord Downie clearly is in Canada. I get it.

But this goodbye tour was touching in its heartfelt reality, and in its open, simple death positivity–because the lead singer of The Tragically Hip is terminally ill with glioblastoma (brain cancer), and this was his last public concert.



Gord Downie chose to live out his waning days in public, using his fame and circumstances to push forward topics that matter in the process:  the treatment of Canadian First Nations peoples, in particular, and the exhortation to do better in general.

And in the words of one Canadian blogger, to open up the Death Positive conversation even further:

Years from now the question won’t be, “Where were you when Gord Downie died?” but rather “Where were you when he played his last concert?” Looking death squarely in the eye, Gord changed the narrative from not how he will die but how he lived. A powerful reminder to us all.

I don’t propose to know what goes on inside the head of someone facing imminent death. All I know is that a man should be judged by his actions in the face of it. Gord Downie just showed us all how to die with courage, and grace too.


Well done, Mr. Downie.


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