Gordon Edgar Downie now walks among the stars. He died last night surrounded by his family. For them, and for his bandmates, for his friends, for his professional associates, and for the hundreds of people whose lives he touched personally, the loss of his generous spirit and physical presence is immeasurable.
For the millions who had a relationship with only his work, his words and his music are still with us, and always will be. The music Gord Downie made with his brothers in the Tragically Hip is part of our country’s history. Their impact will be felt many generations into the future. But Gord Downie was always situated in what he called “the never-ending present.” He felt the most important work you’ll ever do is the work being done right now. That applied to the last two years of his life in particular.
Until their last decade, the Tragically Hip released new music every two years, like clockwork. They never took an extended break from the road--not even when threatened by terminal tragedy. Downie released five solo albums in between, and toured behind them. (More are forthcoming.) Every show was different. Every show would surrender to the spontaneity of the moment. Nothing is more vital than the here and now. With your family. With your friends. With your peers. With total strangers, in a communal celebration. Or all alone, listening to music that makes you feel the same way today as it did in in 1987; in 1997; in 2007.
“I want you to enchant my days
Onward, daily, forward, away”
In 2017, Gord Downie is now gone. If we are to honour that legacy, we should embrace that never-ending present, to leave nothing on the table, to “use it up,” to enable beauty, to build the Canada of the next 150 years. “All songs are one song, and that song is: don’t forget.”