The Tragically Hip never took off in the US the way they did in Canada, so it might be hard for Americans to understand how monumentally important the Gord Downie-led group has been to the country and its people over the years. Here’s one way to put it into perspective: The band’s final concert was broadcast live last summer, and that broadcast was watched by 11.7 million people, which equals about a third of Canada’s population. For comparison, the most recent Super Bowl had an average 113.7 million viewers, or about a third of the US population.
Among the band’s fans is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was unable to hold back tears as he spoke today about Downie’s death. In a moving speech, Trudeau mourned the loss of “our buddy Gord”:
“We lost one of the very best of us this morning. Gord was my friend, but Gord was everyone’s friend, it’s who we were. Our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had. Not just loved it in a nebulous, ‘Oh, I love Canada’ way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country. […] We are… we are less as a country without Gord Downie in it. We all knew it was coming, but we hoped it wasn’t. I thought I was going to make it through this, but I’m not: It hurts.”
Earlier today, Trudeau took to Twitter to honor his friend, writing, “There will never be another one like you, Gord. Rest in peace my friend.” Vancouver native Seth Rogen, the NHL, Canada’s official Twitter account, and many others also tweeted and shared their sympathies.
Watch The Tragically Hip’s final performance here.