'He was a really beautiful man': NLers touched by the loss of Gord Downie
Remembering the impact of The Tragically Hip frontman
Gord Downie is being mourned right across the country, and Newfoundland and Labrador is no different.
"I think a lot of people in Canada have some kind of connection — or something like that — to the Hip and to Gord," says Jenn Galliott, who owns Galliott Studios in Bonne Bay, Newfoundland.
"It's a big loss."
Downie died Tuesday night at the age of 53. He had an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.
Galliott recalled meeting Downie and his family several years ago and how the performer came to find solace in her studio-coffee shop.
The Hip frontman was in western Newfoundland for the Writers at Woody Point Literary Festival and he came into Galliott Studios, chatted with patrons and shook their hands.
"After he left everybody freaked out," Galliott told CBC's On the Go, laughing. "People that were there were like 'Oh my God, he just touched my hand.' It was quite a neat experience."
But Downie and his family did more than just visit the business.
"Him and his family ended up using the shop as a kind of clubhouse. I like to kind of keep the shop as a welcoming space," she said.
"I guess it was the only place where people weren't making a fuss about him and his family ... most of the time they would be in the shop before I would get there."
Galliott fought back tears several times as she talked about Downie.
"He was a great person. For the little bit of time I got to meet him and his family, it was really something."
Artists, fans remember legendary frontman
CBC radio host Tom Power said he found out about Downie's death about 20 minutes before he went on the air to host q. He said he threw out the show's initial plan and instead dedicated the airtime to honouring Downie.
Almost immediately he got calls from artists and musicians from across the country who wanted to share their stories and memories.
Despite knowing the news would come eventually, Power was surprised when he found out.
"It was a bit shocking, but I think it only reflected just how much he really meant to this country and how many people were really influenced by him and understood that he had a great role in this country, not just as a musician but also as a poet, as an activist and someone who spoke for people who weren't typically spoken for," he told CBC's Here and Now.
Power booked Downie to perform at the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival a few years ago. He said Downie remembered crew members from performing in St. John's some 20 years before, not needing a reminder of anyone's name.
"He was a really beautiful man," Power said.
"He loved Newfoundland. He loved the west coast of Newfoundland. He loved Gros Morne so very much. He spent a lot of time in Woody Point … he loved Newfoundland and Newfoundland loved him back."
Power said Downie's impact on Canada is evident by the reach of The Tragically Hip's final show in Kingston, Ont., which CBC aired in the summer of 2016.
"Almost 50 per cent of the country watched that show and if that doesn't tell you how sometimes you can speak to everyone if you treat the audience with respect I don't know what does," Power said.
"I can't even begin to think what this country is like without Gord Downie in it."
What a gift Gord was to all of us. The country feels gutted right now. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RipGord?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RipGord</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Poets?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Poets</a>—@rickmercer
Canada's identity & culture are richer for Gord Downie's work.—@JustinTrudeau
Such a mix of pain & pride in my chest here. He was such a hero for me & for so many. A bright light gone out. Although, still shining. <a href="https://t.co/fhPai5JhnO">https://t.co/fhPai5JhnO</a>—@heytimbaker
RIP Gord. Gone Way too soon, but Cheers to Life so well lived. <a href="https://t.co/m06MCC1jwl">https://t.co/m06MCC1jwl</a>—@alanthomasdoyle
At <a href="https://twitter.com/WritersAtWP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WritersAtWP</a>, with Gros Morne standing majestic behind him. <br><br>He loved every corner of this great country.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RIPGordDownie?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RIPGordDownie</a> <a href="https://t.co/ApGtx5po2M">pic.twitter.com/ApGtx5po2M</a>—@SeamusORegan
With files from On the Go and Here and Now