Vancouver musician calls for 'national toast' to remember Gord Downie

Steven Drake mixed two albums for the Tragically Hip and one of Gord Downie's solo records. He is calling for a "national toast" across the country at 7 p.m. PT this weekend.

Steven Drake remembers skating on Lake Ontario with the late Tragically Hip frontman

Steven Drake, former member of the Vancouver band Odds, sits in front of the console used to record the Tragically Hip's first album. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

A Vancouver musician and friend of Gord Downie is calling for a "national toast" this weekend to remember the life of the Tragically Hip frontman who died Tuesday night.

Steven Drake, who mixed two albums for the Tragically Hip and Downie's solo record, Coke Machine Glow, was good friends with the late singer.

"You know, getting to see him every night back in the heyday was really something," he said. "We spent a lot of time hanging out."

Drake also said Downie loved sharing a drink with good company.

He is calling for people across the country to remember Downie by having a drink at 7 p.m. PT Oct. 28.

"Let's all go out ... let's have a toast to Gord," he said. "Gord would want us all to have a drink, I think."

In his final years, Downie became a strong advocate for Indigenous people and issues, and in June, he was awarded the Order of Canada.

'He followed his passion'

Drake remembers driving in his car when he first heard the news of Downie's death.

"I had a whole bunch of feelings," he said. "But Gord would not want us to cry for very long."

"He just wants everybody to follow their passion ... he followed his passion and we celebrate that with him."

Drake mixes a song on the old console. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

According to Drake, Downie loved skating and playing hockey, specifically as a goaltender.

He said if there was one memory of Gord that sticks out for him, it would be passing the puck around on frozen Lake Ontario after a late night of mixing songs from the album, Music @ Work.

"It was like, dead of winter ... and here I am skating with Gord Downie on Lake Ontario at midnight, passing the puck under the stars," he said.

"I thought ... what a crazy outcome for everything in the universe to happen, that I get to be in the most Canadian possible of moments."

Drake said Downie gave him this set of coloured pencils as a gift after mixing one of the Hip's records, to encourage his drawing. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Battle with brain cancer

Downie had an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, which he discovered after a seizure in December 2015.

Canadians learned of Downie's illness on May 24 last year — the same day the rest of the rock group announced the Kingston, Ont.-based band would head out on a final summer tour "for Gord, and for all of us."

The final concert, in Kingston on Aug. 20, 2016, was broadcast by CBC. 

Downie died Tuesday night surrounded by his children and family, according to a statement on the band's website. He was 53 years old.


  • An earlier version of this story said the "national toast" to Gord Downie was being planned for Saturday Oct 21. In fact, it's being planned for Saturday Oct 28.
    Oct 18, 2017 6:16 PM PT