Manitoba

Weakerthans frontman devastated by Gord Downie terminal cancer diagnosis

The frontman of an iconic Winnipeg band says he is still reeling from last week's news about Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie's terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

John K. Samson says Tragically Hip singer has 'been a light' to him for years

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie, left, has 'been a light' as both a lyricist and frontman, says former Weakerthans lead singer John K. Samson. (Left: Frank Gunn/Canadian Press; Right: Jason Halstead/Canadian Press)

The frontman of an iconic Winnipeg band says he is still reeling from last week's news of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie's terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

"I'm devastated by it. I really don't know what to say," said a shaky-voiced John K. Samson, lead singer of the Weakerthans. "Gord has been a light to me for as long as I can remember as a lyricist, and I think he's the greatest frontman that I've ever seen."

Downie announced May 24 on the band's website that he has been undergoing treatment and "fighting hard" since receiving the bleak diagnosis in December 2015.

Samson cited Downie's plain-spoken poetic approach to singing and song writing as a major influence in his own work.

"I've been led by his work. It's certainly been one of the great inspirations to me," he said.

The Weakerthans have opened for the Tragically Hip several times on Canadian tours. Samson said he learned something new about performing each time he watched Downie entertain fans.

Downie and the Hip are embarking on what stands to be the band's final tour this summer. Samson said he hopes to take in what could be Downie's last performance in Winnipeg on Aug. 5 at the MTS Centre. Ticket pre-sales opened Monday.

Samson is playing a solo show at the Brandon Folk Festival this July and has a new record in the works that he hopes will be released in October.

Canadians are sending messages of support to The Tragically Hip frontman, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer 3:32

With files from Terry MacLeod