Kingston bids farewell to favourite son Gord Downie

People in Kingston, Ont., are gathering Wednesday evening to remember Gord Downie, the hometown frontman of the Tragically Hip who died Tuesday night at the age of 53.

Fans filled Springer Market Square to pay their respects

People leave flowers at a memorial for Gord Downie in Kingston, Ont., on Wednesday. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Hundreds of people in Kingston, Ont., gathered Wednesday evening to remember Gord Downie, the hometown frontman of the Tragically Hip who died Tuesday night at the age of 53.

People lined up at Springer Market Square at King Street East and Brock Street in Kingston to sign a book of condolences, with others holding candles while music from the band played in the background.

Downie's literary lyrics and commanding stage presence helped vault the Kingston band into the national consciousness for decades with memorable live performances and songs.

He was diagnosed in 2015 with an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer and died Tuesday night, surrounded by his children and family, according to a statement on the band's website.

He and the Tragically Hip headed out on a final summer tour in 2016, one that culminated in a final concert in Kingston on Aug. 20, 2016.

Brad Lloyd has lived in Kingston for 28 years. He said that when Fully Completely came out, he skipped school to go buy the cassette and listen to it that day.

He admired how Downie and the Tragically Hip represented the city and Canada.

"He wrote about Millhaven, he wrote about Bobcaygeon, stuff no one else would write about it," Lloyd said.

"The boys loved Kingston and we loved our boys," he said.​

Roni Kleinlagel decided to return to her hometown from Ancaster, Ont., as soon as she heard of Downie's death. She had watched last year's concert in Springer Market Square.

"I went to the same high school that he did, my brother played hockey with him," she said. ""Over the years, he's always been  — they've always been — the whole band has always been there. It's like family."

Murray McGibbon drove from Ottawa after he finished work Wednesday to pay his respects.

McGibbon, who has attended 38 Tragically Hip shows, said the band was a big part of his life and his family, with the music providing a soundtrack for many a road trip.

He said that knowing it has come to an end is "just a strange feeling."

'They were family'

Earlier in the day, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said the band was beloved in the town for more than its music.

"I think for the average Kingstonian, it's what they did day in and day out. Fundraising concerts, supporting a whole host of local causes, helping to support particular individuals who were facing challenges.

"Regardless of your taste in music, even if you weren't a fan of their music you were a fan of them. They did so much for our community ... they weren't just a band, they were family here in Kingston," Paterson said. 

Richard Noble lays flowers on the Tragically Hip commemorative plaque in Kingston on Wednesday. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)
A flower lies on a commemorative plaque for the Tragically Hip. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)
Fans in Kingston line up to sign a book of condolence for Gord Downie on Wednesday. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)