Downie was diagnosed with the cancer in December 2015, and announced it publically in May 2016. Downie had been part of Tragically Hip for over three decades, since 1984, releasing 14 studio albums, many of which topped Canada’s charts repeatedly. They broke the record for the most Juno Awards given to a single band, earning 16. So great was their popularity in Canadian culture that the band even made it onto postage stamps and was awarded the country’s highest honor, the Order of Canada.
Outside of music, Downie was also a keen philanthropist. He announced in October 2016 an album, accompanying graphic novel by artist Jeff Lemire and animated film called “Secret Path”, based on the real life tragic case of Chanie Wenjack, a young indigenous boy who ran away from a boarding school in Canada to return home, freezing to death.
Downie considered “Secret Path” to be his most important work, with all proceeds going to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.