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Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie talks about memory loss in CBC interview

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Oct 14th, 2016

Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie says his memory is fading as he battles terminal brain cancer, but is keeping busy with projects that may include another record.

Downie spoke with anchor Peter Mansbridge in an exclusive interview for CBC’s “The National,” which aired Thursday night.

Downie told Mansbridge he “can’t remember hardly anything” and admitted he had to write “Peter” on his hand so he wouldn’t forget the name of the man interviewing him, whom he’s known for 25 years.

Downie also said he’s fighting his terminal illness and hopes he “can get more time.”

When Mansbridge asked if he’s “resigned to the direction this is heading,” Downie replied, “Yes, I am. I really am.”

A preview of Downie’s interview with Peter Mansbridge was released earlier Thursday

Downie revealed his cancer earlier this year. Over the summer, he and the Hip put on a 15-show tour that ended with an emotional live broadcast concert from his hometown of Kingston, Ont., that drew millions of viewers.

Next Tuesday, Downie is set to release “Secret Path,” a new solo album with an accompanying graphic novel inspired by the tragedy of Canada’s residential school system. He is also scheduled to perform at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Tuesday, and at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on Oct. 21.

“Secret Path” tells the story of a 12-year-old First Nations boy in Ontario named Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ont.

An animated film on the story – accompanied by documentary footage of Downie tracing Chanie’s steps with the Wenjack family – will be broadcast on CBC on Oct. 23.

The full video of the song, “The Stranger,” is available below and at this link.

“This is what I want to do,” Downie said of the project. “Nothing else really matters to me.”

He also said the Tragically Hip are working on another record, adding that “just doing things” brings him peace.

The interview marked the first time he’s discussed his condition publicly. He said he feels lucky in a sense because he can still accomplish some things.

“It’s given me this long kind of way to do some of these things that I’ve always wanted to do,” Downie said.

Downie told Mansbridge one of the biggest effects of his illness is his memory that used to be his “forte.”

“And now I can’t remember hardly anything. I have ‘Peter’ written on my hand. I have a few things written on my hands. And I say that just to be up front, because I might call you Doug.”

He said he struggled with his memory during the summer tour and had to use six teleprompters to help with lyrics. Downie said before his illness he always had one teleprompter at his shows as a backup, but rarely needed it. He had difficulty remembering lyrics during the summer tour, he said.

“For some reason every line, I just couldn’t, it’s the worst kind of punishment,” he said.

“It was one savage kick in the pants, can’t remember people’s names and can’t remember lyrics.”


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