Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #23, Gord Downie
23After Downie announced that he’d been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in May, tickets to every one of the Kingston CanRock band’s 15 final shows sold out in minutes. That cross-country tour earned nearly $2.5 million per show (more than Justin Bieber or Rihanna’s tours averaged this year) and raised more than $1 million for brain cancer research. The grand finale in August took over the country: millions of Canadians tuned in to watch Downie shriek, shimmer and weep his way through a full set, plus three encores. In between songs, he pressured Justin Trudeau—who was watching from box seats—to act on Indigenous issues.
Downie helped produce Secret Path, a solo album, graphic novel and film about a 12-year-old Ojibwe boy who died while fleeing a residential school.