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World a little emptier without Downie, Petty

2017 had already been a tough year for Kivalliq fans of classic rock with the deaths of Chuck Berry, Gregg Allman and Butch Tracks of the Allman Brothers Band, Black Sabbath's Geoff Nichols and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, but this month hit hard with the passing of both Tom Petty and Gord Downie.

Kivalliq News Editor Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News Editor Darrell Greer

Petty was known for decades as one of the good guys in rock music.

A true rock-and-roll success story, Petty was born in Gainesville, Fla. and dropped out of high school as a teenager to chase his musical dreams with band, Mudcrutch. Petty started hitting it big in 1975 when he formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with longtime friend and group lead guitarist, Mike Campbell.

The group's first two albums produced a trio of singles that put the Heartbreakers on the map before their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, broke internationally and sold more than two-million copies.

Success continued to follow Petty, as the Traveling Wilburys (Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne) released their mega-selling debut album in 1988. Petty followed up on this with his first solo release in 1989, Full Moon Fever, which hit platinum selling more than three-million copies.

Despite the tremendous success and incredible wealth that came with the hits, Petty remained down-to-earth and always came across as someone you would have been good friends with, had you grown up in the same hometown.

That combination of great music and likeability had millions of fans feeling like they had lost a good friend when Petty died on Oct. 2.

The shock of Petty's passing had barely subsided when time ran out on Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, who died Oct. 17 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

The music of the Hip, with Downie's distinctly Canadian lyrics, has given the band legendary status at home, if not internationally.

Downie's advocacy for indigenous communities in the North has garnered him praise from many, many corners, especially for his solo project, Secret Path, which honoured 12-year-old Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) boy, Chanie Wenjack, who ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential Indian School, in Kenora, Ont., in 1966 and died while trying to walk 600 kilometres to his home in Marten Falls First Nation (Ogoki Post).

Proceeds from Downie's album and graphic novel are being donated to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

Downie was honoured for his contributions to reconciliation during the Assembly of First Nations on Dec. 6, 2016, and given the Lakota spirit name of Wicapi Omani (He who walks among the stars).

A true Canadian, Downie touched the hearts of millions with his music and his belief in a truly unified country. He will be greatly missed.

“We must become one. We must walk down a path of reconciliation from now on, together and forever.” – Gord Downie, Dec. 6, 2016