The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, who recently performed his final gig with the Canadian rock giants after revealing he has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, has announced a massive solo project that will encompass a new album, graphic novel and animated film.
Titled Secret Path, the 10-track album will arrive October 18th accompanied by a 88-page graphic novel by Jeff Lemire. As Downie revealed on the Secret Path website, the album was inspired by an article about the tragic true story of Chanie Wenjack, an indigenous 12-year-old boy who died 50 years ago.
“Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22nd, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to walk home,” Downie said in a statement. “Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids – more than anyone will be able to imagine – he tried. I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him.”
Downie penned a series of poems about Wenjack, which he then transformed into the music for Secret Path with help from producers Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and Dave Hamelin (The Stills). Secret Path was recorded at Bath, Ontario’s Bathouse Recording Studios in late 2013, with Downie on vocals and guitar and Drew, Hamelin and a small crew of guest musicians providing all other instruments.
Secret Path, available for preorder now, arrives October 18th in a variety of different formats, including a deluxe vinyl and book edition. Proceeds from the album will be donated to the Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at The University of Manitoba.
“Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada,” Downie added of the album. “We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996. ‘White’ Canada knew – on somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it in school; it was hardly ever mentioned.”
On October 23rd, the 50th anniversary of the day Wenjack’s frozen body was found just 12 miles into his journey, the CBC will broadcast the animated film The Secret Path, featuring Downie’s music alongside Lemire’s illustrations. Downie also serves as writer and director on the film.
“I’ve spent the last three years living with Chanie’s story and living inside Gord’s music,” Lemire said in a statement. “Gord’s haunting songs introduced me to Chanie Wenjack. Music is universal. It crosses languages and cultures and speaks to everyone, and I’ve always felt the medium of comics could do the same. It’s our hope that one day Secret Path will be taught in schools and that it will help to shed a light on this all too often ignored part of Canada’s past. I think, above all else, that’s what Gord and I wanted to create: something that can’t be ignored. Every Canadian should know Chanie Wenjack’s name and I hope Secret Path helps to make that a reality.”
Secret Path Track List
1. “The Stranger”
2. “Swing Set”
3. “Seven Matches”
4. “I Will Not Be Struck”
6. “Secret Path”
7. “Don’t Let This Touch You”
8. “Haunt Them, Haunt Them, Haunt Them”
9. “The Only Place To Be”
10. “Here, Here and Here”