Photo by Chris Leboe.
(his Lakota spirit name – “He who walks with the stars”)
– By J.S. PorterI saw him once, with a host of other notables. He sang with The Sadies at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, Christie Lake Conservation Area, on August 23rd, 2014, an event organized by Daniel Lanois.
Storyteller, poet, showman, he talked as much as he sang, made funny and sad faces, growled, murmured, connected with the audience. Made you think, made you feel. He got in your ear, in your heart, seemed to whisper: You won’t see this again (and I didn’t. I only saw him this once.) – I’m a song and dance man – and the song and the dance burn on and then burn out, here for a moment, and you too, you’re here for a moment, so
let’s move our bodies,
let’s sing along,
let’s look after the earth,
let’s look after each other
Gord Downie didn’t sing “Great Soul” because he hadn’t written it yet or performed it yet. That’s what he does—he performs. He’s not a singer; he’s a performer. A performance artist, a risk taker, a daredevil, a high-wire acrobat, a joker, a trickster, a white man with a native soul. He didn’t sing “Great Soul” that warm August by the lake a few miles outside of Hamilton, but I thought I was in the company of one. He didn’t sing, “But if god walks with persons/Does he run, run, run, run?” He enchanted my day, enchanted it, cast a spell over it, a blessing, a prayer, just as he sings in the song, “I want you to enchant my days.”
He sees feelingly like a blind man in a Shakespeare play.
“So what’s the answer then?
*Lines from Gord Downie’s “Great Soul” in Man Machine Poem, 2016.