Tributes to beloved record shop owner Darren Sawchuk pouring in online

Tributes to beloved record shop owner Darren Sawchuk pouring in online

A beloved Winnipeg record shop owner and Tragically Hip cover band frontman has died.

Online tributes are pouring in for Darren Sawchuk, who passed away early Saturday. 

After being diagnosed with cancer, Sawchuk quit his job as a lawyer, bought 25,000 records and opened Vinyl Revival.

And he didn't stop there.

He attended the Tragically Hip's last show in Winnipeg; the band's frontman, Gord Downie, had also recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer at the time.

Sawchuk got up on stage and sang Hip songs as part of a fundraiser for cancer reasearch. 

Friend Kristjan Kristjansson played drums in Sawchuk's band. He describes him as a strong, energetic and community-driven man who cared passionately about his work as a defence lawyer and especially about his family.

"What I found the most amazing thing about Darren is that no matter what we were talking about, he always talked about his children and his parents. It made no difference what we were doing, it was always somehow connected to them, all the time," he said.

"It didn't make a difference. We could be talking about beer, we could be talking about fixing a car, and somehow, his family was always in the story. It was probably the most compelling, lovely thing about him."

Sawchuk's friends and the community rallied to raise $49,092 so that he could receive expensive last-resort treatment.

"[It] was pretty beautiful," Kristjansson said of the effort.

'Loud music and roaring energy'

Kristjansson was with Sawchuk at the hospital on Tuesday, joking, talking and having a good time.

"He brought in Chinese food in the hospital and we laughed and we snuck in beer, and we just laughed and did what we usually do, which is whatever we want, without breaking too many rules," Kristjansson said.

"It was beautiful and it was great, and he was of course a trouper, as usual."

Eventually, Kristjansson said his friends and family will celebrate Sawchuk's life with fun and festivities. For now, "things have gone very quiet," he said.

"I think right now we're going to take some time and let this settle for the family and we're going to respect all the things that need to be done so that they're loved and supported," Kristjansson said.

"I promise you there will be glasses of beer and wine spilled on his behalf, and we will celebrate with loud music and roaring energy, because that's who he was. That'll work itself into the right moment, when everybody's ready, for sure."

'Let's not wait'

Friend Richard Lannon said Sawchuk had a unique ability to draw people out of their shells.

They met last year after Lannon had a health scare of his own, and the two bonded over a love of records. Eventually, Sawchuk convinced Lannon to get up on stage and play guitar with him.

"Darren was instrumental in saying,' Hey — I'll do this with you. I know this is something you want to do, and I'll come and I'll do this with you, and I'll create a safe place ... and this place is for everybody, it's not just for you, it's for everybody.'"

After a sombre morning, Lannon was heading to Vinyl Revival Saturday evening to meet and share stories with other friends who might be drawn to gather in his honour. 

Last Sunday a group of Vinyl Revivalers wrote a song called Pearl River in Sawchuk's honour.

Lannon referenced the movie Field of Dreams to describe Sawchuk's "build-it-and-they-will-come" mentality.

"He wrapped people into a safe environment," Lannon said, "with the understanding, what have you got to lose? ... Grab your guitar, let's go in the back, let's do this right now ... let's not wait."