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26 Gord Downie quotes that will inspire you

Andrea Warner

One of the best things about Gord Downie was his thoughtfulness. It's the main take-away of almost everybody who worked with him, interviewed him, or spent time contemplating many of his lyrics either for the Tragically Hip or as a solo artist. 

It's also what makes reading and listening to his conversations with journalists, friends and fans so fascinating and inspiring. With that in mind, CBC Music has collected the following 26 Gord Downie quotes that have made us think, smile, create and reflect about life, music, art, work and the things that matter. 

Gord Downie talks about music in 2014.

1. “It would be hard for me now, at this age and stage, to leave a song without a glimmer of hope… I always like to have a glimmer of hopefulness, even in collapse.” — Gord Downie, 2009

2. “I've always liked R.E.M. because, like so many things I like, they exude a warmth; I like to think that we do, too.” — Gord Downie, 1996

3. “I'm pretty excited about this bill, and you're seeing that sense of community within, and amongst musicians. When we were coming up six to 10 years ago, it didn't exist. The climate was climb over each other to get to the top. It was never really comfortable to us.” — Gord Downie on Another Roadside Attraction, 1996

4. “We want to bring good music to the people. That’s what it’s all about.” — Gord Downie, 2012

5. “I scored a gig as the lead singer with a school band … not necessarily for my singing ability but rather for my sheer memory power. I could memorize huge quantities of lyrics — mostly the Doors.” — Gord Downie

6. “Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point — at its central core, it’s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts. And the environment is one of the great loves of our lives — when we think of the best parts of ourselves, the environment is always there, informing us, as a backdrop.” — Gord Downie

Gord Downie talks about the future and illusions.

7. “I grew up on the lake and spent most of that time outdoors. As a musician, I travel widely around the country and talk to a lot of people, from all walks of life. That experience, combined with my rock and roll roots gives me something of an affinity for the underdog. In many ways, the environment is also the underdog — so, it’s an easy fit.” — Gord Downie on how he became an environmental champion.

8. "Music brings people together. So my function in anything I do is to help bring people closer in." — Gord Downie, 2014

9. "I stand in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and all Canadians who find themselves with no voice in our present version of democracy, who are trying to come up with the entry fee that gets them a seat at the table where their pollution future is being discussed." — Gord Downie, 2014

10. “I haven’t written too many political lyrics. Conversely, nor have I written any pro-Canada lyrics, any kind of jingoistic, nationalistic…. That stuff doesn’t interest me and I don’t even know if I could write that if I tried, because I don’t really feel it.” — Gord Downie, 2014

11. “I have no illusions of the future. Or maybe it’s all illusion. I don’t know. I’ve always been ready for it.” — Gord Downie

Gord Downie talks about hope in 2009.

12. “I’m agile. I can play on the ass of an elephant. That’s the goal — then you can play anywhere.” — Gord Downie

13. “Bob Rock taught me a lot. His friendship has taught me a lot about what you should expect from a recording session and, more importantly, how you shouldn’t expect anything less than absolute joyousness. You should feel great. You should feel 14 to be doing it. It’s true and it’s rare.” — Gord Downie, 2010

14. “We were just happy to be together, and that’s the way we’ve done everything.” — Gord Downie on the band’s success, 1996

15. “You’re up there and you’re grappling with the paradoxical dilemma of feeling at once silly and sublime, absurd and grand, and that makes one do interesting things, and lends itself to grandiose gestures and a sort of disbelief that your small, tiny words are really getting out there.” — Gord Downie on performing, 1996

16. “The longer that line stays on the paper, the heavier it gets, ‘til all of a sudden, if you’re trying to extract it, it weighs about 700 pounds.” — Gord Downie on songwriting, 1996

17. “It [music] is still a people business.” — Gord Downie, 2012

18. “I’m less convinced of my convincing-ness the older I get.” — Gord Downie on why he can’t Tweet, 2012

19. “When people think we [Canadians] are polite, that’s just a word for thought process, and there’s a thought process that perhaps we just don’t trust illusion too much.” — Gord Downie, 2012

Gord Downie talks about playing anywhere and agility.

20. “I love this country. I love my idea of this country.” — Gord Downie, 2012

21. “Even as a kid, I don’t think I bought into a lot of the mythology about Canada. And certainly not a lot of what’s called stagecraft that’s in politics now, that sort of permanent campaign. That doesn’t seem to represent what we’re about.” — Gord Downie, 2012

22. “I go for it; I sing, I dance, I listen to this great band, I do what the music urges.” — Gord Downie, 2009

23. “I’m a dancer. It’s what I love to do more than anything.” — Gord Downie, 2009

24. “A great song’s greatest attribute is how it hints at more. The Hip has always had a strong curiosity to see what’s around the next corner. To see what more we can do, what more we can say — to each other, primarily. We try and serve the song. If we’re any good at all it’s because we’re together on that.” — Gord Downie, 2009

Gord Downie talks about his idea of Canada.

25. “I like hanging with my family and helping them on their way however I can. There’s a new tragicomedy every half-hour, there is laughter, there are tears, and it’s all real. They are endlessly entertaining, they have given me so much, they’ve given me a chance to ‘see’ things again.” — Gord Downie, 2009 

26. “I write every day. I walk around in silent conversation with my latest unfinished songs.”— Gord Downie, 2009

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

More to explore:

Gord Downie: CBC Music’s person of the year

And Grace, too: what awe-inspiring swan songs can teach us about greatness

The true, tragic and inspiring Canadian stories behind Gord Downie's best lyrics

How the Tragically Hip became Canada’s band

The Strombo Show: Hip 30

Polaris 2017: 5 things you didn't know about Gord Downie's Secret Path

Coke Machine Glow: a love letter to Gord Downie’s solo debut

Chanie Wenjack: a 50-year-old tragedy rises up to inspire a new generation

Weird genius: what it's like to collaborate with Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip

A guide to Gord Downie’s Canadian tuxedo

Why Gord Downie's 'beautiful' work can't stand alone