To join the website e-mail list for news and tour information, click here.
We often have videos and photos posted on our Facebook page that are not on this site.
From the producer and director comes the news that the Al Purdy Was Here film will be released at the iTunes store on September 20, 2016, Bruce composed a song, The 3 Al Purdy's, for this movie. Albums have been updated.
Interview by Daniel Lumpkin for Christianity Today
FAN REPORTS FROM PAST SHOWS
HELP THE PROJECT!
The Project website is very much an open forum for submissions. If you would like to contribute an article (perhaps a transcript of radio appearance or other interview, or any other idea) to this site, see the Help the Project page for more information.
LOOKING FOR OTHER SITES?
The links section can help.
Bruce Cockburn's Official Facebook Page.
The Cockburn Project
is a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The central focus of the Project is the ongoing archiving of Cockburn's self-commentary on his songs, albums, and issues. You will also find news, tour dates, an online store, and other current information.
Click here to add a navigation frame to the top of this page. Do give it time to load, as you'll need it to get around easily. If you have a small screen and wish to remove the frameset, click here and use the text links at the bottom of each page. Keep scrolling down, there is a lot on this page.
24 November 2016 - TORONTO, ON - The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) announced today that Ottawa native, 12-time JUNO Award winner, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, and music legend Bruce Cockburn will host and perform at the 2017 JUNO Songwriters' Circle, to be held in the NAC Theatre at the National Arts Centre on Sunday, April 2, 2017 from 12pm to 2pm EST.
JUNO Songwriters' Circle is an intimate and interactive concert benefiting MusiCounts, Canada's music education charity associated with CARAS that works to keep music alive in schools and communities across Canada. Co-presented by SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers) and Yamaha Canada Music, in association with the Canadian Music Publishers Association, this event is considered the "Jewel of JUNO Week," and will feature some of Canada's most talented songwriters, performing their songs and sharing the stories behind them.
Tickets to the 2017 JUNO Songwriters' Circle go on sale on November 24 at 10am EST at .www.ticketmaster.ca, the National Arts Centre Box Office or by phone at 1-888-991-2787. Tickets are available for $49.50 and $59.50 (plus taxes and service fees), with proceeds supporting MusiCounts.
"I'm honoured to have been asked to host the Songwriters' Circle during JUNO Week 2017 in Ottawa. This one-of-a-kind showcase will offer people a unique look into the raw emotions and art of storytelling that come with songwriting," said Cockburn. "I'm also pleased to participate in an event that supports MusiCounts and the work they do for school music programs across the country. These programs have a huge impact on fostering our future artists and developing a creative youth within Canada."
JUNO Songwriters' Circle will be available for streaming through CBCMusic.ca and will also be broadcast on CBC Radio One and CBC Radio 2. Dates to be announced in the new year.
Promotional Partners: 92.3 JACK FM, 580 CFRA, 1310NEWS, boom 99.7, CBC Ottawa, Le Droit, Metro News, Ottawa Citizen, Pattison Outdoor Advertising and Rouge 94.9
The 2017 JUNO Award nominees joining Cockburn on stage will be announced in February 2017.
JUNO Week 2017 will be hosted in Ottawa from March 27 through April 2, 2017.
Premier partners of the 2017 JUNO Awards: CARAS acknowledges the financial support of FACTOR, the Government of Canada and of Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters, Radio Starmaker Fund, Ottawa 2017, the Province of Ontario, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, Tourism Ottawa, Google Play Music and TD Bank Group.
About Bruce Cockburn:
One of Canada's finest artists, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed a 40 year long illustrious music career, releasing 31 albums to date. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while traveling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. For his songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery, Cockburn has been honoured with 12 JUNO Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world's top instrumentalists.
He remains respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Friends of the Earth.
SOCAN connects more than four-million music creators worldwide and more than a quarter-million businesses and individuals in Canada. Nearly 150,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers are its direct members, and more than 130,000 organizations are Licensed To Play music across Canada. With a concerted use of progressive technology and a commitment to lead the global transformation of music rights, with wholly-owned companies Audiam and MediaNet, SOCAN is dedicated to upholding the fundamental truths that music has value and music creators and publishers deserve fair compensation for their work. For more information:
About Yamaha Canada Music:
Established in 1969, Yamaha Canada Music Ltd. offers a full line of musical instruments and audio/visual products to the Canadian market. Yamaha Canada Music is a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation, Japan, whose products and services are recognized the world over for superior quality in acoustics, design, technology, and craftsmanship.
About the Canadian Music Publishers Association:
Canadian Music Publishers Association is the oldest music industry association in Canada (founded in 1949). We create global business opportunities for our members and promote their interests and those of their songwriting partners through advocacy, communication, and education. Website: www.musicpublisher.ca | Social: @canmuspub http://twitter.com/canmuspub
MusiCounts, Canada's music education charity associated with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and The JUNO Awards is helping to keep music alive by putting musical instruments into the hands of children that need them most. MusiCounts' mission is to ensure that children and youth in Canada, regardless of socio-economic circumstances or background, have access to music programs through their schools and communities. MusiCounts achieves its mission through the Band Aid Program, the MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, Scholarships and other music education initiatives.
For more information on the JUNO Awards or interview requests, please contact:
Michelle Easton, rock-it promotions, email@example.com, 416 656 0707 ext. 103
Zai Karim, rock-it promotions, firstname.lastname@example.org, 416 656 0707 ext. 127
30 November 2016 - TORONTO - Folk singer Bruce Cockburn didn't think he'd ever write another song.
After four years dedicated to penning his 2015 memoir "Rumours of Glory," he found he had sopped up most of his words.
"There was no songwriting because it was all about prose," he said in a recent interview.
"Any ideas I had — or creative juices flowing — went in that direction."
But Cockburn did start laying the foundation for his forthcoming 25th studio album earlier this year. Sifting through ideas took some time but eventually rough concepts were shaped and the lyrical drought began to subside.
"Songs started to come," he said. "And they've been coming up pretty steadily ever since."
Cockburn, a 12-time Juno winner and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, is now in the early stages of recording his still-untitled album, which he hopes to release next year.
He'll be in the spotlight on Saturday when he takes the stage at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Toronto for the first time ever. It's a warm up of sorts for the inevitable tour dates tied to his next album.
Cockburn, whose career is defined by folk favourites like "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" and "Pacing the Cage," is a three-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner. But he says this year his schedule finally allowed him to perform.
He's not "overly thrilled" with the idea of handing out trophies to musicians.
"Getting awards, to me, is pretty meaningless," he says.
"But the idea of celebrating what you do is not."
Cockburn prefers to focus on how awards shows draw attention to artists overlooked by the mainstream.
"There's a place for that in the scheme of things," he adds, "Especially when stuff doesn't get on the radio."
Other performers at this year's awards show include the Ennis Sisters, Sultans Of String and Colin Linden, a longtime producer on Cockburn's albums.
After the show, the two musicians plan to jet off to Nashville where they'll smooth out parts of the new album. Cockburn is pushing to finish the project by mid-January.
"It's kind of a hodge-podge in the way most of my albums are," he says.
"It ranges from social observation to personal, spiritual stuff."
Don't expect any rants about Donald Trump and the outcome of the U.S. election, even though Cockburn has waded into conversations about social and environmental issues through his past songs.
"I haven't written anything about it," he says of Trump's presidency.
"It might take a while for whatever potential material there ... to sort of percolate through. But it's not always obvious to (write a) song that isn't just a propaganda diatribe."
~from WinnipegFreepress - by David Friend Follow @dfriend on Twitter.
28 November 2016 - The following open letter was sent to the Green Party of Canada today, urging the party to maintain its support for the limited form of BDS which was adopted at a convention this summer. Greens will revisit that motion at a special general meeting in Calgary next weekend, following opposition to the party’s position from leader Elizabeth May.
Signed by Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Bruce Cockburn and over 70 other prominent activists, academics, artists and intellectuals, the letter calls on Green Party members to reject pressure to “reverse or weaken the vote to support Palestinian rights.”
As Israel’s illegal military occupation approaches a half-century, it’s long past time for concrete international action to pressure its government to reverse course. The Green Party of Canada’s recent vote to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted at those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories” represents such a measure.
Without international pressure, Israel will continue to steal Palestinian land, demolish olive groves, build Jewish-only roads, imprison without due process and impose collective punishment on innocent Palestinians. It will continue to violate international law and dominate a defenceless people.
Canadians cannot wash their hands of Palestinians’ plight. Ottawa has long been a close ally of Israel and each year registered Canadian charities channel millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military and illegal settlements.
We urge you not to succumb to political pressure to reverse or weaken the vote to support Palestinian rights. Your position is consistent with – indeed required by – the Fourth Geneva Convention, and reflects the vote of the vast majority of UN member states. It even aligns with official Canadian policy.
And, most importantly, it’s a contribution to the nonviolent campaign to advance Palestinian rights.
Naomi Klein - Author, Social Activist and Filmmaker
Noam Chomsky - Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tariq Ali - Writer, Journalist and Filmmaker
Bruce Cockburn, OC - Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist
~from Greens should stick with BDS.
26 November 2016 - Bruce was in the studio last week with Colin Linden, Gary Craig, John Dymond and Ron Miles. Daniel Keebler was on site and provided photos for BruceCockburn.com on the five days of the recording session. Daniel has also put up commentary and more photos at, www.brucecockburn.org - In The Studio with Bruce.
9 November 2016 - For the first time since 2010’s “Small Source of Comfort”, Bruce Cockburn is back in the studio recording album number 33. [ You can view NEW photos from Prairie Sun Recording Studio sessions on brucecockburn.com ]
True North is aiming to release the album in 2017 but exactly when, is not yet known. The album will be produced by Colin Linden and be recorded in several studios throughout North America.
The album will contain all new songs written by Bruce.
“Small Source of Comfort” won the 2011 Juno for Best Roots Album as well as two awards from the Canadian Folk Awards and was well received world-wide.
Bruce has written more than 300 songs on 32 albums over a career spanning 45 years. Twenty-four Cockburn records have received a Canadian gold or platinum certification as of 2013, including most recently 6 times platinum for his Christmas album.
Bruce was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002. In 1998, he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts.
He has received thirteen Juno Awards, and in 2001, during the 30th Annual Juno Awards ceremony, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Bruce received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and that same year, Bruce received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN.
For further information please contact:
613-967-7717 or 416-402-9937
~from: True North Records
Photo: Daniel Keebler
27 October 2016 - The Canadian Folk Music Awards, now in its 12th year, are coming to Toronto, Ontario from December 2-3, 2016. The 72 talented artist nominees for the 2016 CFMA were recently announced at Toronto City Hall and hail from Canadian provinces and territories from coast-to-coast-to-coast. This year’s gala event is taking place at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St West in downtown Toronto on Saturday, December 3, 2016.
The gala is hosted, in both official languages, by award-winning musicians Jean Hewson and Benoit Bourque (La Bottine Souriante) and is open to the public. Tickets for the gala are $45 (plus a $2 processing fee) and are available here. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the event.
The Canadian Folk Music Awards are pleased to announce the 2016 gala line-up, which includes prolific Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His achievements and decorations include being an Officer of the Order of Canada, an inductee of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, 13 Juno Awards, 24 Gold and Platinum records, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, numerous honorary doctorates, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Award-winning guitarist, producer and singer Colin Linden also graces the CFMA performer line-up. The founding member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has had an exceptional career, releasing numerous albums with the band, as well as several solo albums. He has also produced and shepherded many upcoming musical talents. Since 2012, the iconic man in the black hat has been the Music Director on the hit TV show Nashville.
Juno Award-winning trio and CCMA nominated sisters from Newfoundland, The Ennis Sisters, bring their beautiful vocal harmonies to the line-up. Past CFMA winners and 2016 nominees The Sultans of String join the gala line-up, adding a view of worldly folk; their music merges Celtic and Cuban, flamenco and Gypsy-jazz, Arabic and South Asian in one delirious musical swell. Winnipeg folk trio Red Moon Road return from a rigorous European tour to join the gala line-up, adding some forward-thinking folk live performance to the proceedings. Quebec folk multi-instrumentalist Klô Pelgag adds some quirky excitement to the gala line-up (and possibly large scale fruit costumes.)
Along with the gala awards event, the weekend features two open-to-the-public musical showcase concerts. On Friday, December 2, 2016 from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto) the evening features CFMA 2016 nominees Jocelyn Pettit, The Small Glories, Hillsburn, Beppe Gambetta & Tony McManus, Old Man Luedecke and Élage Diouf. A brunch showcase concert happens Saturday, December 3, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto) and features 2016 CFMA nominees Rosie & the Riveters, The Andrew Collins Trio, Keltie Monaghan, William Prince, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. Both showcases at Hugh’s Room are $29 in advance via hughsroom.com and $32.50 at the door.
The CFMA will hand out twenty awards throughout the gala evening. Nominations for the CFMA were announced this September at Toronto City Hall during the second annual #NationalStrum, celebrating folk music across Canada. Born from a pool of volunteers deeply invested in the wealth and breadth of folk talent in Canada, the CFMA celebrate all genres of folk music from across Canada. Well known for having a vibrant culture of folk festivals, folk traditions and folk values, the country comes together for a weekend of celebration.
Canadian artists and groups whose albums were released in Canada between June 15, 2015 to June 14, 2016 were eligible to submit their work. The CFMA currently boast 19 categories and one special achievement award. For the category awards, five nominees are chosen for each category. A two stage jury process by 95 jurors located across Canada, representing all official provinces, territories and languages determine the official winners in each category. Complete eligibility requirements are listed here: http://folkawards.ca/eligibility/
~from That Eric Alper.
2 November 2016 - A Dazzling, Huge-Hearted Cirque d’Spirit
Join 100 performers and 2,000 friends in a ceremonial concert.
A communal celebration of gratitude and one-world activism, Song For All Beings is a seamless collaboration woven by scores of musicians, dancers, and storytellers. The high-level performances spring from many spiritual and cultural traditions, creating a ceremonial concert that unfolds on stage and in the audience over the course of the evening—and long afterwards.
Song for All Beings 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
San Rafael, CA
$95, $76, $49
and new show just added (2 November 2016)
Song for All Beings 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
San Rafael, CA
$95, $76, $49
With Jennifer Berezan, Jack Kornfield, Patti Cathcart(from Tuck and Patti), Joanna Macy, Rhiannon, Anam Thubten Rinpoche, Raz Kennedy, Melanie Demore, Gina Breedlove, Chris Webster, Vicki Noble, Kiva Simova, Sovoso, Rita Sahai, Dance Brigade, Damond Moodie, Bouchaib Abdelhadi, Naomi Newman, Nina Wise, Luisah Teish, Sarah Dugas, Christian Dugas, Rocio Mendoza, Jami Sieber, Barbara Higbie, Julie Wolf, Barbara Borden, Carolyn Brandy, Afia Walking Tree, Michaelle Goerlitz, Children’s Chorus and many more. With special guest Bruce Cockburn.
“MAGNIFICENT in every imaginable way. It was the most moving, heartfelt, and extraordinary concert we’ve experienced in a decade! ” Ken Dychtwald, Author of Bodymind
For more information and to view video: http://www.songforallbeings.com
Produced and directed by Jennifer Berezan
Receive premium seats by becoming a patron. Information at: http://songforallbeings.com/be-a-patron/.
This will be filmed.
13 October 2016 - Bruce Cockburn spent close to 10 years as a recording artist before his name began to be known outside his native Canada. Up to that time, his music was mostly folk and rock, with occasional ventures into jazzier territory. So it was a surprise to all involved when "Wondering Where the Lions Are", an out of character foray into reggae, broke through internationally at the tail end of the 70s.
Part of the success of that recording, and what made it so appealing and authentic sounding was the involvement of Jamaican/Canadian singer-bassist Leroy Sibbles and his rhythm section, Ben Bow and Larry "Sticky Fingers" Silvera. As Cockburn writes in his autobiography, Rumours of Glory, he brought them into the recording because he "didn't want to be just another white guy watering down someone else's culture."
"Lions", however, wasn't the end of Sibbles' and Cockburn's musical collaboration. The reggae ace sang on a pair of songs each on the later's Humans and Stealing Fire albums. Yet, it was Sibbles' 1982 release Evidence, a unique album all but forgotten now, which gave Cockburn and the entirety of his band the opportunity to delve into reggae much more extensively.
Evidence was recorded when Sibbles was 32 years old and already a well-regarded veteran of the reggae world, having been an integral member of the Heptones, a pioneering and influential band out of Kingston, Jamaica. The Heptones were part of the 1960s R&B and ska "bluebeat" music scene, a forerunner of what eventually came to be called reggae. In fact, Cockburn has mentioned that drummer Bow regarded the rhythm of "Lions" as bluebeat. There was a thriving cross-pollination of music between Jamaica and Toronto's West Indian population (explored on Light in the Attic's Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974) and Sibbles became a part of this cultural and musical exchange when he moved to the city in 1973. He became firmly entrenched in Toronto's music scene, and issued a series of singles throughout the rest of the decade. Even so, he had lost some of the career momentum he had acquired in his homeland. His profile was increased when "Lions" became a hit and it must have felt good to hear himself on the radio, even if it was in a supporting role. It was a logical idea to work with Cockburn on one of his own albums, especially since he and the Canadian had gotten along well in the studio.
By 1981, Sibbles was affiliated with YYZ Productions and A&M Records, but had maintained enough of a connection with Cockburn's label, True North, to bring him on to the new album as well as Cockburn's current band, which included Bob Disalle on drums, Dennis Pendrith on bass, Jon Goldsmith on keyboards, Kathryn Moses on flute and sax, and Hugh Marsh on violin and mandolin. Stuart Raven-Hill, who had been responsible for getting Cockburn and Sibbles together in the first place, would produce. Raven-Hill had co-run Island Records' Canadian office and recently worked as tour manager for Cockburn (thanked in Cockburn's Humans liner notes for "Invaluable Assistance and General Bad Influence"). True North art director Bart Schoales would do the album cover design - one more personality that helped make it a True North album in many regards except in name.
Further illustrating the interconnectedness of the Toronto music scene, Raven-Hill had recently broken up with Judy Cade, now girlfriend of and backup singer for Cockburn. There were apparently no hard feelings, as the two continued to work together - on Evidence and later when Raven-Hill put together the Cockburn tribute album Kick at the Darkness, issued on his own Intrepid label.
Toronto's Manta Sound was booked for late June 1981 to start the Sibbles sessions. This made it an easy segue for Cockburn and band, who had just finished recording Inner City Front the same month there. Manta was a familiar home, as Cockburn's previous few albums had also been tracked at Manta, so the band basically just kept on going for the Evidence songs.
The resulting album is an upbeat collection of pop and soul-flavored reggae. The sound is very "of a type" with Cockburn's albums Inner City Front and The Trouble with Normal (recorded at Manta the following year). While his basic band appears on all tracks, Cockburn appears on four: "I'm Thankful", "Let Music", "Talk to Me", and "I Love You", where he delivers an especially lyrical guitar solo. Elsewhere, Hugh Marsh's electric violin adds a texture not commonly heard in reggae, pushing the music into new waters.
I Love You - https://youtu.be/xKmechYj38E
Evidence is unusual as well for the range of additional musicians who appeared on the album. On backing vocals Sibbles was joined by Murray McLauchlan (yet another True North artist), tragic Hungarian/Canadian pop-punk singer BB Gabor, Colleen Peterson (who had been part of the group 3's A Crowd with Cockburn in 1969 and had her own successful career as a country singer), and vocalist Louise Lambert, who also co-owned the tour bus company that Cockburn used. Lambert, who is now a voice and piano teacher in Maui, recalls "It was great fun singing Leroy's songs in the studio," and comments about her co-singers, "I loved Colleen's body of work, and we all played some of the same venues."
Fleshing out the instrumental side of things were guitarist David Bendeth, who would later sign Cowboy Junkies and the Crash Test Dummies to record deals when he worked for BMG Music; Dave McMorrow, who had just joined Canadian new wave outfit Rough Trade, known for their controversial hit "High School Confidential"; and Peter Follett, who went on to become a multi-instrumentalist in the New Age field, on additional guitars. According to Bart Schoales, eccentric funk star Bootsy Collins was on the scene as well, playing pinball at the studio while recording took place, though he doesn't appear on any tracks, unfortunately.
Most of the songs are Sibbles originals, with the exception of the 1958 Little Willie John R&B and pop hit "Talk to Me", a smooth soul version of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" and Paul Simon's "Richard Corey", one of the few overtly political/socially conscious songs. The title song, musically the most straight-ahead reggae track on the record, carries a bleak message about the state of the world, proclaiming that the planet's wars, pollution, and economic woes are bound to get worse. Sibbles sings "it's gonna be dreader than dread"; in other words, that everything's going to hell and it's going to get pretty dreadful. Though the collection ends with this lyrically downbeat song, positivity and happiness are the overriding themes of the rest and the album is, overall, one of Sibbles' most widely accessible efforts.
With the tracks in the can, it was sent off to be mastered by legendary engineer Bob Ludwig, who in that year alone also worked on albums for the Rolling Stones, Rush, Journey, and ZZ Top. Meanwhile art director Schoales, as he had done for the cover of Inner City Front in the café across the street from the True North offices, used his virtual backyard of Toronto to tell a story with his cover portraiture. Sibbles is posed at the Toronto harbor front, resplendent in combat gear (though with a big smile on his face), looking larger than life, as big as the spire of the CN Tower behind him.
Evidence capped off an extremely busy few years for Sibbles; he issued four solo albums between 1980 and 1982, as well as performing regularly and appearing on other musician's albums. Though many people tell him today that Evidence is a favorite album of theirs, it didn't sell especially well and turned out to be his only album for major label A&M, despite winning the Canadian Black Music Award for album of the year. That year (1982) he was also named top male singer, top bass player and performer of the year. The rest of his 80s output, though, was sparse and he eventually moved back to Jamaica in 1994, later saying "I just went so far, and couldn't go no further there [in Toronto]. I lost... well, I was trying my best to keep up as much as I could, but I lost touch with what was happening in Jamaica [musically]."
Sibbles is still very active today, performing numerous concerts every year, including dates in far flung locales such as Japan and Africa. A recent CD available through his website focuses on some of his well-known reggae bass lines. He's also prominently featured on the "reggae wall" outdoor mural in Toronto, which honors the Jamaica/Toronto musical connection and the artists who brought the music to life.
By 1985 Cockburn had finally made it to Jamaica, which produced his song "Dancing in Paradise", more of an impressionistic travel narrative than a dance-ready song of any type. Any overt reggae influence in his music had disappeared by then as he moved on, ever the restless musical explorer. In a way, Evidence was the culmination of his involvement with the genre - an interest which had started in the mid-70s when he discovered Bob Marley and the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come, and expanded later on under the tutelage of Raven-Hill. He says, "I wanted to incorporate some of that into what I was doing too…it would have been very bogus to announce that now I was a reggae player, but I wanted some of that influence in." [Music Makers and Soul Shakers podcast, Episode 19]
In the end, Sibbles and Cockburn enriched each other's music. What started as, ostensibly, a one-time collaboration on a reggae-flavored track of Cockburn's led to one of the most unique albums in Sibbles' and Cockburn's discographies, and in the legacy of the long musical connection between Jamaica and Toronto.
Evidence (Dread, Dread) - https://youtu.be/9Hc62VQAysE
~by Rob Caldwell
7 September 2016 - Five years on from the release of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' collaborative Kings and Queens release, the roots rock group have announced a companion LP. Bringing aboard male musicians including City and Colour's Dallas Green and Brit power pop vet Nick Lowe, their Kings and Kings collection is due October 7 file under: Music.
While the project last delivered South in 2013, Kings and Kings is the spiritual successor to Kings and Queens, which found Blackie and the Rodeo Kings working with vocalists including Roseanne Cash and Lucinda Williams. As a press release explains, this time around the band's Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing reached out to their "best 'guy' friends from the world of roots, blues, and country" to help put together some new tunes.
The roster of talent includes past collaborators like Bruce Cockburn, Buddy Miller, and Keb Mo, while Linden brought aboard artists like Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson and Sam Palladio, with whom he'd worked with on the Nashville television series.
Other notable names involved with Kings on Kings include Dallas Green, Nick Lowe, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Eric Church, and Raul Malo.
Thematically, the full-length kicks off with "Live By The Song," a tune written by all three Rodeo Kings, and featuring guest vocals from Crowell, that is dedicated to "every working musician/songwriter committed to the 'life.'" Elsewhere, Cockburn and Linden wax on "timeless beauty" for "A Woman Gets More Beautiful."
You'll get the full breakdown on the LP below, where you'll also find a stream of the set's Wilson-led, City and Colour-assisted "Beautiful Scars."
Kings and Kings:
1. Live By The Song (ft. Rodney Crowell)
2. Bury My Heart (ft. Eric Church)
3. Beautiful Scars (ft. City and Colour)
4. High Wire (ft. Raul Malo)
5. Playing By Heart (ft. Buddy Miller)
6. Bitter and Low (ft. Fantastic Negrito)
7. Secret of a Long Lasting Love (ft. Nick Lowe)
8. A Woman Gets More Beautiful (ft. Bruce Cockburn)
9. Land of The Living (Hamilton Ontario 2016) (ft. Jason Isbell)
10. Long Walk To Freedom (ft. Keb Mo)
11. This Lonesome Feeling (ft. Vince Gill)
12. Where The River Rolls (ft. The Men of Nashville)
11 August 2016 - Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s elder statesmen of song. Joe Leary spent 24 Seconds with the iconic Canadian singer/songwriter.
24: You’ve been doing this for 40 years and have released 30 albums or so. Does it seem like you’ve really been at it this long?
BC: It depends on where you start counting. I kind of date my professional career from the beginning of 1966, which makes it 50 years and 31 albums officially but some of them are compilations. It’s been quite a run so far and it doesn’t seem like it’s over yet, which I’m grateful for.
24: I was surprised to learn that back in your group era, your band Olivus actually opened for Jimi Hendrix and Cream. How did that come about?
BC: The bands I was in were rock bands and they varied stylistically. The first band was sort of ‘Beatles-y’ oriented singer/songwriter band. I’m kind of understating it somewhat — it was a broader range of stuff than that makes it sound but just for the sake of the conversation that was The Children in Ottawa. I was in a couple of other bands and then I went to Toronto and joined the band that was originally called The Flying Circus and then became Olivus. That band opened for Jimi Hendrix in Montreal and for Cream in Ottawa but the band couldn’t make up its mind — the organ player was a big fan of Garth Hudson and would have like our group to go in the direction of The Band and I wanted to be more like Frank Zappa and the drummer and bass player were coming from an R&B place. We had all of those elements in there and I injected as much psychedelia as I had the chops to pull off I guess, as the rest of them were willing to accommodate. Actually we got reviewed in a Montreal paper and the guy said that if it had been anybody other than Hendrix and Soft Machine that we were opening for we would have ended up stealing the evening; which I think is a measure of how much that guy smoked (laughs). We opened for Wilson Pickett in Toronto and the audience was not into our kind of music at all; two songs in their yelling at us and shaking their fists. That was a short set. We didn’t have very many gigs but the ones we did have were kind of spectacular.
24: Did you feel confined in the group environment and want to go solo?
BC: When I dropped out of Berklee School of Music and joined that first band, I had no idea what I wanted to do or what my direction was supposed to be. The only thing I knew was it wasn’t was I was learning in Berklee. So I joined this band and I started writing songs in earnest at that point. By the end of the sixties I had a little body of songs that I liked better when I played them alone than with any of the bands that I had been in. The songs were the product of trying to write for each of the different bands so there was quite a wide variety but the ones I liked best just sounded best when I just played them. I was also getting tired of big long, wanky guitar solos; not tired of playing them particularly but tired of hearing them and I thought that I probably wasn’t alone in that and I thought there must be an audience for the kinds of songs that these represented; basically what’s on the first two albums. I went solo and initially just played little gigs in little clubs and it kind of expanded from there.
24: The music business you embarked upon is completely different than the one we see today. Back in the day one needed to be signed to a label and the record label needed to get radio play. What do you think of the way the business is today?
BC: Well it’s certainly different. I’m not involved in it enough at the starting level to really have much of a say to the extent of what the difference is and the fact that there obviously aren’t record companies offering record deals and if they are, it’s extortion to the extent of publishing and so on. Unless you’re the type of artist who’s really aimed at mass commercial radio, you’re on your own basically. That was to some extent the same back in the day because in Canada at least, there weren’t very many record companies; in fact there were no Canadian record companies other than independents that weren’t interest in Canadian talent at all in the sixties. One or two people maybe leaked through in spite of that; Bobby Curtola from Thunder Bay had a hit; the Beau Marks from Montreal had a big hit around the world in ‘Clap Your Hands’ and Paul Anka of course but that was really rare. It took awhile for there to be enough momentum in the Canadian scene; it took the CRTC regulations in fact to get the business going to push radio to play Canadian stuff and it worked. I’m not really in favour of government intervention but it worked.
24: You were one of the artists getting radio play before it became mandatory.
BC: I was getting a limited amount of play before those rules came into effect but I’ve never been motivated by stuff like radio play or awards or that whole end of things but there are people and really legitimate artists who really do think about those things. For me it was all about the songs about living a life that would allow me to find fodder for the songs in a way. I didn’t think of it consciously like that but that’s what it amounted to. So I didn’t want to get in on playing the success game for wont of a better way to put it. Luckily I hooked up with Bernie Finkelstein and he did want to play that game so it kind of worked out because he was very good at that and is still and I was able to offer him enough ammunition that he could play the game well. What artists now are facing is something that’s pretty intimidating in a way because it’s not hard to get your stuff out there; everybody can make a record in their bedroom and put it out but to get anybody to notice it to be able to make a living off of it is a whole other thing. In other words; like getting paid. It’s one thing to have your song everywhere but how does that translate into making a living and I don’t think anybody’s really figured that out yet. Maybe I’m behind the curve and there are theories now that can be applied. I hope so because otherwise it’s not a very attractive picture. The thing that’s missing from the equation is money and to me the important thing about the money is the ability to pay musicians. Not every record wants to be made in a bedroom. Sometimes you want to make it in a good studio; sometimes you want to have an orchestra or horn players or something and where do they come from? Somebody has to pay for that and traditionally it was paid for by record companies who then got their money back from selling the records to the public. That only works for a very few people now. The audience is being deprived of a great variety of stuff that they might like. I feel for people starting out. I remember when the coffee house era ended, suddenly there was an absolute sense of rooms in which people really listened to the music. In bars people were noisy and it changed songwriting because the songwriters couldn’t expect to have an attentive audience and those that didn’t want to make that change had to struggle with the presence of noise and whatever else adverse working conditions. That was one thing but we all kind of got over that but this is a whole other ballgame; the interface between art and technological culture.
24: You’ve always been an artist with a strong social conscience. Has that ever inhibited perhaps some of the access to your music whereas the content might steer someone away because it was considered too political?
BC: I think there’s been a little bit of that but I don’t think I’ve suffered greatly from it. The point being ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’ and ‘If a Tree Falls’; those kind of songs have done well and I didn’t find any great resistance that I saw. The people in the trenches; the sales people may have I don’t know but I didn’t feel that coming back at me. With very few exceptions that I am aware it really hasn’t hurt me.
24: When you have songs like ‘Rocket Launcher’ and ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’; songs that have become Canadian standards, does it ever frustrate you as an artist because that’s obviously what people know you best for but perhaps in your estimation you’re probably thinking there’s much better material on deeper cuts on the albums.
BC: The regrettable part of that picture might be that people don’t get to hear some of those songs and then make a choice. It’s just a fact of life. To the extent that radio’s been a part of my career for wont of a better thing to call it, radio obviously can’t play everything. Even the most enlightened freest form radio can’t play everything so people are going to be attached to the things that they hear repeatedly; hopefully something will catch their ear and maybe they’ll come out to a show and they get to hear the other stuff and even more hopefully they’ll buy the record but nowadays that’s a bit of a forlorn hope because people just download the tracks they want and there are no deeper cuts but we’ll see what happens with my next album because I’ll be swimming in that same sea.
~ from 24hrs.ca - 24 Seconds with the great Bruce Cockburn by Joe Leary.
15 August 2016 - Bruce Cockburn’s toughest critic is a pint-sized package of opinion.
The bespectacled singer/songwriter laughs as he describes the brutal honesty with which his four-year-old daughter assesses his iconic catalogue.
“She enjoys some of it, and the stuff she doesn’t enjoy she goes, ‘What’s the name of this song?’ I’ll tell her and she’ll go, ‘Skip it’,” Cockburn says.
She does this as they travel to and from preschool, letting dad know her preference for the gentler acoustic numbers – ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’ remains a favorite - over “the rockier stuff.”
“She’s really without mercy, but it’s fun,” Cockburn tells Simcoe.com in advance of an Aug. 17 solo performance at the Orillia Opera House. “It’s fun to kind of hear this stuff through her perspective.”
An 11-time Juno Award winner and an Officer of the Order of Canada, Cockburn has released 31 albums over the past four decades.
As the current tour winds down, plans are in the works to enter the studio for his next release, the songs brought into being over the past year-and-a-half.
Previous to the tour, he’d devoted his creative energies to penning the 2014 memoir ‘Rumours of Glory’.
It was at the end of that experience that Cockburn found himself questioning whether he still possessed the intangible quality necessary to the songwriting craft, a combination of roll-up-your-sleeves hard work and something akin to divine inspiration.
"I hadn’t written any songs during the whole time I was working on the book, which was about three or four years,” he adds. “I was looking forward to getting back to being a songwriter again, but I wondered if I still was one, just because I hadn’t done it for so long.”
Inevitably, “the songs started to come, and they kept coming.”
While Cockburn has yet to firm up plans for the recording session, fans should expect something that leans “towards the bluesy end of the spectrum,” he says.
“They are written mostly on acoustic guitar … but there are some songs that are going to want electric guitar in them.”
No doubt there will be some measure of social commentary, Cockburn having earned a reputation for his keen eye, wit and laser-sharp assessment of society’s ills.
More than 30 years after releasing the gutsy and provocative single ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’, he sees little evidence that the world has rid itself of the murderous dictators and corrupt governments that impose their will through brute force.
If anything, that troubling reality only seems to have intensified.
“At least I feel like it has,” he says. “Maybe I’m just more aware of the goings on. I feel like that whole scene has kind of gotten worse to the point where it is sort of hard to say anything about it.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t try, but where do you start?” he adds.
While Cockburn has never been one to shy from the political, don’t expect him to weigh in on the subject of all subjects these days: presidential Republican candidate Donald Trump.
At least not in song.
“I’m not wasting my energy on that idiot,” he says before expounding on the three-ring circus south of the border. “(Trump) represents something that I think is much bigger than him.
I think what he represents is the expanding chaos, and he is furthering it better and more visibly at least than most of the other parties that you might think of as guilty in that regard.”
Incessant fear mongering by Trump and his ilk have left the populace increasingly alarmed, Cockburn included.
“My own inclination is to be afraid of the stuff that I see around – afraid in the sense that I worry for the world that my little girl is going to grow up into, for instance,” he adds. “I suppose somewhere underneath there I’m afraid for myself, too, but I outthink that because it’s my nature.”
Mix in the exploding role of technology in our everyday lives and the self-described “Sci-Fi buff” can’t help but consider it all with a mixture of wonder and suspicion.
“When drones the size of horse flies go around spying on people, it’s crazy. And that kind of craziness is sort of fun at the same time as it’s sinister. Of course, when you start looking at the human cost of all of this stuff, it ceases to be very entertaining.”
As an artist, Cockburn finds himself gravitating toward the spiritual as he attempts to come to grips with the mixing of the personal and external worlds.
“That’s always been there, but it’s come back around in a bigger way than it has in a long time,” he says.
While stopping short of describing himself as a Christian – “but I’m certainly leaning that way” – Cockburn has returned to church after drifting away decades ago.
“I go to a church that is the kind of church that I would never have imagined going to, where it’s kind of an evangelical thing with a rock band,” he adds, laughing.
~from Simcoe.com - Orillia Today - by Frank Matys.
14 June 2016 -
“I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren’t half as frightening as they were before
But I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me” – Wondering Where the Lions Are, 1979
Singer, songwriter, poet, activist and Canadian Music Hall of Famer, Bruce Cockburn has shared concert stages all over the world with the likes of the iconic Jimi Hendrix and British rock super group Cream.
A ‘folker’ and a ‘rocker,’ Cockburn studied music at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. He began his musical career in the late 1960s, singing and playing guitar in Ottawa-based bands, ‘The Children’ (1966), and ‘The Esquires’ (1967), before heading to Toronto to form ‘The Flying Circus’ (later known as ‘Olivus’). In 1969, Cockburn struck out on the solo career that would bring him the affirmation and approval from a world, in which he says, he felt like a stranger in a strange place.
Cockburn’s Canadian star was launched after playing at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967, and then headlining the festival in 1969. It would be another ten years before Cockburn’s international star shot through the stratosphere south of the border with the release of ‘Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws,’ featuring the hit single “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” a song that reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It was a time of accelerating fame for Cockburn, but one that was not without its difficulties. “I felt very much like an outsider,” Cockburn says of that time.
“It had to do with being cut off from my feelings. My family got along fine but we weren’t close emotionally. I had trouble getting my feelings out, a lot of it around relationships. I really didn’t understand anything about anything.”
It was with some irony that Cockburn read a reporter’s review in the 1970s that said, ‘Cockburn presents soft music and is soft-spoken, but there is a seething undercurrent of rage.’ The singer found this very perceptive and interesting, considering that he wove together such hope-inspired lyrics as:
Behind the pain/fear
Etched on the faces
Something is shining
Like gold but better
Rumours of glory - Rumours of Glory, 1980
Also in the 1970s, Cockburn’s sense of social engagement began to evolve with the discovery of his Native peers in Western Canada. He lent his voice to a number of causes including the refugee plight in Central America and the Haida peoples’ struggles around land claims in British Columbia. Living in the States during the years that the Vietnam War was full-blown, also had an effect on the singer. “It’s hard to write about the world and one’s place in it without making social commentary,” Cockburn says.
Seismic changes in Cockburn’s life over the past decades have been transformative in terms of his physical space, his emotional space and his approach-to-life space. “If you would have asked me a dozen years ago if I was going to be a dad again, living in San Francisco, I would have laughed. Yet here I am! At times, it can be utterly exhausting,” Cockburn says. “When I was a parent in my 30s, I don’t think I was as good at it. I felt more protective of my time; I was self-involved and focused on my art. My daughter, Iona, who is four, has a much more central place in my day-to-day than my older daughter Jenny (40), did. But it all came out ok in the end.”
Iona loves going on tour with her Dad, and insists that music is always playing in the car. “I am, to a great extent, the translator of the world for her,” Cockburn says. “It is a fun and very interesting role. Having Iona in my life is a constant source of amazing stuff.”
Cockburn has a real sense of connection to the Divine, but relies less on a traditional relationship with religion, and more on a moment-to-moment relationship with God. “I try to feel the presence of the Divine and be steered by that,” Cockburn says. “I have to listen and be open to that little voice that wells up, and not have my mind cluttered with other distracting voices. It is a continual work in progress.”
Cockburn now expends a lot of the energy, previously spent on song writing, on his full of life four-year-old. He is satisfied in the knowledge that he has had a sufficient amount of success, and doesn’t have to worry about taking a step back. “I care very much about performing and writing new songs,” Cockburn says, “but I no longer have to think about establishing a presence. However, I don’t take it for granted; it could go away.”
Cockburn misses the desert, huge skies and uncluttered landscapes, but having extra time to spend in nature’s wide open spaces isn’t on his current agenda. So, to keep himself in good shape and energized, Cockburn works with a trainer and goes to the gym a couple of times a week. At one time he was a committed student of yoga, but with his travel and touring schedule he has given it up. “My health is good and I try to stay active. Being on tour is not an especially healthy lifestyle, and because of Iona I only go away for three weeks max at a time.”
Music is Cockburn’s anchor – his songs a trail of life, change and growth. For his fans, its been a gift that has evolved over his 31 albums, and decades of writing, singing and performing. “It is hard to come up with new stuff, an idea that I haven’t already dealt with in some other song, although my new songs lean more to the spiritual than the political,” Cockburn says.
Life’s rewards include his relatively new family, his older daughter Jenny, his grandchildren and his beloved wife M.J. (Mary Josephine). Cockburn also cites the ‘illusion of wisdom’ from all that he has been through these past seven decades as a gift. “We don’t get smarter as we get older but we know more,” Cockburn says with a wry laugh. “A part of that wisdom is not getting stressed in the same way we did when we were younger. I can pick my (worry) targets better and I am less judgemental of people.”
In addition to his song writing talents, Cockburn is the author of his 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory (HarperCollins). He spent three years writing the book, often pulling all-nighters as he parented his new baby daughter. The memoir takes the reader up to 2004; however, in the span of the last 14 years, significant developments have occurred in Cockburn’s life, including receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Cockburn is undecided if he’ll write the second part of his life story. “If I live long enough to forget how hard the first book was, there might be room for a part two,” Cockburn says with a laugh. “If arthritis gets the better of my hands, if I stop being able to remember lyrics, I could see writing another book. That’s a ways off, I hope.”
In the interim, Cockburn hopes to release a new album in 2016. “Whenever I think of retirement I think of B. B. King and John Lee Hooker – all these old Blues guys who go ‘til they drop – if I’m able, that’s exactly what I’ll do. I will just keep going, cuz that’s what I do.”
DISCOGRAPHY AND AWARDS
~from Active Life by Cece Scott, to read this story in digital online format, use this link. Photos in this article are by Daniel Keebler.
20 July 2016 - My guest on the show this week is legendary performer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Bruce has been recording and touring for over 40 years, and has over 30 spectacular albums to his credit. One of the most beloved of Canadian artists, Bruce has made a huge mark in the US and Europe as well. With humble beginnings in the folk scene of Toronto in the 60's, to releasing his first few classic albums on True North Records, before achieving massive commercial success in the late 70's and 80's with hit songs like "Wondering Where The Lions Are", "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" and "If I Had a Rocket Launcher". I've always been drawn to Bruce's creative guitar playing, which incorporates blues, jazz, folk and ragtime elements into a unique sound that instantly recognizable. Bruce and I had a chance to discuss his life and career in music and all the stages of his amazing career. Enjoy my conversation with Bruce Cockburn!
27 July 2016 - Bernie Finkelstein is my guest on the show this week. It's a natural companion piece to last weeks' interview with Bruce Cockburn. If you haven't heard that one (Episode 19), please check it out as well! Bernie has been in the biz for decades, originally starting out as a helper and manager for folk artists and rock bands around Toronto's buzzing scene in the mid/late 60's. His early success in the US with The Paupers and working with the legendary Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan's manager) led him back to Toronto to start his own label, True North Records. He made his mark early signing Bruce Cockburn, a relationship that continues to this day. His other successes have included clients like Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing, and he even signed a little weirdo instrumental band from Vancouver called Zubot and Dawson. Bernie has great stories from all of those eras and tells them in his recent book "True North", but it's more fun to hear him tell them in person, so Bernie was nice enough to spend some time with me for the show. Enjoy my conversation with Bernie Finkelstein!http://www.stevedawson.ca/makersandshakers/episode-20/bernie-finkelstein
13 July 2016 - A legend in the Canadian music world, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has made his home in San Francisco for the last seven years — but he wears his status as a foreigner with pride.
"I don't get to vote there, because I'm what they call a 'resident alien,'" Cockburn told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.
"I love the term. I'm very proud of being called a resident alien. Any kind of alien, actually."
Over his more-than-four-decades-long career, Cockburn has become known for his political songwriting. But even if he could vote, Cockburn is not particularly excited by any of the options currently available to Americans.
"It might have been [Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie] Sanders, actually, who described himself as a 'hopeful pessimist,'" Cockburn said with a laugh. "I kind of feel like that."
"I see people working on particular issues [locally] and doing a good job. But you know, globally, nationally, not much is being done to address very, very big issues."
Music critics are also often quick to pick up on themes of faith in Cockburn's songwriting, but for him, it's not the most apt description.
"That's not a word I use, exactly," Cockburn said. "It's more of a quest than a faith. It's really about finding out what that relationship [with God] is supposed to be and how to actually make it go, how to hold up my end of it."
For much of his life, Cockburn identified as a Christian. But over time, he grew less comfortable with it, for a variety of reasons — "some personal, some social."
Lately he finds himself coming back around to religion. Is it a product of the 71-year-old's age? He figures it probably is, in some part.
"After a while you become sort of more concerned again about the spirit, [and] in some contexts, mysticism — that question of how we relate to the divine."
Cockburn is an accomplished guitarist who has dabbled in numerous genres, but the one genre he's never been able to tackle? Free jazz.
"I get attached to a rhythm, and then I start playing the rhythm, and then I can't depart from the rhythm because the bottom falls out if I stop playing it," he said.
"I've always wanted to do that, and I've never really quite had the chops, or given myself the space to do it."
As a kid, the last thing Cockburn wanted to listen to was his parents' music, so it still surprises him to see kids singing along with their parents at his shows — but he's come to enjoy it.
"It's actually really rewarding to think that the music isn't just kind of growing cobwebs and dying with my generation."
Bruce Cockburn plays the main stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this Sunday at 8 p.m.
~ from By Matt Meuse, CBC News, with files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.
CBC Early Edition Podcast, available in some areas.
14 June 2016 - Original post published in March 2011. Updated on May 26, 2016:
In the spring of 2006, Farrar, Straus & Giroux published my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, which was a collection of 32 “spiritual profiles” of well-known people (I won’t say “celebrities” as that label applies awkwardly to many folks in the book) who I had spent time with face-to-face talking about their spiritual lives. I then set out, as you do, promoting the book at various literary festivals and other public appearances. As part of that tour, we decided I should conduct a few of these “God Factor” interviews live before an audience. We invited Bruce Cockburn, long a favorite of mine and one of the first “celebrity” interviews I ever conducted way back when I was writing for my college newspaper. Bruce agreed to join me onstage at the Ann Arbor Book Festival in May 2006. I figured he’d fly in with his manager, do my little dog-and-pony show and fly back to Ontario. Instead, incredibly gracious and generous soul that he is, Bruce drove his van down from his home in Kingston, Ontario alone and spent a couple of days hanging out with me in the rain in Ann Arbor. Our conversation onstage was only a small part of the amazing conversations we had those few days in Michigan, but the only one for which I have an audio recording. (Our dinner at this fabulous Indian restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor — I’ve never before or since had curried okra quite as good — not far from the theater where I’d interviewed him backstage 15 years earlier, will remain one of my favorite experiences of all time.)
As for our public “interview,” it too remains one of my favorite of all time. For years I’ve meant to take a couple of hours to transcribe it and post it so all of you could read (and hear) Bruce’s thoughtful responses to my questions about his faith. I’ve sat down many times to do so, never finishing until tonite. So with my apologies for taking many years to share it with you in its fullness, I give you the Bruce Cockburn “God Factor” interview in its entirety.
Transcript of my Bruce Cockburn “God Factor” interview at the Ann Arbor Book Festival, May 13, 2006:
C: Can everybody hear us ok?
I’ve done many of these interviews before but never with an audience before, and usually we’re sitting on a couch or talking across a dinner table, but I think we’re both game. And I’m gonna grill him.
B: Here I sit, ready for the skewer.
C: Ready? Ok. Here comes the first one.
How would you describe yourself spiritually?
B: As a seeker, I think. I think that’s the simplest way to put it.
I think I suppose in some way we’re all that, or those of who think we should be are. Not everybody cares enough, I guess, about spiritual matters to identify themselves that way. But I do. And that seeking has led me through a bunch of different stuff.
I started being interested in spirituality when I was in high school. I can remember – whether it was the influence of the Beat writers I was reading, it might have been that – or some other set of circumstances that conspired to kind of get me thinking that there’s more to life than just the physical and that whatever that ‘more’ was it was something we should be paying attention to.
And that was the beginning.
I flirted with Buddhism because of the influence of the Beat writers. I moved on when the 60s came along – I sort of moved on into the occult, studied the Tarot, read a lot of old musty books about the occult take on spirituality. Eventually became a Christian and tried for a minute or two to be a fundamentalist Christian because I thought they seemed to offer the clearest definition of what being a Christian was.
And then I realized that it was, that their definition left out a lot of things because really what fundamentalism seemed to be about was drawing lines around things that were uncomfortable when they didn’t have lines. And I wasn’t comfortable with that kind of comfort.(laughter)
So it kind of went on from there. Since then I’ve fallen under the influence of Sufi writers of Hindu teachings through Yoga studies and various other things. And the search continues.
C: Were you raised with any kind of traditional religious upbringing?
B: I was raised going to Sunday school, with the obligation to wear grey flannels on Sunday mornings, which was horrible.
C: What flavor?
B: It was what is called the United Church in Canada, which is different from the one in the United States. Its’ an amalgam of Methodist and Presbyterian. Socially the United Church in Canada has a history of kind of a liberal, of social engagement. It’s one of the least attended churches in existence, although when I was a kid that wasn’t true. All of the churches had bigger attendance than they do now.
My parents are agnostics and the only reason we went to Sunday school was that, well, my great aunt would be unhappy and the neighbors would talk. This was the 50s. You don’t buck the system in the 50s. We did what we were supposed to do. And that basically was kind of clear from the beginning that that was what we were doing. Because my parents would go to church from time to time but we didn’t hear any talk of religion in the home at all.
We got a little bit in school. We had to say the Lord’s Prayer. I remember the first time I encountered that. For some reason, we moved half way through kindergarten, and in the first half of kindergarten they weren’t saying the Lord’s Prayer — I don’t really know what that was about because it was pretty normal, as I later learned. But the next kindergarten I went to, you said this prayer in the morning and I’d never heard it before.
So I’m mumbling away, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven, HELL would by thy name,’ which I thought, ‘What the hell does that mean?’ Whoah. Weird. Psychedelic, if I had known that word back then. But anyway…
C: Do you recall what your first idea of God was?
B: Oh I think, I’m not sure how much this has been colored with hindsight, but I think it was probably sort of the charismatic old man with a big beard hanging out up in the sky. I think that’s probably the image I had of God as a kid.
But I also learned to love books really young and I learned that from my father who at that time, especially – he’s not that much of a reader as he was then – but he was a big reader and introduced me to Greek mythology, for instance, really early and it captivated me completely. Which I mixed up with Greek history – ancient history – as well so that my sense of the past was tied up with gods and heroes as much as it was with battles and modes of dress and stuff like that – buildings whose traces can still be found around. But there was a period when I was really young that I wanted to be an archeologist until I found out how much kind of boring work that involved.
So, my sense of God had to have also been affected by pictures in my mind of Zeus and Thor and the other ancient gods.
C: What do you think God is now?
B: Um…I like the Kabalistic view of God as ‘the boundless,’ which is basically a way of saying, I think, that there’s no image that applies at all and there’s no limits and every image that you could possibly think of is going to have limitations. Dealing with the boundless – I can kind of relate to that.
But I don’t know. It all remains to be seen.
If you think of psychology, if you think of Jung or Freud and the Jungian archetypes that exist in our beings in that worldview, those have a divine aspect or offer a connection to the divine. And those are clearly images – the animus, the anima, the principles that we, in my dreams anyway, they show up as people – sometimes really screwball people.
I remember – and this< I’m sure it was God – but a dream I had a few years ago: I opened the door of my house, which was in the country looking over nice fields – and there’s this old man in a suit, a yellow three-piece suit with a straw fedora and a cane and walking up my driveway. And he walks right up to my front door and I open the screen door and I’m excited to see him – he’s an old black man – and I said, ‘Hi! Welcome!’ and he looked and me and went, ‘Putain!’ which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with that, it’s the French word for ‘whore.’(laughter)
Oh, OK. Clearly this man is telling me something.
I think he was kind of telling me stop fooling around with vague concepts and an intellectual kind of involvement and get down to trying to feel that kind of visceral contact.
So that’s what I currently work on.
C: Now, you said you became a Christian at some point. Can you talk about how that happened?
B: Yeah, I married a Christian. At the time we talked about spirituality but we really didn’t get down to religion too much. But over the first couple of years we were together, we talked a lot about that stuff.
She had grown up in a very freethinking household. Her father was a scientist. They were spiritually aware people but very disinclined to kind of attach any kind of imagery to things. And by way of adolescent rebellion, she had sort of run off and become a Baptist.(laughter)
Kids have to separate themselves from their parents in some way and that was hers.
So we got into discussions about Christianity – she had abandoned that course after realizing that the people she had been with were very narrow-minded. They were glad to sign her up but they weren’t so good at dealing with being human.
We’re not married any more and we haven’t been for a very long time, but she remains a friend and she is a very psychic person with a lot of insight and she would have experiences that she couldn’t talk about with these people because it sounded demonic to them. So she left that.
But what she persuaded in getting me to do was to look at the Bible as something other than the chronicle of horrors that I had previously seen it as. We used to look in the Bible for the juicy bits, ya know? The guy stabbing his dagger into the king’s belly until the fat closed over his fist – that was a good one. And bits of the woman who was killed because she saved her husband’s life by grabbing his antagonist’s genitals. But because she’d touched a guy’s genitals, she had to be killed.
Ya know you find this – this is what I knew about the Bible as a teenager.
But, Kitty showed me St. Paul’s – whichever one of Paul’s letters that talks about loves – and one of the great things about the letters of St. Paul is that the guy – there is such a clear sense of him as a person in those letters. I don’t think I would have liked him very much.
C: I know I wouldn’t have…
B: But I really liked what he had to say about love. About the tongues of men and angels and that whole passage is a beautiful invitation to think more about that stuff. And that’s what Kitty offered me in terms of the Bible. So between that and reading CS Lewis and Tolkein and Charles Williams – who was another one of their cronies who wrote another amazing series of novels – almost impenetrable from a writing point of view – he was a terrible writer, but he was dealing with concepts that he seemed to have a really clear picture of – the bigger cosmos that we all inhabit and the way in which we interface with that cosmos, that are described in this series of seven novels dealing with kind of with the occult. Some of the people who are coming into these novels from the occult side are evil or represent evil and some do not. And his background seemed to, in some ways, parallel my own, some of the stuff that I’d studied before I got interested in Christianity came through in these novels clearly, and that attracted me to him.
So I came under the influence of these people and eventually I realized that I was in fact a Christian in every way except getting down on my knees and saying, identifying myself with Jesus as a person. And I did that. And then I was a Christian.
C: And here you are.
B: And here I am.
C: When we talked about spirituality once before, I don’t recall whether I asked you if you’d still call yourself a Christian, and I can’t recall what you might have answered. But would you?
B: Um, I guess I’m reluctant to not call myself a Christian because it’s been such a big part of my life. But I know that there are Christians out there who would not consider me a Christian and would probably be offended at me using that word about myself.
C: You’re in good company, Bruce.
B: I think so, actually.
But, um, so… In a certain way I do think of myself as a Christian, but I’ve learned so much from so many other sources that … and now we’re reading this very interesting book by a Canadian theologian called ‘The Pagan Christ,’ in which he deals with his own shock and dismay when he realizes that basically all of the elements of the story of Jesus as handed down to us in the Bible are present 2,000 years earlier than that in the Egyptian story of Horus, who is born of a virgin, has 12 followers, is murdered by the state in a horrible fashion and rises from the dead.
You think well…does that mean Jesus was there then as Horus? Or does that mean that it’s all metaphoric? Or something between the two? I don’t know the answer. For this particular guy, Tim Harper I think his name is, he comes to the conclusion that it is metaphoric and that’s how we should approach it and as that, for him, the stories are a source of inspiration and a model for us to approach God through. But it’s not that easy for me to make that leap if I believe his take on things.
I don’t know the answer.
I went to Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about this last night – Jerusalem seemed to me to be sort of a maelstrom of human spiritual hunger. It’s just this vortex. It seemed to me that there will never be peace in the vicinity of Jerusalem, partly for that reason. And it seemed, when you saw the distinctions that people went to such lengths to make between themselves as Franciscans or Armenian Orthodox or Armenian Catholic or different sects of Judaism or of Islam – they’re all there and they’re all representing themselves in their various uniforms and with their various rituals and they are terribly suspicious of each other. And you think, ‘This is as good as we get? This is a close as we get?’ Everyone has their sense of it. The thing, in a way and this is off the top of my head, but the thing that that illustrates is more than anything else the subjective nature of our relationship with the Divine.
And how important it is to remember how subjective it is and not to require other people to approach the divine in the same way. And humanity being the sort of tribal creatures that we are, we want to make these divisions. There is something instinctive in us that requires us to create tribes and to have somebody to oppose us in order to make us valid, or something. And when you see that so clearly illustrated in the confined setting of the old city of Jerusalem, it’s just – I don’t know. It was interesting. I’m still thinking. I don’t know where that’s going to take me yet.
C: There’s a debate going on in the States, and I don’t know what the conversation is like in Canada, but and I think what it boils down to is in a political construct here mostly. But what I think it really boils down to is people debating over what it really means to be a Christian. And if you are a Christian what that should mean for your politics – and I mean that in a social-justice kind of way. What do you think that means? How has that played a role in your activism?
B: Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s pretty simple – until you try to practice it.(laughter)
B: But it remains simple as a concept even if the neighbor is kind of smelly or whatever. It remains possible. And of course it also, in order to love your neighbor as yourself you have to start out first loving yourself, which is a big difficulty for a lot of people. We do the opposite. We project our self-hatred onto the neighbor and pretend that that, because it’s outside of us, we don’t have the problem. But it’s our problem.
So how do we translate that into the political arena? Well, it gets complicated when you’re dealing with issues like immigration, which is obviously a big one right now here, and a lesser issue in Canada but we kind of argue about all the same things that you guys do a year later.(laughter)
B: …And with much less at stake, normally. But um, hah hah, ya know if you look at it – there are people somewhere in the world who are starving or who are victims of war and they’re victims of a situation that they didn’t create themselves – you go, well, that’s simple. I need to help those people. How can I help those people? Well, there are all kinds of nonprofit organizations and all kinds of avenues for helping people when it’s that obvious and it’s important to take advantage of those things because there are people who are our more immediate neighbors at those nonprofits who devote their lives to making the lives of other people in the world a little better. And they deserve our support. Ok? So that’s a simple take on it.
But when it comes down to whom you vote for, it gets very dicey. I didn’t vote in the last federal election in Canada because I couldn’t stomach any of the candidates. They all looked like cheap liars to me and they still do. After the elections, we have a government that wants to be Bush-like but doesn’t have America to work with.(laughter)
So we’re saved from the worst excesses by virtue of being a country that doesn’t have any real power in the world. But the tendencies are there all the same.
C: What are you doing when you feel the most centered, or spiritually alive or something like that? Or the most authentically you?
C: It’s a pop quiz.
B: Hahahah. I don’t know if I trust feeling authentically me. Hahahah. I’m not sure what that means. There probably is a good answer to that but…
C: I can phrase it a different way: What are you doing when you feel closest to God?
B: It’s an accident and I can be doing anything.
But most often it’s in the presence of some – it can be a dream when I wake up and feel like there was something important about God in the dream, or it can be standing under a starry sky and feeling – that’s probably the most dramatic moment – or standing on a seashore at night hearing the waves, feeling the rhythm of it, feeling a part of this enormous fluid clockwork mechanism (I’m mixing metaphors horribly) but that’s how it strikes me. There’s this jigsaw thing that’s going on that’s always in motion, that’s always sparkling and once in a while I get the feeling that I’m a part of that in a conscious way. I think we’re all part of it, obviously, but most of the time I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about something that I think I’m supposed to think.
But when I forget what I’m supposed to be thinking, and it’s usually as I said in the presence of some kind of natural grandeur, I kind of whoah! Forget little me. This is the voice of the Real talking.
C: What about your music? If I don’t ask you about your music they’re going to …
B: In your book, Melissa Etheridge says she finds God in her music, which I really suspect. Nothing against Melissa – she’s very good – but if I were to say I find God in my music I would think, ‘You arrogant prick!’ right after.(laughter)
But, um, I don’t know. Music for me is a way of sharing experience among people. I wrote one song for God, on purpose, and that was ‘Lord of the Starfields.’ I attempted to write a biblical psalm, and it’s kind of written in the style of the psalms and it’s addressed to God, in a way, and it’s … ya know, I mean, I don’t know if God’s impressed by things like that. I suspect not really.
What impresses God, if that word can even be applied, is the raw emotion, the raw feeling behind the creation of a song like that, which was there in that case. It’s not always there in the songwriting process. The songs come out better when there is something raw and visceral going on, but sometimes that’s a little harder to access. And sometimes you feel the feelings and there are no words to frame it in, so there is no song.
C: Unless it’s in “Speechless”…
D: Well, instrumental pieces offer a different kind of thing. I hadn’t even really thought of about this – I had with other people’s music. This harks back to the previous question about where God turns up and God can turn up in the incredible harmonies, the mathematical symmetry of Bach or the more kind of strenuous outside harmonies of Bartok. I mean, there is something sublime that comes through that music sometimes. And it comes through in a non-verbal way. You can listen to Bach chorales where there are lyrics, but the lyrics are not very important to me, and as a songwriter that’s a kind of sacrilegious thing to say. But when I listen to a Bach chorale I’m listening to the music and the sublimity – if that’s a word – that comes through the music, not through my understanding of the music. That’s something I should remember with my own songs.
I had never applied that notion to my own work, but we put together a compilation of instrumental pieces that came out last fall (2005) and with a few new pieces on it, and hearing a whole album of instrumental stuff put it in a very different light for me. I realized that these pieces have something to say that’s going to be very subjective. I don’t know what another person will take from hearing those pieces. Hopefully they’ll think that some of it is beautiful and be touched in some way. But I found that whatever was happening there is something very different from what those same instrumental pieces have done on the albums that they originally came out on where they function more like counter point to a bunch of words, or relief from a bunch of words, as they case may be. Cuz I do tend to be a little word-heavy in the songs.I’m accused of that.
C: They’re always great stories.
Do you worship? And if so, how?
B: I don’t go to church. I did. In the ‘70s I did go to church pretty regularly, for the second half of the ‘70s, I guess. But then I moved from Ottawa to Toronto and I never found a church that I really felt as comfortable with and I started touring more, farther afield in the world, and ya know, I’d wind up at a Catholic church service in Italy, which is the only kind you can find there – or the only kind I could find there – and couldn’t take Communion because I’m not a Catholic and I didn’t want to compromise the priest.
I could follow the service because it was close enough to what I was familiar with – I went to an Anglican church. But anyway, I drifted away from it and I haven’t ever gone back.
But I pray from time to time. I meditate a little bit, from time to time. Which I think of as a kind of prayer, because it involves opening myself to whatever might come in. And I feel like I don’t’ think I really am able to execute this very well, but I feel like my whole life is supposed to be a prayer, that everything I do is in some way supposed to be in tune with the will of God – if the Boundless can be said to have ‘will.’
But I think it does.
C: How do you figure it out, though?
B: Well, I don’t think you figure it out. I think that trying to figure it out is what gets us into trouble all the time. But feeling it in some genuine way – and that I realize is a very loaded notion – but feeling it in some genuine way is a truer way to deal with it.
I find – something will tell me, ‘Don’t go in that store; go in that other store.’ And I’ll go in the other store and there will be someone in there that I’ll end up having an encounter with that was meaningful, whereas if I had gone in the other story it wouldn’t have been. Tiny little things like this happen all the time, if you listen. If I listen to that little voice that says, ‘Go here and not there,’ which I’m not very good at doing. But once in a while I do and it produces surprising results, frequently.
C: I have one last question I’d like to ask, and I’m sure folks here would probably like to ask you a few things themselves … I’m thinking back to something you said at the beginning when I asked you how you would describe yourself spiritually and then later you saying that you wouldn’t not call yourself a Christian but that you continue – you are a seeker and you find truth other places, at least that’s how I’m interpreting what you said. At the beginning of my book [The God Factor], it starts with a quote from my philosophy professor at Wheaton College – the only thing I remember from his 8 o’clock Introduction to Philosophy class, when he said, ‘All truth is God’s truth,’ which to me means, if it’s true – it doesn’t matter who it’s coming from – it’s really coming from God. And I was wondering if you could share with these folks a story you told me last night about Nepal and the fellow you met coming down the mountain.
B: Oh, man, yeah.
C: It’s a great story.
B: Well, I don’t know…
C: I think it’s a great story.
B: Well, I went to Nepal in 1987 on behalf of a Canadian nonprofit that does work there among other places in the Third World. I was there for five weeks traveling around and traveling almost entirely on foot, because that’s how you do it in Nepal. The last week or so we were there, on the pretext of going to the Everest region to look at Sir Edmund Hillary’s projects with the sherpa people, we went trekking, basically, in the general direction of Mt. Everest. We didn’t get there because of time considerations. But we’re going up and up and up and up these incredible mountains in this incredibly scenery in this landscape where every time you turn a corner there’s what’s called a chorten – a pile of rocks, basically, with ‘Hail to the Jewel and the lotus’ written on every rock that people have put there for centuries. They’re always at a little crossroads and the little roads or pathways are not, of course, what we think of as roads.
So we came over a mountain into a village at one point and the villagers were all away at the local market, but we could hear this bizarre music – Tibetan style music – and it was a funeral. And we kind of crashed the funeral and hung around for a while. The funeral was going on for days. This wasn’t part of the story but I’m telling it anyway: the people whose relative was being honored at the funeral had spent a year scraping up enough money to hire all of these monks and nuns to come and conduct the funeral, which was lasting three or four days of constant music and constant chanting and prayer and whatever. So this is the kind of landscape that we’re in.
We’re walking up this beautiful trail, and a party of people that became very quickly were Americans were coming down the other way. There was this old gentleman, a guy in his – older than me (I was a little younger in ’87 of course), this guy I would guess was in his maybe late 70s and he had spent his entire life in Nepal, or at least he had spent 25 or there abouts years in Nepal after he had left his job as a teacher at a seminary here, some kind of evangelical college here in the States. He boasted to me that he had taught Robert Schuller, the guy who has the Crystal Cathedral. But he was bitter. He was about to leave Nepal. He had gone on this trek up to see the Everest base camp as kind of the last thing he was doing in Nepal before leaving for good.
And he said he was so disappointed because he had spent all of this time trying to bring God to the people of Nepal. He said, ‘These people don’t want to know God.’ Well, they didn’t want to know his God. They didn’t get his God. And he didn’t get them, at all. I felt so bad for this guy. I felt sort of judgmental, I have to say, but I also felt like what a tragedy this was. This guy had been there all of these years and he hadn’t got that this whole place is steeped in Spirit and to me it was just so obvious. I don’t know what that means in the day-to-day and of course when you live in a place you become sucked in in a way that a casual observer might not be, so ya know, it’s not fair for me to judge him. But it just seemed like such a waste of that energy. Ya know?
C: Maybe it’s just not seeing God in other people?
B: Well, I think it’s the tribalism thing. I think it’s the conviction that your version of God is the only real one and – I mean, this is what we’re taught in church – everybody that doesn’t believe the way we do is condemned to a hereafter of torment. And he’s out there trying to save these people from that hereafter of torment and they’re going, ‘Well, I don’t think so. We’ve got our way of looking at these things and maybe you should take a look at it.’
The thing, too, and it’s part of the picture when you talk about Nepal and I’m sure it’s probably true in other places, proselytizing is illegal in Nepal for anyone on behalf of any faith. But it works fine for the Buddhists and the Hindus because they’re not into proselytizing anyway. And the Christians and the Muslims have a harder time in Nepal. A Catholic priest was jailed while I was there because he was caught proselytizing. That was part of the landscape that this guy had to face, too, which, of course, I didn’t have to deal with because I wasn’t there for that.
But I think it was a clear illustration, as clear as any that I’ve come across, of the problem when we try to identify God, when God becomes some kind of extension of a human construct, which the God that we grow up with – the same God with the long hair and the beard – is probably the same God that guy believed in, that God is not trustworthy. Ya know?
C: Thank you for answering my questions, Bruce, I appreciate it. If anyone has a few questions for Bruce Cockburn or for myself, I’m sure we’d be happy to answer.
AUDIENCE 1: I do. You mentioned some classical writers who are all dead – Lewis and Tolkien – are there any contemporary writers, Christian writers in particular, that you have found useful or influential for you?
B: There’s a guy named Bob Ekblad who’s a Presbyterian minister who put out his first book recently, which is called Reading the Bible with the Damned. Which is about his experience as a kind of aid worker in Central America and in his current practice of a prison ministry in Washington State, where he’s dealing with a lot of people from Central America, too. And it’s a pretty interesting take. I think he would probably consider himself an evangelical, but he’s one of the good ones.(laughter) This book, The Pagan Christ, I found very interesting. It’s a disturbing book and not a terribly great piece of literature, but definitely worth reading, I think, too.
AUDIENCE 2: I wonder how you balance being, apparently, the sincere, seeking Bruce Cockburn that everybody thinks is so cool and the public Bruce Cockburn that has to schlep his way to Ann Arbor to do a gig like this.
B: I came because I wanted to. The answer to the question is I try to keep there from being too much of a gap between those two things. I actually don’t do very much that doesn’t fit with who I think I am. Over the years I’ve learned to accommodate the music business to a greater degree than I did in the beginning. But I see that in human terms. I mean, I go to a radio station and the radio guys have their jobs that they’re doing and if I relate to them as human beings, we’re not really – it stops being the business game. As long as I’m able to do that, I don’t feel like I have to do too much of the other stuff.
It gets weird – my first taste of high-level politics, when I actually started meeting heads of state in connection with issue-related stuff of one type or another, there was kind of a heady intoxication that went with that. I thought, ‘Oh, I have power!’ The lure of power was out there. I didn’t feel like I really had it but I could get it if I played my cards right. But thank God I got over that. I realized, well, what liars these guys were and that I’d never be as good a liar as they were. So not to hold myself up as any paragon of virtue, but there are people who have skills and talents and mine isn’t that one.(laughter)
AUDIENCE 3: I wonder how you relate to reincarnation and whether that has any resonance for you.
B: ‘In my Father’s house, there are many mansions.’ Uh, it was suggested to me years and years ago that that was a reference by Jesus to reincarnation. I don’t know one way or the other, but I feel like one lifetime isn’t enough and I kind of … I guess my … I’m not sure that I hold onto this assumption the way that I would hold onto a Teddy Bear when I was a kid or something, but I kind of assume that we have more than one life. At this point in my life, I feel like death is some kind of graduation ceremony and we’re on to the next level of education after that, whatever it is. I’m not sure if we can come back in human form or whether the bundle of energy that is in us goes somewhere else, but I do feel like I have a sense that I’ve been here before and that I might be here again.
AUDIENCE 4: Cathleen I have a question for you. Would you consider yourself a seeker of the truth? You hear that term a lot. And if so, what is the truth that people are seeking?
C: Wow. I wish you’d asked Bruce that. It’s a tough one.(Bruce laughs)
Am I a seeker of truth? I certainly hope so. I’m a Christian. I use that term begrudgingly only because I suck at it.(laughter)
I’m trying to be a Christian, in the true sense of what that word means. And I guess… what is truth? Dang, with three minutes left in the hour. God, I guess? I think when people are seeking truth, I think the ultimate truth is God and so what they’re really looking for is God. And I suppose that leads to the question, ‘Well, what is God?’ And I don’t think I’m going to try to box that in. I don’t think you can box that in.
So, am I a seeker after truth? Am I a seeker after God? Yes. And that’s why I wrote the book [The God Factor]. And that’s why I do what I do for a living, which I enjoy a great deal. And that’s the way I try to live my life, and in my best moments, I think I’m kind of heading in that direction.
B: C.S. Lewis said that all it takes to be a Christian is a belief in the reality of Christ. So you can’t really suck at it.
C: Are you sure?
B: Well, he was sure, and I’m taking his word for it.
~ from Cathleen Falsani - The Long-Lost ’06 Bruce Cockburn “God Factor” Interview (with Audio)
11 May 2016 - A two hour radio interview that took place in April 2016, has been uploaded to WEFT.org.
Niecey interviews well known and respected Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn.
1 May 2016 - TORONTO, ON: Andrew Burashko's Art of Time Ensemble is presenting its tenth Songbook concert featuring Hawksley Workman and the music of Bruce Cockburn. May 13 - 14 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Workman will perform Cockburn's protest songs in new arrangements by Canadian composers.
The program includes If I Had a Rocket Launcher (arranged by Jonathan Goldsmith) and If a Tree Falls, as well as Workman's We're Not Broken Yet from his latest record, Old Cheetah.
"I've loved Bruce Cockburn's music for a very long time and consider him one of my biggest influences," says Workman. "He is a master of the protest song, always keeping beauty and poetry front and centre. In a time where protest is stifled and muted, I thought it might be good to revisit his music."
Art of Time's songbook series, in which a vocalist selects the setlist and performs with the ensemble of classical musicians and jazz improvisers, has been led by Sarah Slean, Steven Page, and Tony award-winner Brent Carver. "I've been a fan of Hawksley's for years," says Art of Time's Artistic Director Andrew Burashko. "He's one of the best performers around; a true force of nature, and an exceptional musician."
The band backing Workman includes Order of Canada recipient Phil Dwyer on saxophone, guitarist Rob Piltch (Blood, Sweat and Tears), violinist Erika Raum (ARC Ensemble), and Andrew Burashko on piano, among others. A limited quantity of tickets are available from the Harbourfront Centre Theatre box office.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Hawksley Workman, singer
Andrew Burasho, piano
Phil Dwyer, saxophone
Amy Laing, cello
Joseph Phillips, bass
Rob Piltch, guitar
Erika Raum, violin
SETLIST - All Songs by Bruce Cockburn
Call it Democracy, arranged by Kevin Fox
Red Brother Red Sister, arranged by Andrew Downing
It's Going Down Slow, arranged by Jim McGrath
If a Tree Falls, arranged by Andrew Staniland
Burn, arranged by Drew Jurecka
Gavin's Woodpile, arranged by Andrew Davis
If I Had a Rocket Launcher, arranged by Jonathan Goldsmith
VENUE: Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Formerly Enwave Theatre, 231 Queen's Quay West)
DATE/TIME: May 13 - 14, 2016 8PM
TICKETS: $25 to $59, available online at artoftimeensemble.com, by phone at 416 973 4000 or in person at the Harbourfront Centre Box office.
Hawksley Workman tackles Cockburn songbook
February 2016 - Daniel Keebler, over at the Woodpile, has put together a wonderful article, including a 2 hour audio documentary which was made in 1977.
Special Occasion presents - ON TOUR WITH BRUCE COCKBURN
A two-hour program produced for the CBC in 1977. Bill Usher documents aspects of the Circles In The Stream tour of which he was a part. Included are intimate conversations with Bruce Cockburn about himself, his music and those who listen to it.
22 February 2016 - The title of Bruce Cockburn’s memoir, now out in paperback, is Rumours of Glory. Upon reading the book, it occurred to the Cockburn enthusiast and fellow Juno-winning musician Hawksley Workman that there was too much rumour and not enough glory affixed to the standing of Cockburn. The two artists spoke to each other recently by phone, about credit due, MTV and roads worth taking.
Hawksley Workman: The passing of David Bowie got me to thinking about artists who seem supremely aware of what they’re creating for themselves and their own self-mythologizing. My sense, Bruce, is that you weren’t ever really aware of the legacy you were creating. Is that fair to say?
Bruce Cockburn: It strikes me that legacy is a very ephemeral thing. I’ve had that word thrown at me, but I don’t know. I think it’s out of my hands.
Workman: But people like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, they nurtured or fostered an image of themselves that accompanied their art. I have trouble that you’re not included in the group of names we seem to culturally deify, and that it’s because their kind of self-mythologizing wasn’t part of your landscape. Do you feel that?
Cockburn: For me, it’s always been about the music and words. But under the surface, I recognize I have an ego like everybody else. I want to be noticed. In the beginning, I was defensive about that. I didn’t want to think in those terms, and I went to great lengths to avoid acquiring an image of any sort. But then I found that I had acquired an image of somebody who was trying not to have an image. So, I couldn’t beat that one. Once you put yourself in front of the public, an image is thrust upon you – by people’s response, by the media, by some sort of natural reaction to having somebody who is up on stage seem larger than life.
Workman: I hear all that. But your compulsion to do or to go or to be seems to eclipse that of somebody who might stroke their chin and think about what move might make them cool.
Cockburn: I’d be a liar if I denied being aware of how things might look to other people. But, again, it’s out of our own control. You can make choices, and people might see you as being cool or as a jerk. I got called names for supporting the Sandinistas. You can’t take that out of the picture, but, for me, it’s always been about curiosity more than anything else. I don’t see anything as a compulsion.
Workman: After reading your memoir, the thought that came to my mind was that I’m not working hard enough.
Cockburn: I’ve been curious and I’ve had opportunities that I’ve taken advantage of. In some cases I went around looking for the opportunity, like the first trip to Central America. I tried to make that happen, and had given up on it, before it actually did happen. Once I did that, I got invitations to all sorts of interesting places. And it seemed morally appropriate as well. I don’t feel I’ve ever been a crusader of any sort. But I feel it’s good to do what you can do.
Workman: You were putting political videos and songs on MTV. You were doing things that were as punk rock or as rebellious as you could at the time. Did you understand just how unreal it was?
Cockburn: Oh, I don’t know. Most of the credit I receive for anything I’ve done has had a lot to do with [long-time manager] Bernie Finkelstein. He’s the one who knows how to get out there and get people’s attention.
Workman: I just don’t feel it’s been recognized or celebrated that you were breaking all kinds of rules.
Cockburn: I suppose people could say there was a certain amount of strategizing that I didn’t do. But I don’t feel like I’ve given anything up. People would say, especially in the U.S., “Do you think this political involvement stuff is going to hurt your career?” For one thing, I don’t think of what I do as a career. It’s just what I do. And for another thing, it doesn’t appear to have hurt it, because the most quote-popular-unquote song of all, which was If I Had a Rocket Launcher, was almost the biggest hit. Mind you, I was totally shocked it got on the radio.
Workman: Do you feel that you’ve received all the credit you deserved?
Cockburn: I’ve done what I’ve done. I didn’t go to Central America looking for song material or anything else. I went there to see what the Nicaraguan revolution looked like up close. When I got there I found myself very deeply moved by the things I was encountering. That experience changed the direction of the next couple of decades for me. Invitations came up – invitations for adventure, to Nepal, for instance. And who’s going to say no?
~ from The Globe and Mail.
16 October 2015 - WHYY video, a great piece with clips of Bruce performing and then commentary on the songs. This has a limited time online, so go watch it.
9 July 2015 - Last month, the Free Press sat down with Winnipeg Folk Festival legend Mitch Podolak and asked him to flip through a pile of archival photographs of the event he founded 41 years ago.
"We owe the Winnipeg Folk Festival in a lot of ways to Bruce (Cockburn), because people did not have any idea at all what a folk festival was — none. We knew we had Bruce and we used Bruce in a way we didn’t use anybody else.
"We said, ‘There’s a free Bruce Cockburn concert in the park,’ and 14,000 people showed up the first night to see that, and what they got was the folk festival. Thank you, Bruce."
From the article From the article Good Times, Great Music by Melissa Tait & Joe Bryska. Photo - Photo: 1975 Winnipeg Folk Festival, David Landy Collection, Archives of Manitoba.