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At 66, Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn pleased to have another shot at fatherhood
By Nick Patch, The Canadian Press


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3 May 2012 - TORONTO - At 66 years old, Bruce Cockburn says he's pleased to get a second shot at fatherhood.

The Ottawa folkie and his longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett welcomed daughter Iona in November. She's Cockburn's second daughter born more than 35 years after his first, Jenny.

But Cockburn says time has granted him new insights into fatherhood.

"It's interesting to go at it a second time after all these years," Cockburn said down the line from his California home this week.

"It's amazing to have a new baby and kind of see it all with the perspective that you get with age. It's quite different. It has its intense moments and its fraught moments, but I'm a lot more able to tune in to the baby."

That was certainly the frequency Cockburn was dialed into on this day, when his slight tardiness in beginning the interview resulted in a flurry of apologies.

Assured that the lateness was acceptable given what must be a busy schedule, Cockburn responds: "Yeah, it's busy in a way that is different from other kinds of busy-ness."

There was a time in Cockburn's life when this sort of interruption to his schedule would have gotten under his skin. Not so now, he says.

"(I don't) worry about what I'm missing out on or the fact that I don't get enough practising done. I mean, all this bothers me slightly but not anywhere near the way it did back when my other daughter was born," Cockburn said.

"Everything was a bit more intense, everything seemed more intense, seemed more vital and important. And the baby was therefore more of an interruption into my life. Whereas now it's really not. I don't feel like my life is interrupted.

"The baby's wonderful and I can appreciate that without having to worry about the other side of things."

Cockburn speaks with a similar candidness in the new documentary "Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage," airing Friday on Vision.

The hour-long special follows Cockburn as he traverses the road during the tour that would become the 2009 live disc "Slice O Life." While testimonials on Cockburn's influence from the lofty likes of Bono, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson and Michael Ondaatje add heft to an intimate portrait of the activist guitarist (whom Bono calls a "zen songwriter"), it's the unguarded moments with Cockburn discussing religion, family, music and politics that will be of most interest to fans.

In one scene, a despondent Cockburn sits after a show and obsesses over the "little mistakes" he feels marred the gig. His manager, Bernie Finkelstein, then recalls entire tours where Cockburn hasn't liked even one of his performances.

"You don't gain anything by telling yourself you were perfect when you were weren't," Cockburn says now, before conceding that his self-critical streak does take the joy out of performing live to a certain extent.

"I would say that the truth is yes it does, sometimes. I didn't start out in life expecting to have fun. I've had a fair amount of fun over the years, but it's never been a goal.

"The goal is to get the art done, to make the songs and then perform them without screwing them up and the closer I am to feeling like I did that, the generally more satisfied I feel. But nothing's ever perfect, so there's always that next thing to reach for."

The film also delves into the way Cockburn, a devout Christian, has never been embraced within religious music circles because of his political views. And he figures that even this doc airing on a network that's devoted in part to faith-based content is likely to rile those detractors, particularly due to a reference he makes to the "Christian myth."

"I'm still hearing from people indirectly about the fact that there are cuss words in my songs 'How can I be a Christian and have cuss words in my songs?'" he says with a rueful laugh.

"Get over yourself. If it's a problem, it's been me and God, not you guys. And I don't think it is a problem, otherwise I wouldn't really do it."

Cockburn, who won a Juno last month for his most recent album, "Small Source of Comfort," says he isn't in a hurry to record a follow-up. At the moment, he's chipping away at his memoir, originally scheduled for release in 2013 with HarperCollins.

But work on that has also slowed with Cockburn's new familial obligations.

"I'm a year overdue for the rough draft," he said.

~from At 66, Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn pleased to have another shot at fatherhood, by Nick Patch, The Canadian Press







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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.