4 November 2014 - Bruce Cockburn’s memoir Rumours Of Glory is candid about his personal and professional lives.
Bruce Cockburn has always had a way with words. Over his five-decade, 31-album career, he’s demonstrated his prowess as songwriter, giving us memorable lyrics about love, landscape and socio-political injustice. Even Bono, the world’s biggest rock star, used a variation of some of Cockburn’s lines from Lovers in a Dangerous Time — “Got to kick at the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight” — in one of U2’s tunes.
The Ottawa-bred musician, 69, almost always writes his lyrics first. “I don’t know why it started like that but I find it easier to manipulate music than words,” he reflects during a recent interview.
He almost always writes about his own experiences, too — whether it’s a recurring dream of lions, a trip to Nepal, or the desire to blow someone away with a rocket launcher.
And so, it makes sense for Cockburn’s memoir, Rumours of Glory, newly released from HarperCollins, to feature the lyrics to dozens of songs — and the stories behind them. (A nine-disc companion boxset is also available via his label, True North.) Those stories encapsulate his faith, his travels across Canada, his work as a human-rights activist — visiting victims of war in Central America, Mozambique, Chile, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq — and his emotional evolution as a man.
The memoir, co-written by journalist Greg King, documents Cockburn’s childhood in Ottawa, his rise as one of Canada’s top singer-songwriters/political activists, his struggles with Christianity, and a few modest tales about the women in his life.
Cockburn is also regarded as a gifted guitarist. Nowadays, he suffers from arthritis in both hands, what he refers to as “wear and tear,” which he usually treats with fermented grapes. You won’t find any mention of this, however, in Rumours of Glory. “Medications don’t work as well as wine for loosening up the fingers and making them not hurt so much,” he smiles. “I can play most of what I used to be able to do — it hasn’t interfered with playing that much.”
His memoir is also short on details about his life in San Francisco, where he now lives with his wife, M.J. Hannett, an immigration lawyer for Homeland Security, and their almost three-year-old daughter, Iona.
“That’s volume two, I guess,” he says.
Iona is Cockburn’s second daughter. His first, Jenny, is in her late 30s, teaches at Concordia University in Montreal, and has four children of her own.
“It’s pretty different,” he says of his current approach to fatherhood. “I mean, the mechanics of it are the same, from the starting point onward. But my attitude is much more relaxed than it was. When I was younger, I just worried about more stuff. There was much more of a need to keep focused on writing and playing and practising. I took it all very seriously, and I still do, but I’m just not as worried about it.”
While he worries about his mortality — “I hope I’m around long enough to see (Iona) get on a good footing” — he’s also concerned about the state of our world, currently ravaged by disease, environmental disasters, religious extremism, and war.
“Things are really chaotic right now. It feels like entropy, it feels like the whole world is spinning out of control.”
How do we make it stop?
“How do we make the world a better place? By respecting each other. If you can’t imagine loving your neighbour, at least respect them and require them to respect you. When we don’t do that is when we cause all kinds of trouble for ourselves and everybody else.”
~ from Bruce, the almighty still kicking at the darkness by Sandra Sperounes, Postmedia News - Nov 04, 2014. Photo: Ed Kaiser/Postmedia News.