-- Bruce Cockburn's weighty new memoir explores God, guns, war, love --
By: Nick Patch, The Canadian Press

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6 November 2014 - TORONTO - Bruce Cockburn started writing his mammoth memoir "Rumours of Glory" just as he was becoming a father for a second time, at the age of 66.

Bruce Cockburn - Photo by Nathan Denette - Canadian Press

It meant for a bleary-eyed time.

"There kept being deadlines and deadlines created incredible stress, especially measured against trying to find time to write with our little daughter around," Cockburn, now 69, said during a recent interview in Toronto.

"She's about the same age as the book right now. It was unfortunate timing from the book's point of view that Iona was born when she was. Or perhaps it was good timing, maybe."

He's not sure, or maybe he's just tired. This weighty tome sure seemed to result from a difficult birth.

The decorated folkie and dedicated activist spent years stitching together this book, which dutifully traces his childhood (mostly spent around Ottawa), his hard-cleaved climb in the industry, his thorough exploration of the world's war-torn regions and his ever-evolving spiritual identity.

The very first paragraph, however, focuses on what the sprawling book is, in fact, missing.

"This is not your standard rock-and-roll memoir," he writes. "You won't find me snorting coke with the young Elton John or shooting smack with Keith Richards."

And Cockburn has many reasons for his apathy to wild industry yarns, both pragmatic and creative.

"I don't have that many stories like that to tell, and even if I did, I wouldn't tell them because I've got a green card in the U.S. and one of the things they ask you is if you have ever been involved in anything criminal," said Cockburn, based now in northern California.

"I'm not going to talk about things I was present at that people that are criminal."

He also recalls taking in a recent live reading of someone else's book, which documented the misadventures of some '70s "metalloid" act.

"It just went on and on and on. Every second word was" the F-word, he explained. "After a while, it's like, I don't care about that anymore. I'm tired of hearing about these idiots.

"But you know," he added, "I haven't lived like that. I don't know anybody who has personally. People's sexual escapades, I haven't been part of that kind of stuff either. No orgies or anything like that. To my great regret."

Cockburn does explore his life's relationships with probing curiosity, including his previous marriage to Kitty Cockburn (he has daughter Iona with wife M.J. Hannett).

Some of these disclosures might have troubled those involved. For instance, he writes about his older daughter, Jenny, and her teenage tendency to disappear for days into seedy segments of Toronto. But Cockburn said there were no issues.

One story he did feel he needed permission to tell centred on his first wife, who was apparently so distraught over the deteriorating state of their relationship, she fumbled to open the window of their third-floor London hotel room with apparent intentions to jump, before Cockburn pulled her back.

"She didn't even remember it," he said of contacting her for consent. "But she said, 'Oh, you know, it's OK, whatever.'"

Cockburn's quest for God is the thread that unites everything. Once considered a Christian artist, the 12-time Juno winner doesn't identify that way anymore.

"I don't disown it either, though," he clarified. "Which I guess makes me a complete namby pamby traveller from a hardcore Christian point of view, but ... I had trouble with the imagery (of the Bible) and with the historicity of Christ, really.

"(So) I stopped calling myself a Christian. But I might change my mind on that in a year or two years or whenever."

In other words: to be continued.

Similarly, the latest chapter in Cockburn's life his expanded family is actually granted only a brief epilogue in his book.

Perhaps it feels the "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" songwriter has simply started a new tale entirely.

"(My life now) would have required at least a couple hundred pages and it was already too long," he said. "But it was more because I don't know where it's going. It's going in a good direction and it has been from the start, but I don't know the story yet.

"It's too new and too much still unfolding."

~ from "Bruce Cockburn's weighty new memoir explores God, guns, war, love" by By: Nick Patch, The Canadian Press. Photo THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

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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.