-- Dialogue With the Devil (or "Why don't we celebrate") --
released 1971

Found on:

Sunwheel Dance (1971)

Circles In The Stream (1977) [live album]

Resume (1981) [compilation album]

Standing on a rock in a river
Staring at the splintered sun
You could drown yourself in jewels
Like a thousand other fools
While you stand there looking down at what you've won

Sitting on a mountain of ashes
Face to face with past regrets
You could roll down to the canyon
Piss away this incarnation
But remember that you pay for what you get

And he says, "But don't you know
How hard it is
To hit the ground and mean it.
And mean it?"

Walk the jangling streets of the city
Trying to find the buried sun
You could drown yourself in jewels
Like a thousand other fools
While you wander waiting for it to be done

And he cries, "Why don't we celebrate?
Why don't we celebrate?
Love can make you sad.
Come on, let's drive ourselves mad."

And he's aware
How hard it is
To kiss the sun and mean it.
And mean it.

And he screams, "Why don't we celebrate?
Why don't we celebrate?
Life can make you sad.
Come on, let's drive ourselves mad."

Standing on a rock in a river
Staring at the rain made one
On the surface flashing diamonds
Rolling down the twilight canyon
And we shall kiss the sun in spite of him

So why don't we celebrate?
Why don't we celebrate?
Why don't we celebrate?

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • Spring 1993

    James Jensen: Going back to songs like "Dialogue With the Devil" your playing a jazzy/bluesy lead on top of a pounding bass, was that independence hard to master?

    BC: Well you take your basic country blues and stick more notes in it. It did take a long time to get and I am basically an undisciplined person so I spent quite a while trying to fingerpick before I actually understood what the thumb had to do to make it work. At first I had a kind of wishy washy style that was good for a certain kind of effect like if you wanted alot of flowing arpeggio stuff it worked but I never could get that rhythm happening. I don't remember the source of the discovery for me that the thumb had to be solid for the rhythm but I remember when the Kweskin Jug Band was happening Jim Kweskin was known as Led Thumb cause he had this rock-solid thumb thing happening that you almost didn't have to put something on top of because it would cook so hard. It is still an ongoing quest to keep the feel going and do other stuff on top and depending on what your doing quite challenging.
    -- from an Interview by James Jensen at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, circa Spring 1993.

  • 26 October 1999

    "So many people seemed to regard it as important that I thought I had better not and stopped singing it. After 20 years I've come back to it - think I understand it now."
    -- from a live performance, 26 October 1999, Wavendon, UK. Submitted by Dave Hefford.

  • 31 October 1999

    "This is a song I got totally fed up with for a long time! I wrote it in the early 70's and from that time played it at almost every concert, till I wasn't able to perform it anymore. I think I haven't played that one fore almost twenty years now. But this year I somehow got it back and thought it was good and so decided to perform it again on this tour."
    -- from an intro to the song at a gig in Worpswede, Germany, 31 October 1999. Submitted by Simon Gorler.

    9 December 1999

    "I started playing this song again because I finally figured out what it meant."

    -- From a 9 Dec 1999 gig at the Gothic Theatre, Denver, Colorado, a KBOC Radio sponsored benefit with Tori Amos. Submitted by Paul Leach.

  • 10 March 2000

    [Commenting upon the reemergence of this song during his tour in 2000 promoting Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu]
    "That came around I suppose because I was ready to hear it in a new way," he explains, in particular the verse that begins: "Sitting on a mountain of ashes/Face to face with past regrets." Those words mean more to a 50-something than a 20-something", he suggests, chuckling.
    -- from "25 Albums: Bruce Cockbrun Still Giving It Away," by Tom Groening, Bangor Daily News, March 10, 2000. Submitted by Suzanne Capobianco.

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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.