Songs:
-- Forty Years In The Wilderness --
Saratoga Springs, CA - 19 June 2016


Found on:

Bone On Bone (2017)
Lyrics:

forty years in the wilderness getting to know the beasts
projected and reflected on the greatest and the least
forty years of days and nights -- angels hovering near
kept me moving forward though the way was far from clean
and they said
take up your load
run south to the road
turn to the setting sun
sun going down
got to cover some ground
before everything comes undone
comes undone

forty years in the wilderness dancing with the flies
dazzled by the visions rolling out before my eyes
angel-made graffiti, demons in disguise
you could trade away your birthright for another day's supplies
or you could
take up your load
run south to the road
turn to the setting sun
sun going down
got to cover some ground
before everything comes undone
comes undone

rising with the height of land, falling with the crowd
spirits in the scouring wind called my name out loud
said you could go to heaven, you could go to hell
you could hang out in between in the place you know so well
or you could
take up your load
run south to the road
turn to the setting sun
sun going down
got to cover some ground
before everything comes undone
comes undone


Musicians
Bruce Cockburn - Guitars and Vocal
John Dymond - Bass
Gary Craig - Drums & Percussion
John Aaron Cockburn - Accordian
Mary Gauthier & The San Francisco Lighthouse Chorus - Vocals




Editors Note: First played in front of Humans, June 2017, will be on the album Bone On Bone scheduled for release September 2017.



  • From the Bone On Bone press release:

    “Forty Years in the Wilderness” ranks alongside “Pacing the Cage” or “All the Diamonds” as one of Cockburn’s most starkly beautiful folk songs.
    "There have been so many times in my life when an invitation has come from somewhere…the cosmos…the divine…to step out of the familiar into something new. I’ve found it’s best to listen for, and follow these promptings. The song is really about that. You can stay with what you know or you can pack your bag and go where you’re called, even if it seems weird…even if you can’t see why or where you’ll end up."

    "Forty Years in the Wilderness" is one of several songs that feature a number of singers from the church Cockburn frequents, for the sake of convenience referred to in the album credits as the San Francisco Lighthouse "Chorus." "The music was one of the enticements that drew me to SF Lighthouse. As I found myself becoming one of the regulars there, and got to know the people, I felt that I really wanted all these great singers, who were now becoming friends, to be on the album. They were kind enough to say yes!"




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

    · 7 September 2017 -

    Can we talk a little bit about 'Forty Years in the Wilderness'? I think this is one of the most extraordinary songs I've heard this year and I'd love to know a little bit about what went into writing it.

    I was in church one day and the sermon was about Jesus descending from heaven and he realizes who he is, or what his mission is let’s say. One of the gospels basically describes him as kind of jumping up and running off into the desert. He spends 40 days in the desert and in the story he's tempted by and being offered all sorts of great worldly things, which he rejects. This [sermon] happened right about the time, not to the date, but more or less 40 years since I'm a churchgoer. And I'm back in church and I'm hearing this, and I'm thinking, well — it's not quite correct to say why, but a large part of me not being a churchgoer was learning about the world.

    It hit me at the end of the ’70s, way back when, that if I was going to love my neighbour as myself I'd better find out who my neighbour was. I embraced urban life at that point, which previously I'd been very suspicious of, and I made a point of kind of socializing myself in a very different way from how I had been before that point. And over time, I mean, didn't just happen overnight, but ah, you know, I had a lot of adventures. I met a lot of great people and some not-so-great people and I travelled to some amazing places and I pretty much fell away from going to church, although I did not fall away from my belief in God and my desire for a relationship with God.

    My wife who was going through her own spiritual searching was kind of steered toward this particular church [in San Francisco] and had gone pretty regularly for several months before she managed to convince me to actually go and I went and I completely fell in love with the place — well, not with the place but with the people and the spirit that's there.

    ~ from First Play and Q&A: Bruce Cockburn, Bone On Bone by Andrea Warner, CBCMusic

  • 2017 -
    "This song is Get Up Jonah, part two, in a way. You're still being invited to follow the road where it leads, but you're older. Maybe not wiser, but less angsty. After I wrote my memoir [2014's Rumours of Glory], I hadn't written a song in four years. I started going to church again, after not having gone for decades. There was a sermon about Jesus being baptized, which is when he really figures out who he is. He's shocked, and he runs out into the desert to figure it out. That struck me with considerable force. I felt like I'd been struggling with that issue for 40 years. I'd started to identify myself as a Christian in the 1970s, and here I was, 40 years later, back in church. And I'm living in San Francisco now, with my wife and child. I never would have imagined myself living on the West Coast. But it was an answer. I went with it. I went west in another one of those cosmic moments. This song is about accepting those invitations." - from Bruce Cockburn - a life in seven songs by Brad Wheeler - Globe and Mail. (Inteview date: September 11, 2017)




  • Help out! To add material to this section, see this page first.



    Song Index | Alphabetical Song Index | Chronological Song Index

    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.