-- Get Up Jonah --
10 October 1995. Halton Hills.

Found on:

The Charity Of Night (1996)

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 6 (2014) [compilation album]

(I woke up thinking about Turkish drummers
It didn't take long - I don't know much about Turkish drummers -
But it made me think of Germany and the guy who sold me cigarettes
Who'd been in the Afghan secret police
Who made the observation
That it's hard
To live

Then I was reminded of the proprietor of a Vietnamese restaurant in Quebec who used to be head of the secret police in Da Nang - and it occurred to me I was thinking about all this stuff to keep from thinking about something else... Isn't that just what secret police are all about???)

Somebody stands in a window
Watches the river roll
Trains rumble in the foreground
With the weight of approaching dawn

Flames from the refinery
Rise broken, red and riveting
And the high vault of heaven
Looks far away and cold

There's howling in the factory yard
There's pounding in my head
I'm swollen up with unshed tears
Bloated like the dead...

(Instrumental break)

Blood and ashes - time burning
On the skyline dark against the stars
A solitary horseman - waiting

Lashed to the wheel
Whipping into the storm
Get up, Jonah
It's your time to be born

Bruce Cockburn: Resophonic and Electric Guitar and Vocal
Gary Craig: Drums
Gary Burton: Vibes
Rob Wasserman: Bass
Jonatha Brooke and Ani DiFranco: Vocals

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

  • 7 July 1998

    "That piece was called 'Sunrise on the Mississippi'. And it, it was written, um, I can't remember if I actually wrote it in St. Louis or if I was just thinking about looking out of a particular window in St Louis when I wrote but it was very soon after the looking out the window in any case. And sunrise is either the beginning of something or the end of something. And I suppose in this case it was a little of both... but it's interesting how these things go you know because a year later I was looking out of the same, well if not the same window the next one upstairs, the same hotel, with the same view and it looked very different and that too produced a piece of music, which is this one. It doesn't start there but it gets there very soon."

    [Cockburn then played "Get Up Jonah".]

    -- from a live performance at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI, 7 July 1998. Submitted by Doug Stacey.

  • November/December 1999

    "Most of the songs come out of very particular things, like Birmingham Shadows, or the stuff from Central America, or Get Up Jonah, for that matter. At other times they pull from more than one experience. But the important thing is that the songs come out of life. They're not a reproduction of life. They're not an attempt to pin life down. They assume a life of their own."

    - from "Fire in an Open Hand" by Susan Adams Kauffman, The Other Side magazine, November/December 1999. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

  • 2017
    "I was in St. Louis, looking out of a hotel room window at the sun coming up on the other side of the Mississippi. I'd been up all night, worrying about the things going on in my life. The song relates to the Jonah story in the Bible. It's addressed to me. I'm Jonah, telling myself to get off my ass and do whatever I was supposed to be doing. Something about the track I was on was wrong. I was satisfied with the status quo. Get Up Jonah is about accepting an invitation, from the cosmos, to take the next step. I really like that song, though I haven't done it for a long time." - from Bruce Cockburn - a life in seven songs by Brad Wheeler - Globe and Mail. (Inteview date: September 11, 2017)

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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.