-- Kit Carson --
1 July 1990. Vaudreuil, Quebec.

Found on:

Nothing But A Burning Light (1991)

Slice O Life (2009)

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 5 (2014) [compilation album]

And the President said to Kit Carson:
"Take my best four horsemen please
And ride out to the four directions,
Make my great lands barren for me"

Kit Carson said to the President
"You've made your offer sweet
I'll accept this task you've set for me
My fall's not yet complete"

Kit Carson knew he had a job to do
Like other jobs he had before
He'd made the grade
He learned to trade in famine, pestilence, and war

Kit Carson was a hero to some
With his poison and his flame
But somewhere there's a restless ghost
That used to bear his name

Bruce Cockburn - Electric guitars and Vocals
Michael Been - Bass
Edgar Meyer - Acoustic Bass
Booker T. Jones - Organ
Jim Keltner - Drums, Percussion

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

  • Circa 1990 -

    For those that don't remember the old westerns, Kit Carson was of course a famous Indian fighter in the last century, which was enough to make him a Hollywood hero. But when you actually look at what he did, he was a genocidal maniac, and a lot of terrible things were done by him in the name of the expansion of the US into the west, and this is sort of the motivation for the song.
    -- from Radio Interview, BBC Radio 1, 1990, Interviewer is Johnny Walker. Transcribed and submitted by David Newton.

  • June/July 1992 -

    "I was down in Arizona for a few weeks in the end of '89, beginning of '90, and met a Native comedian by the name of Bob Morningsky. He's part Hopi, part Navajo. He was talking about various parts of both their histories and cultures. Kit Carson came up and suddenly I was shown the true story. I grew up with the Western hero, who was thought to be basically a good guy, saving maidens is distress on the railroad tracks. When you hear the real story, he was sort of an unsavory character. He befriended the Navajo long enough to learn their ways and learn where they all were. He then offered himself to the U.S. Cavalry to drive the Navajos off their land and betrayed the people who were good to and accepted him. He was responsible for a large number of the deaths, including burning their villages, poisoning their waterholes and the general dislocation of their culture. I though it was an interesting story, particularly in light of the myth we're normally handed about guys like that. I thought it was interesting to try to write a traditional kind of song that would be in the style that normally celebrated this kind of myth. But in this case it would debunk it or add something to it. An important footnote, anyway."
    -- from "Bruce Cockburn an Update" by Lahri Bond in the June/July 1992 issue of Dirty Linen (#40). Anonymous submission.

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