SONGS:
-- When You Give It Away --
released 1999


Found on:

Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999)
Lyrics:

Slid out of my dreams like a baby out of the nurse's hands
Onto the hard floor of day
I'd been wearing OJ's gloves and I couldn't get them off
It was too early but I couldn't sleep
Showered and dressed, stepped out into the heat
The parrot things on the porch next door
Announced my arrival on Chartres Street
With their finest rendition of squealing brakes

Down in Kaldi's café the newspaper headlines promised new revelations
Concerning Prince Charles' Amex account
A morose young man in old-tim Austrian drag
Stares past his long mustache at the ground
And last night's punks and fetish kids
All tattoos and metal bits
And in the other corner (wearing the white trunks)
Today's tourists already sweating

Deep in the city of the saints and fools
Pearls before pigs and dung become jewels
I sit down with tigers, I sit down with lambs
None of them know who exactly I am

I've got this thing in my heart
I must give you today
It only lives when you
Give it away
Languid mandalla of the ceiling fan
Teases the air like a slow stroking hand
Study the faces, study the cards
Study the shadow creeping over the yard

I've got this thing in my heart
I must give you today
It only lives when you
Give it away
Trouble with the nations, trouble with relations
Where you going to go to find illumination?
Too much to carry, too much to let go
Time goes fast - learning goes slow

But I've got this thing in my heart
I must give you today
It only lives when you
Give it away



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

  • Editor's Note: The lyrics above, "Languid mandalla of the ceiling fan / Teases the air like a slow stroking hand", first appeared in the unreleased Cockburn song "Dance With You" (circa 1985).


    4 June 1999

    "This is a song that comes partly from New Orleans, partly from... the swamp land of my brain. I don't think you'll have too much trouble telling which is which. It's called When You Give It Away."

    - from performance at Styleen's Rhythm Palace, Syracuse, New York, 4 June 1999. Submitted by Doug Stacey.

    2 September 2002

    "This is a song that was born out of some time spent in New Orleans. It's kind of, well, it's a true life song. All these things, folks, really happened."

    - from a XM Satellite Radio broadcast, Washington, D.C., recorded 25 August 2002, aired 2 Spetember 2002. Submitted by Sam Alcorn, Lewisburg, Pa.

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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.