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4 August 2022 - There is a Tour Date.30 July 2022 - The 1998 Setlist Archive has been updated.
7 July 2022 - There are new Tour Dates!!!
29 June 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
17 June 2022 - Big Circumstance Has Brought Us Here - Mockingbird interview added to this page. Review from the San Diego Music Box show added to this page. The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
21 May 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
19 May 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
16 May 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated, check it out for photos and videos.
11 May 2022 - Lynn Saxberg interview added to this page. Link to iHeart radio interview added to this page (which seems to have quit working- May 19) The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
2 May 2022 - A Journal of Musical Things article added to this page. Walk of Fame video added to this page.
29 April 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
20 April 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
18 April 2022 - Canada's Walk of Fame video clip links added to this page. Belleville intelligencer.ca, Peterborough examiner.com and Kitchener therecord.com interview/articles added to this page.
13 April 2022 - Backstage interview link, tvo.org video interview, Canadian Spaces CKCU interview and Radio Alhara podcast links added to this page. Link to Grace Forum video conversation added to this page. Canada Listens info added to this page. CBC Bruce early archives post/links added to this page.
15 March 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
11 March 2022 - Interviews from WORTFM.org Madison & Iowa City added to this page. The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated, keep checking back.
6 March 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
2 March 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
26 February 2022 - WEXT radio interview & in studio performance added to this page. Nippertown & What's Up interview/article added to this page. WAMC Albany interview added to this page. The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated. Older articles that were on this page have been added to the News Archive.
25 February 2022 - The 2022 Setlist Archive has been updated.
23 February 2022 - New Tour Dates have been added.
9 February 2022 - Streaming event 24 February by flymachine added to this page. True Tunes Podcast link added to this page.
30 January 2022 - The Song and Music Archive has been updated.
18 January 2022 - The 2021 Setlist Archive has been updated.
17 January 2022 - The 2021 Setlist Archive has been updated.
16 January 2022 - The Soundspace interview by Zan Agzigian added to this page. The 2021 Setlist Archive has been updated.
15 January 2022 - The 2021 Setlist Archive has been updated.
7 January 2022 - The 2021 Setlist Archive has been updated.
3 January 2022 - JPR live session interview link added to this page. James Meadow - Where The Lions Are interview link (video) added to this page. Burning Man - Eugene and Rock and Roll Globe interviews added to this page. Folk Roots Radio interview by Jan Hall link added to this page. Choices of rhetoric and choices of action interview added to this page.
27 December 2021 - The Setlist Archive has been updated.
14 December 2021 - Link to KRCB.org interview & link to Walk of Fame interview added. SFExaminer interview/article has been added. The Setlist Archive has been updated. Reviews have been added to Greatest Hits (1970-2020).
4 December 2021 - Reviews have been added to Greatest Hits (1970-2020).
2 December 2021 - 'Saying Love Outloud' - eastbayexpress.com article added to this page.
1 December 2021 - New Tour Dates have been added.
29 November 2021 - Songcraft podcast link added to this page. Interview by thealternetroot.com added to this page.
6 November 2021 - Blues Rock Review interview added to this page.
19 October 2021 - Press release for Greatist Hits added to this page.
4 September 2021 - Paste live stream info added to this page, and also links to Spotify & Apple covers playlist.
2 May 2021 - Lyrics to four new songs added to Songs & Music Archives.
14 July 2020 - Statement from Bruce - Black Lives Matter added to this page.
27 May 2020 - 75th birthday salute article added to this page.
4 May 2020 - True North releases 50th Anniversary vinyl box set article added to this page.
7 April 2020 - Bruce Cockburn's 50th anniversary of first album released by True North Records, article added to this page.
12 June 2019 - Crowing Ignites 34th album first listen and album bio added to this page.
Interview by Daniel Lumpkin for Christianity Today
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19 May 2022 - The following appears in the Success & Failure issue of The Mockingbird magazine.
Despite growing up in what he calls “a typical 1950s Canadian middle class household” in suburban Ottawa, Bruce Cockburn has done his share of wandering. He first became a star in the Canadian music scene in the early 1970s, winning the JUNO for Folksinger of the Year three years running. In 1974, he converted to Christianity and went on to release several albums with overtly religious themes. Among the best of these was In the Falling Dark (1976), which includes stirring songs of faith like “Lord of the Starfields” and “Festival of Friends.” While he never quite embraced the label of a “Christian” musician, and has often struggled with the legalism and reactionary politics of much organized religion, the push-and-pull of Christian faith has remained a central thread in Cockburn’s work and life.
Following the dissolution of his first marriage the in the late 70s, Cockburn made a conscious decision to “embrace human society” and moved to Toronto, Canada’s largest city. His musical style soon became heavier and grittier, and his lyrics darker and more politically-charged. He was also deeply impacted by his travels abroad, especially an intense Oxfam-led trip to Central America in 1983. These influences culminated in a “North-South trilogy” of albums that included the bracing hit Stealing Fire (1984), which featured two of his career’s biggest singles: “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”
After an exhausting decade that ended in a period of writer’s block, Cockburn reinvented himself again in the 1990s, shifting back to more acoustic, introspective material. His output from the period included deeply meditative albums like The Charity of Night (1997), which captures the world-weary wisdom of middle-age in songs like “Pacing the Cage” and the final track “Strange Waters.” The latter, for example, functions like a grungy, latter-day psalm:
You’ve been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?
Now in his mid-seventies and settled in San Francisco, Cockburn is still asking the deep questions and watching for those “inexorable promptings” of the Spirit, or what he sometimes calls “Big Circumstance.” To the delight of his fans, he continues to tour and release new studio albums, including the soulful Bone On Bone (2017), for which he won his 13th JUNO award, and the rich instrumental album Crowing Ignites (2019). Below he shares about both his musical and his religious journeys, his complicated relationship to success, along with insights on the creative process, and much more.
Mockingbird: To get us started, I’d love to hear a bit about your musical origins. What kinds of things did you listen to growing up?
Bruce Cockburn: Well, the first music I remember being aware of was the stuff my dad used to play. When I was born, I think he thought that he would educate me, so he enrolled us in the record of the month club. Every month we got a nice classical album in the mail, and we’d have to sit and listen to it. Some of them got listened to only once, some of them more than once. But he kept them, and I was able to rediscover those records when I was older.
Anyway, later on I heard all the stuff that was on the radio at that time — Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bobby Darin — as well as the first rock-n-roll. It was listening to that first rock-n-roll when I first got really interested in music. I was a huge Elvis Presley fan.
M: Is that when you started getting into the guitar?
BC: Yeah. The explosion of rock-n-roll all started around 1956 or so, and I started playing guitar in 1959. My parents were initially concerned about the association of the guitar with rock-n-roll — and the association of rock-n-roll with leather jackets and switchblades — so they were worried. But they said, “Look, we’ll support your guitar lessons if you promise not to get a leather jacket and grow sideburns.” And it was easy to make that promise. Like, what the hell! I couldn’t even grow sideburns.
So I started taking guitar lessons, which exposed me to jazz and Les-Paul-style pop country guitar. Then I started studying composition on my own, and I eventually got more into folk music — country blues and ragtime, that kind of stuff. That period of anybody’s life tends to be so full. There’s this accumulation, this constantly shifting exposure to things, because you’re young, and you’re soaking it up like a sponge. By the time I got out of high school, I wasn’t good at anything, but I had a very well-rounded view of musical possibilities.
After that I went to music school in Boston for a year and a half, before dropping out. But I came out of that with an even broader view. By then it was the 60s, and we were listening to Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles. And jug band music. Anyway, all of that went into me and formed this big musical soup out of which, eventually, songs came.
M: When you first started playing in bands in the mid-60s, you were playing mostly psychedelic rock. But then your initial solo work from the early-to-mid 70s was totally different. It seemed to have a kind of earthiness and acoustic purity that, at least to me, evokes the wild spaces of eastern Canada. Does that resonate at all?
BC: Yeah, I’m glad you could hear that in the music. One of things that maybe distinguishes a lot of Canadian songwriting from American songwriting, say, or British songwriting, is that sense of space. I think you can hear it in Leonard Cohen, in Joni Mitchell, in Neil Young — it’s there even in his electric stuff, I think.
In the 70s, I was focused on the natural world and the spiritual doorway that that seems to represent. I loved the way in which one’s own spirit feels enlarged. You find yourself in a setting where human presence can be either ignored completely or just isn’t there. From my experience, the soul expands, seems to touch the spirit of the wilderness. And that was a big part of my childhood — spending summers in Algonquin Park, canoe-tripping, portaging over horrible mud patches, surrounded by that wild Precambrian shield landscape.
M: You had a conversion to Christianity around 1974, which of course showed up very prominently in your songwriting. But you once said something interesting about that time in your life: “I was trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian now that I’d made this move, and the first thing you try to do is to find what all the rules are, and then you try to obey them. That makes you kind of a fundamentalist… But in the end I was completely unsuccessful at being a fundamentalist.” What did you mean by that?
[Click through for the rest of this interview]
For more on the theme of Success & Failure — plus a Bruce Cockburn starter playlist - order the print version of our magazine
~from mbird.com/the-magazine - by BEN SELF
12 May 2022 - A jewel who has generously been shining and reflecting light for 50 years gave a mesmerizing performance at San Diego’s Music Box. His fans have grudgingly accepted that he may have attained a level of recognition far below his true stature, but they sing his praises consistently and new believers are added to the fold. The number of awards Cockburn has quietly accepted will withstand the test of time (as will his donation of monetary awards associated with the awards). The issues with which he publicly grapples are fascinating on an intellectual level and compelling on a musical level.
His much delayed 50th anniversary tour is finally underway and it raises the wonderful question of why legacy artists tour. The money can be nice but in the case of consummate artists like Cockburn inevitably, invariably there must be that ineffable need to share your art with others. And thank goodness Cockburn does that.
An admittedly adoring audience welcomed all of the songs he played, which included a generous sampling of four new songs (with rumors of a glorious batch of additional songs sufficient to fill out an album by autumn). With one of the deepest catalogs of any of his fellow Canadian artists, Cockburn had much from which to choose. Several in the audience noticed that his recent performance was even better than the prior show he had in San Diego, back in 2005, at the smaller Belly Up.
As arguably one of the best guitarists from north of the border, from perhaps anywhere, Cockburn’s dexterity on the fretboard was jaw-dropping. His voice was impossibly still supple and evocative after all these years.
Cockburn has long explored the dichotomy between his evolving Christian religious conviction and the darkness and pain in the world. “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” captures this dichotomy very well, but its large band arrangement would be saved for another day.
This solo acoustic evening offered the ambitious nakedness of just us, the singer, his song and his guitar. All of his thought-provoking lyrics are buttressed by incredibly inventive melodies. Often, as in the brilliant “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” the jubilant sounding melody is juxtaposed by the darker lyrics. This dichotomy also underlies the most brilliant part of Brian Wilson’s work, for instance.
Cockburn switched between several acoustic guitars and presented wonderful versions of “Pacing the Cage” and “Dust and Diesel.” Both songs unwrap the perplexing, complex nature of the world. Both songs presented his observations of the difficulties presented with how mankind walks through the world. “Stolen Land” and “If a Tree Falls” push the darkness front and center. For the latter song, Cockburn deployed a National steel guitar with a loop to haunting effect. His foot would occasionally punch a set of wind chimes, adding an ethereal tone.
One of the four new songs (each written in his new home of San Francisco) entitled “Us All” captured a universal perspective:
Like it or not, the human race
Is us all
History is what it is
Scars we inflict on each other don’t die
But slowly soak into the DNA
Of us all
But it would be folly to conclude that the evening was all about doom and gloom. A joyous new song was written in Maui called “Honey From God,” and it was revelatory. Likewise, his love song from the eve of Y2K “Last Night of the World” was quietly jubilant.
I am put in mind of a poignant scene buried in the middle of a film called “Year of Living Dangerously.” Our hero, bewildered by the squalor confronting him is counselled by his guide about how to handle all the pain and darkness.
That advice and counsel is echoed by what you will see on Cockburn’s website:
“Part of the job of being human is just to try to spread light, at whatever level you can do it.”
~ from Bruce Cockburn at the Music Box - by Brad Auerback - entertainmenttoday.net
27 April 2022 - It is not often that a concert starts with a standing ovation; however, that is exactly how Bruce Cockburn‘s show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa started off. But then again, Bruce Cockburn is folk/rock royalty, with over 50 years as a professional musician, countless album sales, 13 Juno awards, and being a major influence to many of today’s folk and rock guitarists. And Bruce has been much more than that, as an environmental activist and proponent for the rights of farmers and indigenous peoples throughout the world; notably Oxfam (famine and poverty relief) and SeedChange (formerly USC Canada: farmer and human rights advocacy).
As Bruce began the evening, he joked that this is his second attempt at starting his 50th-anniversary tour (there have been a lot of re-starts to touring around the world the last couple of years). He released his debut self-titled album in 1970. He also spoke about how in his youth going to summer camp in Algonquin Park, spending a great deal of time canoeing, which he said was synonymous with nature.
The concert started with an instrumental ‘Sweetness And Light’, off his latest 2019 album Crowing Ignites. The song had riffs that harkened back to some of his music from the 70’s. It was a stripped-down evening with just Bruce alone on stage with his acoustic guitar (except for one song with lap steel guitar), and on some songs playing chimes with his foot.
But Bruce put on a spectacular show of his craft, simultaneously picking and strumming his guitar, stretching out his fingers on the fret-board playing bass and high notes at the same time. And his voice hasn’t changed, powerfully hitting all the high notes in all his songs. The fans showed love for Bruce’s new singles, but were especially ecstatic to hear long-time favourites ‘If A Tree Falls’, ‘Lovers In A Dangerous Time’, and everyone was singing along to ‘Wondering Where The Lions Are’. And of course, the evening closed with an even longer standing ovation.
On Monday 25 April, the National Arts Centre hosted a special event for Bruce Cockburn. In November 2021 Canada’s Walk of Fame inducted Bruce, along with ten other prominent Canadians. Unfortunately, it was a virtual ceremony due to the COVID pandemic. So the Walk of Fame took the opportunity to honour Bruce with a Hometown Star in his home town of Ottawa.
Bruce was joined at the ceremony by his family and long-time friend, manager, and founder of True North Records, Bernie Finkelstein. Also in attendance was another Ottawa music icon Sneezy Waters. As part of Bruce’s induction, the Walk of Fame will be making donations to SeedChange and Unison Fund (counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music industry) on Bruce’s behalf.
At the ceremony, up and coming First Nations singer-songwriter Mary Bryton Nahwegahbow sang the national anthem in English, French, and Anishinaabemowin. She later sang ‘Lovers In A Dangerous Time’, no easy feat in front of the iconic Bruce Cockburn, who seemed moved by her beautiful rendition.
Canada’s Walk of Fame is in Toronto, but Bruce’s Hometown Star plaque will be mounted at 521 Sussex Drive, where Le Hibou Coffee House once stood, Ottawa’s unofficial headquarters of performing arts in the 1960-70’s where Bruce started his career. A fitting tribute to one of Canada’s greatest troubadours.
~ Click through for more photos! - A Journal of Musical Things
Related: More photos and videos here - https://brucecockburn.com/2022/hometown-star-award-celebration-canadas-walk-of-fame/
Setlist, photos & videos! here
18 April 2022 - Did you know that Bruce will be in Ottawa on April 25th for his Hometown Stars event?
(Presented by @CineplexMovies) Monday, April 25, 2022
National Arts Centre, 1 Elgin Street, Ottawa
12 – 2 PM
Video clip: Inductee, Bruce Cockburn explains how Canada helped to nurture his success!
Video clip: "Is there anyone from your home town that played a roll in who you've become today?"
Video clip: "Did you have any Canadian idols or heros growing up?"
~from Twitter - @CWOFame
22 April 2022 - Bruce Cockburn is back in hometown Ottawa for a few days, primarily to perform a solo concert at the National Arts Centre on Saturday.
While he’s in town, the legendary singer-songwriter-guitarist will be honoured during a ceremony at the NAC on Monday marking his recent inclusion on Canada’s Walk of Fame. Though he says he’s always been ambivalent about fame, the recognition is sweet.
“I do feel like I’ve contributed something to Canadian life over all these years so it feels nice,” the 76-year-old said in a wide-ranging interview that also touched on growing up in Ottawa, his political awakening and the crowd reaction that’s making him increasingly uncomfortable.
Here’s more from the conversation, lightly edited for length:
Q: You’re on tour after a long stretch of pandemic-related shutdowns. What’s that like?
A: When we started in December, there was a tentative element around it like nobody was too sure there wasn’t going to be some major interruption. But on the other side of that coin, the audience vibe is fantastic because you’ve got a bunch of people in a room looking at each other going, ‘Holy jeez, we’ve got a bunch of people in a room, and we’re not quaking with fear.’ People are just really glad to be out at an event, I think.
Q: The tour celebrates the 50th anniversary of your first solo album in 1970. Where were you when it came out?A: I was living in Toronto. I remember the day the album came out, it got sent to CHUM FM, which was this new freeform FM radio that everybody was listening to. They got hold of the album and played the whole thing from beginning to end, and every time I went into a store in Yorkville, I could hear my friggin’ voice coming at me, and it scared the bejeebers out of me. I thought I’d never have privacy again. It was completely in my own head. No one in the store knew what I looked like, but it was a terrifying feeling. I had this vision of the future that was quite dark. And then, of course, it turned out to be correct in a way, but not at all dark.
Q: How do you think growing up in Ottawa influenced your musical path?
A: It’s hard to pin down a specific element, but where it starts to matter is the middle of high school when I was playing enough guitar that I could actually do it in front of people and not be embarrassed. In Grade 11, I was in a class with Peter Hodgson (later known as Sneezy Waters) and he was another guy who played folk guitar. Peter and I got chummy right away with guitars and he introduced me to Sandy Crawley and the three of us spent a lot of time playing and listening to music. Then he introduced me to the scene around Le Hibou, and it took off from there.
Q: What was that scene like?
A: It was really seminal for me. I wasn’t writing songs yet, or I hadn’t tried to really, but we were appreciating songwriting in the folk world, as well as the pop world, like the Beatles and Stones. We were excited by that stuff, and still thought of ourselves as folkies. Then I went away to Boston to go to school and came back and joined The Children, and it went on from there. I think the Ottawa scene benefitted from a very fertile atmosphere and it was less competitive than Toronto or Montreal. It was a good place to learn your craft. I look back with fondness on that.
Q: People say that growing up in the nation’s capital gives one a political awareness, too. Was that the case for you?
A: I was aware of what was going on in the world around me, but I think it had more to do with my parents. We didn’t listen to the news religiously or have discussions of world affairs around the dining table, although we did sometimes. I kind of grew up with a degree of concern for people’s wellbeing but I was not very politically engaged in that era.
Q: When did that change?
A: It wasn’t until I started traveling west in Canada in the ’70s. That’s when I started meeting Indigenous people, and it was a real eye opener for me. I was a new Christian in those days and there was all these abuses that had been committed in the name of Jesus and the church. I was horrified by that, and it shows up in some of the songs from that era, and it went on from there, expanded to other countries and other situations.
Q: One of your most hard-hitting songs is If I Had A Rocket Launcher. Are you playing it these days?
A: I have been playing it in the shows but I’m wrestling with it a little bit right now actually. I stand by the song, and it fits to some extent what’s going on in Ukraine, although I certainly wasn’t thinking of Ukraine when I wrote it. What bothers me is when people cheer. They cheer the chorus, and especially the last line of the song. It’s never a whole audience that does that, it’s always one or two voices. It gives me the creeps every time because it’s somebody celebrating the horror. They don’t mean it that way but that’s what they’re doing. So I don’t know if I’ll keep singing it or not.
18 April 2022 - KITCHENER - Bruce Cockburn is writing new songs, touring and making plans to record his 38th album. For Canadian folk-rock legend Bruce Cockburn the songwriting gets harder but he’s still finding the words and music after more than 50 years.
Twice delayed because of the COVID pandemic, Cockburn plays Centre in the Square April 21 as part of a 50th anniversary tour. “It feels really good to be back out working after a couple of years of not,” said Cockburn. “It does feel kind of noteworthy. It is half a century, it is fun to be out and be able to celebrate that.”
Soft-spoken and humble, the 76-year-old could not stop writing and performing even if he wanted to.
He certainly doesn’t have to keep at it, after winning 13 Juno Awards, an induction into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and being made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
“The motivation is the same as it was in the beginning: there is an urge to put feelings and thoughts on paper and make them into songs. And an ongoing urge to play the guitar,” said Cockburn.
His first album was released in 1970, and he was shocked to hear a new station called CHUM FM play the whole thing. These days he’s shocked at how little Spotify and others streaming services pay musicians, but that’s another conversation.
“It’s still what I do,” said Cockburn. “The ideas are harder to come by. How many ideas do you have in your life that are worth sharing with people? It becomes harder to avoid repetition as time goes on, but the motivation is just as strong.”
A few months ago he released “Bruce Cockburn’s Greatest Hits, 1970-2020.” “Most of the songs were not really hits, we wish they were hits,” he said, laughing. He personally selected the tracks for the double CD, including fan favourites from live shows, the ones he likes most and the hits from his 37 albums.
“If you are around long enough, you become an icon,” said Cockburn, chuckling. “It is not something I ever aspired to, it is just as result of doing what I love and having people interested in it for long enough.”
Raised in Ottawa, Cockburn started playing guitar in high school and performing at a coffee house called Le Hibou during the 1960s. It was part of a folk circuit that brought a young Cockburn to Toronto and London, Ont., where he played SmalesPace in the 1970s.
“The first time I played that club I slept on the table overnight,” said Cockburn of SmalesPace.
A routine day for Cockburn is focused on his 10-year-old daughter Iona and his wife MJ. They live in San Francisco, where he has lived for the past 13 years. Cockburn rises at 6:30 a.m., prepares breakfast and drives his daughter to school for 8:30 a.m.. He also picks her up at the end of classes every day.
In between, he plays and practises the guitar and works on new material. He is playing some new songs on this tour. He reads a lot, including science fiction and poetry. For him, authors provide more inspiration than other songwriters.
He always starts a song by writing the words first. The music comes later. He listens to jazz, classical and world music for inspiration. “Something like a lyric of a song develops and when there are enough words to see the shape of it, I start looking for music for it,” said Cockburn. “It is basically hunting around on the guitar to find the right style of music for the lyrics.” he said.
He’s written about 300 songs in his career. The fastest one came together was in an hour or two. The longest one took 37 years. “ ‘Celestial Horses’ is the name of that song and I wrote the lyrics in the mid-’70s,” said Cockburn. “It never quite jelled. I really liked the verses, but I could never quite make it work.” Then one morning when he was living in Montreal the idea for a chorus “came out of nowhere.” “And the song got finished,” said Cockburn, and it was released in 2003 on his album “You’ve Never Seen Everything.”
Cockburn and his family spent most of July 2021 on vacation in Hawaii. He wrote many new songs there.
“The first one of those just kind of popped out. I was up, it was early in the morning and nobody else was up, and I am looking at the landscape. And the idea for the song came, and it was done by the time everybody was having breakfast,” said Cockburn.
“Once in a while that happens. It is a gift I feel when that happens,” he added.
The song is called “Into the Now,” and he performs it on this tour. “Into the Now” will be on his next CD. There are tentative plans to record this fall.
In the 1980s Cockburn had a place in Toronto near College and Clinton streets, then he lived on nearby farms before moving back to the city. His last Toronto home was near St. Clair Avenue and Dufferin Street.
“I woke up one day and it was 2000 and I had lived in Toronto for 20 years, and it was time to move, so I moved to Montreal,” said Cockburn.
After a few years, he moved to the Kingston area where he met MJ. They lived in Brooklyn for a brief period of time, and then moved to San Francisco. They rented a place for years in the Cole Valley neighbourhood, and recently bought a home in the Bernal Heights neighbourhood.
“We are here because my wife got a job here, and she was living here when we first started going out,” said Cockburn.
But he likes it, calling San Francisco quirky, interesting and beautiful. “I am really enjoying the experience of living on the West Coast. I never imagined I would be a West Coaster,” he said. “It is pretty great.”
These days, profound gratitude is his dominant emotion.
“To still be alive at 76 and still functioning and to have been able to do all this stuff for so long, it is an incredible gift and one for which I am very thankful,” said Cockburn.
~from therecord.com-waterloo by Terry Pender
17 April 2022 - Acclaimed singer-songwriter and Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn is many things. A skilled guitarist. A natural wordsmith and prolific lyricist. An experimenter of folk, rock, pop and jazz. A spiritually minded creative.
But if you ask the Ottawa-raised performer, he’ll likely tell you he’s merely a vessel: a man with a guitar trying his best to convey the human experience one melody at a time.
“An artist’s job is to distil what you can grasp from life into some communicable form and then share it with people; and life includes all of these different things: sex and politics and violence and love and the divine,” Cockburn said in a recent interview.
“I mean, it’s all in there, so why not sing about it?”
Now marking 50-plus years in the industry with an anniversary tour in Canada and the U.S. — including a stop at Peterborough’s Showplace Performance Centre on Tuesday — Cockburn is reflecting on his decades of work and his celebrated catalogue.
It all started with an old guitar. At the age of 14, Cockburn discovered the stringed instrument in his grandmother’s attic. He was transfixed. Already enamoured with early rock and roll, the avid sci-fi reader and lover of poetry put down his clarinet and picked up the guitar.
“I understood that whatever my life was going to be about, it was going to revolve heavily around the guitar,” Cockburn said. His parents supported his dreams — with a few conditions: take lessons and don’t grow sideburns or wear a leather jacket.
“I didn’t know if I had a knack for it or not. I just knew I wanted to do it and, in taking lessons, I progressed. By the end of high school, there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life except play guitar,” Cockburn recalled.
Immersing himself in his early musical influences — from Bob Dylan and the Beatles to Mississippi John Hurt, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry — Cockburn went on to join a string of bands in Ottawa and later Toronto before releasing his debut self-titled album in 1970 — marking the beginning of his illustrious, genre-bending career.
He went on to release a slew of albums that decade — continuing to explore themes of spirituality while shifting to politically-charged songwriting and a fuller sound with tracks like “It’s Going Down Slow” on his third album, Sunwheel Dance — culminating in the watershed 1979 album “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws.” The album featured Cockburn’s breakthrough song “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which saw his popularity surge south of the border.
“I never thought of what I do as a career and I’ve never made plans around it. So when something like that comes along, I’m grateful for it, but it’s not like ‘finally, I’ve got to where I needed to go.’” I just never think about it.”
With the release of “Stealing Fire” in 1984, Cockburn put out two of his most beloved and well-known songs, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and the politically driven “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”
Cockburn recalls having second thoughts about releasing Rocket Launcher, a track he penned after being shaken by the turmoil faced by Guatemalan refugees in southern Mexico.
“I thought it would be misunderstood. I thought people would hear it as something that was an incitement to violence and I didn’t want to put that out.”
But Cockburn understands the lasting impact of the song — despite “never being that interested in protest songs” — and how music is interpreted with the passing of time. “When I sing it now, I know people are hearing it in light of what’s going on in Ukraine. I don’t want to promote that kind of feeling particularly although I feel it too,” Cockburn said.
“What’s going on there is horrible and it should never have happened and the people responsible for it should be held to account. But we’ve got to get over the knee-jerk response that goes with violence and we have to get off that train somehow.”
Looking back, Cockburn says his exploration and progression as an artist has allowed him to avoid being placed in a genre-specific box.
“People would say, ‘oh yeah, he’s a Christian singer, oh yeah, he’s a political singer, and then after a while I think most people have given up now because they don’t know what to call me because it’s all over the place.”
Peterborough concertgoers attending Cockburn’s 50th anniversary tour can expect a mix of fan-favourite staples and newer material, including tracks from his 2019 instrumental album, “Crowing Ignites.”
As for what’s next for Cockburn, he already has close to an album’s worth of new songs that he hopes to record soon.
“I don’t take it for granted. I don’t assume that the ideas are going to keep coming. But as long as they do, I hope I can keep on making use of them.”
~from Bruce Cockburn reflects on career ahead of Peterborough show
14 April 2022 - Bruce Cockburn returns April 26 to Belleville's Empire Theatre.
Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn is feeling reflective. That may not be surprising, given his more than 50 years in music and the recent release of a greatest-hits album. He still has plenty of music in him, and, in an Intelligencer telephone interview, said he’s eager to share it with audiences.
On April 26, Cockburn will be back on Belleville’s Empire Theatre stage for a solo show, part of a pandemic-delayed “Second Attempt” 50th-anniversary tour of Canada and the United States.
Speaking from San Francisco, where he’s lived for years, the Ottawa native said tour audiences will hear one or two of his new songs.
In choosing older tracks for his Greatest Hits 1970-2020 album, he said, “we made it easy on ourselves” and simply compiled his singles. “Not all of them were hits,” he said.
Cockburn said the album would not be “that commercially-viable” if he’d chosen his favourite tracks. But he’d already done that, in a way, with the boxed set released in 2014 with his autobiography; both are named Rumours of Glory.
His songs with “some sort of spiritual relevance” are his current favourites. “That idea I like very much. The general thrust of the new songs is kind of more spiritual.”
Cockburn said that is a generalization, but the new work does “lean that way.” Sales of his “Four New Songs” collection benefit his church, San Francisco Lighthouse, and Lighthouse Kathmandu, a Nepali organization targeting human trafficking and rescuing victims.
“It’s sort of a cliché of the adult life: that you start off exploring and you go through all these various stages … and you end up attempting to be a sage or something. “My life’s kind of finding an arc like that. There’s room for political opinions and stuff like that but … a more reflective angle is where I find myself seeing things from.”
The writer of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “Lovers in Dangerous Time” and many more has used his music to express his views, as he did with “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and other songs.
“I don’t know what I would write about war at this point,” said Cockburn, explaining he’s already done that several times. In the case of “Rocket Launcher,” “I wrote it because I had to, because I had a feeling in a gut and my heart.”
In talking about political events, Cockburn said, “I’m not hopeful, particularly. I have hope in me, personally … but I think we’re in trouble, for many reasons. Climate change will cause further tension and disruptions beyond those of the pandemic, he said.
Cockburn said two of his four newest songs – “Orders” and “Us All” – speak to the need to and deal with disagreements “in a civil way, instead of what’s tended to be happening” in the world. “The message that we need to love everybody … People might get tired of hearing it, but I think we need to hear it over and over again right now.”
Cockburn had booked about 100 shows prior to the pandemic and cancelling them was disappointing, he said.
About six months into the pandemic, he and his family rented an RV and went on a different kind of tour, parking at friends’ homes and having safe visits on the lawns. The trip included a jam with violinist and former collaborator Jenny Scheinman.
“Neither Jenny nor I had played with anyone for months. This kind of explosion happened. It felt like a kind of emotional explosion because we were able to do this. Some of the live shows have kind of that feel.
“The sense of novelty and the sort of rediscovery to sit in a room with people and feel good, instead of scared or whatever, is pretty great.”
Pandemic or otherwise, Cockburn does not, however, neglect his playing and writing when he isn’t touring.
“I practise all the time, and if I don’t, I pay a price for that,” he said. A break feels good, he said, but playing the guitar is “like any other physical exercise” and a few days away from it may mean he needs a week to get back into form.
At age 76, he said, regular practice keeps his muscles from stiffening.
Cockburn said the pandemic didn’t change his writing or the frequency of his practising. The pace of my writing is about the same,” he said. “It’s always been just a wait for the good idea.”
He said some of his new songs arose from the “atmosphere” of the pandemic and current events. “One song (“When You Arrive”) actually mentions COVID, but it’s not a song about COVID.”
Cockburn isn’t the only one ensuring he stays sharp. Iona, who’s 10 and the youngest of his two daughters, may enjoy today’s pop hits but she also knows her dad’s catalogue. She’s studying guitar and piano and learns songs rapidly despite little practising, he said.
“She’s toured with me since she was two months old and loves being on the tour bus. "Iona’s got all these notes” she makes at his sound checks, but he’s not sure of her plans for them. He laughed when asked if Iona has critiqued his performances. “I’m waiting for that.”
Cockburn said he is able to keep a relatively low profile in San Francisco. A couple of parents of Iona’s schoolmates may have attended his performances, he said, but he doesn’t receive – or seek – much in the way of recognition.
The road ahead
Asked about bucket-list projects, Cockburn said he’d like to spend more time in nature and one day record an album of others’ songs.
Elvis Presley’s cover of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right” “was huge for me in my beginning consciousness of music.” Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.’s “God Bless the Child” is another possibility, as is French poet Joseph Kosma’s “Autumn Leaves.” A Bob Dylan track or two may also make the cut.
In the meantime, Cockburn is booked for shows in Canada and the United States through this summer.
Cockburn is playing both small venues and midsize ones, such as Toronto’s Massey Hall, but said concert halls of that size are “not that different” from smaller venues. The shows and his preparation for them is the same.
“They pay the same money in Belleville or Ottawa or Toronto … They deserve the same show.”
Despite playing solo most of the time, he’s capable of producing a full and layered sound with his deft and intricate finger-picking. Unlike many performers, Cockburn doesn’t use a looping pedal to broaden his sound. “I just never really learned how to use them.” But for the guitarists out there, Cockburn explained he does use tremolo, chorus and repeating-echo effects.
He’s said he is now considering not only some European festival performances for later this year but also some recording sessions for the fall.
“I like doing what I do, and I like all the aspects of it – at least all the creative aspects.
“I feel like I’ve got something to share, and as long I feel like my presence in front of people is a positive one, then it feels like it’s worth doing, keeping it going.”
Visit theempiretheatre.com or call 613-969-0099 for tickets to the Belleville show.
~from Luke Hendry - intelligencer.ca
9 April 2022 - Interview with Bruce Cockburn about his 50th anniversary tour, with Carolyn Sutherland, Blair Crawford, and Chris White
The Canadian leg of this tour starts on April 19
8 April 2022 - The Canadian music icon has been making music for most of his life, and there's no sign of his slowing down. In fact, Cockburn is about to embark on the Ontario leg of his cross Canada and the U.S. tour. This feature interview touches on his music, and activism - both in the climate crisis and anti-war movements.
Bruce Cockburn: A Songwriter in Dangerous Times - WATCH
4 April 2022 - Les Stroud has made a career out of surviving against the odds. But how will his chosen album weather in this year's Canada Listens, which is stacked with great albums? As with any survival situation he's thrown into, Stroud is feeling pretty confident when it comes to his choice: Bruce Cockburn's 1978 classic LP, Further Adventures Of.
"Incredibly profound lyrically, [this album] comes from an artist who is undeniably a massive force in the sound of Canada," says Stroud. "It's my all-time favourite Canadian album."
Further Adventures Of was released in a highly prolific period for Cockburn during his early years. By 1978, Cockburn had already won three back-to-back Juno Awards for folk singer of the year, and was a vocal activist and environmentalist, but had yet to score a big international hit. You could consider Further Adventures Of the stepping stone to that fame. Cockburn's next album, 1979's Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws, featured his first breakout international hit: "Wondering Where the Lions Are."
Canada Listens is hosted by CBC Music's Saroja Coelho. She will guide the panellists through four radio shows of fast, funny, and passionate debate. Each day, starting Monday, April 11 on CBC Music (8 a.m. on Mornings, 5 p.m. repeat on Drive) the panellists will vote to remove one album from the group, leaving one album spinning on Thursday, April 14.
A special two-hour version, highlighting the best of the 2022 Canada Listens debate, will air on CBC Radio One on Monday, April 18 at 4 p.m. (4:30 NT).
~from and more info CBC
31 March 2022 - Bruce Cockburn, the award-winning songwriter and pioneering guitarist, whose life and music has been shaped by politics, protest, romance and spiritual discovery, is revered by fans and fellow musicians alike as one of the most important songwriters of his generation. Best known for “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” he has released 35 albums spanning five decades that have sold over 11 million copies worldwide. For Cockburn, music has always been a key way to explore culture, politics and the nature of the spirit. As a long-time activist, he believes that we can, and should, be dedicated to our shared humanity, and to saving ourselves, each other and this earth – we just need to find the will. And that journey, for Cockburn, has been marked in music.
Each year the cathedral chooses a theme for inspiration and reflection, and in 2022 our theme is "connection". Join Dean Malcolm Clemens Young for a conversation with Cockburn about the connections between taking action, music and faith. ~ Grace Cathedral San Francisco
Grace Forum Online -video conversation
20 March 2022 - An interview with celebrated singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn who speaks about playing music today in the pandemic era and reflects on a long career of shared engaged music with communities globally. This interview particularly revolves around Bruce's song "If I Had A Rocket Launcher," which was written within the context of a solidarity visit to a refugee camp on the southern border of Mexico and Guatemala.
Bruce visited within the context of a human rights observation delegation from Toronto, linked to OXFAM, to witness the systemic violence that was facing displaced Indigenous communities who had been forced from their traditional territories in Guatemala within the context of the U.S. government backing the extreme militaristic right wing government in Guatemala which was later found to be guilty of committing genocidal acts against Indigenous communities.
Radio Alhara - Interview
This interview series is produced by Stefan @spirodon Christoff on a monthly basis for Radio AlHara in Palestine, broadcasting on the first Friday of the month.
17 March 2022 - Douglas McLean chats with legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, for his latest Sound Cafe Podcast, 'Backstage'.
11 March 2022 - The Ottawa-born singer-songwriter was popular in both English Canada and French Canada in 1979.
The Ottawa singer-songwriter talks to the CBC's Paul Soles on the late-night talk show Canada After Dark (click through for this video). Cockburn has a long history in the CBC archives.
In 1969, he played the Mariposa Folk Festival on the Toronto Islands alongside other artists including Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. CBC filmed those performances for a special that aired that fall.
Within about a year, Cockburn would be featured many more times on CBC-TV, appearing in a special called Rock One, an episode of This Land focusing on musicians speaking out about environmental issues and on The Tommy Hunter Show.
In 1978, Cockburn was a guest on the late-night talk show Canada After Dark, performing his song Laughter before joining host Paul Soles at his desk for an interview.
"So glad you're here. That was pretty," said Soles, holding a copy of Cockburn's new record. (The clip above does not include the performance due to copyright restrictions.) "It's from this, your newest album, the Further Adventures Of, uh, the world, I would gather."
"Well, just the Further Adventures Of," clarified Cockburn. He then spoke at length about one of his more recent adventures at the time: being a father.
"Cockburn, the bilingual balladeer, sings his way right across French Quebec as if he were Québécois," said reporter David Bazay. "In fact, he's from Ottawa."
Cockburn said he wasn't sure why not many musicians from English Canada played in Quebec. He just knew that he wanted to perform for audiences there, and maybe not everyone did.
"I'm not sure that the two solitudes concept is really accurate," he said while seated in front of a poster for Further Adventures of. "I think people on both sides of that fence are a lot more willing to talk than the image would have us think."
Canada Listens can be heard on CBC Music starting on Monday, April 11.
10 March 2022 - Bruce Cockburn doesn't have to look far for inspiration. The veteran singer/songwriter's muse for much of the time is his 10-year-old daughter, Iona.
Cockburn, 76, chuckles when speaking about the daughter who arrived a year after he became a senior citizen.
"She's lovely and I enjoy the fresh outlook she has on the world," Cockburn said while calling from his San Francisco home. "She's very bright. We talk about books and movies. Her taste in music doesn't jibe with mine. She likes the pop stuff."
But Iona Cockburn does provide a creative spark for her dad, who continues to pen songs as he approaches octogenarian status.
"I love what I do," Cockburn said. "I have fans out there that come out to see me and want to hear what I come up with."
But the clever Cockburn always has been underrated in his adopted country.
Much like the terribly underappreciated Tragically Hip rock band originating in Ontario, Cockburn is a star in his native Canada, but not in America. During a career which has spanned more than 40 years and 34 albums, Cockburn has sold millions of records in the Great White North, but for some reason, something is lost in translation at the border.
Cockburn, who will perform Sunday at the Englert Theatre, fares well enough in the United States, but it's a mystery why the well-respected singer/songwriter isn't a more popular attraction.
"I just focus on what I can control," Cockburn said. "I have no complaints."
The Canadian Music Hall of Famer consistently crafts compelling, cerebral folk. He has a way with political and protest tunes. In 1984, he crafted a clever hit, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher.“ The accompanying video, which scored considerable MTV play, depicted life in desperate and war-ravaged Central America.
Cockburn has spoken out on a wide range of issues, including the inhumane treatment of others, corporate wrongdoing, environmental issues and native rights.
"Someone has to speak on the behalf of the others," he said. "If I have a platform, why not use it? I didn't know any native people when I was growing up in Ontario. When I traveled, I met the aboriginal people in Western Canada and saw that they had a very different life experience than mine. How some people have lived their lives touched me deeply."
The Berklee College of Music dropout is an altruist who has enjoyed a healthy career, thanks to the support of fans enamored of his songwriting and guitar work.
"I'm fortunate that I've had those who have been incredibly loyal," Cockburn said. "They inspire me."
But not as much as his daughter, who always moves his creative needle.
"It's exhausting being the father of such a young child, but it's true that it keeps you young," he said. "The great thing is that I'm much more available now than I was years ago with my older daughter, Jenny. It's all working out. It's wonderful being a father and it's great to still be doing what I love, which is perform."
Cockburn appreciates his longevity and finds it hard to believe more than a half-century has passed since his debut album was released.
"It feels like some sort of fairy tale," he said. "My career has been magical. I have such gratitude that I've been able to have such a long career."
After having recorded 34 albums and written more than 350 songs, it's not easy for Cockburn to write a set list.
"There are certain songs that are crowd favorites that I have to play," he said. "If I don't play those dozen or so songs, people feel like they didn't get their money's worth. Once I get the so-called hits out of the way, I like to play a cross section of newer songs that I'm excited about, and older songs I haven't played in a while.
“I'm just excited that I still have the drive to continue as a recording artist and there are still fans that are excited about what I do."
~ from The Gazette by Ed Condran
6 March 2022 - Hejira host Jeff Spitzer-Resnick had a chance to catch up with Bruce Cockburn, who is coming to Madison on March 12th, while he was on tour. AUDIO INTERVIEW here. Here is a lightly edited transcript of the interview, revealing a lot of this talented singer-songwriter’s philosophy.
JSR: I’m here with Bruce Cockburn who is on the road, I believe in Maine.
Bruce Cockburn: Yes, Waterville, Maine.
JSR: And you’re coming to Madison soon on the 12th. I look forward to going to your show, Bruce, and I have a unique opportunity to interview you. I’ve certainly been following your music for, I don’t think quite 50 years, but maybe 40 plus.
I was actually a little surprised that you’ve got a greatest hits album that goes back longer than 50 years. So, first of all, tell me a little bit about the tour where you’re in Maine now. What’s it looking like?
Bruce Cockburn: Well, Maine is full of snow and ice, and it’s overcast. I mean, I’m seeing it from the inside of a tour bus right now.
But the tour’s been going well, actually, we did a leg on the west coast in December just before Christmas and that worked out well. We’re maybe four or five shows into this run and it’s working out well to see people are really happy with being out and being able to sit in a room together.
I think it probably almost doesn’t matter who’s on stage. It’s like everybody feels good.
JSR: I think it matters a little bit. I certainly am somewhat choosy about who I go see, especially during the pandemic. One of the things that I’ve noticed in your music, in addition to just musically enjoying it, is that you tend to have a lot of political commentary.
What do you see as your role as a musician when it comes to the political world, if you will?
Bruce Cockburn: It is one aspect of the human world, and that’s what artists do: distill what it is to be a person in the world as it comes to that artist, to the individual. And then try and share it with people. I mean, I think that’s the job. So that includes the political very much because the minute you start doing any aspect of people getting along with each other, you’re involved in politics or our relationship to the planet. If you try to address environmental issues, it becomes political immediately because everyone has different kinds of vested interests, and everyone has different opinions about these things.
So, it’s just part of the gig.
JSR: That explains why you speak to politics a lot in your music, but you certainly have your own personal bent on politics. It’s just not politics in general. I don’t know if you have a label for it. I don’t like to label people at all, but certainly there is an emphasis on human rights, and I would say the underdog, but I’d love to hear your political philosophy that you imbue into your music.
Bruce Cockburn: Most of what shows up in my songs is a result of trying to understand what I experienced in spiritual terms with respect to stuff like human rights or any kind of moral perspective for me, because I’m told my faith tells me I’m supposed to love my neighbor.
My neighbor is suffering, and I do nothing about it? That’s hardly an expression of love. There’s a lot of things that are happening in the world that none of us as individuals can do very much about, but I think we’ve got to do what we can. And so, I have feelings about these things and the feelings trigger songs, and then I get invited to talk about this stuff.
It’s really something that I kind of fall into without really intending to. I don’t consider myself an expert on anything particular, other than maybe playing the guitar, but I pay attention, you know, I do pay attention to what’s going on and I do care. So, you know, that reflects itself in the content of my music.
JSR: You mentioned spirituality and I’ve also noticed how more than a lot of musicians, especially if they’re not labeled Christian music, that you do imbue some religion into your music. Is that part of the spirituality you were just mentioning?
Bruce Cockburn: Absolutely. It’s a world view. I mean, I can articulate this stuff the way I do now at the age I’m at. I didn’t always understand this starting out, for sure. I didn’t understand anything starting out. I just did what I did, but over the years, I’ve come to kind of understand that more, and I feel that my prime directive as a human is to have a relationship with the divine and that relationship should express itself in every aspect of life. It doesn’t always, because I get in the way or other things get in the way, but that’s the ideal. So, if I’m looking at a beautiful scene in nature, I’m grateful for that.
Or if I’m looking at, or am a witness to some beautiful thing that people do, I’m grateful for that. You know that springs from the gratitude part of it, it has to do with that relationship with God. So, you can call it lots of things. People have different takes on this stuff.
My framework happens to be a Christian one, but I don’t think that’s the only possible way of having that relationship.
JSR: You’ve probably been asked this before, but I’ve been wondering about it, frankly, ever since the song came out. So here you are a man who speaks a lot about love, a lot about justice in the world or identifying when there’s injustice. And then there’s “If I Had A Rocket Launcher.” Maybe things have changed as you’ve grown older, and they certainly have for me. How do you kind of blend that love and spirituality with what could arguably be interpreted as you know, I’m going to blow them all away?
Bruce Cockburn: Well, that would be a misinterpretation, although it’s an understandable one. What I was trying to get at with the song was a couple of things. I was writing straight from the heart when I wrote that, and the heart had been severely impacted by the experience of spending a short period of time with these refugees in the south of Mexico who were recounting to us the kinds of the things they had fled from and as a backdrop to those stories, which were horrendous, was the sound of the helicopter, the military, patrolling the border, which was just a hundred yards away. So, the combination of things is what produced the song, but the poignancy of these very desperate straits, no food, no shelter, or they had some shelter because they managed to build themselves shelter, but they had no food and no medicine. I met about 8,000 people – not personally, obviously, I was there with them – and I was very much disturbed by all of this and I felt that this is very relevant-a sense of outrage, and that sense of outrage is what I wanted to express.
I almost didn’t record the song. I wrote it and then I knew if I put this on the record, people are gonna misunderstand it. And of course, that happened, but at the same time you can’t self-censor. Self-censorship is not a worthy past-time. So I thought, well, I’m going to put it out there and we’ll see what happens.
But I used to go to great lengths to explain where the song came from when I was performing it to the point where people would complain about the talking I was doing, but I wanted people to understand that point and it goes back and forth. There are people who only hear the outrage, or the rage as it translates to them. We all carry bags of rage around with us from birth. So I think the song got a big audience because it tapped into that feeling. The people were actually listening to the lyrics and heard what was being said.
One of the first conversations I had about the song outside of my immediate circle of friends was with a guy named Charlie Clements, who was a Quaker who had spent time with the guerrilla movement in El Salvador. (He was) a doctor, and a buddy, but as a Quaker, he was committed to a peaceful approach to things. And I expressed uncertainty about that song with him. And he said “you just said what we all feel, who’ve seen this stuff.”
JSR: I really appreciate that helping me to better understand, and hopefully our listeners as well. Just one more topic. I noticed in your tour list that you’re spending a lot of time in a variety of towns, often smaller theaters and clubs, and looking forward to you being here at the Barrymore, but here we are on community radio. How do you see, in your long career, the role of community radio in getting out music such as yours?
Bruce Cockburn: Well, anybody who’s not readily defined as pop has a hard time getting on the radio. So, any radio that plays us is a wonderful thing in my view. It’s true, whether you’re talking about jazz artists or singer songwriters or, you know, people who have things to say through their words, that there’s community radio forum for that kind of stuff, that isn’t out there in most other contexts or formats.
So, God bless you guys.
JSR: Thank you very much for that!
25 February 2022 - LISTEN • 7:41
Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn performs at The Egg in Albany tonight and at the Academy of Music in Northampton Saturday. WAMC caught up with him before the show to talk about some of the unforgettable moments from his five decade career.
Born in Ottawa in May 1945, one of Cockburn’s defining musical experiences came when he traveled to Europe to busk on the streets of Paris in the mid-60s – which he describes as both fantastic and a bit fraught.
“I fell in with two guys, two other musicians, one of whom was a French guy who lived in Paris, a trumpet player, and a clarinet player who was an American on leave on leave from teaching English in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps," said Cockburn. "Those two guys had been doing it, been playing around and they, when we met up, it was like, Oh, we could use a guitar player. My guitar wasn't loud enough to compete with clarinet and trumpet, but somebody around had a six-string banjo that I was allowed to borrow and which was loud. We played kind of blues tunes, old Elvis songs, and trad jazz and whatever. And at that time, it was illegal to play on the street in Paris unless you had a license. And the only people who could get licenses were the basically the bums of Paris, the homeless folks, or very poor, native Parisians. So we were illegal doing this, and we got busted. They'd already been kicked out of every district in Paris except for Montmartre.”
When he returned to Canada, Cockburn fell in with the emergent psychedelic rock scene. His Toronto-based outfit Olivus shared the stage with some of the biggest names to tour North America in 1968.
“We opened for Cream and we opened for Jimi Hendrix," Cockburn told WAMC. "And we also opened for Wilson Pickett at one point. But the Jimi Hendrix one was the most memorable. That was in Montreal in an arena. What I mostly remember was this haze of smoke- Not coming from the smoke machines, although there were those as well. The whole place was kind of alive with pot smoke and Hendrix was amazing.”
At an after party, Cockburn and his friends had the chance to see a more intimate side of the late star.
“Hendrix walks in," he explained. "The whole place just stopped. There was a little stage setup with bands to play in so that the local hot musicians could kind of get up and jam with Hendrix or whatever. And so, you know, in walks Hendrix. He's standing there with us and everybody's staring at him and he looks around the room. He goes, 'I don't know what everybody is looking at, man. I just want to play some music.' He was totally, just like a total normal person. He went and played some music and it was great. And after a while I left. That was my adventure with Jimi Hendrix.”
In 1987, Cockburn released one of his most enduring anthems — the single “Waiting For A Miracle.”
“I wrote that song in Nicaragua. This was maybe my second or third time there. And had I met all these people that were working hard to- You have to kind of be thinking about what was going on in the era, because Nicaragua in those days was a hopeful place if you were not of a conservative mindset. If you were conservative politically, you didn't approve. And the US administration, the Reagan administration, really severely disapproved of what was going on in Nicaragua, because they'd overthrown a fascist dictator that was the friend of the United States. And he'd been replaced by a bunch of young lefties who were friendly with Cuba. So the official America didn't approve. Lots of Americans did approve, lots of Americans empathized with what was going on, because it really was a positive movement at that time. It stopped being that after a while, as will happen in history. But back then, you know, it was a lot of young people, mostly young people, really trying to make their country into a better place. And to some extent, succeeding at it, except that they were being made war upon by the US the whole time. So eventually, that wore them out.”
The song quickly worked its way into the repertoire of another North American musical legend – the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. “Waiting For A Miracle” became one of the few contemporary pieces in the Jerry Garcia Band songbook.
“Well, Jerry didn't sing my lyrics very much," chuckled Cockburn. "I mean, he did, sort of. But I thought the musical treatment of the song was really good, actually. I was really pleased with that. And I was a bit shocked when I heard him changing all my words. But then I realized that on the record that it's on, there's a Dylan song that follows, and he did the same thing with the Bob Dylan song. Then I realized he was just kind of spinning off everybody's lyrics in kind of his own way.”
They met just once before Garcia died in 1995.
“It was the the afternoon before they started a weeklong run of shows at Madison Square Garden in New York," said Cockburn. "And I happened to be in New York, and somebody said, 'Oh, you've got to come and meet Jerry,' because the song was out. I was taken backstage at Madison Square Garden, and we had to wait for a while because Jerry was meditating. He was in a tent at the back of the stage. And after a while, he came out, and he was really nice. He shook my hands, he said, 'Oh man, yeah, nice to meet you, it's a beautiful song, I hope I didn't screw lyrics up too much,' he says. I said, 'Well, actually, I was going to wait until the second time I met you before I brought that up.'”
With this tour branded as a half-centennial celebration of Cockburn’s career, he says that even going back to the first time he headlined one of Canada’s iconic music festivals in 1969, it’s been a miracle all along.
“Getting thrust into that headline spotlight at that Mariposa Folk Festival- I mean, I wasn't supposed to be the headliner," said Cockburn. "Neil Young was supposed to be the headliner. But Neil Young got sick and didn't show up. And so they had to put somebody in that slot, and there was me. And, you know, that's just fate. You could say fate with a big fat capital F. So, I didn't have anything to do with it. All I did was happen to be there. And, you know, most of what's happened to me has been like that.”
~ from www.wamc.org by Josh Landes
23 February 2022 - When it comes to Canadian singer-songwriters there are two names that stand out: Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn. The latter of the two has over five decades of excellence to his credit and recently released his 35th album which just happens to be a double CD titled “Greatest Hits” back in 2021. I’ve had the pleasure and honor to chat with the award-winning folk singer several times over his career — the first chat coincided with his appearances at the Maine Center for the Arts and Merrill Auditorium on the “Stealing Fire” tour in 1984 and the most recent was an interview in 2019 — and when I discovered that he was returning to Maine for a show at the Waterville Opera House, it seemed only right and proper to see if he’d be willing to talk with me once more, thankfully, he was, and on Feb. 1st Cockburn called me from San Francisco and we conversed for 24 minutes. I observed that he was coming back to my fair state once again …
Cockburn: Yeah, looking forward to it, too, I hope! Fingers crossed that it all unfolds as it’s supposed to.
Q: You have performed at the Waterville Opera House before, correct?
Cockburn: It sounds familiar to me, I don’t specifically remember the venue, but I’m pretty sure I have, the name is familiar, yeah.
Q: Well, considering how long you’ve been doing this, it’s completely understandable if there are gaps in your memory.
Cockburn: (Chuckle) I never remember the venues very well unless I’ve been there dozens of times, but the crew guys all remember everything. I can remember coming in the back door, I hardly ever see the front of the venue, then it’s the dressing room and then I go onstage and see a big black pit with people in it, so I don’t tend to remember the places too well (laughter).
Q: Now will this be a solo performance or will you have a backing band?
Cockburn: This will be solo, my pattern is that when we have a new album out, this doesn’t apply to the most recent album which is an instrumental thing, “Crowing Ignites,” there will be a band tour because we want to be able to present the music the way it appears on the album, as much as possible. But in between, I do mostly solo work, it’s simpler and more reflective, and in COVID worlds there’s less at stake for everybody.
Q: Very true, and just being the single performer you have the flexibility to go where the audience and your muse take you, no set list required, so one less thing to worry about.
Cockburn: Yeah, I mean, I can do that and have done that but I tend to make up a set list and kind of stick to it. Once I know a group of songs works well together, what works with one audience usually works with another as well, and it makes it simpler for the tech people to know what’s coming next.
Q: I never thought of that aspect of solo performing before, it makes sense. I recently interviewed Livingston Taylor who is also performing solo up here, he’s got 50 years in as do you, and I’ve been at music journalism that long, too.
Cockburn: We’re all aging wonderfully, are we not (chuckle)!
Q: Why, yes, yes, we are! (Laughter) Now, are you working on something new? You spoke about an instrumental album so is a song-based one a possibility?
Cockburn: Yup (pause), well, working on it in the sense that we haven’t recorded anything yet. I’ve got nine new songs, and actually I think I may have a 10th as of yesterday, so we’re almost there, ready to get in the studio and have another go at it. I’m looking forward to that, actually, a lot, I want to get these songs out there. We did release a little video demo of the first four of the new songs last spring, it’s just called “Four New Songs” and it’s around on YouTube - Four New Songs, I think. But the others were written since then and there’s one or two of them in the show.
Q: Oh, good!
Cockburn: Well, all my shows have been kind of structured in a similar way in that there’s always a few new songs and old songs mixed, sometimes the new songs are songs that just came out on an album, but I’ve always included a cross section of older material. And this tour, 50th anniversary and all, obviously that aspect of it is emphasized, but really it’s the same as all my shows. I’ve got a couple of new songs I want to sing for people and I’ve sort of picked a different collection of older songs that I haven’t been doing for quite a while, some of them for a really long time.
Q: Does songwriting come easy to you?
Cockburn: It depends on the song. This newest one seems to be going quite easily. There are certain songs that just pop out fully fledged, sort of like Athena out of the head of Zeus, other songs require a lot of work over time, and those are less satisfying to write and less fun. But sometimes that’s what needs to be written, too. The songs that come out almost spontaneously are probably the ones that people relate to best, too.
Q: Now, just out of curiosity, and I probably know the answer to this, what can folks expect from your Waterville Opera House show?
Cockburn: Well, a couple of new songs, a lot of guitar, a bunch of words and guitar (chuckle), basically that’s what comes out of me during the show. There’s, like I said, some older ones that people won’t have heard me do for quite a while, and there’s some certain songs that I feel like have to be in a show. People pay money for tickets and they want to hear at least some of the songs that they want to hear, so I want to give them some of those songs. But I don’t want to make a whole show of nothing but that because that gets boring for everybody.
Q: The songs that you’ve been doing for a long time, do they ever change over that time, I don’t mean lyrically, of course, but rhythmically, for example?
Cockburn: Once in a while, but not often. I mean, when I write a song the approach is kind of written into it, but once in a while circumstances require something different.
Q: Is there anything, Bruce, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Cockburn: Just come on out in droves and we’ll all have a good time (chuckle). What I’m looking forward to most about all of this, which I’ve been missing for a couple of years, really, is the sense of a shared experience that comes with just being in a concert setting. You know, I can play the music for myself anytime but it doesn’t come alive until it’s a vehicle for us all to sort of sit there and feel like we’re doing something together, that’s one of the things I hope the people will get out of the experience of being there.
Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at email@example.com if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.
~ from centralmaine.com - by Lucky Clark
23 February 2022 - One of rock and roll’s most interesting artists is coming to the Narrows Center in Fall River on Wednesday, March 2.
Bruce Cockburn is not an easy musician to classify, with a range of songwriting credits from the folksy “Wonderin’ Where the Lions Are,” to the forceful peace anthem, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” He was a staple of FM radio in the 1980s, behind those hits, and more mainstream tunes like “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”
I spoke to the veteran Canadian musician recently and learned he’s looking forward to being out on the road after spending much of the pandemic at his home in Northern California. He’s a socially conscious songwriter and a busy father.
“I have a 10-year-old daughter,” he explained, “so when I’m not away, which has been the case for the last two years, I have a routine that would be the same with or without Covid … getting her to school in the morning and picking her up in the afternoon.”
“I’ve been really anxious to get back on the road,” said Cockburn who will be playing solo at the Narrows Center. “We had a nice little run on the West Coast right before Christmas which actually went pretty well. I’ve got a bunch of new songs, not quite enough for an album yet. We’re looking at hopefully recording before this year is out.”
Over the course of a 50+ year career, Cockburn has amassed 13 Juno Awards and was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s a legend on par with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.
While developing his sound in the 1960s, Cockburn was influenced by a variety of songwriters and artists. He shared some thoughts on his fellow Canadian chart-toppers.
“Joni Mitchell and Gordon were certainly a model for what you could do. They were both doing high-quality, interesting songs, and being successful at it as Canadians. Lightfoot made a point of it. He made sure everybody knew he was Canadian. Joni didn’t do that so much. I had an argument in Ottawa back in the day with a guy who was wondering whether or not Joni Mitchell was in fact Canadian. This guy said ‘oh, she can’t be Canadian cause she’s good,’” joked Cockburn. “That was the prevailing attitude in Canada at the time.”
“When he was starting out, most people didn’t know Neil Young, apart from Buffalo Springfield,” he continued. “After Buffalo Springfield, when he was kind of establishing himself (as a solo artist), he came through and played the same club in Ottawa that I was playing. He did a week there just like everybody else, he was kind of warming up his solo thing, and he was great then, as he continued to be now.”
Before he began his career in earnest, Cockburn attended the Berklee Music School in Boston in the mid-60s studying jazz composition.
“Music school in Boston made a big difference to me, more than anything else,” he noted.
“I was in school to study composition, I imagined myself being a composer for jazz ensembles. That’s where I was headed. But I was also captivated by songwriting and folk music that was around at that time too, especially the old acoustic blues stuff. All of those things were big influences. In addition to the songwriters we mentioned, I’d have to add Bob Dylan and the Lennon-McCartney stuff from that era; collectively they were all an influence. I found out there’s this whole thing you can do with songs that I wasn’t aware of before that. There was a whole world of songwriting that kind of opened up in the early to mid-60s.”
Jazz and Blues have always influenced his songwriting, “I don’t feel like I’m obliged to limit myself to any particular genre or musical approach. I see myself as a kind of eclectic artist,” Cockburn explained.
Through the vehicle of his songs, Cockburn has been a longtime political activist, although he downplays his role in directly influencing social change.
“My so-called activism consists of mouthing off about stuff because I have the ear of a certain amount of the public and I feel that’s a good thing to do. The mouthing off has been on behalf of the people who are doing the real work, (who are) out there helping developing countries, people who are trying to make a difference in the world, who are trying to affect environmental choices in a positive way,” said Cockburn.
Looking back at a successful career, what is he most proud of?
“Surviving,” he laughed, “being able to do it. I feel like I’ve done my best to put out quality stuff. I haven’t given in to anyone’s demands, except what the Muse has demanded of me. Not everybody gets to do that. It’s not only something to be proud of. But it’s also been a gift.”
You can experience some of Cockburn’s magic on Wednesday, March 2 at 8PM at the Narrows Center. For tickets to the Narrows Center show, click here.
~ from whatsupnewp.com
21 February 2022 - “This tour is the second attempt as a 50th-anniversary tour; it was supposed to happen in 2020,” said singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn – looking forward to singing solo at The Egg Friday, February 25.
Since his 1970 self-named debut, Cockburn has released 34 albums and a new greatest hits package. He explained by phone from his San Francisco home last week how the pandemic postponed his planned 50th-anniversary swing after he’d wrapped a tour following the release of his “Crowing Ignites” instrumental album.
Thereafter, he found himself “out of work.” He said, “When there was nobody doing shows, there was nothing I could do.”
Well, nothing except what he’s always done: Write and record songs.
“Four New Songs” went straight to Four New Songs - YouTube as a benefit for the San Francisco Lighthouse Church. “I wanted to get the songs out because a couple of them seemed kind of timely,” said Cockburn in his low-key modest way. Asked if they relate to the pandemic, Cockburn said they describe “the atmosphere it created; well, the combination of the pandemic and Trump’s America,” specifically “about how people treat each other.” The new songs, he said, are “about how our lives are now; it’s more about being alive in the world now.” Then he reflected, “That’s kind of what they all are,” describing all his songs.
They follow the spiritual thread that unites the episodes and incidents of his autobiography “Rumours of Glory.” Cockburn said of his spiritual quest, “It’s a result of looking at how to translate the idea of loving my neighbor into practice.” And he added, “You can’t see people starving to death and say you love then; you’ve got to do something.”
The spirituality of Cockburn’s life and songs turns outward, to work in the world, while Leonard Cohen’s music arguably turns more inward – to compare two much-honored Canadian-born singer-songwriters, though both arguably stand in Joni Mitchell’s shadow, or Neil Young’s.
Even some vintage tunes on “Bruce Cockburn’s Greatest Hits” (a tongue-in-cheek title) seem almost frighteningly prescient. We are all “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “Pacing the Cage.”
Two of his “Four New Songs” have elbowed their way into his live show. “Those few songs, in particular, relate to how a lot of us are feeling,” he said, singling out “Orders” as garnering audiences’ attention. It concludes this way:
The one who lets his demons win
The one we think we’re better than
A challenge great – but as I recall
Our orders are to love them all
Also in the live show, his new “Us All” sounds a similar note of tolerance and equality:
Here we are, faced with choice
Secrets and walls or open embrace
Like it or not, the human race
Is us all
Cockburn isn’t singing the new “On A Roll” live, although it fits his portrait of troubled times. It raises the alarm of crumbling societal norms under the twin assault of the pandemic and what Cockburn calls simply “Trump’s America.”
Howl of anger – howl of grief
Here comes the heat – there’s no relief
Social behavior beyond belief
Cockburn folds “Orders” and “Us All” into a live show that the pandemic delayed by two years but is now refreshed with these clear-eyed assessments of 21st-century humanity in timeless moral terms.
In these – in fact in all his lyrics – Cockburn is realistic but not righteous. And his low-pressure conversational singing style carries his messages with engaging power.
Preparing to tour, Cockburn said, “I practice to try to learn the songs so I don’t screw them up.”
He explained, “There are certain songs that I feel people will be unhappy if they don’t get to hear, you know, some kind of obvious crowd favorites…around those I pack in whatever else fits and whatever I feel like playing.” Cockburn added, “In this case, we’re doing some older songs that people haven’t heard me do for a long time – if ever; I mean some of the people weren’t born when they were new!”
When he’s on stage, Cockburn said, “I still hear people call out, ‘Hey, tell us a story.’ Sometimes I have a story to tell them, sometimes I don’t…I’ve had nights where I didn’t say anything, just sing songs and smile with the people. More often, I talk about whatever I think.”
Looking forward, he said a bit fatalistically, “I don’t think we’ll ever go back to what we thought was normal. But it’d be nice if we could just get all the gears going, you know, and all the wheels rolling, in a way that we recognize.”
Cockburn began the tour that brings him to The Egg on Feb. 25 with a few west coast dates in December, hitting the road “in spite of the suspense around it.” He said, “Nobody knew until minutes before if any of the gigs would have to be canceled.” Nonetheless, “They all went well,” he said. He enjoys playing The Egg, even when his dressing room adjoined that of a rock band playing in the larger Hart Theatre while he prepared to play the Swyer.
Of his west coast shows in December, Cockburn said, “With the people who came, the vibe was wonderful because everybody was so happy to just be out doing something.”
Bruce Cockburn sings at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Friday, Feb. 25. 7:30 p.m. $49.50, $39.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
~ from Nippertown.com
11 February 2022 - Listen
In studio performance:
In The Falling Dark
Lovers In A Dangerous Time
Pacing The Cage
9 February 2022 - JUST ANNOUNCED: Bruce Cockburn will be livestreaming the first performance of his 2022 North America tour live from Higher Ground in Vermont. You can join the virtual crowd on Flymachine and see the show live from wherever you are on Thursday, February 24th. Limited early bird passes are available now.
Get yours tickets at fly.live/brucecockburn
9 February 2022 - "It all comes down to love and respect..." My conversation with Bruce premiers on the True Tunes Podcast this Sunday, 2/6, at 7pm on all podcast platforms. It's a doozy!
This is a very interesting and terrific interview with Bruce with lots of music... 2 hours!
Give it a listen https://truetunes.com/Cockburn50/
17 January 2022 - Join Zan as she speaks with Canadian guitar legend/singer/songwriter, Bruce Cockburn, about what it is like celebrating 50 years on the road, touring, what the road means to him, and thoughts on what the new year holds for us all, with sample tracks. (58 min)
Soundspace Interview with Bruce Cockburn (originally recorded Dec 13, 2021 and originally aired January 2, 2022).
1 January 2022 - On the evening of June 26, 2002, activists and organizers from around the world settled into worn velvet seats of Calgary’s Uptown Cinema. This was the seventh day of non-violent protests against the G8 Kananaskis meetings, the first meetings of their kind to be held after 9/11. As the lights lowered, the concert organizer, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir’s Chris Brown, took to the stage. He was soon joined by the Brothers Creeggan of Barenaked Ladies fame and Bruce Cockburn. The Monitor recently reached out to Cockburn to discuss that concert and his lifetime of activism, catching up with him as he prepared to head out for his 2nd Attempt 50th anniversary Tour across the United States and Canada.
The Monitor: Music has always played a vital role in social justice movements. There are, of course, protest singers, like Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, whose craft is centred around activism. But other artists like yourself and Tracy Chapman tend to weave social justice issues in as part of a broader tapestry. I’m wondering if you agree with that assessment and how you situate social justice within the landscape of your work?
Bruce Cockburn: Yeah, I do agree with that. I have not felt obliged to present myself or to try to create songs or a body of work that is focused on any one particular issue. I've always seen what I do as being about life in the broadest sense, whatever that means. And life in the broadest sense for me includes a moral consideration. I was raised to care about what happens to people around me, and the world in general, and to pay attention to it. And on top of that, adding the spiritual values that I have, including the notion of loving my neighbour. Well, you know, you can't love your neighbour and ignore your own complicity in your neighbour's pain. So that's the starting point for my approach to those things, to songs that might be said to be about issues.
After that it's circumstantial. I wrote the songs about Central America, which are the most blatant statements of that aspect of what I do, because I was there. I experienced the things I experienced and heard from other people about the things they were experiencing firsthand. Those things had an impact.
You only write your own feelings like that. I feel like that's my job—to translate what I’ve experienced of life into something that's communicable to everybody and can be shared by everybody. I'm always going to be writing from my perspective. And I think that in the case of the instances of injustice that I've mentioned in songs, those feelings would have been shared by any thinking person or feeling person in those circumstances.
So I feel like there's something to share there [with people who] have not been in those circumstances or haven't been exposed to those things. The songs are a way of kind of exposing and pointing a finger: there's something you should look at.
I don't feel like it's my job to sell an idea to people, but I do feel that it's appropriate to try to be persuasive. And in suggesting that people would probably feel the way I do it, if they were confronted with these things.
M: In Rumours of Glory, you suggest that the song that will forever be most associated with you is “If I had a Rocket Launcher.” Why do you think it is such a memorable piece from a career that spans 50 years and 34 albums?
BC: When I say that, it's just based on the fact that that's what people ask for all the time and the one that people who don't really pay much attention to what I do associate with. So I mean, as opposed to Wondering Where the Lions Are, which was a bigger hit by quite a bit, actually back in its day, but very few people, especially people that don't have little kids know it.
But I hear far more, oh yeah, Bruce Cockburn, you're the guy who wrote the rocket launcher song, you know, that kind of thing.
So that's why I say that. Not because I think it's more memorable than others. But I think what people have responded to in it is that sense of outrage or the expression of rage that everybody feels. We all carry it with us. And so that gets a rise out of people, even if they've never paid any attention to what someone's actually talking about... I think that did expose the raw, kind of pain and anger. That's in that song. I think people have responded to that.
It's interesting that a guy who shoots up a mosque in Quebec can be called a terrorist. But that kind of terrorism is handled very differently... Islamic terrorists are not [treated] the same as homegrown, white honky terrorists because only one side gets extrapolated.
M: Virginia Woolf is famously quoted as saying “as a woman I have no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” When I listen to your body of work, I feel like this quote could be repurposed to read that, for you, as a musician “the whole world is your country” as you both draw on global musical traditions and demonstrate global solidarity in your lyrics and your politics. What drew you to push beyond traditional boundaries, and how do you hold on to that in a time when fear of the other seems to be reaching an all time high?
BC: Well, I don't find I have to expend effort to be either interested or to hold onto these things. I just want to know what's going on over a wide area. I'm interested in a lot of different things. And I read about those things, but I've also been lucky enough to be able to travel the way I have.
What impelled me to go to Central America in the first place was curiosity. I didn't go there looking for a cause to attach myself to. My brother Don was involved with solidarity work back then in El Salvador and he kept feeding me Central American things to read and what I read about the Nicaraguan revolution just made me want to go there and see what it looked like up close.
[Growing up], it felt like there was something really momentous about the success of the Cuban revolution and the overthrow of Batista and the Nicaraguan revolution felt momentous in the same way. Except the Nicaraguan revolution seemed to be free from what I was reading at the time of the abuses that the Cuban revolution carried with it. I forget which Sandinista I spoke to about this—it might have been Ortega himself—he said, each revolution, we learn from the one before. So the Russian revolution was different from the French revolution, and the Cuban revolution was different from the ones before, and the Nicaraguan revolution. You know, they're trying not to make the mistakes that they can see that have been previously made in circumstances like that. So there was a feeling that, had it been allowed to succeed, we'd be looking at a pretty different world, right?
Of course, it wasn’t allowed to. And Ortega has not carried on in the way that it looked like he was starting out.
M: The reason I wanted to talk to you for this issue of the Monitor was because of your performance at the Uptown Theatre in Calgary during the G8 demonstrations in 2002. I was listening to an episode of Nora Loreto and Sandy Hudson’s podcast recently and Nora was trying to explain to a listener who had submitted a question how different it was to protest right after 9/11. Because if you don't know, you don't know. And you performed at the solidarity concert in Calgary on that Wednesday night with Chris Brown and the Brothers Creeggan.
I was wondering if you could take us back to that concert, if you have any particular memories of how it felt to be in Calgary at that time, or how it felt to be a part of solidarity movements at that time.
BC: What I remember was a kind of heady atmosphere of adventure... that we were all out there making a statement, but there was this sinister side of it, that the event itself was moved out into the wilderness and heavily guarded. And there were all kinds of rumours. I don't know if they were true or not. The military guarding the conference had orders to shoot on site and that sort of thing. Nobody had put that to the test as far as I know, but they made it very hard for anyone protesting to be seen by any of the heads of state or their delegations that were present.
Those people were aware of what was going on of course, because they were watching the news as much as anybody else, I'm sure. But I thought that was a dark move to have made. It made certain kinds of practical sense from the government perspective. But it seemed to fly in the face of the rights we have to be heard.
I think in Canada—and this may be ignorance talking because I don't spend very much time in Canada these days—it seems to me, we were insulated to some extent from the worst effects of the anti-terror attitude that exists in the world. I think that you get a worse version of it in England and the U.S. and I'm sure in some other countries it's far worse, but it's still there.
It showed up when we were involved in the landmine issue. There was a campaign to ban landmines, and at the same time, there was a confrontation going on in BC, between the RCMP and [the Ts'peten Defenders at Gustafsen Lake]. They were in a confrontation without very much actual violence, but at one point the RCMP employed what they called an in-ground explosive device.
So basically they mined that protest camp’s access road and they're lucky they didn't kill anybody. They blew the real wheels off somebody’s truck.
It's a strange simile to use maybe, but one time I was being taken on a boat ride in a rainforest area of Australia. There were crocodiles, and we didn't see any, but at one point in this little tiny creek that we were in, a ripple went across the surface of the water in front of us. That was a crocodile under the water. It was big enough that exerting itself underwater, you could see the ripple on the surface, this kind of V-shaped ripple as if there was a boat there.
And to me, incidents like that landmine episode in BC are that ripple. The reason that we don't see as much of the worst effects of any terrorist policy in Canada is that we're lucky. And it doesn't come up very often. If it was more present in its negative effects if there was such a thing as terrorism that was more present in Canada we would see a lot more repression.
We don't get challenged a lot on things. It's interesting that a guy who shoots up a mosque in Quebec can be called a terrorist. But that kind of terrorism is handled very differently... Islamic terrorists are not [treated] the same as homegrown, white honky terrorists because only one side gets extrapolated.
“I think the job of us human beings is to maintain our commitment to whatever extent we can to as many good things as we can, regardless of where the pendulum is."
M: Are there other solidarity efforts in Canada and the U.S. that you have supported, and stand out in your memory, over the past twenty years?
BC: I think one of the most important things that I felt drawn into was the issues faced by Indigenous People in North America. I think that, and which, which are common, like across the whole continent.
I confess I'm kind of in the same boat, as I think a lot of white middle-class people are with these things, because I'm not in it every day. And because my focus has been, in the last decade, on my family.
It's always impressed me and it still does that the Indigenous groups that end up getting a voice are so restrained in their use of that voice, even now. I find that impressive and moving. And, I wonder how long we can expect that to last. As things get more kind of down to the wire, environmentally and socially, and this kind of very confrontational climate that we're all in, and there again, I mean, there's anti-terror mentality in action against Indigenous protest groups.
I mean, it's obscene, actually. I could say the RCMP, but I don't think it's just the RCMP in it. But the way that authority responds to even the slightest suggestion of things being disrupted is so heavy handed and so conspicuously racist it's very disturbing and it seems to me that we ought to be able to fix that easily, but we haven't and we don't.
M: Do you think that the role of artists and musicians in resistance movements has changed in the age of anti-terrorism?
BC: I think you have to assess who the artists think that their audiences are. Most of the time, when people take those political stances, they're playing to an audience. If you don't think anybody's listening to you, or if you think that you're going to drive away the audience you have, by making a particular statement, you're going to think pretty hard about that statement. The Van Morrisons and the Eric Claptons taking this strong anti-vaxxer stance, I mean, I have no reason to think they're not sincere in doing that, why would they not be? But I think they’re also interested in that audience and maybe only because they feel that's who they're communicating with.
To me, I don't think the role has changed that much. I think that it's everybody's job in society to take a stand on issues, especially on issues that affect everybody. We're all supposed to be paying attention. We're all supposed to take responsibility for what happens. An artist's position in things is such that you can make a point publicly and be heard. And therefore you should.
That's how I see it. And I don't think that's changed. I think the tolerance for outspokenness with respect to issues is a kind of whimsical thing, almost. It's kind of an unpredictable element because when a point of view is seen to be widely popular, then the media will be a willing participant in conveying that point of view from the artist to the public. When it's not, they won't.
So, that's kind of what it comes down to. I don't think it's about the artists. I think that when you don't hear these kinds of things—there was a period, a decade ago, where you didn't hear very much protesting coming from the artistic community. It's not because the artists weren't doing it, it's because the media weren't talking about it or weren’t covering it.
Fashions come and go, too. There are times that it's just not so fashionable for a young artist, for instance, to be thinking about those things. The eighties were like that where, oh, I don't want to talk about issues, you know, just want the money. And that was the prevailing attitude. But that was a reaction to there having been a degree of fashionable acceptance of protest before that. So it looks like the pendulum just keeps swinging back and forth.
I think the job of us human beings is to maintain our commitment to whatever extent we can to as many good things as we can, regardless of where the pendulum is.
M: What roles can artists and musicians play in undoing and repairing the harm that two decades of anti-terrorism legislation has brought to communities at home and abroad?
BC: I don't know, in the big picture, how we get out of it. I think somebody has to be, so somehow someone has to develop a voice and have it be heard. And I don't know how that's going to happen.
You look at someone like Greta Thunberg. We’re hearing her voice. I wonder, why are we hearing her voice, and not the voices of others who might be saying the same thing? Is it because she's the most effective of all the possibilities, or is it because it's good to have a mascot out there saying the things that we know should be said, but [to whom] we don't really have to pay that much attention? I'm a little afraid it’s the latter. But at the same time, it’s great that she's there, and that we’re at least hearing her voice. But I don't know how we get it.
I think on a personal level, the answer lies in trying to be as discerning as possible and paying attention to the impact of our own choices on others. So the choices of rhetoric and choices of action: it comes down to that.
When I go out the door in the morning, I want everybody I meet to have a good day and I do whatever I can to facilitate that. Mostly, what it means to me is that I'm polite to people and respectful as much as possible.
We're now comfortable insulting each other and, and, you know, behaving like a bunch of angry teenage boys, thoughtless and rude and lacking in judgment. I mean, I think that the whole society is being encouraged to behave that way. And so whatever we can do on a personal level to offset that is going to be a good thing.
And that's a moment by moment thing, really. We can have all the ideas we want about the big picture and we need some. We have to work on the big issues. But, it really comes down to how you treat the people you meet.
Bruce Cockburn was recently inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. He is currently on his "Second Attempt" 50th Anniversary Tour across the United States and Canada
~from monitormag.ca - by Róisín WestBruce Cockburn with James Meadow | Where The Lions Are interviews - video
19 December 2021 - A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet Bruce in a long and deep interview. He shared some chapters of his long journey in life and music, from his beginnings at Berkley Music School in Boston to his latest release, from the music scene in Ottawa and Toronto to his new life in San Francisco. I am so grateful for the time he dedicated to me and for the legacy of his songs. If you have the chance, get some tickets for his upcoming shows... he's as great as ever!
Bruce Cockburn with James Meadow on the third episode of Where The Lions Are interviews. In this interview Bruce Cockburn unfolds his long journey in life and music, from his beginnings at the Berkley Music School in Boston to his last release Bruce Cockburn Greatest Hits, from the music scene in Ottawa and Toronto to his new life in San Francisco. A profound narrative through reflections, encounters and songs of an artist who continues to stray from familiar territory and elude any kind of definition.
Many thanks also to Bernie Finkelstein, for making this happen, and to Daniel Keebler for the beautiful cover photo (and many others) and all the support. Thanks to Victor Johnson for a footage of a recent performance of Stolen Land. I hope you'll enjoy!
Watch the interview
14 December 2021 - Bruce Cockburn could be considered Canada’s national treasure.
Now marking a milestone 50 year anniversary of making music, he can look back on a remarkable list of accomplishments — among them, inclusion in both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, no less than 13 Juno Awards, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, inclusion in Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto and the most prestigious honor of all, induction as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
With nearly three dozen albums to his credit, it’s little surprise he’s amassed those honors. Nevertheless, the novice might best be advised to check out his forthcoming double album compilation, Bruce Cockburn’s Greatest Hits (1970-2020) was released on December 3rd courtesy of his longtime record label True North. It could be considered quite an accomplishment.
“Yeah,” Cockburn agrees. “Except that it doesn’t include some of the longer thoughtful songs and the instrumentals. Still, that’s not a bad problem to have.”
Given that abundance of riches, one would have to agree with his sentiment. The songs that make up this compilation were those that were intended as singles and aimed at attaining airplay. In a sense, it’s a wannabe greatest hits, but even so, it’s a fine chronicle of Cockburn’s work that goes back to the foundations of his songwriting career.
“Once in a while I forget — well, more than once in a while, quite often actually — I don’t remember making these specific songs,” he muses. “So when I do go back and listen to the older ones that if I haven’t heard in a while, I’m generally kind of surprised at how good they are.”
That might seem odd coming from the man that recorded the music in the first place, and while Cockburn tends to agree, he also offers a ready explanation for having arrived at that actual assessment.
“I realize it’s a weird thing to say about yourself, I suppose. But I just sort of think, ‘yeah, okay, that’s what we did back then.’ But given some allowance for improved recording techniques, or just just better understanding of the studio and what to do in it, they hold up really well. What I remember about each of them was the fact that we just did the best we could at the time, in terms of of the songwriting and the recording and performing. That seems to have worked pretty well overall.”
In a very real sense, the new album is a document of a life well-lived, both as an artist and as an activist who’s never been afraid to stake out certain truths, whether it’s social, spiritual or political.
“I feel great gratitude for having been able to do it this long and being able to leave a few breadcrumbs along the way,” Cockburn reflects. “There’s been times when I’ve been aware of it being that. Even going back to the early days, when it I asked myself, what’s the point of me doing these songs? But once I started understanding what I was really doing, writing about my very personal view of things, I realized it really wasn’t about being that personal. I think I’m reflecting some aspect of the human experience. It’s not just about me. And so, in that process, I am leaving a trail. This is one guy’s experience of a life in song, expressed in song, and hopefully other people will find things to relate to in them. And, in fact, they do seem to. So I don’t think I’m leaving a trail as a plan, per se, but I am aware of the fact that that’s kind of what I’m doing.”
The trail hasn’t ended, of course. Cockburn says there are plans for another tour, one he’s dubbed “The 2nd Attempt Tour,” given the fact it was intended tp take place last year to mark his 50th anniversary, but, like everything else, delayed due to the pandemic.
“We’ve got shows booked from December, through the winter into the spring and in bits and pieces, and we’re adding more as time goes on,” Cockburn notes. “So hopefully, all this stuff’s gonna actually come to pass.”
Of course, that raises the question of whether Cockburn still enjoys the idea of touring?
“I did two years ago, the last time I did it,” he replies. “I’m looking forward to trying it again. I mean, it’s been kind of frustrating to not be able to play for people. That’s when the music really comes alive.”
Speaking of which, he also mentions that recording plans are also in the works.
“I’m just about ready to make another album actually,” he suggests. “There are two things I really want to do. We did an instrumental album, which I wanted to do for a long time. And then I want to make an album of my new songs, which I’m two or three songs into for that. But I also want to do an album of cover songs one of these days, but that always seems to get put on the back burner. It was lurking quite close to the front of the burner for about a year, but then I got all these new songs and now that that’s gonna take precedence.
“Anyway, one of these days, if I live long enough, those things will get done and then who knows after that. We’ll do some cover songs, an idiosyncratic range of stuff that I like and stuff that’s had some effect on me over the years. Mostly though, just songs that I liked and that I could figure out how to do.”
~from rockandrollglobe.com - Lee Zimmerman
14 December 2021 - On Tuesday, December 14 at Noon, JPR will broadcast a JPR Live Session with Bruce Cockburn on Open Air.
LISTEN: JPR Live Session
One of Canada’s finest artists, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders.
With 34 albums, 13 JUNO wins, two Hall of Fame inductions, Officer of The Order of Canada — and new inductee into Canada’s Walk of Fame this year — all spanning a 50+ year career — it’s no small task to encapsulate Bruce Cockburn’s inimitable imprint when it comes to Canadian music and culture.
Throughout his career, Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song. Whether singing about retreating to the country or going up against chaos, tackling imperialist lies or embracing ecclesiastical truths, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight. “We can’t settle for things as they are,” he once warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”
~ from JPR Live Session
13 December 2021 - After five decades in music, iconic Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has released a greatest hits collection, titled Greatest Hits (1970-2020). On top of that, he’s being inducted to Canada’s Walk of Fame this week. Cockburn returned to Q to discuss the honour with Tom Power and look back on his illustrious career.
Walk of Fame interview - Tom Powers
21 December 2021: For those who missed it, here's the whole segment from Bruce Cockburn's induction into Canada's Walk of Fame.
Sirius - Bruce Cockburn induction speech
11 December 2021 - Bruce Cockburn joins us on Episode 611 of Folk Roots Radio for a wonderful in-depth conversation about his new career spanning retrospective, “Greatest Hits 1970-2020”, a double CD set featuring 30 songs he has released as singles. After 34 albums, 13 Junos, thousands of shows across the world and numerous other awards, it’s been quite the career. The good news is that Bruce Cockburn is still going strong, still working on new songs, and still playing shows. In fact, this month he sets out on his 50th Anniversary tour. It’s actually Take 2 – because COVID put paid to the first version last year. There was a lot to talk about which is why we’ve given over the whole of this episode to the interview. So settle down and enjoy Bruce Cockburn… in Conversation on Folk Roots Radio & Jan Hall.
LISTEN - Folk Roots Radio
The interview date for this was November 23, 2021. Thanks Daniel Keebler for this info.
9 December 2021 - Delayed by the pandemic, Bruce Cockburn’s 50th-anniversary tour arrives in Eugene
On the occasion of a 50th-anniversary tour and in preparation for a two-CD greatest hits collection, what is the best approach to evaluating an artist’s catalog: personal favorites, crowd-pleasers, or is it better to decide a song’s legacy by some other measure?
That’s the question posed by acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His brand-new greatest hits double album is out now, and his second try at a semicentennial celebration tour — the first one was delayed by the pandemic — stops in Eugene Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Hult Center.
Referring to the greatest hits collection, Cockburn says, “The concept from the very beginning had been to include everything that had been a single, all throughout the 50 years,” in chronological order. Simple enough.
What’s also captured in the collection, though, is a musical evolution. From the acoustic stuff of the 1970s growing into bigger band arrangements throughout the decade, on through the more pop-oriented material of the ’80s — highlighted by what is probably Cockburn’s biggest hit, the mildly new wave “Lover in a Dangerous Time” from the 1984 album Stealing Fire — and then, back to the acoustic side in the ’90s.
Cockburn has navigated throughout his career between these two poles: the folksy balladeer and the grown-up pop songwriter with a modern edge. But for a half century, Cockburn never quite became a household name such as James Taylor or Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens. Nor does he have the regal gravitas in the U.S. of fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen, though he was recently honored by a plaque on the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto.
Cockburn’s eponymous debut album came out in 1970, a collection of acoustic songs featuring only his own skillful guitarwork, his gentle tenor with a conversational cadence and lonely melodies.
About a half century later and prior to his greatest-hits album, Cockburn’s last studio release was Crowing Ignites, from 2019, a selection of wordless acoustic guitar music, and a reminder that Cockburn is in his own right an expressive instrumentalist: sometimes jazzy, other times traditional and occasionally informed by the blues.
Instrumental experiments notwithstanding, Cockburn’s songwriting most often begins with words.
“It starts with feel,” he says. “The ability to free associate. Then it gets technical. I don’t want the music to overpower the lyrics, I want to create a landscape that the lyrics can exist.” For Cockburn, who as a young man aspired to become a poet as much as a musician, music and lyrics exist in the same part of the brain, he says.
A teenager in the late ’50s, Cockburn was the perfect age for early rock ‘n’ roll, worshipping Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley and rejecting any kind of music lesson that taught him anything less than how to make those sounds. Soon enough, he discovered the guitar, and shortly after that, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and other early innovators in the folk-rock movement.
Once he heard Dylan, “I became a fan right away. We listened to the folky albums, and then, when he went rock, there were cries of betrayal from all corners, except from our little crowd: We thought it was fantastic. This is so where it should have gone,” he says.
Before that, “It hadn’t occurred to me independently that you could have songs that didn’t have dumb lyrics,” Cockburn says.
Even though Cockburn will perform solo in Eugene, when he does bring his songs to a band, they need to accept that most often, his guitar parts come first.
“I write the songs with guitar parts that are meant to stand up,” he explains. “It’s a part, written into the composition as a whole. So, when I get together with other musicians to get ready for a tour, I say, here are the songs — and they have to work around them.”
“I pretty much let them do what they want,” he continues, “and I’m just kind of the editor, but they are constrained that the guitar is going to be doing something busy, and they’re just going to have to figure it out,” he says.
Cockburn’s inclination is to play new music on his 50th-anniversary tour, but he understands that audiences most often want to hear the familiar stuff.
“I think it’s necessary, and it feels good, to put in the songs that people are attached to,” he says. He’s made a point of practicing some of the older songs that have been neglected from his setlist for decades. “It will be a mix from all different eras,” he says.
Bruce Cockburn performs 7:30 pm Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Hult Center; $38-$48, all-ages. His two-disc greatest hits compilation is available now on all major streaming services and wherever music is sold.
~from Burning Man - eugeneweekly - William Kennedy
8 December 2021 - KRCB Midday Music with Doug Jayne will be interviewing Bruce on December 1.
The interview was aired on December 8, 2021.
KRCB interview with Bruce by Doug Jayne
Bruce Cockburn celebrates 50 years at Freight & Salvage
Tom Lanham - SFExaminer.com
7 December 2021 - Canadian turned San Franciscan folksinger turns his political instincts to climate change.
Bruce Cockburn spent many a lockdown day inside, composing new protest songs like Orders and Us All.
For most of his five-decade career, Juno-winning Canadian folksinger Bruce Cockburn had the scenic wilds of his native Ottawa, Ontario as a backdrop for his thoughtful, often politically inspired anthems. But since moving to the Bay Area with his wife and then-baby daughter in 2014, he says he’s adopted a new, decidedly San Francisco state of mind.
He used to read about our town’s miasmic fog in Dashiell Hammett Continental Op stories, but it was just a romantic notion. Now that he lives out on the Avenues, the hard-boiled fog has become almost old-friend familiar.
“I was out last night around seven o’clock, and it was already dark and the fog was coming in, and it had that wonderful sense of surreal mystery that the fog brings with it,” he said wistfully. “That’s one of the things that I love about San Francisco.”
Cockburn’s songs have long been influenced by politics, local and global. These days, his concerns move quickly from California’s drought to climate change, to its inexplicable deniers, to the threat to humanity that greedy forces are bringing about.
“‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper,’ he said quoting T. S. Eliot. “And we think we’re seeing the effects, but there are places like large chunks of Asia, Africa and South America where people are really feeling it.”
This kind of thinking is why Cockburn believes his “50th Anniversary Concert, Second Attempt” is selling more tickets in liberal Berkeley than in conservative Grass Valley.
The singer-songwriter spent many a lockdown day inside, angrily composing new quasi-protest songs like “Orders” and “Us All.” He has now amassed music enough for a full album, which will follow last year’s “Greatest Hits (1970-2020)” and 2019’s all-instrumental experiment “Crowing Ignites.” His seasonal “Christmas” set from 1993 is also resurfacing this month.
“In Canada, where most of my record sales are, it’s platinum. So that kind of means that everyone’s got one already,” he said. “It holds a special place in people’s hearts — I hear from fans all the time about how they pull that album out every Christmas and play it in their family homes, and I’m really happy about that.”
On early hits like ’84’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and ’91’s “Lovers In a Dangerous Time,” Cockburn’s singing voice was flintier, more pugnacious. But at 76, it’s mellowed into a warm, professorial rasp that befits both his politically informed lyrics and his elder statesman status.
As he’s been sifting through his career material, he’s been introducing his 10-year-old daughter to his classics like 2002’s “Inner City Front,” while unearthing obscurities that he hasn’t performed in years.
And he didn’t bury the lede in the “Second Attempt” tour title, he said, “Because there was no first! We had all these shows booked for 2020 — a lot of shows — but they all were canceled. So this is a kind of tentative, baby-step version of getting back into it again. We’re hoping that all these gigs are going to happen.”
~ from Bruce Cockburn celebrates 50 years of songwriting at Freight Salvage
1 December 2021 - I was wrong. Having, in 2014, held Canadian singer/songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn hostage in Berkeley’s Hillside Club during a nearly two-hour interview, previewed/attended his last Bay Area appearance in 2019, twice read cover-to-cover his 530-page memoir and found myself in a forever relationship with a Cockburn fan who, upon realizing he lacked one of the multi-award-winning artist’s 34 albums, was visibly distraught—I’d thought I’d heard every Cockburn story and tune there was to hear.
I told myself I’d tickled out the whys and wherefores behind poetic lyrics written with monk-like sparseness and music that embraces folk, jazz, blues, rock, world beat, Renaissance, Romantic and 21st-century classical-music styles. His work speaks to universal themes related to family, love, self-determination, spirituality and faith. I was “insider” enough to know Cockburn has, for five decades, been active and sings in bold protest to human-rights violations worldwide that include indigenous land exploitation, ecological devastation, corporate crimes, nuclear buildup, geopolitical and military conflicts, war and more. His albums have decorated Cockburn with 13 JUNO wins, two Hall of Fame inductions, multiple honorary Doctorates, positions such as Officer of The Order of Canada and a recent induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
So, on the occasion of his Dec. 3 double-album release of Bruce Cockburn – Greatest Hits (1970–2020), and in anticipation of his “second attempt” North American 50th Anniversary Concert Tour that was originally stalled by Covid-19 and includes live appearances in two shows Dec. 9-10 at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage, it was natural to expect mere updates and well-trodden repeats.
Instead, in response to a question about experiences that most shook him up or tilted his career and altered or affirmed his relationship to poetry, words and songwriting, Bay Area–based Cockburn tells me a brand-spanking-new story about his dad. The near-tears choking sound that enters his throat fleetingly at the very end of the story is pure Cockburn: it’s a sonority that’s not performative, overly sentimental or self-indulgent. It’s the real deal, expressed in language composed with raw sounds and abstract symbols, but deeply human, like his music.
“I had an experience with my dad,” Cockburn says. “He was at home, in Ottawa, and I’m in Boston [attending Berklee College of Music], and he came down at the end of the term to pick me up. We were talking about what we were going to do over the summer. I told him I’d got a summer job offer, but I turned it down. This is the truth; a guy was a friend of one of my dorm mates. He’d come back from Vietnam, and he had a plan to go down to Central America and make a lot of money over the summer, running guns to Cuba. He wanted to know if I’d go with him and watch his back. With hindsight, that’s the most ridiculous thing. It would have been suicide. At the time, I just thought it was an interesting thing to be offered. It seemed like it was going to be lucrative, but then I thought, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ My dad, he was horrified that I’d even consider it—[I’d be] basically facilitating people being killed. My dad had been in the Canadian army and didn’t see action during World War II, but he understood what was being talked about far better than I did. My response to him was, ‘What do you care about what I do anyway?’ I was a typical teenager. There was silence. Then he said, ‘Well, a father loves his son.’ I could say nothing. It was the first time I’d ever heard my father say the word ‘love.’ Nobody in my family ever said they loved each other. We did love each other, but nobody expressed it.”
Cockburn says hearing his dad say “love” out loud shocked him. “I’ll never forget that feeling. To use a crass expression, I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind. I had no place to put that,” he says. “I’m glad to have heard that from him, because it’s the only time I did and even then, he couldn’t say, ‘Well, I love you.’ He didn’t have the language, which is why we didn’t talk about those things. But he got to say what he said, and I got to hear it. It was indirectly life changing. I couldn’t tell you the exact effect, but it had to have made a difference.”
Cockburn can’t—or won’t—pin down the difference made by this experience, but an outside observer could draw insight from his reticence. Cockburn has an edgy discomfort with words and their specificity. It strikes me that his lyrics are laid down as if they are secret scratchings that both point to, and cover up, the sacred truths buried within them. Even though his repertoire and his songwriting process depends on words, listeners must dig reflectively into their own hearts and minds to determine meanings and value.
All that makes Cockburn sound elusive or evasive or complicated, and although he expresses ambiguity when we talk about his albums, artistic process, music reviews and other matters, his life is largely relatable. He’s married to an attorney and grateful her steady work during the pandemic stabilized the family’s income. “Some of my income comes from royalties and other things, but the bulk comes from performing gigs,” he says. “Some of our friends are having much harder times. It’s inconvenient for everyone.” The couple also has a 10-year-old daughter. Cockburn says when she recently switched from him waking her up in the mornings, as was his custom, to now using a radio alarm, she told him, “I love music. I don’t know how I could live without music.” His response? “Hopefully you’ll never have to.” She studies guitar and piano, and despite not practicing, baffles him by improving. Which means he doesn’t worry about her music skills. Instead, he worries about her generation’s future.
“The pandemic’s not the only problem: That generation is facing the results of the whole 20th century and beyond,” he says. “They’re going to have quite a lot of trouble. We’re not setting a good precedent. Not in this country.” He names as his biggest concern the world’s dependence on oil. “It really started with the industrial revolution after World War II. Now it’s everything: it’s where we get our energy, our clothes, products in our homes. But [oil] is a finite supply, and it’s going away. We won’t get to Mars fast enough, and it’s unlikely Mars has oil, anyway. We’ll have to find an alternative. We need to go back to growing fibers to make clothes, which still happens somewhat; but increasingly, things are made out of polyester, nylon—and those are petroleum. I’m not trying to be a doomsayer, but the odds are we’ve created major problems that the next generation will have to deal with.”
We decided to lighten up and talk about his new CD. Curating the anniversary album and the set list for the tour, both spanning 50 years’ work, he says song selection took a mere 30 seconds. “It’s all singles that went to radio. There was no choosing involved.” Embarking on a solo tour was largely a matter of money and circumstance. “When we booked these shows everyone was enthusiastic, but nobody was sure if they would actually happen,” he says. “Nobody’s even sure now: We’re all acting like the shows are on. But who knows when there’ll be another lockdown? Fingers crossed!”
In the bank already are 30 songs written using what Cockburn calls “my standard fallback” approach. “I want to write about everything and anything that comes to mind,” he says. “There are things that come to you shaded, in a way that’s new to you. Encounters with art or a person can do that, too. I go around with the intention of being in a state of vigilance, waiting for those triggers. I write things down as I think of them. Sometimes a whole song is born quickly, and other times an idea seems good but has to wait decades for other elements to make it work. I go around harboring the intent.”
I ask him to jump onboard to comment on six tracks I’ve selected. About 1973’s All The Diamonds in the World, he says, “I think of it as marking the point I decided to self-identify as a Christian. The song for me belongs in a photo album commemorating that moment. I wrote it following the stress between me and my [ex-]wife. I found a degree of helplessness within myself to deal with the situation, the standard kind of stuff that happens between couples. I keenly felt my lack of self-sufficiency. I prayed, and the prayer was answered. It’s not written exactly about that, but it’s more a celebration of the fact the prayer was answered than about the issue itself. The setting is in a boat in the Stockholm archipelago. It was a beautiful day, and the sun sparkled on the water; it just set that song in motion. The feeling of what I’d experienced the night before, the prayer answered and the beauty of the day, just combined to produce that song.”
Rumours of Glory, written on the cusp of the 1980s, captured a scene in New York City’s East Village when the bleak, empty streets suddenly teemed with people leaving work. Twenty minutes later, everyone having dived underground into the subway system, the hubbub of life disappeared. The sunset cast the sky in pink; two contrails left by planes formed a cross in the sky. “It was too good to pass up,” he says.
In 1995, Pacing the Cage was a song a lot of people related to. “I certainly wasn’t thinking of this [Covid] trap when I wrote it, but it has resonance this time, for sure. It’s another song immediately triggered by a visual image,” he says. “I was living on a horse farm in Western Toronto. It was a situation that started out great, exciting; but it lost that luster in a big way. It’s not just about being in a domestic trap, but in yourself, in your habits and habits of mind. There’s a sense of suffocation that we all experience. The imagery; I turned into the driveway of the farm, and there was a sunset that looked like an angel weeping and holding a bloody sword. There was the song, right there. I didn’t have to make anything up. Seeing it: that’s the trick. It doesn’t feel like trickery; when it happens, it feels like a gift. Not everyone has it, nor do I, so when I get it, it’s precious.”
Anything Anytime Anywhere (1992) is a straight-ahead love song with unusual origins. “The title and phrase actually came from a want ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine,” he says. “The magazine is a kind of fashion magazine for mercenary wannabes. In the ’80s, when the U.S. government was telling us there were no wars in Central America, you could open up Soldier of Fortune and read accounts written by soldiers fighting there. It was enlightening in that sense. It was common to see ads for military people looking for work: they were willing to do anything, anytime, anywhere. In a love context, it felt like what you can ask: You can ask me for anything, anytime, anywhere.”
One song on the new CD is a happy accident. Instead of the 1973 solo version, a recording made in 1987 of a live concert has Cockburn singing “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long” with the late Kathryn Moses. “Somebody goofed, and the record was mastered with that version,” he says. “We could have corrected it, but it seemed like it was meant to happen, because Kathy Moses died last year of cancer. It seemed fitting she be on the record. I’m glad the mistake was made.”
Cockburn says he hopes his music has and will always speak the truth and draw enough attention to become a medium for sharing, for human exchange—then backtracks with, “it’s safe to say it’s always the best I can do at the time.” He finds music reviews, even self-administered ones, troublesome. “Passing judgement—we all do it, I do it—but I don’t want to inflict it on anyone else,” he says. “It’s better to let people figure it out for themselves. Once in a while, over the centuries, I’ve actually read one or two reviews that taught me something. Mostly, they’re just a guy’s or a woman’s opinion, and I don’t even feel I was at the same show.”
While first discovering jazz, Cockburn bought albums based on DownBeat magazine reviews. Eventually, he realized he and the reviewers liked the albums, but for different reasons. “I also remember a big controversy in the ’60s in DownBeat magazine, about whether or not you could have jazz written in 3/4 time. The musicians are playing it, and it’s the reviewers who are going, ‘This isn’t jazz,’ and another saying, ‘Oh, yes it is.’ It was a stupid thing: If a guy is playing jazz in 3/4 time, what’s it to you? It’s an example of what’s wrong with the institution of reviewing. It’s all very subjective … so, actually, it’s nice not to be reviewed.”
We touch on four new songs produced during the pandemic. “Those songs I wanted to get out, because two of the four are particularly applicable to what I feel is going on,” he says. “I don’t talk about Covid; though one of the songs mentions Covid, in passing. One of them is called ‘Orders.’ The chorus is a list of all kinds of people and behaviors we may or may not approve of. The chorus goes: ‘Our orders said to love them all.’ Another song is called ‘Us All’: It’s a plea to be kind to each other. It seemed to me those songs should be out there being heard. The other new songs are more like all of the rest of the stuff I do. Just Cockburn songs.”
Hopefully, when he writes a few more—he has almost enough songs for a new CD—Cockburn’s next album will be accompanied by another never-before-heard story. A tale filled with mystery and ambiguity; love, pathos and pain; and words destined to be infused with melody.
~from Saying Love Outloud - Bruce Cockburn
23 November 2021 - Our guest on this episode of Songcraft is Bruce Cockburn. The Canadian singer-songwriter’s more than 50-year career has produced 34 albums, 22 of which have been certified Gold or Platinum in his home country. He has won 13 Juno Awards, and is a member of both the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Bruce joins us to chat about his career and his new 2-CD career-spanning compilation, entitled Greatest Hits: 1970-2020, which will be released on December 3rd.
19 November 2021 - In a career that spans fifty years, there’s little that Bruce Cockburn has yet to achieve. His list of accolades alone is enough to single him out for distinction — among them, 13 Juno Awards, an induction into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and his naming as an Officer of the Order of Canada. The 34 albums he’s recorded over the course of that half century make it clear why those honors are so well deserved, but they also testify to the near impossibility of distilling those recordings down as far as the forthcoming double-disc Bruce Cockburn’s Greatest Hits (1970-2020) due to arrive courtesy of his longtime record label True North on December 3, 2021. Nevertheless, the timing is significant. The next day he’s due to be accorded yet another honor, induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto.
‘It was supposed to be a gala ceremony’ Cockburn notes. ‘Now it's going to be virtual. I'm not quite sure what that means’.
Despite whatever disappointment may lurk given the make-up of the event, Cockburn’s overall enthusiasm hasn’t waned. Now a resident of San Francisco, he’s looking forward to getting back out on the road for what he’s euphemistically dubbed his ‘2nd Attempt Tour’, a victory lap to mark his half century anniversary after its cancellation due to covid.
The Alternate Root recently had an opportunity to talk with Cockburn on the eve of the anthology’s release for a wide-ranging discussion about his art, his activism and his reasons for still making music.
With 50 years worth of recordings, it must have been a tough choice to narrow it all down.
I'm not sure whose concept it was, but it seemed like a good one. It might have been the record company’s, but they wanted an album called Greatest Hits. Of course, calling all these songs ‘hits’ is a little bit of a stretch. But they were all intended to be hits. That’s what made it simple. We chose all the songs that were singles that we that we ended for radio over the years. That made it quite a simple choice really. One or two things that could have been in there might have gotten left out, but basically it was just that. It's like so many per decade.
I would think a lot simpler rather than having to go through and select favorite album tracks.Yes, and then fighting with each other over whose best stuff would dominate. In the end, that would likely be mine. But there's always good discussions to be had. So that was all avoided by just going with the singles. To me, the merit of that is that for the most part, those are songs that people audiences find and they can relate to easily. They're not the only ones. I get requests for much more complex songs than the ones that ended up on this collection. In general, they’re the songs that people come to the shows hoping to hear. And so it makes sense to put it all out like that as a package.
You also had a commemorative tour planned, did you not?We were we were supposed to be celebrating my 50 years of recording and last year of course, those celebrations were put on hold. So now we're gonna be touring with the second attempt at the 50th anniversary tour.
It’s a great name. ‘The Second Attempt’.Well, everybody can relate to that at this point. It seemed like a smart idea at the time.
Do you ever look back in awe at the fact that you've been able to maintain such a prolific stance for over 50 years, and that you're still doing it.‘Awe’ isn’t exactly the word I'd use, but I certainly do have gratitude. You know, yes, it is kind of amazing. If anybody had asked me when I started out, I wouldn't have much of an answer. Anything beyond 20 years would have seemed kind of implausible. But, but here we are. It’s just what happens when you don't die?
I guess in the beginning, there was no way to know that it would evolve the way it's evolved. When you made those early recordings, were you just thinking about one album at a time?That's really as far as I took it. And as far as I still take it, actually.
This career of yours has continued to unfold and evolve. The early albums were in that folky sort of vein, but then you quickly accelerated and got very direct in the messaging that you were sharing, what with the activism and, shall we say, the outrage, “If I had a Rocket Launcher” is an amazing song. It doesn't hold back, shall we say.
It didn't come out of nowhere. It came out of a very specific set of circumstances, but that reaction for me was so raw.
So how did your writing tend to evolve early on? Were you becoming more aware of wanting to make a statement?
It's hard for me to see it in general terms like that. Each song has its own backstory, I suppose you could say that over time, yes, there was certainly an evolution. There were other songs that we thought were worth sharing with people that ended up on the first couple of albums. The stuff I started out writing was derivative, just kind of all anything that I wasn't very fussy about . But then I started giving more depth to the lyrics and it became a bit psychedelic and kind of unfolded over time. Later the focus became one of a spiritual approach and that's an ongoing theme that runs through all of my tracks really. In the old days, it was expressed in terms of the imagery of nature and the ways of relating to nature. Then it became more about activism in the form “Rocket Launcher”.
Was there like a certain point, an ‘aha’ moment where you said to yourself, I want to switch the focus and go in a different direction in order to bring in elements that maybe I hadn't before?
There were little things like that, little occasions, but not really major ones. Like I said, it was mostly it's one song at a time. I was getting typecast, and I found it extremely irritating. So, I wanted to make an album that sounded more like a city record. So, I got a band, I played some electric guitar here and there and got quite a different feel. It turned out to be a popular move. That was one of those moments, but it kind of in reaction to that typecasting.
So, what was the reaction like?
I was freaked out by it. I was used to coffee house audiences that sat there in a kind of reverent state. They never really responded very much. So, to have people actually hooting and hollering was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got to stop this’. So, I went the other way, and made an album called Salt, Sun and Time, which basically was minimalist, just guitars and voice. Most of the record was a couple of other bits and pieces, here and there, but it had the effect that I wanted, to dampen everything down. Nobody was that interested in it, but over time, it stands up. There's one song on that one, “All the Diamonds” which is one of those songs that people have attached themselves to, along with a couple of other things. So, when you asked about aha moments, there were those, but they were reactive. It wasn't like me discovering something. I was in the process of reacting, discovering things. The Humans album would be the next one of those moments, but not with respect to any individual song. It just seemed very different from the album before it. That was really the culmination of the ‘70s, I suppose. Humans did seem to be starting out in a new direction, but I didn't spend any time thinking about what that might be. It just was clear that it might be that and, and Humans seemed like a good title. As it turned out, it fits the whole decade rather well.
These albums that you're that you're mentioning seemed to raise the bar, whether consciously or not consciously. Did you feel like you were raising the bar? Was there a point where you said to yourself, I have to make these statements, I can't retreat, I have to give them what they want?
You have to remember that at one point a long time ago, in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution in China, as horrible as that was in a way, the concept of having a periodic revolution was a worthwhile idea. It also applies on the personal level, perhaps even better than it does on the social or political level. You just need to shake yourself up every now and then and not be complacent, and not settle into habitual ways of doing things. So, for me, that has happened every now and then. Sometimes they've been associated with the breakup of relationships, sometimes with travel, sometimes with sort of spiritual insight. And where it relates to your question is that people create these expectations for themselves. I was getting typecast as the ‘back-to-nature guy’, or as something else I got for a while. I was a Christian singer, quote/unquote, and people who weren't comfortable with that, as it turned out, mostly they stuck around. And then, you know, with the release of Stealing Fire, I became a political singer, quote/unquote. And some people didn't like that. So other people were drawn to that and really liked it. And that actually really expanded my own audience all around the world, or at least the part of the world that I get to travel in. But then there was the danger of being typecast as a political singer.
That’s too narrow a focus for an artist like yourself.
TV will not deal with me, especially in the United States, because they think I'm ugly. I'm too political. On the other hand, that's only a small part of what I've done over the course my career. But if it seems to prevent people from seeing past that, if they if they don't like that, then it seems it's hard for them to see past it. And there's nothing much I can do about that, except, be me, and carry on and do what I do so. So that's what I do.
Well, maybe, just maybe, with this greatest hits album, that view will change and allow people to really see who you are. For those people who are less familiar with your deeper catalogue, it's going to be a good initial overview. The fact is that you are an extremely diverse artist. You have a real-world view. And with three dozen or something albums, there’s a lot to absorb.
If I meet somebody who doesn't know my stuff, and they say, what should I check out first?, I don't know what to tell them after 33 albums or however many it is. I'm not sure what we're up to now. They've all got good songs on them. If I think they like the acoustic stuff, I would steer them one way, but with my live show, I’ve got a cross section of material from different categories and different times. It's a pretty good representation of what I have to offer in a solo context. There are some live bands that I have had, but they're not really that representative of what I was doing with my current band. Then again, I'm not touring with the band right now anyway, so it doesn't matter. I guess my live albums are a way to get around having to steer people in any certain direction. Still, it might be nice if if the greatest hits were really considered the greatest hits.
2 November 2021 - Bruce Cockburn is a singer songwriter that is cross between Phil Ochs and Robert Johnson. Lyrically his compositions are politically and spiritually charged with driving hook-laden melodies while they are delivered using stellar guitar accompaniment. Cockburn is one of those performers that can entertain audiences equally as well with either an electric guitar and full band or solo with only an acoustic guitar. Musically he is a guitar virtuoso with a baritone voice that has mesmerized his fans for five decades. His songs cover a gamut of subjects ranging from politics and human rights to the environment and religion. His extraordinary guitar playing prowess covers a range of styles from jazz and finger picking country blues to hard rock with feedback laden guitar solos. Over the past five decades, he’s released over two dozen studio albums of original compositions and entertained audiences around the world. His travels through Central America along with Europe and Asia as far as Tibet during the 1980s gave him the subject matter for some of his best songs. At 76 years of age, he is still going strong, and prior to embarking on a concert tour beginning in December, “True North Records” is releasing a 30 song double CD of Bruce Cockburn’s Greatest Hits (1970-2020). Blues Rock Review talked to Bruce about his upcoming tour and delved into the message of his music.
How did you choose the 30 songs on your upcoming Greatest Hits (1970 – 2020)?
They are all singles. It’s a bit of an exaggeration I’d say but they were all songs that we would have liked to have been hits and some of them actually were. They are all the singles that were fired in the direction of radio.
I’m very familiar with your work because I’ve been following you since 1980 and have just about all your albums so I know that even if all of them weren’t radio hits they are the ones that stand out.
Among them certainly are the songs that people have kind of embraced more than others so we can use the term hits metaphorically. Some of those songs were not particularly noticed, others were, and some of them were noticed in certain regions and others in other regions and that kind of thing. So some of them like “Rocket Launcher,” “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” among others got significant national attention so that made them obvious. So basically it’s all the songs that had been singles and I think that we left one out that we intended to include.
What are your favorite three out of the thirty?
“Night Train” is one of my favorites of the songs I’ve written along with “All the Diamonds in the World” and “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long.” Those are always songs that I liked to play myself the whole way along and not just to record or perform but myself, “I’m able to relate to those songs over and over, and over and over again. They’re the ones that stand out in my mind. “Going to the Country” I think stands up pretty well. It’s hard to pick favorites really.
“Mama Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long” is an obviously blues driven composition. What blues artists over the years have inspired you?
Back in the day, many I mean, I listen to less blues stuff now than I did when I was learning to play guitar, learning to fingerpick let’s say because I already knew how to play guitar when I discovered that music when I was introduced to it, but really the people who influenced me as a guitar player were Brownie McGhee, Mississippi John Hurt, Mance Lipscomb, and country blues generally even though Brownie is not necessarily country blues. It was the folk blues that you could hear in the 1960s that was a very strong influence on me. There was Blind Willie Johnson but you wouldn’t hear him in my guitar playing. I don’t play like him at all but as an inspiration, he’s right up there. It was those guys kind of mixed with jazz players that I listened to a lot that really shaped the way I play guitar.
Like Django Reinhardt?
No, not like Django Reinhardt but Wes Montgomery and Gabor Szabo. Django was a brilliant player and I loved his music but it wasn’t an influence on me particularly with the exception of the tune called “Lulosabat” from the mid 1970s. The early 1970s, that kind of self consciously swingy style but it’s not Django style, it’s just basically the structure of the tune or reminiscent of that. But no, the guitar players that interested me were in the jazz world more. The guys that were sort of interesting in the 1960s when I was really getting into that music. As I said there was Wes Montgomery and Gabor Szabo who a lot of people don’t know about him but he’s really great. When I encountered him he was playing with the “Chico Hamilton Quintet.” Sometimes a quartet and sometimes a quintet and they made three albums with that configuration. They are brilliant records and Charles Lloyd’s compositions shaped my sense of music to a great degree too but Gabor Szabo’s playing on those records is really brilliant. His own records, he made a couple under his own name that are not as interesting. They kind of give you a taste of what he was doing and I heard him live with Chico Hamilton but I kind of wish I could have heard him live as himself because I think that what is hinted at on his records would have been really great live but they didn’t quite catch it. Those three albums from the early to mid-1960s were really great. You can find them and one was called Man From Two Worlds that are under Chico Hamilton’s name and there’s one called A Different Journey, it’s a really good one.
He’s probably the biggest single influence on my jazz playing but I listened to everybody. John Abercrombie was a classmate of mine at Berklee and I got to watch him play up close. There were all kinds of people around. I’ve always been drawn towards wanting to do something like everything I hear that I like. So if I listen to a “Bartok String Quartet” I want to do something just like that. If I listen to Robert Wilkens singing “I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down” I want to do something just like that. It was just the way that I was sort of built. In the case of the Robert Wilkens’s song, I actually learned the song and I’m capable of performing that but that is not true of “Bartok String Quartets.” When these influences come in sometimes they’re pretty audible, most of the time they’re kind of mixed in with all kinds of other influences so it’s not so obvious.
Are You Going to be performing solo or with a band on your upcoming tour?
These will be solo shows.
So it will be you and an acoustic guitar?
Pretty much me and a couple of different ones.
In 1983 when you wrote “The Trouble With Normal” on the album of the same name, it had a line about “the planet lurching to the right,” It seems like it’s lurching more towards the left now. How do you see it?
I think the opposite, I think it is lurching even more to the right. I think that’s what all the populist crap is about. That’s what the anti-vaxxers are about. It’s not across the board and you may be right because what I see as a swing to the right may produce a backlash that will bring a more socialist view in popularity but I just see everywhere that I look around the globe at these would be dictators rousing their populations against somebody, against minorities, against refugees, against something else and it seems to be global so I don’t think that it’s going to the left.
Do you think that the policies from back when you wrote “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” in the early 1980s contributed towards the situation going on today with the mass immigration into the US?
I think it’s simplistic to try and put just one cause to it but I think from the ’80s and earlier. From the 50s really onwards through the ’80s have had an effect that we’re feeling now, that’s for sure, certainly with respect to Central America. Other parts of the world I know less about.
Who would you aim your rocket launcher at today?
Well, I’m not really looking for anybody to aim. It was a reaction to a situation at the time and I hope that I never find myself in a comparable situation. Who do I think represents a major threat to the United States and to the world? There’s quite a long list of them actually and they are the people that think money is more important than life, especially other people’s lives. They’re steering us in a very bad direction. I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that all but you can’t take one issue or even a set of issues and isolate them and say we can focus on this to the exclusion of other things. So you can’t say that climate change is the big issue facing us. It might be the most dire one that is threatening on the larger scale but along with that goes the trend away from democratic values. I think people are afraid and when people are afraid they want to make everything simple and have somebody else make choices for them and tell them it’s okay. We’re seeing a lot of that around and to some extent, that fear is caused by climate change but it’s also the pandemic, it’s also all the conspiracy theories. It’s just around and just like the cliché the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. It’s not exactly that simple but certainly if we could get past testing our surroundings and the things that come at us in terms of fear we would have a better chance of dealing with those things.
One of your most popular songs is “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” from that same time period. Are we now living in a less, the same or more dangerous time?
Somewhere in the world, it’s always dangerous. I don’t know if it’s more dangerous now. I think that we’re getting closer and closer to it. I believe in the science that I’ve been exposed to that says we are getting closer and closer to an irreversible tipping point in respect to environmental conditions. The environmental conditions that we’re familiar with are essential to life as we know it and that’s pretty dangerous. I don’t know if you can get more dangerous than that. We haven’t lost any of the other stuff. We still have diseases that ravage us. We still have the threat of nuclear war. Nobody talks about it but it’s still there. We still have an endless number of threats that we’ve created ourselves. So it’s at least as dangerous, certainly not less dangerous but like I said, I think that anybody’s time is dangerous if you look at the things that threaten.
In the song “A Dream Like Mine” you talk about walking with the power of a thousand generations. What did you mean by that?
I was thinking of the revivalists is kind of what you would call it sort of, the revival of moral among indigenous people. I mean that is what that song is about, what I had seen myself. When I first became acquainted with people from that background in the early 1970s you could see what had happened, you could see the demoralization that had been inflicted on them partly by design, partly by the flow of history. You could see the negative effect of stuff like the residential schools and so on has had but you could also see that people were coming out from under that and my generation, my contemporaries that I was meeting really had this great sense of pride and who they were and a sense of identification with the best of their history. That to me was exciting to see and very, a dumb kind of word, but heartwarming. The song came along a little bit later than that but it was written and intended to be part of a film score. To be the main theme of the music that was made of the same name. Originally it was going to be of the same name which was based on a book of the same name, a Canadian novel about a kind of archetypal native spirit character warrior who comes back to life. He walks out of a lake at the beginning of the book and he’s not a very nice guy actually but quite a ferocious person but he represents that warrior spirit coming back. I got the idea from the title of the book and reading the book and then just as a flow. As it turned out the director of the film didn’t like my ideas. So I ended up not doing the music for the film but the song was there anyway. I thought it was good actually and I was happy to get it.
When Jerry Garcia was alive the Dead used to perform your song “Waiting For a Miracle.” Did you like their version?
I was really glad they did it. I wish that Jerry got the words right.
A miracle for a “Deadhead” was a free ticket to the concert.
There are many kinds of miracles.
Before we conclude the interview is there anything that you would like to talk about that you feel is important to you at the present.
Not especially but I’m really looking forward to doing these shows that are coming up and I’m really hoping they happen. We’re all carrying on, on the assumption that they will happen but given the situation, we’re all in you can’t take anything for granted. So I’m itching to get out there and play these songs for people.
Concerts have been happening and hopefully they will continue.
If we don’t get another big wave of COVID I think they’ll happen for sure. The big unknown, of course, is whether or not and it’s only a month away now, more or less before they start so as it gets closer the odds get better of everything working.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and I look forward to seeing you when you come to Portland. Have a good rest of your day.
You too, thank you. I appreciate your interest.
19 October 2021 - With 34 previous releases, 13 JUNO wins, two Hall of Fame inductions, countless honorary Doctorates, Officer of The Order of Canada — and new inductee into Canada’s Walk of Fame this year — all spanning a 50+ year career — it’s no small task to encapsulate Bruce Cockburn’s inimitable imprint when it comes to Canadian music and culture. But his newly announced double-album release, Bruce Cockburn Greatest Hits (1970 - 2020), is a good place to start.
Curated by Bruce Cockburn and set for release December 3rd, 2021 via True North Records, this definitive collection meticulously corrals the acclaimed singer/songwriter’s most favoured tracks — from songs that shot to the top of the charts upon release, to long-lauded fan-favourites requested on tour, time and time again.
Expect to settle in for a chronological journey from the legendary artist’s earliest offerings, to today; curated by Cockburn himself, the hand-picked selection of 30 songs revisit works from 1970 to 2020, and are accompanied by exclusive notes from the artist.
“In 1969, when I was feeling the need to record an album of the songs I’d been writing, I had no concept of what that might lead to,” Cockburn shares. “Not unusual for a young person, I guess...
“In some organic way, it felt like it was ‘time.’ The future wasn’t really an issue. It still isn’t. For each of us, there’s a future or there isn’t.
“But looking back over the arc of fifty years of recording, performing, and travel — not to mention, relationships and personal challenges — I can only shake my head and mutter a word of thanks for all of it. Even if I’d been a planner by nature, I doubt I could have predicted how things have gone.
“And they’re still going!”
The release lands ahead of Cockburn’s “2nd Attempt” North American tour for his 50th Anniversary Concert, previously stymied by Covid restrictions.
TOUR DATES or HERE
Bruce Cockburn’s Greatest Hits (1970 - 2020) is available December 3rd, 2021 via True North Records.
You may sign up for PRE-ORDERS HERE
The first 100 CDs ordered from the True North Records labelstore will be autographed by Bruce.
15 October 2021 - Here's a beautiful version of Bruce Cockburn's "Thoughts On A Rainy Afternoon" done by the Canadian Brass with special guest Bruce Cockburn. The song is originally from Bruce's first album released in 1970.
8 October 2021 - Indigenous Leaders, Scientists, Business Execs, Artists, Athletes, Politicians Send Joint Message to BC Premier
Today, more than 200 prominent people, acclaimed in their respective fields, have issued an open letter to the Premier of British Columbia calling for the immediate protection of BC’s irreplaceable old growth forests. The signatories range from a former Prime Minister, former Environment Ministers, former NASA scientists, Indigenous leaders, Oscar, Grammy, and Juno award winners, Olympic gold medalists, and even a Star Trek Captain.
Continue reading https://canopyplanet.org/200-dignitaries-call-for-immediate-protection-of-british-columbias-large-old-growth-forests/
3 September 2021 - Paste Studio on the Road at Napa Valley: Sept. 3-5
Paste Studio on the Road heads west today for three days at the Dos Colinas estate in Napa Valley.
Read about the line up and more here: Paste Magazine
Each of the following sessions will be live-streamed on our Youtube and Facebook channels, as well as right here on PasteMagazine.com, where you’ll be able to go back and listen to all of your favorites whenever you like.
Saturday, Sept. 4
2:00pm – Bruce Cockburn
30 August 2021 - True North has just put up a great playlist of some of Bruce's covers. It ranges from kd Lang to Jerry Garcia and worth hearing. It's currently on both Spotify and Apple
Here's the links to get you there but of course you must be a subscriber to use it. ~ Bernie Finkelstein
18 June 2020 -
"Of course Black Lives Matter. And yes, all lives matter, but are all lives affected by police brutality and the fear of it? How striking is that phrase: police brutality. The fact that the joining of those 2 words has become a standard part of the language is revealing of a set of expectations that should shock us into a universal rejection of a certain facet of law enforcement. We need cops. We need to be able to offer them respect and appreciation. We need them not to be killing and otherwise abusing people of color...or anyone else. We need them not to be abusing the extraordinary legal powers we give them so they can properly carry out the tasks society requires of them."
"Those abuses are too often manifestations of the racism virus that is endemic and systemic among us. Caucasians need to own that. We can’t change history but we need to pay attention. We must understand how we got to where we are. Not just the awful history of slavery, but the more subtle stuff too...the assumptions masquerading as smug tolerance, the lip service paid to the fiction of equal opportunity. We can’t fix what we don’t recognize. Living under, or next to, a US administration whose prime directive seems to be to promote divisiveness and fear, we should jump at this opportunity to understand each other, to do all the bridge building we can." - Bruce Cockburn
27 May 2020 - Today, as Bruce Cockburn reaches his 75th year, we can rejoice that he is still a stealer of fire, dancing his sunwheel dance in the falling dark of the dragon’s jaws. Roots Music Canada joins the rest of the world in celebrating his birthday, his music, his Junos, his doctorates, his investiture into the Order of Canada, his inductions into numerous musical Halls of Fame, his redemptive presence as a cosmic troubadour in Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren & The Shack by William P. Young, his performances on Saturday Night Live and at Pete Seeger’s birthday party, and his perilous witness, from the front lines of fear, at scenes of political violence around the globe.
Examine his talents. How much faceting can one diamond sustain? Lyrical master of specifically Canadian imagery, startlingly complex guitar explorer, bold mystic with Christian / Taoist / Buddhist / Sufi sleeves proudly spread, one of the original bilingual folk singers (ses textes ont été imprimés en français depuis l’époque de Trudeau), international peace-seeker, singer of both delicacy and urgency, shy public figure, punky Gemini, outspoken political critic and beacon, muscular ecologist, memoirist (Rumours Of Glory, 2014), gentleman feminist, and member of the all-star Canadian chorus, the Northern Lights, that rose up to roar out the crucial ”Let’s show ‘em Canada still cares!” line on the African famine relief anthem “Tears Are Not Enough.”
Bruce is waiting out this current deterioration of normal at home in San Francisco, “quite a lot busier than what used to be normal,” he reported, “(fathering), listening and reading: Fernando Pessoa’s novel The Book of Disquiet, William Gibson’s Agency, and poetry by Charles Bukowski, Joan Logghe and Wislawa Szymborska. For music, it’s pretty random. Recent listens include YouTube videos of David Russell’s stunning guitar playing as well as various performances by Voces8, Charles Mingus’ Tijuana Moods (an old favorite), the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, and Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht.”
In honour of this birthday, one of Bruce’s first musical friends who celebrated his own 75th in March,, Sneezy Waters, recalled the beginning stages of his journey, saying “When I failed Grade 12 (from too much folly) my parents thought it would be a good idea to switch schools and buckle down. So at Nepean H.S. I ran into Bruce. He told me he played guitar, so I brought my Martin to school one day, and after school we went over to his house to jam. He brought out his guitar, which was a big Gibson hollow-body, just like Wes Montgomery played, and a lovely Ampeg jazz amp. He played so well but wasn’t the least [bit] boastful. He also loved Grant Green’s playing. We really had a good time and arranged many more jams.
“We eventually formed a band called The Children, along with my friends Nev Wells, Sandy Crawley and Chris Anderson. He played some keyboards for us and also played a 12-string, along with a Telecaster.
He was writing back then and encouraging the rest of us to write songs.
The rest, for both of us, is history.”
Fellow musician Ian Tamblyn, who worked with him on 2008’s Dancing Alone: The Songs of William Hawkins, remarked on Bruce’s “composure and openness” in the studio. He also had the honour, in 2014, of presenting Bruce with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Carlton University for his work in environmental, First Nations and social causes. In his presentation, Ian noted that “Bruce has had three overriding themes in his work: his great spiritual search, his dedicated call for social justice in the world, and his articulation of the collision of human relationships in these dangerous times.” He continued, “Bruce Cockburn has been both bold and courageous, whether it be in his work with Lloyd Axworthy to end the use of land mines, his environmental work with David Suzuki and Greenpeace, his work on behalf of the Unitarian Service, or his demands for democratic and environmental rights in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mozambique or Mali.”
His outstanding personal qualities have kept him rooted in long-lasting friendships. Publicist Jane Harbury, who has been buddies with him since their days together at Toronto’s fabled Riverboat, respects him for being always “funny, smart and gracious.” She elaborated: “He doesn’t change on a personal level. He has an ability to make people want to love him. And he remembers everything.” She recalled him best, “coming in the back door of the club in a fluffy old hat with his big dog Aroo.”
Illustrator Michael Wrycraft, who has designed the last nine of Bruce’s album covers, revealed that, “although he comes across as serious, Bruce is actually very light-hearted. Once you get past his professional presence, you find out he has a great laugh.” Their creative collaboration in bringing the unique visuals that accompany every new record together is consistently stress-free (with the exception of the altered American cover of You’ve Never Seen Everything, “which the record company thought looked like speed metal, or the devil.”). Of Bruce’s part in the process, Michael confided, “He plants a germ, a tiny seed of an idea, usually drawn from the album title; and after extensive chat, I come back with the work, and he says “That’s great!” Bruce’s loyalty to Michael’s vision has now stretched over 21 years. Manager Bernie Finkelstein has guided his career for over 50 years now, based upon a handshake.
Michael Reinhart is a composer/singer-songwriter and visual artist who has released five albums, the most recent being eCHO. He lives and works in both Montréal, QC and Edmonton, AB. Recently he’s been creating several new instrumental guitar pieces. He has been a Cockburn fan since his teens. “I loved that on those seminal albums, with so many instrumentals featured, above all I could hear the rich wood tone of the guitar, moreso than the metal of the strings, an analogue sound I still aspire to myself. I’ve never been much interested in doing cover versions, but among the few that I have attempted, ‘Foxglove’ was one that, despite the initial frustrations and physical pain involved, was invaluable to my finding my own way, my own style, my own sound.”
Michael has composed a gamboling birthday air to pay tribute to his musical mentor
On behalf of all of his friends and fans at Roots Music Canada, we would like to say “Steady on Mr. C., and well done.”
A recent release, Bruce Cockburn – True North – 50th Anniversary Box Set with five LPs became available this month.
4 May 2020 - TORONTO, ON, May 4, 2020 -- To be active and relevant in music for 50 years is a significant achievement for any individual recording artist. The same can be said for any independent record label. To achieve this milestone together as an artist and label team without interruption, has to be one of the most extraordinarily rare events in music.
To celebrate this milestone, Bruce Cockburn and True North Records have produced True North - A 50th Anniversary Box Set, a Limited Edition vinyl box set containing three of Bruce’s most significant recordings. The first album where it all started, the self-titled debut Bruce Cockburn along with two albums that have never before been released on vinyl; The Charity of Night and Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu. Each album has been re-mastered by Bruce’s long-time producer Colin Linden, and is pressed on coloured vinyl. The five-180 gram discs are contained in original artwork sleeves adapted from the original designs by the acclaimed graphic designer Michael Wrycraft, and housed in an individually numbered box signed personally by the artist. There will be only a limited initial pressing.
Bruce Cockburn was the first artist signed to True North Records, the tenacious independent label founded by Bruce’s manager Bernie Finkelstein and first operated from a Yorkville Avenue phone booth. Bruce’s debut self titled album was the label’s first album release on April 7, 1970, produced by Eugene Martynec, with the catalog number TN1. Fifty years on, Bruce Cockburn still records for True North Records, which released his 34th album “Crowing Ignites” in late 2019.
Bruce says, “In 1969, when I was feeling the need to record an album of the songs I’d been writing, I had no concept of what that might lead to. In some organic way it felt like it was time. The future wasn’t really an issue. It still isn’t. For each of us, there’s a future or there isn’t. “But looking back over the arc of 50 years of recording, performing, and travel, not to mention relationships and personal challenges,” he continued, “I can only shake my head and mutter a word of thanks for all of it.”
Cockburn concluded: “Even if I’d been a planner by nature, I doubt I could have predicted how things have gone… and they’re still going!”
Pre-order your copy now! Limited Edition, Numbered Albums available! A limited number of True North - A 50th Anniversary Box Sets are being produced. All orders will be shipped to arrive on September 25th, 2020 . Lowest box numbers will be assigned to the earliest orders.
Cockburn has also scheduled fall tour dates celebrating the 50th Anniversary.
Additional updates and ticket information can be found through the official Bruce Cockburn website and the complete list of tour dates is below. [ Tour Dates ].
Although Mr. Finkelstein sold True North Records to entrepreneurs Geoff Kulawick, Harvey Glatt and Michael Pilon in 2007, True North continues to be a vital independent label signing and releasing records by Bruce alongside many of Canada’s leading singer-songwriters and musicians including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Murray McLauchlan, Matt Andersen, Colin James, Sass Jordan, Sue Foley, Natalie MacMaster and Jimmy Rankin.
Bruce Cockburn: True North - A 50th Anniversary Box Set - TND750 - Bruce Cockburn (LP) | A Charity of Night (2LP) | Breakfast In New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (2LP) - 5 x 180 Gram Colored Vinyl Discs original artwork sleeves.
Bruce Cockburn 2020 anniversary Tour Dates.
~from True North Records.
FEATURED:Bruce Cockburn's 34th album
12 June 2019 - Release date: September 20, 2019
Listen to / share “Blind Willie” from Crowing Ignites and pre-order here.
In 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, a collection of instrumental tracks that shone the spotlight on the singer-songwriter’s exceptional acoustic guitar playing. The album earned Cockburn a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and underscored his stature as one of the world’s premier pickers.
Already, The New York Times had credited Cockburn with having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business,” adding that he “materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music’s pulse and its foundation—at once a deep Celtic drone and the throb of a vigilant conscience.” Acoustic Guitar magazine was similarly laudatory in citing Cockburn’s guitar prowess, placing him in the prestigious company of legends like Andrés Segovia. Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt.
Now, with the intriguingly titled Crowing Ignites, Cockburn has released another dazzling instrumental album that will further cement his reputation as both an exceptional composer and a picker with few peers. Unlike Speechless, which included mostly previously recorded tracks, the latest album—Cockburn’s 34th—features 11 brand new compositions. Although there’s not a single word spoken or sung, it’s as eloquent and expressive as any of the Canadian Hall of Famer’s lyric-laden albums. As his long-time producer, Colin Linden, puts it: “It’s amazing how much Bruce can say without saying anything.”
The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto “Accendit Cantu” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.” The album’s other nod to Cockburn’s Scottish heritage is heard on “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley,” in which his guitar’s droning bass strings and melodic grace notes sound eerily like a Highland bagpipe. “I’ve always loved pibroch, or classic bagpipe music,” says Cockburn. “It seems to be in my blood. Makes me want to sip whisky out of a sea shell on some rocky headland!”
While Cockburn reconnecting with his Gaelic roots is one of Crowing Ignites’ more surprising elements, there’s plenty else that will delight followers of his adventurous pursuits. Says Linden, who’s been a fan of Cockburn’s for 49 years, has produced 10 of his albums and played on the two before that: “Bruce is always trying new things, and I continue to be fascinated by where he goes musically.”
The album is rich in styles from folk and blues to jazz, all genres Cockburn has previously explored. But there are also deepening excursions into what might be called free-form world music. The hypnotic, kalimba-laden “Seven Daggers” and the trance-inducing “Bells of Gethsemane,” full of Tibetan cymbals, chimes and singing bowls, are highly atmospheric dreamscapes that showcase Cockburn’s world of wonders—and his improvisational gifts on both 12-string and baritone guitars. Each track was wholly created in the makeshift studio he and Linden put together in a converted fire station in Cockburn’s San Francisco neighbourhood.
Singing bowls, Cockburn explains, are an endless source of fascination to him, dating back to a trip he took to Kathmandu, as seen in the documentary Return to Nepal. There, Cockburn stumbled on a man selling the small inverted bells sometimes used in Buddhist religious practices and became instantly captivated by their vibrational power. “I had no particular attraction to them as meditation tools or anything,” says Cockburn. “I just thought they had a beautiful sound.” After buying half a dozen in Kathmandu and more since, he now has a sizeable collection.
Two tracks on Crowing Ignites had their origins elsewhere. “The Groan,” a bluesy piece with guitar, mandolin and some collective handclapping from a group that includes Cockburn’s seven-year-old daughter, Iona, was something Cockburn composed for a Les Stroud documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting and the healing power of nature. And Cockburn wrote the jazz-tinged “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” for the Group of Seven Guitar Project on an instrument inspired by artist Lawren Harris and custom-made by luthier Linda Manzer. It was originally recorded, with cornet player Ron Miles, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Gary Craig, for Cockburn’s 2017 album Bone on Bone, but not released until now.
Cockburn doesn’t set out with any particular agenda when composing an instrumental. “It’s more about coming up with an interesting piece,” he says. “Who knows what triggers it—the mood of the day or a dream from the night before. Often the pieces are the result of sitting practicing or fooling around on the guitar. When I find something I like, I work it into a full piece.”
“Bardo Rush,” with its urgent, driving rhythm, came after one such dream, while the contemplative “Easter” and the mournful “April in Memphis” were composed on Easter Sunday and Martin Luther Day respectively. “Blind Willie,” named for one of Cockburn’s blues heroes, Blind Willie Johnson, features a fiery guitar and dobro exchange with Linden (Cockburn has previously recorded Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” on Nothing But a Burning Light). And the idea for the sprightly “Sweetness and Light,” featuring some of Cockburn’s best fingerpicking, developed quickly and its title, he says, became immediately obvious.
Meanwhile, “Angels in the Half Light” is steeped in dark and light colors and conveys ominous shades as well as feelings of hopefulness, seemingly touching on both spiritual and political concerns—hallmarks of Cockburn from day one. “It’s hard for me to imagine what people’s response is going to be to these pieces,” he says. “It’s different from songs with lyrics, where you hope listeners will understand, intellectually and emotionally, what you’re trying to convey. With instrumental stuff, that specificity isn’t there and the meaning is up for grabs. But I’m glad if people find a message in the music.”
More than 40 years since he embarked on his singer-songwriter career, Cockburn continues pushing himself to create—and winning accolades in the process. Most recently, the Order of Canada recipient earned a 2018 Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for Bone on Bone, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Peoples’ Voice Award from Folk Alliance International and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Cockburn, who released his memoir, Rumours of Glory, and its similarly titled companion box set the same year, shows no sign of stopping. As his producer-friend Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.”
~ True North Records. Photo Daniel Keebler. Cover art Michael Wrycraft.
April In Memphis
The Mt. Lefroy Waltz
Sweetness And Light
Angels In The Half Light
Pibroch: The Wind In The Valley
Bells Of Gethsemane