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Also on Wednesday March 13, you can watch a live performance webcast through Concert Window.
And Toronto Now - Bruce Cockburn makes music in dangerous times (13 May 1984) link added to this page.
Many articles that were on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
Interview by Daniel Lumpkin for Christianity Today
And the CBC - Q interview is up (March 23).
FAN REPORTS FROM PAST SHOWS
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Bruce Cockburn's Official Facebook Page.
The Cockburn Project
is a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The central focus of the Project is the ongoing archiving of Cockburn's self-commentary on his songs, albums, and issues. You will also find news, tour dates, an online store, and other current information.
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May 14, 2013 - Bruce's film, Pacing the Cage, the documentary, will be opening for a short run in Toronto at the Carleton Theatre on May 24 and 25. Bernie Finkelstein and the director Joel Goldberg will be doing a Q&A after the 7 PM screening. Bernie says he will be around to answer any questions, and would love to see any Bruce fans from Toronto at the show.
May 3, 2013 - Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn was at McMaster University Tuesday night to take part in a celebration of his recent donation of a huge chunk of his personal archives to McMaster University.
It's hard to be humble when one of Canada's top academic institutions enshrines your life's work alongside collections representing the careers of philosopher Bertrand Russell, and authors Farley Mowat, Margaret Laurence and Pierre Berton.
But Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn managed to be just that Tuesday night at a reception to honour the donation of his personal notebooks, correspondence, recordings, photos and memorabilia to the McMaster University archives.
The Ottawa-born writer of songs such as Lovers in a Dangerous Time and If I Had a Rocket Launcher sat quietly in the front row at Convocation Hall, listening to a string quartet perform instrumental versions his music.
Cockburn, 67, then heard university provost David Wilkinson tell the 180 invited guests and dignitaries assembled there what a significant gift the collection represents to the institution.
When called to the stage to say a few words, Cockburn bashfully downplayed the importance of his gift.
"I want to thank McMaster University for graciously accepting all my crap," joked Cockburn, who is known almost as much for his social activism as for his music.
Cockburn spoke for about 10 minutes, relating anecdotes from a career that spans five decades. He told the audience about the time he brought a shoulder bag filled with unarmed landmines to an anti-mine news conference at Parliament Hill, much to the chagrin of the Centre Block security guards.
"My major regret is that I couldn't include those landmines in the donation to McMaster," Cockburn deadpanned. "But I had to give them back."
During the reception, several artists performed versions of Cockburn's songs. The rock group Of Gentlemen and Cowards, all of whom are former McMaster students, sang an acoustic version of Wondering Where the Lions Are.
Hamilton's Tom Wilson sang All the Diamonds and Colin Linden, who flew in from Nashville for the event, sang Anything Anytime Anywhere.
Wilson and Linden are members of the group Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and are longtime friends and collaborators of Cockburn.
The Cockburn collection is stored in 63 boxes of varying size in the basement of McMaster's Mills Memorial Library. It includes correspondence from notable figures such as former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, former cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and John Crosbie, environmentalist David Suzuki, Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and singer Anne Murray.
The collection also includes fan letters, photos, tour shirts, recordings, videos and guitars, all carefully catalogued in a 64-page finders' guide for researchers.
The core of the archives, however, is found in 32 personal notebooks, in which Cockburn wrote many of his songs, as well as snippets of poetry and day-to-day observations.
The notebooks, which cover the years 1969 to 2002, offer insight into how Cockburn worked his songwriting craft.
"That process is documented in the mongrel assortment of stationery that is now in the hands of McMaster," he said.
~from Cockburn thanks Mac for taking his ‘mongrel assortment by Graham Rockingham - TheSpec. Photo by Scott Gardener / The Spec
May 9, 2013 - Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s best loved musicians and composers, has donated his archives to McMaster, including his notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings, and even three guitars.
“These are my tools, my rough drafts, my mementoes and my trophies. Together, they form the roadmap of my working life,” says Cockburn. “I’m pleased they will have a safe and permanent home in a place where they may be useful to others.”
The collection includes 32 of Cockburn’s notebooks from 1969 to 2002. Through their pages, one can trace the development of individual songs, sometimes from single thoughts to finished lyrics, all set randomly among pages of sketches, observations, budgets, set lists and other notes. The notebooks offer a real window into the artist and activist’s imagination, creative process and his life as a working musician rising to international prominence.
Cockburn talks of the three guitars he has donated:
A Guild 12-string, model F212-NT, serial 51968, 1971
“That is on a couple of albums, You’ve Never Seen Everything (2003), for sure, and I think it’s on Breakfast at New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999) … We had trouble amplifying that one for live shows. It didn’t come with a built-in pickup. I replaced it with a 12-string Manzer.”
A Manzer, serial 10228
“This one is a Linda Manzer guitar. I hold her in great esteem as a luthier, and I’ve been very much associated with her for decades. I thought it would be good to have something of hers in there and I had enough of them that I could spare one.”
A Martin & Co., Little Martin LX1E, serial MG 18964
“A Little Martin travel guitar that I took to Nepal with me. That guitar is in a documentary we made about that trip to Nepal (the film is also part of the collection) so I thought it would be nice to be able to see it on film and have it there.”
“Bruce Cockburn is an iconic and respected figure in Canadian and international culture,” says McMaster Provost and vice-president (academic) David Wilkinson. “For him to choose McMaster as the recipient of this collection, while he is still contributing to our culture, is a true honour. We are grateful for his gift, which will impact generations of students and other researchers across multiple disciplines, including those involved with McMaster’s highly regarded music program.”
Among the papers Cockburn has donated is correspondence from notable figures such as Adrienne Clarkson, Lloyd Axworthy, David Suzuki, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Murray and John Crosbie. There are fan letters, photos and more in a collection that requires 64 pages just to list all the items that will be available to researchers at McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.
“We are delighted to receive such a rich resource that will benefit students, faculty members and other researchers studying not only music and poetry, but social activism, politics and the creative process itself,” says McMaster’s acting University Librarian Vivian Lewis.
Cockburn was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from McMaster in 2009.Cockburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002. In 2001, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 30th Annual Juno Awards, in 2002 The Canadian Association of Broadcasters inducted him into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame at the 76th Annual Gold Ribbon Awards Gala, In 2007 he received three honorary doctorates, the fourth, fifth and sixth of his career. In early May he received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario,and later in the month he received an Honorary Doctor of Letters at the convocation of Memorial University of Newfoundland for his lifelong contributions to Canadian music, culture and social activism. He was then awarded an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia. Cockburn previously received honorary doctorates from York University in Toronto, Berklee College of Music, and St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.
Cockburn was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from McMaster University in 2009. Cockburn received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
The University’s archives also include personal collections from such notable thinkers and artists as philosopher Bertrand Russell, authors Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence and Farley Mowat.Cashbox Canada
May 2, 2013 - McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. announced Wednesday that Canadian songwriting legend Bruce Cockburn has donated his archives to McMaster — notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings and even three guitars.
The archive is there for students to pore over — and on Tuesday, Cockburn, 67, will be at McMaster to formally unveil the collection during a small, invite-only ceremony.
'Sometimes the words are just sitting there waiting for the right music.'—Bruce Cockburn
“It's nice to think there's some vestige of what I did in there that's preserved,” Cockburn told CBC Hamilton. “That said, I worry about inflicting it on some people. Some poor kid is going to have to study that stuff to get his PhD.”
All three guitars in the collection have been played live and popped up on various albums over the course of the Ottawa-born musician's decades-long career. The Guild 12-string was a gift from a former girlfriend, and it's the first 12-string guitar he ever owned.
The Martin is a travel guitar, and can be seen in the 2007 documentary Return to Nepal. And the Manzer is a custom build, constructed by Toronto-based luthier Linda Manzer.
But the jewels of the collection are Cockburn's handwritten notebooks. Inside are drafts of some of his biggest songs — like Lovers in a Dangerous Time from 1984's Stealing Fire. A Manzer guitar much like the one pictured here is part of the Bruce Cockburn collection that has been donated to McMaster University.A Manzer guitar much like the one pictured here is part of the Bruce Cockburn collection that has been donated to McMaster University. (Aaron Harris/Canadian Press)
“There's always a notebook,” Cockburn said. “I learned very early on that if you don't write those things down, they're gone.”
Lyrics are scrawled on now-faded pages in those notebooks — some lines crossed out, some changed as tunes evolved and took shape. There are sketches, notes from travel and first drafts of speeches.
In most cases, the lyrics almost always come before the music, Cockburn says. “Then I remember the music by playing it over and over.” But that doesn't mean the songs come easy.
“Getting images into a poetic form that can be put to music sometimes takes some doing,” Cockburn said. “Sometimes the words are just sitting there waiting for the right music.”
There are also thousands of photos from countless performances in the collection, as well as tour memorabilia from over the years. One show poster is clearly from very early on — the cover price is $1.50.
Cockburn says he's not usually one to give in to great waves of nostalgia. But it still means something to know people are this interested in his work — and committed to preserving it. It might not seem clear to everyone who reads it, he says, but years of work are summed up in those pages and have been played on those strings.
“There's a definite personal history there.”
~ from www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2013/05/02/hamilton-mcmaster-bruce-cockburn-archives.html. Please go visit this page for a glimpse at the archives - some great photos there.
May 3, 2013 - The date on the notebook page is April 11, 1983. Bruce Cockburn was in the midst of putting together songs for Stealing Fire, the politically charged album that would finally gain the Canadian musical icon recognition in the United States, lionized by the left and vilified by the right.
You can see that Cockburn returned to this page several times. The handwriting starts off in green ink, but there are edits in black and then blue. Scribbles and deletions criss-cross the page.
On the right-hand side is a hastily scrawled margin, encasing a list of more than 25 words. Each one rhymes with hate.
The page displays no title, but this where Cockburn’s If I Had a Rocket Launcher took shape — at least on paper, the inspiration for the controversial song came two months earlier during a visit to a Guatemalan refugee camp.
The words “shot down” are replaced by the more direct “murdered.” The name of Guatemalan dictator “Rios Montt” is simplified to “generals.”
Surprisingly, the phrase “that son of a bitch would pay” is lined out for “I’d make somebody pay.”
The stricken phrase eventually returns in Cockburn’s final edit to close the song with the chilling “some son of a bitch would die.”
The pocket-sized black book is one of 32 found in the Bruce Cockburn Collection, a new addition to the McMaster University Archives at Mills Memorial Library.
As well as the notebooks, the collection consists of correspondence, recordings, films, scrap books, awards, photos, T-shirts, hats and assorted memorabilia.
Cockburn has even parted with three of his prized guitars — a 12-string Guild, a Little Martin travel guitar, and a handcrafted Manzer with quotations by former Czech president Vaclav Havel and French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard written on its body in silver marker.
In all, the collection takes up 63 boxes of varying size. The carefully prepared catalogue, listing every item, takes up 64 pages.
The correspondence includes letters and acknowledgments from Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, environmentalist David Suzuki, former cabinet ministers John Crosbie and Lloyd Axworthy, Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, singer Anne Murray and former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.
It’s the 32 notebooks, however, that form the collection’s core. They cover the years 1969 to 2002 and show how Cockburn’s songs took shape, the outpourings of a creative mind at work. Among the random thoughts and jottings are remnants of poetry, recipes, drawings and doodles, even reminders on how to make overseas phone calls.
“For years, I made a pretty religious practice of carrying around a notebook with me all the time because I found that if I got an idea and I didn’t write it down right away, it was gone,” Cockburn said in an interview Wednesday from his home in San Francisco, where he has recently settled with his wife, MJ, and 18-month-old daughter, Iona.
“It’s like dreams. You tell yourself you’re going to remember that dream, but if too many conversations go by before you get it in writing, you’re not going to remember it.”
Cockburn said McMaster officials first approached him about acquiring his collection in 2009 after the university presented him with an honorary doctorate.
“It’s something I hadn’t given a lot of thought to other than in a very general way. I had been saving all this stuff and at one point I figured I might try to see if somebody was interested in taking it over,” said Cockburn, 67.
“McMaster approached me and asked if I was interested … It’s a major university and they were interested. I figured they would treat it with respect.
“I gave them everything I had collected up until the year 2000, basically. I didn’t give them family photographs and things like that. It’s stuff that is related to my so-called career, however tangentially. There is quite a range of stuff but it all has something to do with my time in the music world.”
Cockburn is in good creative company. The McMaster Archives also house collections by British philosopher Bertrand Russell and authors Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat, Peter C. Newman and Margaret Laurence.
Musically, Cockburn’s papers sit alongside those of conductor Boris Brott, singer-songwriter Ian Thomas and the late Hamilton jazz/blues singer Jackie Washington. The largest collection, from Canadian publishing giant McClelland & Stewart, consists of more than 1,000 boxes.
McMaster archivist Rick Stapleton says the collection is open to members of the public who are interested in researching Cockburn’s career. Stapleton said he has already had expressions of interest from researchers, and two documents — a lyrics sheet and the text of a speech — are on loan to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa for a special Peace exhibition.
The Cockburn collection will be officially unveiled at an invitation-only reception Tuesday evening at McMaster University’s Convocation Hall. Cockburn will be in attendance and will say a few words, but he has no plans to perform. But his friend, Hamilton singer-songwriter Tom Wilson, will be on hand to play some Cockburn favourites.
Cockburn plans to stay in Hamilton a couple of days after the reception to do some research in the McMaster archives. He’s working on a memoir he hopes to have completed by the end of the summer.
~from www.thespec.com/whatson/article/928075--bruce-cockburn-donates-his-archives-to-mcmaster - There is also an audio interview on the original site.
McMaster to celebrate gift of Bruce Cockburn archives May 7, 2013
April 30, 2013 - Hamilton, ON. - Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s best loved musicians and composers, has donated his archives to McMaster, including notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings, and even three guitars.
He is to speak to invited guests and journalists at a celebration of his gift at McMaster Tuesday May 7, 2013, where other musicians, including Tom Wilson, Colin Linden, McMaster-based Of Gentlemen and Cowards and a string quartet will play selections from his repertoire.
A Celebration of the Bruce Cockburn Archives at McMaster
Tuesday May 7, 2013
7 to 9 p.m.
Convocation Hall (located in University Hall, Room 213)
30 April 2013 - HAMILTON, ON. - May 7, 2013 — Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s best loved musicians and composers, has donated his archives to McMaster, including his notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings, and even three guitars.
"These are my tools, my rough drafts, my mementoes and my trophies. Together, they form the roadmap of my working life," says Cockburn. "I’m pleased they will have a safe and permanent home in a place where they may be useful to others."
The collection includes 32 of Cockburn’s notebooks from 1969 to 2002. Through their pages, one can trace the development of individual songs, sometimes from single thoughts to finished lyrics, all set randomly among pages of sketches, observations, budgets, set lists and other notes. The notebooks offer a real window into the artist and activist’s imagination, creative process and his life as a working musician rising to international prominence.
“Bruce Cockburn is an iconic and respected figure in Canadian and international culture,” says McMaster Provost and Vice-President (Academic) David Wilkinson. “For him to choose McMaster as the recipient of this collection, while he is still contributing to our culture, is a true honour. We are grateful for his gift, which will impact generations of students and other researchers across multiple disciplines, including those involved with McMaster’s highly regarded music program.”
Among the papers Cockburn has donated is correspondence from notable figures such as Adrienne Clarkson, Lloyd Axworthy, David Suzuki, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Murray and John Crosbie. There are fan letters, photos and more in a collection that requires 64 pages just to list all the items that will be available to researchers at McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.
“We are delighted to receive such a rich resource that will benefit students, faculty members and other researchers studying not only music and poetry, but social activism, politics and the creative process itself,” says McMaster’s acting University Librarian Vivian Lewis.
Cockburn was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from McMaster in 2009.
The university’s archives also include personal collections from such notable thinkers and artists as philosopher Bertrand Russell, authors Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence and Farley Mowat.
McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 160,000 alumni in 140 countries.
For more information, please contact:
Public Relations Manager
905-525-9140, ext. 27988
Public Relations Manager
905-525-9140 ext. 22869
~ from www.brucecockburn.com
May 3, 2013 - Bruce Cockburn's Burlington show. Bruce Cockburn will perform an acoustic concert at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on Thursday, Aug. 29 at a 8 p.m.
Bruce Cockburn definitely enjoys working with a band, but he’ll fly solo in Burlington this summer. “If I’m the only one on stage, the songs become more front and centre,” he said. “That’s as opposed to playing with a band, where you could be distracted by some real cool thing the drummer does. This is sort of a more direct relationship with the audience.”
The renowned folk singer/guitarist, creator of songs like Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Wondering Where The Lions Are and Waiting For A Miracle performs here on Aug. 29.
His concert will take place at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust St. It starts at 8 p.m.
The show will feature all acoustic material, said Cockburn in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he now lives.
“In general, there’s always an emphasis on the newer stuff,” he said. “That’s always more interesting to me.”
Older material occasionally gets mixed back in, added Cockburn.
“Of the 300 songs I’ve recorded, I can only perform 50 or so at a time,” said the Ottawa native. “Which 50, depends on the timing.”
Cockburn previously played here in a benefit concert at a north Burlington farm. He enjoyed it, although he recalled “a train wreck moment.” Cockburn was singing one of Sarah Harmer’s tunes with the Burlington performer. “The lyrics were on a big piece of cardboard at my feet,” he said. “But I was wearing bifocals and couldn’t read them. I felt bad for Sarah that I messed up one of her songs.”
The show, which also featured Feist, was a fundraiser for Protecting Escarpment Rural Lands (PERL). The citizen group opposed allowing a new quarry proposal on Mount Nemo. Nelson Aggregate’s application was later denied by a Joint Board.
“That was good news,” said Cockburn.
He and Harmer are shown rehearsing and performing together in the Pacing the Cage DVD, to be released on June 18.
The documentary examines the life, spirituality and songs of Cockburn, whose musical career started in 1966. It includes concert clips, plus appearances by his manager Bernie Finkelstein, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson, Colin Linden and others.
“Director Joel Goldberg and the camera man were terrific company to have on the road,” said Cockburn. “But you have to make sure you’re not doing something you shouldn’t.”
The DVD opens with U2 singer Bono quoting from Cockburn’s hit, If I Had a Rocket Launcher.
He wrote it in a hotel room after visiting a refugee camp whose inhabitants were threatened with violence from Guatemala.
“I remember drinking whiskey and writing the song and crying,” Cockburn recalled on the DVD.
He’s also shown with Lieut.-Gen. (Ret’d) Romeo Dallaire, now a senator. They have raised the issue of child soldiers.
The singer/activist is an Officer of the Order of Canada and is even featured on a Canadian postage stamp.
He follows the issues of North Korea, Syria, the United States and other places.
“There’s a lot of nasty stuff going on all over the planet,” said Cockburn. “It seems at least at the top levels, that there’s an absence of leadership for solving problems.”
His passionate vocals and nimble guitar playing have won him 13 Juno awards.
Cockburn’s latest was for Small Source of Comfort, a blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock.
Two of the songs came from a trip to Afghanistan.
Each One Lost was written after Cockburn witnessed a ceremony for two Canadian soldiers who’d been killed.
“It was very poignant on all levels,” he said. “Nobody was thinking about being somewhere else. Everyone right there knew it could’ve been them.”
He wrote Comets of Kandahar after watching jets taking off with their tailpipes burning flames in the pitch darkness.
Call Me Rose is about disgraced former U.S. president Richard Nixon being reincarnated as a single mom in a housing project.
“I woke up one day and that song was in my head, it was almost complete,” he said.
Lyric writing is especially important to Cockburn, while arrangements for his songs are a team effort.
He encourages other musicians’ ideas, but holds the veto.
“I don’t necessarily have a definite idea, but I know it when I hear it,” he said. “And I know what I don’t want.”
There are more than 400 cover versions of his songs, by everyone from Barenaked Ladies to Jimmy Buffett to Anne Murray.
Cockburn said he likes the idea of other artists performing his music, although he doesn’t always like what they do.
“It’s important that people notice the songs and perform them,” he said. “In general, it’s a nice thing that people want to do it.”
Instead of songs nowadays, he’s writing a memoir after signing with a publisher.
Cockburn moved to San Francisco recently after his wife M.J. Hannett got a job there. They have a baby daughter, Iona. (Cockburn also has a grownup daughter, Jenny).
He has made 31 albums for True North Records, now located in Burlington.
Cockburn said he’s not sure about recording for that label again, since his manager Finkelstein no longer owns it.
After his Burlington concert, Cockburn will do a solo show at Niagara-On-The-Lake (Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre) on Aug. 30.
For more information about his local appearance, call 905-681-6000 or visit www.burlingtonpac.ca
~from Bruce Cockburn flies solo in Burlington - InsideHalton.com - by Dennis Smith.
May 2, 2013 - Pre-order Bruce Cockburn - Pacing the Cage DVD at True North Records. DVD orders will ship to arrive on June 18th.
Pacing the Cage is a documentary that features Canadian singer/songwriter/activist, Bruce Cockburn reflecting on his life and his career. The documentary features appearances by songwriters Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson, Bono, Sarah Harmer, Colin Linden, best selling authors Michael Ondaatje, William Young, Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire and Bernie Finkelstein
Pacing the Cage follows Bruce as he performs in sold out shows, records his live Slice O’ Life CD, and participates in a series of benefit concerts. Documentary cameras also follow Bruce to his home for a candid conversation about his views on everything from religion to parenthood. The documentary will shed new light on Bruce’s spirituality, and his thoughts on activism, politics, writing, and his amazing 40 plus years in the music industry. The DVD features never before seen live performances of songs from his 40 year plus catalogue of music.
The final scenes and interviews of the documentary are present day. We peek into rehearsals for the recent Luminato tribute for Bruce, and interview Bruce at his home. During this final interview, Bruce reflects about his life and career, and where he sees himself going in the future.
“Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage” gives viewers never before seen insights into Bruce’s life on the road, as a performer, master guitar player, activist and song-writer.
~ from www.truenorthrecords.com
28 March 2013 - TORONTO - CNW/ - The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) is thrilled to announce that Bruce Cockburn is the 2013 JUNO Awards Sustainability Ambassador. In this role, Cockburn will help CARAS and the JUNO Awards raise awareness about actions being taken to reduce their carbon footprint. Bruce Cockburn has focused on a wide range of issues over the course of his career. He has raised awareness, and continues to speak out, about unsustainable logging, pollution, native rights, land mines, and Third World debt, though organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, USC Canada, and The David Suzuki Foundation.
"The JUNO Awards are a living example of how the power of music connects us and drives positive change. Each year, they demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through engaging stakeholders, managing resource consumption and waste, mitigating climate change impacts, and integrating sustainability into purchasing decisions," said Bruce Cockburn.
Cockburn is featured in a PSA that launches today via CARAS and JUNO Awards social media networks and that will air in the venue prior to the 2013 JUNO Awards Broadcast on April 21st. In addition, Bruce is one of the JUNO Award Canadian artists profiled in The Power of Music: Sustainability and the JUNOS, an exhibit also launching today at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM).
The interactive exhibit, developed in partnership by CARAS and the RSM, highlights the connection between music and sustainability by featuring the music and personal causes of Cockburn, Sarah Harmer, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Neil Young. Also featured in the exhibit are songs and the sustainable causes of more than 20 other Canadian musicians including Arcade Fire, Billy Talent, Gord Downie, Justin Bieber, and Nelly Furtado, among others.
For the third consecutive year, CARAS and the JUNO Awards are using CSA Z2010, a national event sustainability management standard, to guide integration of sustainability considerations into decision making and event related activities. Use of the standard means engaging all involved with the JUNO Week events in contributing to overarching sustainability objectives.
For more information about the 2013 JUNO Awards and upcoming JUNO Awards events, visit www.junoawards.ca.
Link to the PSA.
16 March 2013 - Bruce Cockburn makes his 13th appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. You can watch the show and view photos and watch an interview Bruce Cockburn sits down with host Larry Groce - Backstage at Mountain Stage.
He played Deer Dancing Around a Broken Mirror, Call Me Rose, Call It Democracy, God Bless the Children, and Put It in Your Heart.
8 March 2013 - On Friday Bruce Cockburn will play two shows at the One World Theater. He also stopped by KUTX recently to record a quick live session with us. Tune in to KUTX 98.9 at 11am 3.8.13 to hear his session with host Jody Denberg!
Listen to this interview: http://kutx.org/musicarchive/bruce-cockburn-at-kutx-3-7-13.
Bruce played: When You Give It Away, Bohemian Three Step, and Strange Waters.
8 March 2013 - Bruce Cockburn’s first solo performance was in 1967. Since then, the Canadian singer/songwriter has traveled the world many times over. And not just on tour. He's visited places like Iraq, El Salvador and Mozambique.
Often disturbed by what he sees, he then records his experiences as song lyrics. He's been prolific for more than 40 years, following his first solo album in 1970 with another 25.
Cockburn performs at the Rialto Theater in Tucson Wednesday, March 13. He says the show will be heavy on acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments, such as dulcimers.
“There’s a few other odds and ends, too. “It’s a pretty varied show. There’ll be some different sounds.”
Cockburn’s last album, Small Source of Comfort, came out in 2011. Since then, he’s been focusing on a book and a documentary film.
Of the latter, he says “It was filmed on the same tour that a live album we put out a little while ago was recorded on. You get a taste in the film of what it's like to be on on tour and a little bit, to some extent, what it's like to be me, I guess. It’s been shown at a few festivals and been received very well.”
Cockburn has been admired for an almost 'reportorial' feel to his songs. He’s been referred to as 'music’s traveling correspondent,' with a decidedly ethical and activist approach to his songwriting. He's also cultivated his spiritual side in song. But he says it all comes from the same place.
“The songs are the product of my own emotional response to things that I encounter,” says Cockburn.
“That includes a whole range of the stuff that’s in everybody’s life. From romance to God to politics, all the things that touch us and are capable of producing a emotional reaction.”
Cockburn pauses. “As somebody who travels as much as I do, I get to see a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things and some not so beautiful things. And both of those extremes are capable of generating songs.”
Bruce Cockburn's first album was released in 1970.
Listen to more of this interview on this mp3.
~ from Bruce Cockburn: Music's Traveling Correspondent - Story by Mark Duggan on radio.axpm.org.
8 March 2013 - Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn makes a stop at the KiMo Theatre on Tuesday.
Some of you may remember President Nixon’s resignation from office in 1974 during the Watergate scandal and his declaration, “I am not a crook.”
Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s most esteemed folk singers, may have found a path of redemption for the disgraced Nixon. In Cockburn’s song Call Me Rose, Nixon – he died in 1994 – returns to Earth as a single mother of two living in the projects.
The song is on his 2011 CD, Small Source of Comfort, and has Nixon singing, “I was the boss of bosses the last time around/I lived by cunning and ambition unbound/the suckers said they’d stand behind me right or wrong/as if they thought that hubris was the mark of the strong…”
Cockburn said he woke up one morning with that song in his head, though songwriting is usually a more deliberate process for him.
“I was at a loss to explain to myself where it came from. There it was. I couldn’t ignore it,” he said in a phone interview from Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Cockburn said the song relates to his recollection of a media campaign years ago in the United States to rehabilitate Nixon’s image.
“For about a month every time you’d turn on the TV you’d hear that Nixon was misunderstood and that he was one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century,” he said.
The song also comes out of Cockburn’s own “inner sorting out of issues with regard to male power.” Nixon, he said, had his good points and bad points as a person and a president.
“He famously got caught. He seemed like a suitable figure for the song to talk about,” Cockburn said.
The album also has songs dealing with other themes. There’s a lament Each One Lost about two Canadian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. Cockburn witnessed their coffins being carried on a tarmac to a waiting plane.
Another song, the instrumental, The Comets of Kandahar reflects on the thrilling sight of jet fighters taking off in the dark.
For his Tuesday, March 12 KiMo Theatre concert, Cockburn will bring six- and 12-string guitars, a dobro, a dulcimer and maybe a charango, an Andean stringed instrument.
Besides touring, he is writing the long-overdue first draft of a memoir and helping to care for his 15-month-old daughter.
~from The Albuquerque Journal, Cockburn reaches within in songwriting - By David Steinberg
Bruce Cockburn Solo show at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on 3 March 2012, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, performing Sunrise on the Mississippi
4 March 2013 - A few years back, local men’s clothier and music lover Frank Camalo realized that he was traveling farther than he wanted to hear the music he loved. So he made the decision with his friend, fellow music lover Tony Morrow, to do what he had to do in order to hear what he had to hear: bring the music to Lafayette. They got their feet wet in the dicey promoting game with a few house concerts, then dove into the deep end and underwrote the Lucinda Williams concert at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. There followed shows featuring Alejandro Escovedo with Chuck Prophet, Graham Parker and Paul Thorn.
Different artists all, but what unites them are unique visions carved into highly individual songs that only they could have written. And on Wednesday, March 6 at Vermilionville, serious music lovers will have the opportunity to fall into the vision of one of the best songwriters in the English language, Ottawa native Bruce Cockburn.
You may be unfamiliar with his work or have never heard of him, but our neighbors to the north have chosen to honor him with his own postage stamp. That alone is no reason to hear anyone, but as a little measuring tool to help you decide how to spend an upcoming Wednesday evening, you might ponder that.
With a career that spans 31 albums, 11 Juno awards and decades of activism towards a better world and against the Madness, Cockburn has never let up an inch in offering us songs of stunning power built with melodies that engage on all levels. And the songs are thrust upward by some of the most happily ferocious guitar playing you and I will ever hear.
In New Orleans in the mid-80s, my college friend Shadrach Weathersby pulled out a record and told me to sit down and listen to a song. “No, really,” he said seriously. “Sit down.” The album was Stealing Fire and the song was called "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." I sat stunned. Whoever the singer was, he wasn’t just rearranging the elements of drama for the sake of a good song. I was hearing the son of Dylan’s Masters of War, and the son was going further. Dylan’s song had teeth; the son had sharpened his to points. The last line was “If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die.”
Shad lifted the needle from the vinyl and stared at me. I was staring at the wall. This isn’t done, I thought. Where am I?
“The rest of the album’s pretty good, too,” my friend said.
The song Dust and Diesel comes to mind, and Nicaragua and Peggy’s Kitchen Wall, as in who put the bullet hole in it? There was some dangerous music back in the 80s, punk and anarchy, but not much — and this was different, it wasn’t wild emotion. It was controlled.
The songwriter also knew what he was talking about; he hadn’t just made up songs about Guatamalan refugee camps from the newspapers, he had been there and seen the devastation up close. So it wasn’t a flailing about and screaming into a microphone kind of rage, rather a contained, purposeful, directed fury like an arrow sprung from lives ended flying toward the end of another life. That kind of rage.
Not all of the songs were like that. Cockburn can write about anything and writes about everything, and occasionally does it in French. And if, like most people, you ignore what’s being said, there’s still this fascinating music that ranges far, soaring through our Western sensibilities and on into other cultures. It’s folk music, yeah, but I’m afraid it’s not the kind that that the average folk can do. It’s a massive body of work fired up by massive ambition and dedication. But not every album was Stealing Fire, and nothing with that much rage has come through him since. Instead his talent grew and his vision became even more clear. It’s been decades since he’s written a series of songs with as much overt aggression, but a life full of that stuff isn’t possible or desirable for an artist unless burning out young is an option. He has said that the rage may be less but the outrage remains, and he’s written many, many songs as powerful as those on Stealing Fire.
Case in point: Cockburn’s latest album is Small Source of Comfort, one of his best albums in a long string of best albums. It includes the song "Each One Lost,” written after a trip to Kandahar, Afghanistan to visit with the Canadian soldiers and his brother, an ER doctor who joined the military later in life. The song was a direct response to the death of two Canadian soldiers as Cockburn stood on the tarmac for the solemn procession when the two coffins were flown home to their final resting place. It’s an aggressively loving song.
A collection of songs from a thoughtful and on on-the-scene observer will have such moments, yet it’s hardly a bleak album. Call Me Rose concerns the writer’s dream of Nixon awakening as a poor single mother in the projects. It’s a party, a really smart one. The song Radiance, a short, sharp portrait of a woman, is probably about a soldier, probably a helicopter pilot. The music is Eastern in nature and sounds very, very old. And there are other songs that I hope you hear soon.
A supporter of Canadian troops, he expresses "skepticism" about the war itself, a word he probably chose carefully, yet he also carefully examines, from a Christian perspective, that perhaps it’s beholden on the strong to prevent the weak from being bullied and preyed upon — or, as he says, how best to love one’s neighbor. This ability to examine the darkest ethical conundrums of the human condition and express it in song is why he is so popular in his native Canada — a gentle, advanced country and not, on the whole, rabidly concerned with the fear inspired by the animal parts of our nature.
The traveling to troubled parts of the world continues.
Another thing to know is that Bruce Cockburn is a very spiritual man, and has spent most of his adult life seeking in both traditional and unorthodox ways. In published interviews he speaks about the matter with an elegant concision burnished with humility.
For many of us, when the Rodgers and Hart era gave way to Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Cohen, Joni, Waits and Newman, good songs that could change your world view were always piled up in many American living rooms. Bruce Cockburn is one of those people, and they seldom come to Lafayette.
Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you’ve lived too long
Days drip slowly on the page
And you catch yourself
Pacing the cage
Bruce spoke to me from his room in Orlando, where he was lodged on this current tour. He had his wife and young daughter with him, and happy squealing could be heard in the background.
SB: Since you write your own songs, your body of work is now so large that I view it as a philosophy, questions from an earthling and sometimes even answers, even if they’re not presented as such. Given that you’ve traveled hard and seen the best and the worst of us, and given that you’ve got an album called Humans, I think it’s fair to ask your opinion: what’s wrong with us?
BC: (laughter) That’s a complicated question. I think we have genetic problems we have to deal with. (I laugh) Our DNA has been affected by our origins. The Bible sort of colors it in certain ways in the myth of the Garden of Eden, and I don’t think there was a state of perfection like that, that we fell from. If there is such a thing as that former state of perfection, it’s the animal infancy that we grew out of. And as animals, before we evolved into the complicated creatures that we are, we were able to navigate our way through life with a simpler view of things. But we’re this weird combination of prey and predator, and we’re almost the only species like that, that I can think of. I think that affects our psychology in a huge way in that we’re consciously going back and forth between the peace-loving, grass-eating side of us and the carnivorous, aggressive side, and most of us have trouble reconciling those things. At the very bottom of it all, I think that’s the issue, and not one that we’re going to solve satisfactorily, so we’ve developed all these other ways of getting through and around the effects of it; they work sometimes and sometimes they don’t.
SB: The fear that comes from being the prey — that’s allowed me to get over my thing about ideology and just look at us as animals. That’s a deep down place to go to look for an answer to my question. I don’t think you can go any further than that.
BC: I can’t, anyway. You can ascribe various attributes that we have to demonic or divine influences but I think that’s after the fact, I think that’s part of the attempt to rationalize the complexity that we’ve inherited. I do think those things exist, I think there is evil in the world and I think there’s a God, and that the evil is largely a product of our own pathology, and the divine has to work through us in the state we are (in). The divine manifests in the electrochemical processes in our brains; just as much as any other experience, we can have those. The materialist in us and the spiritually inclined are both right. The people who deny the existence of God and say it’s all chemistry are correct, as far as they’re going, and the people who say there is a God are also right. To me it’s a simple equation; it shouldn’t be as hard to get along but it is. But as I said, basically the only way the divine can touch us is through who we are. When we experience a flash of inspiration, or a flash of insight into the workings of the cosmos, that flash happens in your brain, it happens to the chemical, electrical firings in your brain. It’s all the same thing. You can’t separate it out.
SB: You grew up in a religiously shaped environment but you mentioned about having a flash of experiencing the divine. Were you overcome with some sensation like that?
BC: I’ve had encounters like that more than once in my life. It’s not a regular occurance; it would be nice if it were. But the most dramatic example perhaps, was in the end of 1969 when I got married for the first time. We got married in the Church because my wife thought that was a good idea and I liked the idea because I was fascinated with medieval things and I liked the idea of a stone church and stained glass and all that stuff, and I was interested in spiritual matters but I didn’t consider myself a Christian particularly. We got married in an Anglican church, or what here would be an Episcopal church, and I liked the ritual, all the exterior stuff of it. But right at the moment when we were exchanging rings … we’re standing at the altar and there were very few people there: my immediate family and her immediate family and that was it, and the priest of course, and as we were exchanging rings I became aware that there was somebody else there that I couldn’t see but I was absolutely convinced there was a presence on the altar with us, that was as palpable as if they were visible. And I figured, well, we’re in a Christian church, it’s gotta be Jesus. Who else would it be? It was really stunning – I mean it didn’t knock me down; I wasn’t unable to complete the ceremony and that sort of stuff, but it was very deeply affecting. And it gave me pause for thought. I had to say, okay, if there’s somebody who’s that real to me, who shows up like that, then it’s really someone I had better begin paying attention to.
SB: That would get my attention.
BC: Before then, I hadn’t, because my interest was much more intellectual before that. I felt the reality — I don’t know when it started, I think it was in my teens that I got the idea that there was a lot more to the universe than meets the eye. Then it became a question of speculating and studying up on what that might be. I read a lot of philosophers and a lot of religious stuff – not so much Christian stuff because I’d grown up in, not in a religious household particularly, but churchgoing, like a normal American upbringing for the time.
SB: You paid attention to it on Sundays.
BC: Basically that’s right. And to some extent at other times. We had teachers who would talk about it a little bit, and we said the Lord’s Prayer in the morning at the school …
SB: Was that a Catholic school?
BC: No, it was a public school.
SB: And you said the Lord’s Prayer every morning?
BC: Yeah, this in Canada, right? Where we don’t have a constitution that says you can’t do that. That’s probably changed by now. Don’t forget, this was 50 years ago or more I started going to school, so things were somewhat different. But we said the Lord’s Prayer; we did not pledge allegiance to the flag (laughter). It was quite a different atmosphere than my peers in the US might have experienced, but other than that it was probably the same, kids are kids. So there was enough of that to bring familiarity with the language and trappings of Christianity but it didn’t really go deeper than that, so when I got interested in spiritual things I got into the occult, and Buddhism, the alternative stuff that was floating around, that was beginning to be widely visible in that era, in the sixties, from 1950 on. But when this thing happened at the wedding, I had been kind of leaning closer to Christianity anyway, and it brought me closer still. I didn’t become a Christian then officially to myself on that date – that came later with another encounter — but it it really reinforced that and nudged it along in a big way. And now, I don’t know if I think of myself as a Christian at this point — there’s too much about organized Christianity that is political and all the rest of it – but there’s no question in my mind that there was a divine presence.
SB: I have a problem with the things that humans have added on to Christianity.
BC: That’s another thing you can’t separate out, I mean the only records we have of it — other than what appears in your own heart — are records that were written down by people long after the fact, and people have fought and killed each other over what was going to be in those records. And it’s not coincidental to me that three thousand years before the Christian story is set, there was a guy in Egypt who was born of a virgin and had twelve disciples and was killed and rose from the dead.
SB: Oh my God. Who was that?
BC: That was Horus, the Egyptian god Horus. It’s the same story. Three thousand years earlier. So it keeps coming back, or it’s another story using the same death. And I don’t know what the answer to that one is, I don’t think there’s enough to have any sense of competence around that. But that knowledge has, among other things, made it difficult for me to categorically say that I’m a Christian, but I have tremendous respect for it and I leave open the possibility that I may be coming back around to that.
SB: Maybe it’s a passion play that continually repeats through human history.
BC: It might be, or it might be something that we have to make up for ourselves, that appeals to us in a way that makes it something we perpetuate. I mean, I don’t know how these things work; there’s a lot of mystery in the world, especially when you start dealing with the issue of God and the interface between God and people. Things get very mysterious indeed.
SB: I thought that when I got to be this age that I would actually understand a few things, but instead, mysteries get wider.
BC: Yeah, we start to understand — at least in my case; I can’t speak for anybody else — the understanding that comes with age has more to do with human behavior (laughter). I know a lot more about what I can take at face value and what I can’t in terms of what to expect from people.
SB: You’ve been really forthcoming when people pose these kinds of questions for you, you’ve been very honest about it. What about down here on the ground?
BC: The most pressing issues to me are environmental ones. Water is the thing that’s in the most jeopardy. People in the southeastern US, it’s hard to imagine the shortage of water. In the Midwest, in Canada there’s been a drought for years now. The big snowfalls they’re having right now in that area are not enough to offset that drought. There might be more that could happen of course. But the environmental changes that we’ve brought on ourselves … to me the vast weight of scientific opinion counts. It says that we’re a major contributing factor to the climatic change that we’re experiencing. And we’re not doing anything about that. We’re arguing about it instead of fixing it.
SB: Nobody can figure out how to make any money from it.
BC: It comes down to greed again, then, doesn’t it? Self-interest, the same thing. I worry for us because of that. I think that the world’s not going to get any better anytime soon because we aren’t doing enough. People are trying, but so far no one in a position of power, decision-making power, seems to be in that group.
SB: Have you heard that the CEO of Exxon admitted that global warming is real?
BC: Wow. I had not heard that, but maybe there’s a small ray of hope.
SB: Well, he said "it’s an engineering problem with an engineering solution." At least you can say to skeptics that the CEO of Exxon said it’s real. That should put an end to the argument right there.
BC: You’d think.
What then followed was a fun discussion about why aren’t oil companies investing in the solution so they can profit from it? And on futures speculation and the economic gambling done by “really smart people.” Much of my recording is marred by a passing train. That happens a lot.
SB: You’re a hell of a guitar player and you were when you were quite young. You’re capable of some rarified harmonic richness, yet you remain accessible enough to maintain a huge fan base. Are you doing exactly what you like to do, or have you ever felt constrained at times by this accessibility factor?
BC: No, not really. To some extent I think the way I’m attached to the way I use them (harmonies) is out of habit as much as anything. But no, I’ve never felt that I had to tone something down for the sake of making sense to people. In the context of a given song, yeah, because the song has to work as a whole. Like writing a song like Pacing the Cage and throwing in an atonal bridge might be … wrong. (laughter) But I don’t feel constrained, it’s based on the choice of style I’m working with.
SB: The great American songwriters – several of whom are Canadians – Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young – don’t seem to sell that well once they age. Joni Mitchel would rather paint. You’ve been supported in every decade of your career by the Canadian fan base. Is there something about Canadians in that they’re more willing to follow a songwriter down into some demanding territory? Do they really not care how old an artist gets? What I’m trying to ask, is the Canadian audience less dumbed down than here?
BC: (laughter) I’m not sure. It’s tempting, to want to say yes to that, but I don’t know if I can justify it with fact. They would not show my videos if I had them – and we do; over the years I’ve made quite a few, but not lately, because nobody’s going to show them.
SB: Oh my God.
BC: It is an issue in Canada too. But I think you’re mistaken about Leonard Cohen, he’s as big as he ever was; he’s in the middle of an arena tour. But if you measure his record sales, it’s probably not what it once was.
SB: Where is he doing those arena shows? In the States?
BC: All over the world. He had a tour that lasted three years. His monitor guy, who used to work for me, I was out on one of the shows, and it was terrific. I saw it in Oakland, California, in a big theater, a three thousand seater, and it was jammed to the rafters. He put on a fantastic show. That was one stop – that was almost the last stop of a three-year tour that he’d been on. So he got finished with that then he decided he wanted to do the same thing only he wanted to do it in arenas, so that’s what he’s doing now. I don’t know how well it’s going for him. But that theater tour was very successful.
It’s not an across the board observation you can make about that, but certainly Joni’s less active, Neil appears to be less active. It’s hard to generalize, because you never know when they’re going to surprise you with something.
SB: It’s just gratifying to know that people are still buying records from artists who have had long careers. I’m thinking you’ll have a good show here in Lafayette. They’ll get what you do.
BC: I look forward to being understood.
Lafayette-based guitarist/songwriter Sam Broussard performs internationally as a solo artist, accompanist and with the popular Cajun band Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys.
~from www.theind.com - Bruce Cockburn Written in Fire by Sam Broussard.
2 March 2013 - The troubadour wanders. He’s a solitary sort and his eye is always on the horizon. There’s a lot of world to see and a lot of stories to be told in song about its vistas, its nooks and crannies, its recesses and splays of light. The troubadour is drawn to all of them. He inhabits them. They come to inhabit him and the world through song is defined and articulated in the grace of his poetry.
Bruce Cockburn is a modern day troubadour. He has been for 43 years and 37 albums. Now, at 67, he’s about to release a DVD featuring documentary and solo performance called Pacing The Cage. The songs are culled from performances off 2009’s Slice O Life CD and he likens the forthcoming DVD to a conversation.
"It’s me, a microphone and several guitars,” he said. "The solo thing allows for a greater rapport with the audience. Between takes there’s nothing but me and them and I tend to talk more. I like the solo performance for that – that ability to talk with audience with no one to hide behind."
The DVD includes the documentary of the same name done for Vision TV in 2012 along with musical performances. A second DVD, which is entirely a concert film, will feature the performances on the Vision TV version of Pacing The Cage plus many not in the film or on the live album, Slice O Life.
"Those who like the solo thing will love this and those who prefer a band might not enjoy it as much. But the good news is that we can still come back and do a band DVD sometime in the future."
Not surprising. In his career he’s moved from the boho acoustic thing of his beginnings, to full band albums, back to philosophical/spiritual musing, to angry rants, only to return to pacific, spiritual wonder again. Those who have followed him through the length and breadth of his recorded career, "some of whom are still alive," will find much to savor. The performances on Pacing the Cage hit signposts all along that journey.
See, he’s wandered through Europe, Central America, Japan, Africa and across the U.S and Canada. These days he’s found hunkered down in San Francisco with a new wife and a 14-month-old daughter named Iona. He’s been there for varying chunks of time over the last three years. He sounds peaceful, rested and optimistic.
"The city fits me really well in a limited way," he said. “When we were in New York, I really liked it there with its feeling of impending chaos. It had a really dark, almost post-Apocalyptic feel that was inspiring."
"The city of San Francisco though, is an anomaly. It’s this beautiful kind of yuppie enclave surrounded by miles and miles of redneckery. But you don’t feel that in the city. It’s just so liberal here and beautiful and I’m sure there is that same aura of impending chaos, but you have to search for it."
When it comes to songwriting he doesn’t know how the new atmosphere will inspire him. He hasn’t written any songs. Instead, he’s in the process of a first draft of a memoir, a kind of writing that’s new to him and presents its own degree of difficulty. He calls it a ‘spiritual’ memoir and fans of songs like Mystery from 2004’s Life Short Call Now will be drawn to it.
"The book’s turned into a much bigger project than I thought it would be. When you write a song it’s a short-term phenomenon. The flash comes or it doesn’t come and if there’s no flash there’s no song."
"But with a book you have to sustain the energy and the focus. The thought process is carried over for a much extended period. It’s challenging for me but as time goes on it becomes a little less so. It’s moving along well now and my deadline for the first draft is the end of July."
While there’s no word on a publication date, beyond a best guess of somewhere over a year, he’s confident as you’d expect a prolific songwriter to be. A look back at significant albums in his oeuvre always shows a superb craftsman able to wring telling nuance, truth or vitriolic upset out of a lyric.
"It’s not like I’m writing songs all the time. I write when I get an idea or an inspiration and when I have enough songs to put an album together we go into the studio and create an album."
"But if I write songs over a period of time they’re going to reflect what’s going on in that period of time. They acquire a kind of dramatic consistency because of that.”
Indeed. One need only look back to 1980’s Humans say, or 2003’s You’ve Never Seen Everything to understand the truth of that. While critics have not always been enamored of his caustic, plain spoken, ‘journalistic’ or ‘documentary’ style of songwriting, his fans always have been.
Humans has been referred to as his masterpiece with You’ve Never Seen Everything mere steps behind that. The former was typified by gut level honesty about the end of a relationship while the latter was more politically driven. In both cases the songwriting was what provided the impetus for both albums.
What About the Bond from Humans and Trickle Down from You’ve Never Seen Everything are prototypical examples of a probing intellect driving a questing social conscience that’s tempered by a genuine moral and spiritual frankness. It’s what’s taken him on remarkable journeys and what’s brought the troubadour forward in his work.
"I feel as though I’ve lived actually lived several lifetimes in this one. There’s a line of continuity through everything and even though I feel I’m essentially the same person as I was when I started, I’ve learned an awful lot about a lot of stuff."
"Our failing as human beings is not being able to see the divine energy that’s everywhere all around us. We need to remind ourselves of that. Remind each other."
Spoken like a genuine troubadour. The DVD, Pacing The Cage arrives in early May.
~Reprinted with permission from Richard Wagamese. From the Interview - Bruce Cockburn: The Troubador at 67 on O Canada.
2 March 2013 - Though its title suggests a figure feeling encircled by the world at large, Pacing The Cage actually seems to find Bruce Cockburn at a state of general peace, or at the very least, grounded in his element.
The film, showcasing as part of the Global Visions Film Festival, follows his 2009 Slice O Life tour (the same chunk of roadtime that yielded a concert album of the same name). We see Cockburn perform, share stages with Roméo Dallaire, jam with Sarah Harmer, watch rehearsals for a tribute concert to himself and ruminate on his writing and career. Director Joel Goldberg keeps the cameras fairly unobtrusive, capturing some behind-the-scenes footage, performance cuts and compiling a swath of interviews to craft a rounded sketch of the man.
Pacing the Cage would benefit from a longer runtime to flesh itself beyond sketch into a fuller, deeper portrait. I don't mean that it would have to be more critical to be effective (though it's clearly coming from a place of appreciation, co-produced by Cockburn's manager), but there isn't a whole lot of plumbing of depths of a person going on here. Still, even in its wide-angle approach, it does offers a compelling image of one of Canadian folk's elder statesman, content with his status while still trying to use it for good and for honest artistic exploration. Plus there are some stunning concert cuts that highlight why anyone might want to emphasize the guy anyway.
Actually, Cockburn himself comes off as one of the most compelling voices about himself, level-headed with just a hint of self-deprecation and snark (on the environment: "We're fucked"). That was also certainly the case when he took a call from Vue one Friday afternoon to discuss the film, watching himself with an audience, and how realizing belief altered (and didn't alter) his approach to songwriting.
VUE WEEKLY: I'm assuming you've seen Pacing The Cage at this point. What were your first impressions of the film?
BRUCE COCKBURN: The first time I saw it, it was still a rough cut. Well, it was almost finished—the last rough cut before you call it a fine cut. So I was looking at it for how it worked as a film as well as what it was. But the second time I saw it was in a theatre for a film festival, with an audience present. They were quite different experiences; the film works for me very well. I thought that Joel Goldberg did a really good job putting it together. When you watch yourself on film like that, there's always a degree of embarrassment, and a degree of "Aww jeez, if I had just done that, said this, whatever." I found that to be minimal in this case—I've had much worse experiences with that than with this film. And it's very subjective, too: If I would pull out stuff that caused that reaction, other people would go, 'What are you talking about?' So that's inescapable, especially the first time through, watching yourself.
Watching it with an audience held up a different kind of mirror to it, in a way. It's less about what I think of it [than] what they're going to think about it. That's a whole other, y'know, kind of concern. But people responded very well.
VW: Did you find, for those moments you found embarrassing, they felt different with the audience present?
BC: Yeah, although it was hard to separate that fact from the fact that it was the second time I'd seen it. Things that make you wince the first time don't make you do the same way because you're already hardened to it. ... But in the audience, I'm thinking: 'I came off OK in the film. If there had been real red flags—"I look like an idiot there"—we would've cut that out, or I would've agitated strongly to have Joel cut it out, anyway, because of the nature of the film. It's a film about me; we're not trying to be journalists with this film, and so we can afford to be a little pickier about how I'm presented in it. People said all these nice things that ended up in the film; I had nothing to do with that. The only involvement I had in the making of the film up until looking at the rough cut was my presence in the interviews and in the performances. So I didn't exercise any influence whatever on the choice of materials that went into it or the selection of people to talk about me.
VW: In the film, one thing that comes out is the discussion of All of Diamonds being the moment you decided you were Christian, or maybe realized that for yourself. Do you think that having that realization, and being conscious of that, changed your approach to songwriting at all?
BC: It affected the content initially, for a few years maybe, because it was very much on my mind, which would be the case with anything you discover. It's a cliché about people who discover a new cult, or join alcoholics anonymous and suddenly get dry, that they'll go and tell everybody all about it. And I guess I did the same thing. But in terms of the process of songwriting, it didn't affect that. It's always been a question of waiting around for a good idea, for that little flash of inspiration that will trigger something. That was true then too.
Pacing the Cage
Directed by Joel Goldberg
Metro Cinema at the Garneau
~ from Vue Weekly - Pacing the Stage by Paul Blinov.
Bruce Cockburn has started touring again, this review if from the first gig of this tour supporting the album Small Source of Comfort. Here's a list of upcoming Tour Dates.
22 February 2013 -
Next month will be 25 years since I saw my first Bruce concert. I was 25 years old and Bruce was 42. Now Bruce is 67 and still worth seeing in concert. Amazingly enough his voice still sounds great and his guitar playing is impeccable. No one does more with just a guitar and voice than Bruce.
This short review is a little biased since I was blessed with a first row ticket, about 10 feet from Bruce. I cannot imagine not enjoying a Cockburn concert from this seat.
Bruce came out dressed quite formally - a white shirt and dark gray suit with both buttons buttoned, with a pale green tie. He seemed rested and happy to be there, talking to the audience a few times during the show. The most informative thing he said was that his most recent album [ Small Source of Comfort ] was a couple years old and that it will be a while before there is another one. His efforts have been going towards writing his book, which is sometimes difficult. He said he is 2 years late in turning in the first draft.
I didn't write down the setlist but I remember most of them.
Every song was solid. Bruce flubbed a lyric on Iris and Strange Waters but it didn't ruin the song in any way. After seeing the recent documentary where Bruce is very critical of himself after shows I felt bad for him.
It is hard to pick highlights because I completely enjoyed everything. But Mighty Trucks, Boundless, Arrows, and Soul of a Man were wonderful.
The recent incarnation of God Bless The Children is amazing. It has a dark, brooding quality that is different from the album [ Night Vision ] and Circles version. I was captivated.
Bruce is refusing to age. His work continues to be a gift to us.**********************************************
Here's a YouTube of Comets of Kandahar from this show uploaded by MrLeondo:
direcet link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAykXtBOf2o
22 February 2013 -
Legendary Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn makes his lone stop in our region on a brief solo tour this Saturday, February 23 when he visits the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Cockburn will perform an expanded take on the solo segments of his recent full-band tour in support of his album Small Source of Comfort.
“From the point of view of the actual performance, it’s a much more intimate shared experience with the audience when it’s just me on the stage,” said Cockburn in a telephone interview.
Cockburn, who suffered terrible stage fright early in his career, still feels anxious before a performance, but he has learned to adapt. “I’m not one of those people that loves to get out in front of people and show off,” he said. “There’s an aspect of performing that’s terrifying. It’s still there, even though it’s faint in the background. When I started, that really was an issue, and my motivation was that I wanted people to hear the songs, and if I didn’t play them, nobody would hear them. But in most circumstances, there’s a real warmth in performing that I appreciate.”
Fans should expect to hear songs from the span of Cockburn’s long career – a philosophy that he used at least in part on Small Source of Comfort, his 31st album. The final song on the record, “Gifts,” is a longtime concert-closer, stretching all the way back to 1968. Asked what it will mean to play on the same hallowed ground as the famous festival, Cockburn replied coyly.
“I wasn’t at Woodstock; I was busy that weekend,” he said. “But I saw the movie. It is a piece of history, and it was kind of the good part of the end of the ‘60s – Altamont, of course, being the other part.”
Back then, Cockburn had already charted his own course. “If I’d have kept up with the course of studies I was on, I’d have had a Bachelor’s degree and I’d have been qualified to teach in high school,” he said. “My parents were anxious for me to have something to fall back on, but I intuitively knew that if you’re going to be a real artist, you’d better not have anything to fall back on, because it’s counterproductive.”
Cockburn is spending his downtime these days not writing new music, but instead putting his memories to paper for a forthcoming autobiography. “I have a contract with a publisher to write a memoir,” he said. “The first draft is overdue by more than two years, so all of the creative energy is going into the book.”
Cockburn said that he was contacted by HarperCollins following the worldwide success of the controversial Christian novel The Shack, in which God makes frequent mentions of his music. (“I don’t know if it’s a great piece of literature,” Cockburn said of William P. Young’s bestseller, “but it’s good enough.”) “When they approached me, they said they were looking for a spiritual memoir,” he explained. “It has presented a challenge. To put things in a spiritual context: I don’t even know what that means. I guess by the end of the book I’ll know what that means.”
An Evening with Bruce Cockburn, Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m., $49/reserved, $54/day of show, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ Event Gallery, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; www.bethelwoodscenter.org, www.brucecockburn.com.
~from Hudson Valley Almanac Weekly by Crispin Kott, February 22, 2013.
22 February 2013 -
Anyone who has spent any time exploring Bruce Cockburn’s music knows what a complex artist he is. He is as spiritual as he is political, and as much a master musician as a lyrical poet. Cockburn will soon release his written memoirs, which he promises will take a deeper look at his continuing spiritual journey. In addition, a Cockburn documentary is also on the way.
Although these two projects aren’t as exciting as news of an upcoming musical release, they nevertheless give his many devoted fans the prospect of more insight into one of modern music’s consistently intriguing figures.
Stereo Subversion: I notice you don’t have a new album to promote these days, so what’s in the works?
Bruce Cockburn: What’s in the works is a book. That’s kind of taking up all the energy that probably would have come up with an album by now. I got a deal to write a memoir, like everybody’s doing, a couple of years ago. The first draft is quite overdue, so there’s kind of a rush on to get this done. I’m about four chapters into it. I can’t tell you much about how it’s going to end up yet because it’s very much a first draft. That’s what’ going on.
There’s also, in terms of stuff that people could look for, if not available commercially yet, a DVD of a concert – well, actually, it’s a documentary that was done on me for Canadian TV with some performance footage in it. It came out pretty well. It was on TV in a slightly abbreviated version. The longer version has been shown at a couple of film festivals. Eventually, we’ll have DVDs for people. As far as an album, that’s probably going to have to wait until all this other stuff is out of the way.[ This is referring to Vision Films Pacing the Cage ]
SSv: How comfortable are you with writing a book? Is that a type of writing that comes naturally to you?
It’s hard for me to characterize my beliefs in a simple way because I don’t subscribe to a namable faith or religion. I’ve moved through an acquaintanceship with a few different things and a deep involvement with Christianity and I’m pretty close to that still, but I just have too many questions to feel comfortable calling myself a Christian at this point.
Bruce: No, it’s not. [Laughs] It’s interesting. It’s different and somewhat challenging because you have to sustain a focus for such an extended period. Songwriting is a real short time event, you know. Even songs that take a long time relatively speaking, only happen in bursts. It’s not like you sit down for six weeks and work on a song, day in, day out.
It may take me that long to write a song, but I’ll write one verse and a couple weeks will go by and I’ll think of another idea and add to it, and that kind of thing. Now this is not common. Usually I’ll write in much more compressed time than that, but it has happened. But that’s totally different from what a book calls for, which is sustained energy and focus over a year or two. There’s a bit of a learning curve for me in terms of that.
My songs are generally based in life, but they’re frequently slightly fictionalized. I may change a detail here or there because it makes it a better song or because the rhyme scheme needs it. It’s not literally autobiographical, whereas the book is.
SSv: I’ve noticed over the years, when you’ve written songs you’ve also put in the album notes where they were written and the time period when they were written. Is the book going to be a little bit like a journal in the way that you organize the book?
Bruce: I don’t know how it will end up. I don’t see it being like that, exactly, although it could end up more that way than I’m picturing right now. There’ll be a lot of steps between finishing the first draft, and actually getting it out. My original thought was to have it be not chronological, but just to be made up of a lot of vignettes; when you add them all up, you get a picture of a life. And it may still turn out to be that, although the way I’m working on it now, it is chronological, starting with childhood and moving forward. The organization of it may change between now and publication, I don’t know.
It’s supposed to be a spiritual memoir, so whatever that means. I’m not even sure what that really means, but that’s what the publisher’s asked for.
Bruce: There’s going to be a certain emphasis on that side of life, I think. Because it is a memoir and because the people who buy it are going to be interested in personal details too, we think, there’s a lot of stuff about me in there.
SSv: If it’s a spiritual journey, where would you say you’re at on your spiritual journey now?
Bruce: It’s an ongoing quest. I don’t think it will stop when I die, either. I believe that my relationship with God is central to my life. It is the most important thing in my life. That being said, I don’t spend as much time thinking about that as I probably should. I currently work with a guy that does dream analysis that helps me pursue that relationship with God and kind of understand where I’m at with it.
Beyond that, it’s hard for me to characterize my beliefs in a simple way because I don’t subscribe to a namable faith or religion. I’ve moved through an acquaintanceship with a few different things and a deep involvement with Christianity and I’m pretty close to that still, but I just have too many questions to feel comfortable calling myself a Christian at this point. But I’m still very close to that.
SSv: You’re working on this book, but that doesn’t stop you from writing songs. You’re still writing songs I would hope.
Bruce: Not at the moment because all the creative energy is going into the book. Any ideas that I have time for…I’ve also got a 14-month old baby at home, so I’m pretty busy. So, between the baby and the book, there’s not too much room for anything else right now. There’s barely enough time for me to practice the songs I currently have. There is enough, but just. I always have to keep practicing to maintain the songs that I have. I wouldn’t rule it out. Never say never. So far, it’s taking the case with where writing’s taking the backseat.
SSv: How are you as a father, at this stage in your life?
Bruce: Better than I was the first time around. I mean, I don’t think I was a terrible father the first time, but I was much more concerned, as young men tend to be, about things other than family. I was worried about my art more than I am now. I take my art very seriously. I don’t want to let it down or have it let me down, but at the same time, I don’t worry about it as much as I did when I was young. I just worried a lot more about everything. That made my relationship with my first daughter a little more distant when she was young. We have a good relationship now, but I wasn’t there for her as much as I am for the new one.
SSv: Tell me more about this DVD that’s coming out. You said it was a documentary?
SSv: How did this all come about? Did they approach you and say they wanted to explore your work?
Bruce: Bernie [Finkelstein] was really instrumental in getting it going, and I don’t know whether he had the original idea, or the filmmaker Joel Goldberg had the idea. But we started talking about it quite a while back. And, in fact, it’s the same tour that the live album came out couple years ago is based on or is drawn from. So it’s the same music as is on that live album. There might be one or two different songs, but it’s not a concert film.[ The live album he is referring to is Slice O' Life. ]
There’s a lot of talking. It’s more of a portrait of me on tour. It’s got several performances of songs in it and, like I said, I don’t really remember what got it started. We were working on it at the same time as the live album. We had the intention of doing both. It took a lot longer, I suppose, to find the financing to get the film done than it did to do the album.
Ideally, in a perfect world, they would have both come out at the same time. Which I would have preferred because they belong together in a way, but that’s not how it works.
~from http://stereosubversion.com/interviews/bruce-cockburn-2". By Dan MacIntosh, Friday, February 22nd, 2013.
1 February 2013 -
TORONTO, The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and Mrs. Ruth Ann Onley are pleased to host a DIAMOND JUBILEE GALA to present Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals to members of the Order of Canada residing in Ontario, members of the Order of Ontario and other deserving individuals. This will draw to a close Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee Year, on Wednesday, February 6, 2013, the 61st anniversary of The Queen's accession to the Throne.
In keeping with the tradition of honouring milestone years of service, the commemorative medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the Throne. The medal serves to honour the contributions and achievements made by Canadians from all sectors of society.
Their Honours will be joined by a number of prominent Canadians who will also act as distinguished medal presenters to ensure that each of their peers receives his or her medal in a dignified and meaningful way.
Following the medal presentations, guests will enjoy a short performance by some of Canada's best known performers, including Tafelmusik, and Michael Burgess, Liona Boyd, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Cochrane, themselves members of the Order of Canada.Event Overview
In keeping with the tradition of honouring Her Majesty's milestone years of service, a commemorative medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the Throne. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal also serves to honour the contributions and achievements made by Canadians from all sectors of society. Approximately 60,000 medals were struck for distribution to deserving citizens across Canada. This commemorative medal is part of the Canadian Honours System.
In order to ensure that medals are presented with appropriate dignity and respect, The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario invited all living members of the Order of Canada in Ontario, the Order of Ontario and other deserving individuals, to receive their medals at a gala celebration at Roy Thomson Hall (RTH). The first gala took place on June 18, 2012, where more than 600 medals were presented. This closing celebration will include those who were not able to attend in June.
A number of prominent Canadians have been enlisted as distinguished ambassadors to join Their Honours in the rotunda at Roy Thomson Hall to present Diamond Jubilee Medals to their peers. Each will present medals to no more than 20 recipients, to ensure a personal experience. After receiving the medal, guests will find their seats in the theatre where they will enjoy one hour of entertainment by some of Canada's best known artists, including Tafelmusik and Michael Burgess, Liona Boyd, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Cochrane, themselves members of the Order of Canada.
A nice set of photos on this Flickr account: LGOntario.
~from Canada Newswire.
31 January 2013 -
Many communities have people whose lives encapsulate the values that they hold most dearly. The Greenbelt Festival has had a few and the most recent to visit is Canadian singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn.
His integrity is what most endears him to the festival’s faithful, both artistically and spiritually. Driven by faith, he knows how to write about justice in a way that connects, rather than sounding preachy.
He has visited occasionally since the early ‘80s. I was stewarding at the time and remember his set, particularly for his intricate guitar work. Behind the scenes, we heard that Bono wanted to watch him and would be disguised as a steward.
“He came backstage,” Cockburn recalled, as we spoke at this year’s event. “He came in a baseball cap and a parking monitor’s badge. It was fun. They snuck him in and were all excited, ‘We snuck bono into the tent without anybody knowing!’”
That Bono should be so keen to see the Canadian says something of Cockburn’s influence and Bono remains a fan today. This year, Canadian TV showed a film made during his Slice o’Life tour. As the film opens, Bono looks at the camera, talking the words to Cockburn’s visceral “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”. He ends with the jealous line, “If I had a rocket launcher, he wouldn’t have written those songs!”[ This is referring to the Vision TV documentary Pacing the Cage - soon to become a DVD.]
The timing of that backstage meeting intrigued me. Cockburn had been playing songs from his Stealing Fire album, largely inspired by visiting Central America when the Sandinista movement was trying to rebuild El Salvador. Ideologically unhappy with their efforts, the American government accused them of being communist and attacked them with military power.
“Rocket Launcher” was a direct response to what Cockburn saw of such bullying. The Sandinistas were encouraging education for the poor and supporting real development. To have that crushed by fighter planes attacking innocent villages enraged Cockburn to the extent that the song exclaims how, had he the firepower, “I’d make somebody pay!”
A couple of years later, when U2 released The Joshua Tree, inspired by visiting America, their song “Bullet the Blue Sky” shared that territory. Speaking of corruption, military deals and “fighter planes across the mud huts as children sleep,” the song ends with the line, “See the sky ripped open / See the rain coming through the gaping wound / Howlin’ the women and children who run into the arms of America.”
What arms – welcoming or military? The latter is the only way I can read that song and I had to wonder whether that Greenbelt night was the root of one of U2’s most iconic tracks.
Cockburn does not know. “We talked about stuff that we were thinking about – which included that – but I wouldn’t know whether I had influenced the song or not.”
Central America was just one of many tours around the globe, visiting ordinary people, often in rural communities. The songs written on those travels are highly personal and act as a window into the lives of those affected by the world’s richer nations and corporations.
Corporate greed is a regular target, but Cockburn is no blind dogmatist on the issue. “As corporatism has expanded, everybody gets caught in the idea that if somebody over there has this x, y or z, then I should be able to have it too.
“To me the picture is very large and complex, but it really comes down to two faces of a similar issue, which is: how we treat each other and how we treat the planet. If we exploit each other, there’s a good chance that at the same time, we’re also exploiting the planet in a way that’s not healthy. So very often you find the same bad guys related to every issue.”
The same mix of support and wariness marks his views on the Occupy movement.
“I have the same reservations about the effectiveness of that movement as I have about my own mouthing off,” he commented wryly. “But I think it’s really worthwhile to get out there and try. It’s like the Hippocratic Oath: first, don’t hurt anybody, then fix them if you can. We should have the same attitude: don’t hurt anybody, but fix it if you can. The Occupy movement is a flawed, but important attempt to do that.”
The “mouthing off” that he so self-deprecatingly speaks of is the ethical side of his songwriting.
“I think you have to suspend any expectation of an outcome, when you get involved in issues of any kind,” he observed. “My own experience has taught me this over the years: if you go into it thinking you’re going to see the difference you make, you’re going to burn out fast. It’s better to just trust, because eventually, if there is enough popular will around a certain issue, it will change – but you may not live to see it. It’s important to do the work anyway, because if you don’t keep plugging away at it, everything gets worse.
“So for people in the public eye, one of the things we can do is mouth off and be heard. Where people take that is not really in our control.”
He does occasionally get response from listeners. Speaking of the “great blessing” of “touching testimonies” when people tell him of the effect songs have had on them as they grew up, he added dryly, “It always baffles me when I hear young people say they grew up with my music, because growing up with my parents’ music didn’t inspire me want to go out and buy a Rex Harrison record!”
A bigger delight in his life at the moment is his year-old daughter. Often, as people get older, they get more easy-going about the state of the world. Does he feel that way, or has fresh fatherhood given him a renewed concern for where we are headed?
“I look around at the things that are going on and think, all you can do is pray and trust, because there is so much crap headed for the fan. Much of it has already hit, but there’s more coming. What she grows up into, if I want to go there, can be quite terrifying. What can I do about that? Well, I can keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing all along, but not much more, because that’s all I know how to do.”
Mouthing off aside, his current release, Small Source of Comfort, probably has more instrumentals than any new album he has made. I wondered if this was a shift in his music-making…
“Unless I think of really good words!” he replied. “It’s too soon to know if it’s a pattern to look forward to in the future, but the older I get, the more songs I’ve written, the more I’ve said what I’ve had to say in words and the more appealing it becomes to just play notes that aren’t attached to a specific idea.”
Despite the quantity of music he has already put out, Small Source of Comfort must be among his best collections since that Stealing Fire release. Has he learned to perfect his trade or is it coincidence?
Naming another of his albums, he called it “Big Circumstance, which is what I think of when I think of coincidence. It just is what it is, but I’m glad I got the songs I got. I don’t take it for granted – I never have. Any album I’ve made could have been the last one. So I’m just happy if I’m able to keep going.”
In his recent music, he seems to have placed less emphasis on his faith, which may have something to do with the churches he has met across the years.
“I don’t feel the same need for a church that I once did,” he admitted. ”When I first started thinking of myself as a Christian, I started going to an Anglican church, because it was the church I got married in, and I liked the priest. That became my church in Ottawa.
“But when I left Ottawa at the end of the ‘70s, I never found another place where I felt as in touch with the Spirit. It began to feel to me like if I was going to be in touch with the Spirit, it didn’t require a particular place; it was something that’s supposed to have happened all the time and I’m still in pursuit of that. So I kind of drifted away from church – although I miss communion.”
Unwelcoming churches, making him feel like he did not belong, were much of the problem. They were particularly insensitive to the needs of a travelling musician. “I would go down on a Sunday morning to the service. I’d get people looking at me like, ‘What are you doing here, you son of a bitch?’ Seriously, it was that bad sometimes!
“Other times, it was more welcoming, but I never felt that there was a community there for me, compared to what I’d experienced in Ottawa. Partly, that’s just familiarity, but when you’re a traveller, you don’t get to be very familiar with any given place. For most of my life, home has been base camp, so the idea of being part of a community at home is not viable.”
What keeps him going is the sense of his relationship with God, something in which he feels no different to any other human.
“The real calling that we all have as human beings is to make ourselves available to that relationship with God and do whatever that steers us toward.”
Then ending with a chuckle, he said, “That’s a recipe for anarchy, but so be it!”
~from http://www.churchnewspaper.com, article by by Derek Walker.
15 December 2012 - During a phone call from a Florida prison minutes before Friday’s concert for Leonard Peltier, the activist jailed for the last 37 years pushed organizers at New York's Beacon Theatre to refuse money pledged in his honor.
"I hope this evening is not about raising funds, but raising consciousness," Peltier told event co-host Harry Belafonte, who with actor Peter Coyote introduced a lineup of Oglala Sioux Nation tribal leaders, human rights activists and musicians calling on President Obama to free the ailing American Indian prisoner before Christmas.
Throughout the event, titled Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012, grainy clips of news footage showcased the sprawling years of Peltier’s trial, conviction and doomed appeal. Jailed since 1976 on a conviction of murdering two FBI officers during an Indian Reservation shootout, Peltier, who is nearing 70, will serve time through 2040 unless the president commutes his sentence.
Folk tunes and Native American spirituals stretched over four hours, beginning with several never-performed verses of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" that 93-year-old Pete Seeger said he recently found in a batch of lyrics he’d written 60 years ago: "A time for dirt, a time for soap/A time for hurt, a time for hope," he gently wavered while strumming his acoustic.
Fresh off a flight, Mohican guitarist Bill Miller tuned his guitar onstage before attacking it with lightning-fast picking through Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower." Fellow First Nations musicians, including Jennifer Kreisberg and Geronimo and Buddy Powless, stripped things down and used only their voices to fill the venue with traditional and contemporary songs.
Bruce Cockburn and Jackson Browne later shared the stage for Indian Wars, a song they recorded together in 1991. Browne followed with a tribute to his Native American friend, the late Floyd Westerman, with covers of "Boarding School Blues" and "Custer Died For Your Sins," and ended with Steven Van Zandt’s singalong, "I Am A Patriot."
Halfway through the evening, Common, the only performer backed by a band and DJ, injected 20 minutes of throbbing hip-hop into the event’s mostly acoustic setlist. Racing across the stage with his hand raised, he thundered through hits including "The People" and "The Light," and stunned the audience with an unannounced appearance from Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def, who emerged from the dark for "Umi Says." "If you want peace, work for justice," he said before departing as suddenly as he had arrived.
One man who dedicated his life to such justice was Rubin Carter, the former boxer whose story Bob Dylan memorialized in his song "Hurricane." After serving almost 20 years in prison, Carter was eventually released after it was determined he had not committed murders at a New Jersey bar in 1966. "Our freedom account is being looted," he said during the event, holding a worn piece of paper – a writ of habeas corpus –in his right hand. "I consider it to be absolutely sacred, and I never leave home without it."
Global figures like Nelson Mandela and the late Mother Teresa have long lauded Peltier as a humanitarian and called for his release, based on judicial misconduct and lack of evidence proving that he killed the federal agents. From his prison cell during the 2004 presidential election, Peltier ran as the Peace and Freedom candidate in states that allowed the party on the ballot. In California, more than 27,000 voters favored him over George W. Bush and John Kerry.
Six presidents have held office since Peltier’s conviction.
"If not you, President Obama, who?" activist filmmaker Michael Moore asked as he addressed the crowd. "All the wrong people are in prison in this country. As an American, this is not how I want to be remembered. And so I think that we have a much larger job: We have to get Leonard out of prison immediately."
Seeger returned to the stage and was joined by the night’s performers for the show closer, "Bring Him Home," which Seeger adapted from his Vietnam War protest song, "Bring ’Em Home."
~ from The Rolling Stone.com, by Patrick Flanary. Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage.
2 December 2012 -
Bruce Cockburn shows up at the Whistler Film Festival for a screening of the documentary Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, and it occurs to me that he always seems to be moving.
The Ontario-born singer’s career has been defined by songs that reflect restless travel to far-off places — Mozambique, Guatemala, Afghanistan, or B.C.’s Haida Gwaii.
"Let me pull off a couple of layers," Cockburn says, coming in from the cold. With a heavy overcoat, granny glasses, white hair and an earring, the 67-year-old looks like a hip granddad.
But, in fact, he’s a new father, and despite the documentary — which got a full-length screening for the first time this weekend — and last month’s lifetime achievement award from Canada’s Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers, Cockburn isn’t one to look back.
"I’m not very interested in retrospect," he says. "I’m more inclined to look at what I’m doing now and what I’m doing next than where I’ve been, in general."
Director Joel Goldberg followed Cockburn on a solo tour in 2009, and intersperses that footage with interviews from admirers ranging from writers William Paul Young and Brian Walsh, to fellow musicians Bono, Sylvia Tyson and Colin Linden. The tour also produced the Cockburn live CD Slice O’ Life. It’s the talking part that makes Cockburn nervous.
"I do some talking and other people do some talking about me ... which makes it mildly embarrassing to sit through in the presence of witnesses at least," he says. "It’s a different kind of spotlight, less comfortable, I have to say, than being on a stage where you get to interact with an audience."
Cockburn was as interested as anyone else about what other people said. Writers talked about his spirituality — he’s gone from a Christian world view to something more all-encompassing, a shift reflected as well in his music.
He’s clearly pleased at what his fellow musicians have to say: "Colin Linden’s comments about my guitar playing are very nice."
I wonder whether all that travel, and the curiosity that goes with it, is a key to his creative longevity.
"I’ve noticed that myself," Cockburn says of the sense of place that marks much of his work. "It wasn’t something I set out to do. ... If you listen to the first couple of albums, they’re really inside my head, not tied to a place or a set of events."
By the time of songs like the mid-’80s hit, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Cockburn was writing like a war correspondent. In the 1990s, he wrote The Mines of Mozambique after a trip to that country.
"It’s not journalism, in that I’m not under the obligation to pretend to be speaking objectively," he says. "It’s my emotional response to what I encounter that triggers the songwriting process.
"It’s my attempt to share the way those things have touched me. I don’t take any of it for granted. I could end up not writing another song for the rest of my life as far as I know and that could have been true from day one. But when the ideas come, I try to grab them."
He went to Afghanistan in 2009 to play for Canadian troops and see the life being lived by his younger brother John, a doctor who volunteered to join the army at age 55.
British Columbia remembers Cockburn best for his activism and a benefit concert in the mid-’80s on behalf of the Haida in the then-Queen Charlotte Islands, as they manned blockades to oppose clearcut logging on Lyall Island. The issue of land claims was settled in the Haidas’ favour, and the island chain’s old name has been relegated to history.
"I’m sporadically in touch with the Haida folks," says Cockburn. He played at Haida Gwaii to mark a recent anniversary of that campaign, and "every now and then some emails go back and forth."
Cockburn cites his experience with the Haida in how his own spirituality as changed over time.
"I’ve been through phases in my life where I had more of a narrow view than I do currently," he says. "What the Haida and other native cultures have to offer ... is the recognition of and respect paid to interconnectedness. That’s something the western faiths have lost sight of."
But there are no saints or sinners in Cockburn’s view.
"The Haida were like the Vikings of the West Coast, raiding up and down, taking slaves. Nobody is free of taint, but in a way that makes us all in it together," he says. "We need to put those understandings together if we’re going to survive."
Now living in San Francisco, where his new wife has a career, Cockburn says he’s watching the current debate over oil tankers near Haida Gwaii and a new pipeline through B.C.
"I hope that pipeline does not happen, but history tends to suggest that it will," he says. "More often than not, the bad thing does happen, but you’ve got to keep working at it anyway."
Does that mean a new round of activism and benefit concerts?
"It hasn’t been discussed at all, but if it was necessary and appropriate, sure. There’s a lot of these trouble spots everywhere in the world and this is a big one."
~from Glen Schaefer, The Province December 2, 2012. © Copyright (c) The Provincen
14 November 2012 - Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 with an Evening of Music and Learning featuring Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, Bruce Cockburn and many more. Friday December 14th, at 7:30 pm at The Beacon Theatre in NYC.
On Friday, December 14, 2012 a diverse group of people from the music community in North America will gather at the Beacon Theater, in NYC to sing for freedom for LEONARD PELTIER, a man who has been locked away since the tumultuous days of the early Seventies and the violence at Wounded Knee and Oglala, South Dakota. Many around the world question whether he has received justice. Robert Redford's film Incident at Oglala tells his story in documentary form.
This all-star concert is a cross-cultural event meant to bring awareness to the 37-year ordeal of Peltier, a Native American Activist. Pete Seeger says the event is the blessing he’s been waiting for. The chance to gather with those Seeger has invited to participate has been a long time coming. Joining forces with Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte, the two will be hosting performances by Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, Native American singers Bill Miller and Jennifer Kreisberg and others.
This also is a rare opportunity to gather with traditional Native American artists and singers, including an opening song by Wisconsin Oneida singers Buddy and Geronimo Powless and Gina Buenrostro. The Canadian Cree drum group Eagleheart Singers will join with Mashpee Wampanoag drum group Wakeby Lake Singers to perform traditional honoring songs for Peltier. Both groups have been singing for Freedom for Peltier since the Seventies, often together.
Tuscarora Jennifer Kreisberg appeared on several movie soundtracks and sang back up with Bonnie Raitt, Richie Havens and Jackson Browne. Formerly a member of the group Ulali, Kreisberg is a regular in the Native American music world along with Mohican singer Bill Miller of Wisconsin. Miller has toured with Pearl Jam, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie and others.
These distinguished musicians have donated their time freely in hopes of bringing awareness to the Peltier cause for clemency.For more information about Leonard Peltier, visit: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info.
12 November 2012 - Is the pen mightier than the rocket launcher?
On Nov. 19, singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). From his home in San Francisco, he spoke about old songs, new books and raising (as well as catching) hell.
This SOCAN award isn’t your first trophy, and it won’t be your last. But how does it feel?
It feels good. It’s nice to be highly thought of, or even thought of at all. I like that this isn’t a competitive thing. I’ve never been big on imposing competitive attitudes on music.
You’ll be recognized at Monday’s gala at Roy Thomson Hall with Joel Zimmerman (a.k.a. deadmau5) and Trooper. The latter spoke for a generation, I think, when they sang "Raise a little hell, raise a little hell, raise a little hell." Are you familiar with that song?
Familiar might be overstating it, but I do remember hearing it.
In your own way, with your music, have you raised a little hell?
Well, it’s in the spirit of rock and roll to do that. And I came into the world of music influenced from a few different directions, rock and roll being one of them. If you stand outside the mainstream and offer any kind of social critique, then there is a certain amount of hell raising, in the way I think you mean it.
I mean it in a If I Had a Rocket Launcher kind of way.
There was a Toronto critic, when Stealing Fire came out in 1984, who basically said that all the copies of If I Had a Rocket Launcher should be rounded up and melted down. [The critic was The Globe’s Liam Lacey]. He hated it. He called it vile.
There’s something to be said for that, isn’t there? Even if it’s negative?
I don’t want to be hated. At the same time, if you speak what you believe to be true, you’re going to get a reaction from people. Not everybody is going to have the same idea of what is true. To me, the writer clearly didn’t understand where the song was coming from. But anybody’s truth certainly can smack anybody else in the face, in ways they don’t like. So, if you offer that, you stand a chance to be both praised and maligned.
When music fans hear a favourite song from the past, it can strikes them powerfully, euphorically. Do you feel that same kick when you perform those songs?
It’s an interesting question. The answer is that it’s not the same when you’re doing it for a living. For me, I have an emotional connection with the events that inspired the songs. So, I don’t like to sing If I Had a Rocket Launcher, for example, because I don’t want to go there. But to properly perform the song I have to. The same is true for Wondering Where the Lions Are, or for any song. I remember where I was when I wrote it . Sometimes that’s bittersweet, sometimes that’s fun and sometimes it’s plain horrible.
You’re revisiting those contexts now, as you write your autobiography. How’s that going?
I’m working with a co-writer. I originally wasn’t, but I was getting bogged down, and the publishers were getting anxious. I found that it was really easy to write about the early stuff, partly because the memories are simpler and more stark, and partly because they’re distant in time, and many of the participants are dead. You don’t have to worry about offending them.
Your long-time manager Bernie Finkelstein released his autobiography recently. Did you read it?
I did. I thought it was surprisingly gentle. I was expecting some things that I would have to be nervous about. But he’s so gracious to everybody in the book. I found it quite touching, actually.
What would you be nervous about?
He’s been a very necessary buffer between me and the business. It’s interesting in his book how involved he gets in the Canadian Content issue, and I found the insider view of that to be very interesting. I found myself thinking, “well, gee, it would have been nice if I’d been more there for him emotionally for some of that stuff,” because he’s always been so supportive of me.
He’s not a shy guy. Has he given you any tips on writing an autobiography?
[Laughs]. No, not really. He hasn’t seen any of it. I know he’s dying to, and I’m sure I’ll hear about it when he does.
from - The Globe and Mail, by BRAD WHEELER. Photo by Peter Power, Globe and Mail.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
12 November 2012 - Toronto - Bruce Cockburn, Trooper, deadmau5 to be Honoured at 23rd Annual SOCAN Awards Gala
Canadian songwriting legends Bruce Cockburn, Trooper and deadmau5 will receive prestigious Lifetime, National, and International Achievement Awards at the 23rd annual SOCAN Awards Gala on November 19th at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.
Presented by SOCAN - the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada - the SOCAN Awards Gala recognizes the accomplishments of Canadian songwriters in Pop/Rock, Dance, Urban, Country, Jazz, Folk/Roots, Classical, Film & Television, and International categories.
For being honoured at the upcoming Awards Gala with the SOCAN Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting success in his career of more than 35 years, Canadian Music Hall of Fame member, Order of Canada recipient, and 12-time Juno award-winner Bruce Cockburn said: "SOCAN has been there for songwriters all these years, taking care of an essential aspect of the music business. To be honoured with a SOCAN Lifetime Achievement award is very gratifying."
Raising a little hell for 37 years, hit-makers Ra McGuire and Brian Smith of Trooper will each receive the SOCAN National Achievement Award and three SOCAN Classic Awards for the Canadian rock anthems "Raise a Little Hell," "General Hand Grenade," and "Janine."
Songs that achieve 100,000 airplays on domestic radio earn official "SOCAN Classic" status. The National Achievement Award is presented to SOCAN members who have attained outstanding success specifically in Canada.
"I'm sincerely honoured to receive the SOCAN National Achievement Award - along with three more SOCAN Classic Awards - at this year's gala," said McGuire. "I thank SOCAN for recognizing and celebrating the importance of songs and the songwriters who created them."
"I would like to thank SOCAN for this great honour," Smith commented. "The National Achievement Award is a crowning jewel in my career to date."
Billboard-topping electronic music superstar Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, will receive a SOCAN International Achievement Award for his songwriting accomplishments worldwide.
"We're thrilled to honour Bruce Cockburn, Trooper and deadmau5 with SOCAN Achievement Awards," said Eric Baptiste, CEO of SOCAN. "Each represents what is so fantastic about Canadian songwriting, and each has earned every accolade he is receiving on November 19th."
Canada boasts many of the world's most talented and successful songwriters, and songwriting is the lifeblood of a multi-billion-dollar industry in this country. The SOCAN Awards Gala is a who's-who of the Canadian music industry, with performances by several prominent artists.
A recent research study conducted by Leger Marketing on behalf of SOCAN revealed that a majority of Canadians would prefer to have dinner or a drink with a famous Canadian musician than they would a famous athlete, author or politician. Eighty-five per cent of Canadians feel that music is "important" or "very important" in their lives.
The full list of this year's SOCAN Award winners will be announced the morning of Monday, November 19.About SOCAN
SOCAN is a not-for-profit, member-based organization that represents the Canadian performing rights of more than three-million Canadian and international music creators and publishers. SOCAN is proud to play a leading role in supporting the long-term success of its more than 110,000 Canadian members, as well as the Canadian music industry. SOCAN collects licence fees from more than 48,000 businesses from coast-to-coast and distributes royalties to its members and music rights organizations around the world. SOCAN also distributes royalties to its members for the use of their music internationally in collaboration with its peer societies. www.socan.ca
~ from www.socan.ca
30 October 2012 - Ragnar Aalbu, ia a Norwegian Children's book illustrator / author, who's tenth picture book, The Duck in the Wilderness, was published this fall. Bruce Cockburn plays a tiny part in this book.
The book is about a urban duck going to the gountry on a fishing trip. Kind of a fun, slapstick adventure. I got permission to use a part of the lyrics from Going to the Country in the car radio, which was great - and while working on it I decided to put Bruce in there as well.
The scene shows the duck driving, listening to the song, looking forward to get out of town, but in the meantime things happens behind the car. The duck, being a lousy driver, isn't paying attention. Bruce plays the opart of a surprised guy in a meeting car. Both Bernie Finkelstein and Bruce liked the illustration. ~ Ragna Raalbu
Friday 31 August 2012 - Introducing… Canadian folk musician and humanitarian Bruce Cockburn’s first British tour since 2007.
SONGWRITER and guitarist Bruce Cockburn has travelled to the corners of the earth in aid of humanitarian concerns, often to trouble spots to experience events that inform his songs, but he has never visited Selby . Until now.
"Somebody made us on offer to go there. That’s usually how it works," says Bruce. "My agency made the booking. I don’t organise these things myself, but if it fits in, then great."
On Thursday, he will play Selby Town Hall, bearing songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery from his 31st, yes 31st, album, 2011’s Small Source Of Comfort.
CHARLES HUTCHINSON fires questions at the Ontario folk roots senior statesman, who has been spending time in San Francisco, Brooklyn and the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to observe the human experience.CH: Thirty one albums, Bruce. Wow! How has your songwriting changed since album number one?
BC: This is my 31st album over an even longer time. The first one was in 1970 and now my writing is a lot more thought out, much more conscious, but not deliberate in that I won’t decide a theme in advance.
"I still have to wait for a flash of inspiration for a theme to hang it on, though I now know more about what will work and what won’t.
"In 1970, the writing was much quicker and like a reflex, and it could just be a stupid song in the sense that it just didn’t work or was based on the notion of something that should have worked but didn’t."
CH: Bob Dylan releases his 35th studio album, Tempest, on September 10, and you are not far behind on 31. Do you ever run the risk of repetition after 42 years?
BC: "I’ve said a lot already and sometimes I’ll be thinking, ‘That’s a great idea’ and then realise I had the same idea 20 years ago.
"Even though a lot gets added on in terms of experience, I don’t think a lot changes about you. A lot of the essentials are still there and so it’s more difficult to come up with original thoughts."
CH: Can you become set in your ways or are you on a quest for new knowledge all the time?
BC: "I tend not so much to think about beliefs but questions arise over my ongoing relationship with God and the universe and what that asks of me. The understanding of what that is changes and continues to change and I don’t think I have the answers or ever will, but it’s important to pursue a relationship with God and that can happen in different ways and manifest itself in different forms.
"There was a time when I was happy to identify myself as a Christian, around the age of 30, and then thought of myself that way and did my best to understand myself and the world in those terms for a couple of decades, but gradually those terms were inadequate and didn’t fit a place in my consciousness.
"Plus in North America, Christianity has become associated with redneck attitudes and I didn’t want to be associated with that. There are lots of ways I disagree with mainstream Christianity."
CH: Such as?
BC: "I’m pro-choice."
CH: How open is the debate on such matters, be it abortion or homosexuality?
BC: "It depends on who you talk to. There are people who are comfortable with having a healthy debate, but among the media in the less well-educated parts of the community, it’s less well debated and accepted and people are even dying over it."
CH: You are drawn to observing human experiences, going up against chaos, no matter what the potential risk, to be closer to the truth. At 67, this zeal shows no sign of fading…
BC: "My mother once said that I must have a death wish, always going to what she called ‘those awful places’. I don’t think of it that way. I make these trips partly because I want to see things for myself and partly out of my own sense of adventure.
CH: How do you transfer your observations into songs? Do you carry a notebook at all times like the playwright Alan Bennett?
BC: I don’t keep a journal, but I do have notebooks and what goes into them is the songs, though sometimes it takes a few pages of writing to make a song.
"It’s not like keeping a blog, either.
"For instance, the song about Afghanistan, Comets Of Kandahar, was written in a couple of hours after getting from there, when the feeling was very strong, the imagination was very vivid, and it was pretty easy to put it down on the page.
"In fact I found myself choking up the first few times I sang it as the memories were still so intense. These darker feelings are the ones that haunt you."
CH: You will never rest on your laurels, Bruce, while there is work still to be done.
BC: "I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next. My models for graceful ageing are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stopped working till they dropped, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings."
Bruce Cockburn plays solo at Selby Town Hall on Thursday at 8pm; sold out. Doors open at 7.30pm; box office for returns only, 01757 708449.
~ from York Press.
London – 31 August 2012 - Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn toured Team Canada’s facilities in the Paralympic Athletes Village this morning and came away inspired by the Canadian Paralympic Team.
Several Canadian athletes enjoyed the chance to explain their sports to one of Canada’s favourite folk rock guitarists, who was accompanied by the Canadian High Commissioner to London, Gordon Campbell.
Cockburn is in the UK from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7 on tour supporting his latest album, Small Source of Comfort.
"I know that Team Canada will make us all proud," said Cockburn, after meeting the tandem blind cycling powerhouse duo of Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, ON) and pilot Lyne Bessette (Knowlton, QC). "I’m looking forward to seeing all the great results that are going to come out!" Cockburn also met visually-impaired athletes from the sport of goalball, along with wheelchair fencer Sylvie Morel (Pincourt, QC), who challenged him to a duel.
~ from boxscorenews.com.
28 August 2012 - Press Release
Jim Heald has released a book that takes a look at the lyrics and the music of Bruce Cockburn. The Kindle version and the paperback version can be purchased at Amazon.
The book is an appreciation of the lyrics and music of iconic Canadian Singer-Songwriter-Guitarist Bruce Cockburn. This book is the first comprehensive look at the works of Bruce Cockburn from the 1960's to the Present.
Bruce Cockburn is, first and foremost, a visionary artist; engaging and probing songwriter, spiritual seeker, truth teller, and extraordinary guitarist. He is a songwriter’s songwriter and musician’s musician. If you measure success in album sales, or chart position, or merchandise sales, or mentions in People Magazine or Rolling Stone, then Bruce is not for you. While he has failed to scale the mountain of popular adoration in the United States market, he has nonetheless had an extraordinary career as a Canadian solo artist, and he’s done it pretty much entirely on his terms. Given our America Centric view of the entertainment industry (and pretty much everything else), it is hard for us to realize how big a star Bruce is in Canada. It’s also hard for us to realize that success outside the U.S. actually means something. We should count ourselves lucky that we have found Bruce and other kindred spirits like South Africa’s Johnny Clegg or Australia’s Midnight Oil.
There are very few musicians who have recorded for more than 40 years, putting out consistently good records every couple of years, with few, if any, artistic misfires. He’s sold a lot of albums and won a lot of awards. He has continued to gain in popularity and plays to packed venues across Canada, the United States, and Europe, with occasional forays to Japan and the Far East.
He has traveled to war-torn locations like Central America, Africa, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq as an observer and good will ambassador. The songs that have resulted from these journeys celebrate the resilience of the human spirit, chide the powerful and greedy, and turn a spotlight on corruption and injustice. He would most likely bristle at these thoughts, preferring to consider his successes a matter of luck, or simply the result of dogged persistence or even stubbornness.
Jim Heald is a poet, songwriter, and guitarist. He grew up in the suburbs of New York City. He attended Colby College and Manchester College, Oxford where he studied English Literature and East Asian Studies. He attended graduate school briefly at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Oriental languages and history, and received a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Jim picked up the guitar in the mid 70’s and started turning his poetry into songs. He’s played professionally since the late 70’s around Chicago, Austin, and the Washington DC area. He was a two time finalist in the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition and has two CDs available. He lives with his wife Laura in Alexandria, Virginia.
24 August 2012 - The veteran Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has helped to shape the vocabulary of the Greenbelt Festival. Huw Spanner discovers that, while his theology has shifted, his ardour has not diminished.
THERE will be bigger acts taking the stage at the Greenbelt Festival over this weekend, but probably no more estimable artist than Bruce Cockburn. The singer-songwriter, who will be headlining tonight, has been compared to Neil Young and Joni Mitchell - and not just because he is, like them, Canadian, and of a certain age. His often poetic lyrics are literate, acutely observed, and both politically and spiritually engaged. He is also a quite extraordinary guitarist.
Many years ago, he was described by the then editor of Melody Maker as "the last great rock obscurity". Although he is fêted in his native land - he was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in Canada in 2001, a year before U2's producer, Daniel Lanois - that obscurity still stubbornly persists.
Last year, his 24th studio album, Small Source of Comfort, was ignored by the mainstream British media. He has appeared at the Royal Festival Hall, but he has not performed in this country since the 2007 Lewes Guitar Festival.
In 1984, the year Cockburn first appeared at Greenbelt, an album review in The New York Times spoke of "impressionistic songs that combine Christian mysticism and leftist politics with illuminating flashes of imagery". That summed him up pretty well.
Late at night, in the festival's Big Top, Charles Williams and John Pilger seemed to meet, metaphorically speaking, in an electrifying solo set that ranged from Lord of the Starfields ("O love that fires the sun, Keep me burning") to Nicaragua ("You're the best of what we are").
Cockburn had travelled to Central America the previous year, at the behest of Oxfam, and was deeply affected by the hope that he saw in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, and by the horror that he heard of in Mexico, where refugees from the "dirty war" in Guatemala gave him eyewitness accounts of "things too sickening to relate". His most powerful song, which was to be a modest hit, was If I had a Rocket Launcher ("I would retaliate").
AT THAT time, Greenbelt was artistically still rather lightweight. On mainstage, Cliff Richard and Sheila Walsh pulled the crowds. Cockburn was something else: a musician and lyricist of multi-award-winning quality who spoke the same language as the festival's heavyweight speakers, but sang it much better.
He expressed the same love of God, the same passion for peace and justice, the same sense of the wonder and mystery of things. Reportedly, one of the reasons why Bono sneaked into Greenbelt in 1987, disguised as a steward, was to see him perform.
Over the years that followed, some of his distinctive turns of phrase became essential parts of the festival's phrasebook. Greenbelt 1990 was titled Rumours of Glory after one of his songs, and, for years, a line from another Cockburn composition, Lovers in a Dangerous Time - "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" - seemed to be quoted in every second seminar.
When, in 1999, the festival moved from Deene Park to the more worldly surroundings of Cheltenham Racecourse, he was there, once again, to reassure the old hands that Greenbelt's heart was still in the right place.
A GREAT deal of water has gone under the bridge since those days, and, when I rang him, I was curious to know whether, at 67 years of age, he is still, in his word, "burning". He now lives in San Franscisco, where he is looking after a new baby daughter (born 35 years after her half-sister).
His latest album is characteristically classy, and features no fewer than five instrumentals. His eye for an image is still as acute, his wit still as wry, but many years have gone by since he wrote a powerful "political" song. The word is out that he no longer calls himself a Christian.
I ask him whether he has managed to maintain the passion of his younger days. "I think there's a certain curve we go through in our lives," he says. "You start full of warrior energy, and, eventually, you end up becoming more spiritually inclined - or perhaps just lazy."
Does he still find, as he put it in Call it Democracy, that the iniquities in the world "render rage a necessity"? That song is surely as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1985, about the money men who "don't really give a flying fuck About the people in misery".
It is, Cockburn tells me, "the only response that I'm able to find. Maybe 'outrage' is a better word. Perhaps a better response would be serenity, to see it from the top of some spiritual Everest, but not very many of us have the luxury of being able to do that, or the qualifications."
So, why has he not written anything as forceful for years? "In general," he says, "the inspiration to write comes through the heart. When I write what people think is a political song, I'm not thinking politics, I'm trying to express some way that I've been made to feel by the things I've encountered - and anything deep and moving is always more intense the first time you encounter it. I've seen a lot more injustice and suffering since [I wrote "Rocket launcher" and "Call it democracy"], but I doubt very much that I would write a song like that now."
To some extent, he says, that is because his own understanding of the world has deepened. "When you're writing a song, you're attempting to reduce a complex picture to something communicable in four or five minutes, and that's most easily done when you don't know very much about what you're writing about. The more you know, the harder it is to fit it into a song."
THERE is one song on his latest album which he likens to "Rocket Launcher": Each One Lost similarly comes across as a call to arms, although not a call that Pilger would endorse. Cockburn wrote it in 2009, after witnessing, on the way to Kandahar (where his brother was serving with the Canadian army), a ceremony honouring the bodies of two young servicemen who had been killed in Afghanistan that day.
"This is going to get me in trouble, probably, but there is a point where loving your neighbour means stopping your neighbour from being brutalised - maybe.
"I don't know that it's always wrong to get militarily engaged in something - I don't sympathise with the notion that we should just let these people sink in their own shit. But it's very tricky, and it's never clean, because, once you start that stuff, you've unleashed something very negative on the world. It's something I'm still wrestling with, as you can hear."
If his politics are "very broadly in the same place", Cockburn's spiritual journey seems to have taken him further afield. "At the moment," he confirms, "I'm not comfortable calling myself a Christian, because I have too much doubt about the possible limitations of the Christian understanding, let's say. Do I believe in the historical reality of Christ? I'm not sure - which, I guess, is a bogus way of saying I don't."
He refers to C. S. Lewis when he adds that "it doesn't matter: Christianity is mythic, in the biggest sense of that word. I see it as one of those noble bodies of myth that gives us access to the divine, but it's not the only one that does that. There's a lot of deep spiritual understanding among people that is not Christian, and I feel I've gained as much from contact with other spiritual pathways, including the writings of the Chinese and Arabic sages."
Cockburn has long talked about "the mystery of it all", and, for many years, his lyrics have invoked the Spirit rather than the man he recently referred to as "the guy on the cross with the beard".
HE DID have a life-changing encounter with Jesus, once, but he has been re-evaluating it. "One of the reasons I came to Christ", he says, "is that, the day I got married, in 1969, at the point in the ceremony when we were about to exchange rings, I became aware of this warm, glowing presence, and I was completely blown away. Some people might have called it an angel, or a hallucination, but I thought: 'Well, we're in a Christian church: it's got to be Jesus.'
"I had a subsequent encounter with the same entity, and I became very focused on understanding Christianity, and that led to me deciding that I was a Christian, because I felt that reality."I still feel that reality. I just don't know that it's Jesus. I don't think Jesus is the only way that energy can appear to us."
Where does this unravelling of past beliefs end up? Is the idea of the divine just a metaphor, then? Or does he have some apprehension that there is something real, but at the moment unknown, out there?
"The divine is not a metaphor," Cockburn says. "We are a metaphor for the divine, if anything. God is, I think, after a relationship with us - with each of us. To me, everything is about that relationship."
Does he feel that he is in touch with the divine? "I feel that the divine will fill me up if I [allow it] - though I find it very, very difficult to. I'm always excited and grateful when I get that feeling that there's something going on, something divine."
COCKBURN pleads, in "Each One Lost": "Screw the rule of law, We want the rule of love, Enough to fight and die to keep it coming." He comes from a generation that once paid lip service to love - his first band once opened for Cream and Jimi Hendrix, after all. So I wonder what exactly the word means for him.
"Well, I don't mean hippie love. To me, love is a force like gravity, the glue that holds the universe together, down at the level of that Higgs boson particle they think they've discovered. We feel this connectedness; it makes us feel at home; it makes us long for something that we aren't in contact with; and that's where it starts, for me.
"The rule of love, to me, is the anarchic notion that, when you get down to that level of things, when you're motivated by God, you don't need rules. Can you run a society like that? Probably not. But in the hearts of us all, there's room for that."
In the past, Greenbelt has described Cockburn as "prophetic". It is not how he sees himself, but he tells me: "I hope that people will take this stuff seriously, and be moved by it. I try to write songs in such a way that I think that that will happen. If the songs open the world up for people, or touch them in some way they feel is prophetic, that's as much as any artist could ever hope for."
Does he find that the kind of people who go to Greenbelt are especially receptive? "It's different from other festivals that I go to. There's this whole intellectual and heart-based dimension to it that's quite distinctive." He adds, drily: "I don't think I've played for another audience that sang along as lustily to 'If I had a rocket launcher'. Nobody did that at the Royal Festival Hall."
Bruce Cockburn is also being recorded for the Bob Harris Show on BBC Radio 2 on Sunday 26 August. It will be broadcast in the autumn.
~from Church Times - Songs in the key of Love by Huw Spanner
July 2012 - CANADIAN SONGWRITER BRUCE COCKBURN has been recording tuneful, thought-provoking songs—with his own intricate acoustic and electric guitar work—for more than four decades. With 31 studio recordings to his credit, and a few live ones too, Cockburn continues to make music that’s hard to categorize but easy to dig. His latest is Small Source of Comfort, on which Cockburn once again deftly infuses his songs, as well as a few intriguing instrumentals, with elements of jazz, folk, and rock. I recently spoke with Cockburn to get some writerly and playerly songwriting perspective. A craftsman through and through, his methodology is straightforward and streamlined. Anything that gets in the way of the actual work of writing has been eliminated from the process. And yet he remains an intrepid explorer, constantly considering new ideas and new pathways.Starting with Lyrics
For Cockburn, songwriting almost always starts with the lyrics. "Not necessarily a complete set of lyrics," he says, "but something that at least has a shape of its own. There’s often an imaginary structure that the lyrics can kind of hang themselves around—a rhyme scheme, stuff like that. Then it’s a question of finding the right music to give them rhythmic punch, if they need that, or an atmosphere—a kind of environment to exist in. That’s where the guitar comes in."Guitar Sans Technology
When it’s time to develop music for his lyrics, Cockburn says that process most often starts with a rhythm or a repeating riff, and he’ll develop the structure from there. But, while his music is driven by rhythm, loops and drum machines aren’t particularly useful to him. Most often, in fact, he avoids machinery altogether when writing. “I’m not much into technology,” he says. “Some people are fast with that stuff. You have to be if you’re going to use it. Otherwise, a lot of ideas can disappear down the drain while you’re getting yourself organized.” He doesn’t even use any kind of recording device when writing. “I just write things down on paper. Anything else disrupts the idea flow.” He’ll simply play the guitar parts over and over until they stick.Change One String
Cockburn is fluent in a variety of alternate tunings, and he uses them to enhance the atmosphere of his songs and instrumentals. One of his better-known pieces, Foxglove (from Night Vision), was written and recorded in open-C tuning (C G C G C E)—a setting that’s relatively far from standard six-string tuning.
But it’s not the novel tunings that Cockburn finds most compelling, or even most useful. “Most of my tunings,” he says, “are really just changing one string. I have a lot of songs in a tuning I call drop-F#, where the G string goes down to F#. Parnassus and Fog— an instrumental on Small Source of Comfort — is in that tuning, and Fascist Architecture from Humans and Don’t Feel Your Touch from Big Circumstance. For me, you change one element of the guitar, then all of a sudden there are all these sonic possibilities that weren’t there. If you’re a flatpicker, it probably doesn’t make much difference. But for fingerpicking—where one of the sources of color is the degree to which you can get the strings to ring against each other—changing one string can really make a difference.”
One tuning that Cockburn has been keen on—especially in recent years—is D A D G A D, as well as its slight variant E A D G A D. “I’ve found a lot to work with in that world,” he says. “For instance, there’s a song on the new album called Iris of the World that’s in E A D G A D. I was fooling around with that and I wanted to put in a sort of Scotty Moore lick in the choruses, with a couple of hammer- ons. The tuning itself is what gave me an opportunity to do that. It doesn’t come out sounding like rockabilly the way it appears in the finished song, but it’s suggestive of a rockabilly sensibility. It didn’t have anything to do with the lyrics directly. It just fit with the groove of the song—which did have to do with the lyrics.”Experience and an Open Mind
Cockburn says that his writing process has changed over the years: “Hopefully, we learn as we go. The earlier songwriting I did was much more naive. When I’m writing lyrics now, it’s more deliberate. There’s a greater awareness of how it all works.”
While honing his skills over time, Cockburn has continued to keep an open mind. He knows from experience that being more deliberate doesn’t necessarily mean being stuck in one particular groove. For example, when he first wrote the lyrics to Going to the Country (from his first album, Bruce Cockburn), he says he was thinking of writing a classic blues shuffle along the lines of “Going to Chicago Blues.” “But when I actually tried to put that music to the lyrics I’d written, it sounded stupid,” he says. “Then there was this other thing that came along—a folkier, more melodic idea—that worked much better for those lyrics. That’s happened so many times over the years. I might imagine the lyrics one way while I’m writing them, but they end up being very different in the end. Knowing that leaves a certain openness with respect to where the lyrics can go.”Focused Editing
With Cockburn’s writing process being so open, how does he know when a song is actually finished? “When I can’t think of anything else,” he says [laughs]. But, he warns, sometimes a song can get overdone. “Sometimes you go back and look at a song the next day and realize there’s a whole part of it that doesn’t need to be there. Maybe you wrote two songs—or a song and a half—when you thought you were only writing one. That’s something that took time for me to appreciate. In the beginning, you try to put all your ideas into everything. You learn as you go that that’s not the best way to do it. Maybe you can make a stronger, more effective piece of work if you focus it more, allow it to be confined in its own terms.”Keep Yourself Interested
While Cockburn is wary of giving definitive advice to songwriters (“Everybody’s got free advice—and most of it is only worth what free things are worth.”), there was one last bit of wisdom he did want to impart. “Don’t stop exploring. There are a lot of talented people who keep writing the same song over and over again. I think it’s important to try to expand your horizons. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Always keep looking for a new angle of approach, or some new element to inject into your writing. That way, you’re going to keep it interesting to yourself, if nothing else.”
~from Acoustic Guitar by Adam Levy, July 2012.
This article also appears in Acoustic Guitar, July 2012.
3 May 2012 - TORONTO - At 66 years old, Bruce Cockburn says he's pleased to get a second shot at fatherhood. The Ottawa folkie and his longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett welcomed daughter Iona in November. She's Cockburn's second daughter — born more than 35 years after his first, Jenny. But Cockburn says time has granted him new insights into fatherhood. "It's interesting to go at it a second time after all these years," Cockburn said down the line from his California home this week. "It's amazing to have a new baby and kind of see it all with the perspective that you get with age. It's quite different. It has its intense moments and its fraught moments, but I'm a lot more able to tune in to the baby." That was certainly the frequency Cockburn was dialed into on this day, when his slight tardiness in beginning the interview resulted in a flurry of apologies. Assured that the lateness was acceptable given what must be a busy schedule, Cockburn responds: "Yeah, it's busy in a way that is different from other kinds of busy-ness." There was a time in Cockburn's life when this sort of interruption to his schedule would have gotten under his skin. Not so now, he says. "(I don't) worry about what I'm missing out on or the fact that I don't get enough practising done. I mean, all this bothers me slightly but not anywhere near the way it did back when my other daughter was born," Cockburn said. "Everything was a bit more intense, everything seemed more intense, seemed more vital and important. And the baby was therefore more of an interruption into my life. Whereas now it's really not. I don't feel like my life is interrupted. "The baby's wonderful and I can appreciate that without having to worry about the other side of things." Cockburn speaks with a similar candidness in the new documentary "Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage," airing Friday on Vision. The hour-long special follows Cockburn as he traverses the road during the tour that would become the 2009 live disc "Slice O Life." While testimonials on Cockburn's influence from the lofty likes of Bono, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson and Michael Ondaatje add heft to an intimate portrait of the activist guitarist (whom Bono calls a "zen songwriter"), it's the unguarded moments with Cockburn — discussing religion, family, music and politics — that will be of most interest to fans. In one scene, a despondent Cockburn sits after a show and obsesses over the "little mistakes" he feels marred the gig. His manager, Bernie Finkelstein, then recalls entire tours where Cockburn hasn't liked even one of his performances. "You don't gain anything by telling yourself you were perfect when you were weren't," Cockburn says now, before conceding that his self-critical streak does take the joy out of performing live to a certain extent. "I would say that the truth is yes it does, sometimes. I didn't start out in life expecting to have fun. I've had a fair amount of fun over the years, but it's never been a goal. "The goal is to get the art done, to make the songs and then perform them without screwing them up — and the closer I am to feeling like I did that, the generally more satisfied I feel. But nothing's ever perfect, so there's always that next thing to reach for." The film also delves into the way Cockburn, a devout Christian, has never been embraced within religious music circles because of his political views. And he figures that even this doc — airing on a network that's devoted in part to faith-based content — is likely to rile those detractors, particularly due to a reference he makes to the "Christian myth." "I'm still hearing from people indirectly about the fact that there are cuss words in my songs — 'How can I be a Christian and have cuss words in my songs?'" he says with a rueful laugh. "Get over yourself. If it's a problem, it's been me and God, not you guys. And I don't think it is a problem, otherwise I wouldn't really do it." Cockburn, who won a Juno last month for his most recent album, "Small Source of Comfort," says he isn't in a hurry to record a follow-up. At the moment, he's chipping away at his memoir, originally scheduled for release in 2013 with HarperCollins. But work on that has also slowed with Cockburn's new familial obligations. "I'm a year overdue for the rough draft," he said. ~from At 66, Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn pleased to have another shot at fatherhood, by Nick Patch, The Canadian Press
At 66, Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn pleased to have another shot at fatherhood
By Nick Patch, The Canadian Press
Bruce Cockburn - Solo - Van Duzer Theater, Arcata CA
29 April 2012
3 May 2012 - TORONTO - At 66 years old, Bruce Cockburn says he's pleased to get a second shot at fatherhood.
The Ottawa folkie and his longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett welcomed daughter Iona in November. She's Cockburn's second daughter — born more than 35 years after his first, Jenny.
But Cockburn says time has granted him new insights into fatherhood.
"It's interesting to go at it a second time after all these years," Cockburn said down the line from his California home this week.
"It's amazing to have a new baby and kind of see it all with the perspective that you get with age. It's quite different. It has its intense moments and its fraught moments, but I'm a lot more able to tune in to the baby."
That was certainly the frequency Cockburn was dialed into on this day, when his slight tardiness in beginning the interview resulted in a flurry of apologies.
Assured that the lateness was acceptable given what must be a busy schedule, Cockburn responds: "Yeah, it's busy in a way that is different from other kinds of busy-ness."
There was a time in Cockburn's life when this sort of interruption to his schedule would have gotten under his skin. Not so now, he says.
"(I don't) worry about what I'm missing out on or the fact that I don't get enough practising done. I mean, all this bothers me slightly but not anywhere near the way it did back when my other daughter was born," Cockburn said.
"Everything was a bit more intense, everything seemed more intense, seemed more vital and important. And the baby was therefore more of an interruption into my life. Whereas now it's really not. I don't feel like my life is interrupted.
"The baby's wonderful and I can appreciate that without having to worry about the other side of things."
Cockburn speaks with a similar candidness in the new documentary "Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage," airing Friday on Vision.
The hour-long special follows Cockburn as he traverses the road during the tour that would become the 2009 live disc "Slice O Life." While testimonials on Cockburn's influence from the lofty likes of Bono, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson and Michael Ondaatje add heft to an intimate portrait of the activist guitarist (whom Bono calls a "zen songwriter"), it's the unguarded moments with Cockburn — discussing religion, family, music and politics — that will be of most interest to fans.
In one scene, a despondent Cockburn sits after a show and obsesses over the "little mistakes" he feels marred the gig. His manager, Bernie Finkelstein, then recalls entire tours where Cockburn hasn't liked even one of his performances.
"You don't gain anything by telling yourself you were perfect when you were weren't," Cockburn says now, before conceding that his self-critical streak does take the joy out of performing live to a certain extent.
"I would say that the truth is yes it does, sometimes. I didn't start out in life expecting to have fun. I've had a fair amount of fun over the years, but it's never been a goal.
"The goal is to get the art done, to make the songs and then perform them without screwing them up — and the closer I am to feeling like I did that, the generally more satisfied I feel. But nothing's ever perfect, so there's always that next thing to reach for."
The film also delves into the way Cockburn, a devout Christian, has never been embraced within religious music circles because of his political views. And he figures that even this doc — airing on a network that's devoted in part to faith-based content — is likely to rile those detractors, particularly due to a reference he makes to the "Christian myth."
"I'm still hearing from people indirectly about the fact that there are cuss words in my songs — 'How can I be a Christian and have cuss words in my songs?'" he says with a rueful laugh.
"Get over yourself. If it's a problem, it's been me and God, not you guys. And I don't think it is a problem, otherwise I wouldn't really do it."
Cockburn, who won a Juno last month for his most recent album, "Small Source of Comfort," says he isn't in a hurry to record a follow-up. At the moment, he's chipping away at his memoir, originally scheduled for release in 2013 with HarperCollins.
But work on that has also slowed with Cockburn's new familial obligations.
"I'm a year overdue for the rough draft," he said.
~from At 66, Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn pleased to have another shot at fatherhood, by Nick Patch, The Canadian Press
29 April 2012 - Bruce was greeted by a full house of adoring fans. And took off with Night Train then surprised us all with After the Rain. He played a varied setlist, with several songs from Small Source of Comfort. It was a great show.
Here's Strange Waters:
For more videos and photos please visit http://onmybeat.net/bruce-cockburn/2012/bruce-cockburn-van-duzer-theater-arcata/.
Photo by Riley Quarles.
27 April 2012 - And here's a blast from the past.. some 1980's Bruce: Now Toronto - Bruce Cockburn makes music in dangerous times
26 April 2012 -TORONTO - When talking to Bruce Cockburn, one is reminded of a line from a Charles Bukowski poem: “I am not even near to being one of them, but they are there and I am here.” It’s not that Cockburn sets himself as a man apart. Rather, he is conduit for a musical and spiritual energy and an artistry that has been embraced and celebrated around the globe. This is because Cockburn, apart from his reputation as a legendary Canadian singer and songwriter, prolific guitar player and passionate humanitarian, is just like many of us — trying to find a place to fit in.
This journey of life and music will be presented on May 4 in a Vision TV world premiere of a new documentary called Pacing the Cage, which follows Cockburn on his 2009 “Slice ‘O’ Life” solo tour and reveals him as artist, activist, Christian and nomad spirit.
“A lot of us, I think, have the sense that we don’t really fit in the world. There are people who are lucky enough, or maybe it’s bad luck, to think that they do fit,” Cockburn told The Catholic Register.
Cockburn has over the course of his career released 31 albums, been honoured with 13 Juno awards and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Despite these many accolades, Cockburn is a man much more comfortable on the road, a preference that is reflected deeply in his music. Dr. Brian Walsh, theologian and author of Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination, refers to this in the documentary as a sort of rootlessness that is juxtaposed with a constant longing for home.
“It’s the sense of home, as a destination, having a lot to do with arriving somewhere where you do feel like you fit,” said Cockburn.
“And in my picture of the cosmos, that doesn’t exist in this physical life. But, it’s out there somewhere.”
While Cockburn’s music has often been noted for its spiritual tendencies in its lyricism, he was not actively aware of his relationship with God right away.
“I remember in high school, reading the Bible for the juicy bits and being horrified and titillated at the same time with all the really bizarre things that the Old Testament is filled with,” said Cockburn, who found a more amenable understanding of Christianity through writers such as C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton, as well as through his own experiences.
“Eventually, through a series of personal stuff in the early ’70s, I ended up giving myself to Christ and asking for help, and I figured at that point I better start calling myself a Christian,” said Cockburn.
His relationship with Christianity has morphed over the years into a sort of non-denominational approach and Cockburn manages to find a simplicity in his spiritual understanding that is free from dogma and fundamentalism.
“I think a personal relationship with God is what we’re supposed to be after and what God is after. That experience was a very crucial part of discovering and attempting to develop that relationship,” said Cockburn.
This view is reflected in his work as an environmental and political activist, a view often challenged by the actions of what Cockburn feels are fundamentalist confusions of a simple and loving relationship with God and one another.
“It’s all in the concept of loving your neighbour. I don’t think you have to be a Christian to love your neighbour or to value that idea, but certainly for those who identify ourselves that way have that as part of our mandate. You’re not loving your neighbour if you’re filling his land with land mines, or if you’re letting him starve or be brutalized by oil interests or whatever happens to be,” said Cockburn.
Despite his very frank and open acknowledgements of spirituality, Cockburn has never been pigeonholed into the genre of Christian music, a fact that he is greatly relieved by.
“It became a business. I’m not interested in that, and I’ve never been interested in that. That’s why I’ve stayed with tiny, independent record labels for all these years and let other people take care of the business because it’s just not what I want to be doing. I don’t want to be identified as part of a marketing scheme,” said Cockburn.
“It’s always bothered me to be filed in any particularly convenient file. That one (Christian music) was particularly abhorrent because it seemed to be directly in opposition to the whole point of being that kind of vehicle for sacred energy.”
This vehicle that Cockburn talks about is reflected in his stage performances, particularly notable in the Slice ‘O’ Life tour that is the focus of Pacing the Cage.
“When I play solo the focus is really much more on the songs. People can hear the lyrics, they notice the guitar parts.
“The point is to be the vehicle. To facilitate the sharing of experience, to facilitate love and people’s ability to receive God. That’s a grandiose way of putting something that’s much more immediate and it doesn’t seem so big when you’re doing it.”
In a line from the song the documentary takes it’s name from, Cockburn sings: “Sometimes the best map will not guide you, you can’t see what’s round the bend. Sometimes the road leads through dark places, sometimes the darkness is your friend.” [Pacing the Cage]
These words seem somewhat dark for a man who is so beloved as an artist, and whose passion for his convictions is delivered in a strong yet gentle manner. However, Cockburn views his life as a product of divine purpose.
“I feel like I’m always where I’m supposed to be. I mean, I think that’s one of the things God does in our lives... part of my job is to figure out what I’m supposed to do there in that situation,” said Cockburn.
“Home is out there, and eventually, God willing, I’ll experience what that is.”
Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage airs on Vision TV, May 4 at 10 pm.
~ from www.catholicregister.org written by Allison Hunwicks.
20 April 2012 - "I guess I fall into the category of one of those people for whom the road is home," Bruce Cockburn says in Pacing the Cage, the new documentary (airing this month on VisionTV, a division of ZoomerMedia) that follows the singer’s 2008 tour through the Northeastern United States, which also resulted in the live album Slice O’ Life. "I’m a restless kind of person. I like the feeling of being in motion."
The comment is an apt summary for Cockburn’s career, which spans almost five decades. After three semesters at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the mid-1960s, the Ottawa-born Cockburn took to the road, first with a series of bands but then made his debut as a solo performer at the 1967 Mariposa Folk Festival. He returned to the festival in 1970 as a headliner prior to the release of his debut solo album.
He’s barely been off the road since. "It’s the context in which I feel most natural and most like myself," Cockburn says in the documentary. The road – and his career – have taken him further than he likely imagined, from concert halls and festival stages to the U.S. charts and soundtrack work to refugee camps and environmental battle zones. With songs like Wondering Where the Lions Are and Lovers in a Dangerous Time, he developed a reputation as one of this country’s finest songwriters, while If A Tree Falls and I Had a Rocket Launcher hint at his role as a fiery activist. In 1982, he was named to the Order of Canada (he was promoted to an Officer in 2002), and in 2001, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. His 31st album, Small Source of Comfort, was released last year.
Pacing the Cage, documenting Cockburn in this perpetual motion, exists as a snapshot of a moment in time. In the years since the performances and interviews were filmed, Cockburn, who says that, in the past, "whatever vehicle I’ve been driving" was his home, has surprisingly come to rest. Now 66, the songwriter is settled into a comfortable intimate relationship and has become a father for the second time, to a daughter born last fall. Although there are a few concerts scheduled in the near future, he is, for the moment, a stay-at-home dad, changing diapers and warming bottles while his girlfriend has returned to work.
These changes took root more than a decade ago. "Once I turned 50," Cockburn says, "I was allowed to have fun with my life. Before that, everything was about duty and necessity and getting everything right. And then right around 50, maybe even the day of, this burden fell off. ‘Wait a minute. Yeah, it’s important to do things right and it’s important to do the right things, but it’s also not as heavy as you think. And not as much hangs on it as you think.’ "
That internal shift is readily apparent when Cockburn talks about his faith. While in Pacing the Cage, he is forthright in discussing his Christianity, today he says, "I don’t really call myself a Christian at this point." In part, this is due to the current political and social climate, especially in the United States where he spends much of his time. "It’s a very negative factor that all of this fanaticism slash fundamentalism is in the ascendancy the way it is, and I don’t have any desire to identify myself with that at all."
It’s more than that, though. Always independent of religious orthodoxy, Cockburn’s description of his beliefs hints at a strong spiritual bent, drawing on Taoism, yoga, Buddhism, Sufism and the Jewish Kabbalah. "I just don’t feel comfortable calling myself a Christian when I feel that I’m as connected to these other ways of thinking, of relating to the divine."
That newfound insight also colours his approach to his second round of being a parent. "I think I’m in a position to be a better father. I mean, my older daughter, who’s in her 30s now and has kids of her own, turned out great, whether because of or in spite of me. But I look back on things I could have done differently with her and I know they’ll be different this time because I’m that little tiny degree different."
30 March 2012 -
"If I try to understand what it means to be a Christian, I look at the two instructions that were given in the Bible that are paramount, and those are to love God with all your heart and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself. That’s it." -Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage sheds new light on Bruce’s spirituality, and his thoughts on activism, politics, writing, and his life in the music industry. An Officer of the Order of Canada and Canadian Music Hall of Famer, Bruce Cockburn’s important lyrics and strong melodies have graced 31 albums. He is a Christian, but his spirituality is universal. For over 40 years, he has brought Canada’s attention to causes around the world. He was the recipient of the first ever Humanitarian Juno Award and continues to make music that matters.
Pacing the Cage includes never-before-seen live performances of songs from his 40 year-plus catalogue of music. His long-time manager Bernie Finkelstein shares his insights, and best-selling Christian author William Young (The Shack), discusses how Bruce influenced his life and his writing. Other appearances include:
Colin Linden, Michael Ondaatje, Bono, Sarah Harmer, Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire, Sylvia Tyson, Jackson Browne, Theology Professor Brian J. Walsh, Christian author William Young, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and The Wailin’ Jennys.
Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage was produced by BB&J Productions for VisionTV. The documentary was written and directed by Joel Goldberg and produced by Joel Goldberg and Bernie Finkelstein.
~ from www.visiontv.ca/2012/03/30/bruce-cockburn-shares-a-slice-o-life-music-and-spirituality/. Photography by Joel Goldberg & Kiarash Sadigh – Courtesy of Riddle Films Inc.
Download pdf here.
The Record - Canada Film Festival
7 March 2012 - Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s most accomplished singer-songwriters and one of the country’s great guitar players. In a career spanning more than four decades, Cockburn has recorded more than 20 albums featuring songs that explore the mystery, beauty and savagery of mankind’s existence. Cockburn’s accolades include more than a dozen Juno awards, induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and, most recently, his own postage stamp. Goldmine spoke with Cockburn about his most recent release, "Small Source Of Comfort".
GM: "Small Source Of Comfort" is another True North Records release. You’ve had a longtime relationship with the label. What’s held it together?
Bruce Cockburn: It’s changed now, because Bernie Finkelstein, who’s also my manager, started the label and sold it a couple years ago.
The new album is the last one that I’m required to do for True North, and if we’re all happy with how it turns out, I’m sure we can continue working together. But there’s no guarantee at this stage. It has been an amazingly long run. It would have been different if it weren’t a symbiotic relationship — Bernie doing the business and me doing the art. And if it continues to work, why change it?
Like any other relationship — business or otherwise — you go through periods where it doesn’t feel as good, and you think, "I wonder if I should change things." Then it gets good again, and you don’t [laughs], and that’s been the situation over the years.
GM: There seems to be a musical kinship with this record and your mid-’70s albums like "Joy Will Find A Way," with the instrumentation and arrangements of several tunes. Do you hear that?
BC: Yeah, I definitely do. I don’t know if I’d specifically pick "Joy Will Find A Way," but certainly that period in general. When I was in Toronto and ready to record it really came home to me that this album, in a lot of ways, was reminiscent of those ’70s records. There are differences — I don’t think it would have the "feel" that this record does. Gary Craig, the guy who plays drums wherever there are drums, has a fantastic feel — there was nobody I played with who was like that in the ’70s. I mean, they were good musicians. Bob DiSalle, who played drums on the later albums, came from a jazz background and played very intricate, lovely musical things, but he didn’t play the way Gary does. I’m not sure I would have appreciated it back then myself, but I guess I hadn’t learned about that yet [laughs]. So I hear differences that are pretty important, but in terms of the overall approach, yes, it was a lot like those records.
GM: The song that leads off, "Iris Of The World"is a musical travelogue. You’ve always seemed to have a gift not just for songwriting but storytelling. Does that come easily to you?
BC: I think in a certain way. I’ve never been good at coming up with narratives, but I could always string a bunch of events together that suggest a story.
There are other songwriters who are better at telling a story in the conventional sense like, "And then this happened, and then that happened."
It’s a lot better for me to create sort of snapshots of moments, and then you string the moments together and get something that works.
Bruce Cockburn collaborated with Annabell Chvostek on his latest project, "Small Source Of Comfort"
GM: You wrote two of these new songs with Annabelle Chvostek. What was the creative process like writing with her?
BC: I haven’t done very much co-writing with people over the years. Annabelle called me up one day and asked if I’d like to try writing a song with her. I hadn’t written anything for a while and I thought, "That might be good."
I knew her from … she was a member of a group called The Wailin’ Jennys and recorded on one of their albums, so I knew she was good. And I thought maybe this was the catalyst to get my own creative juices flowing again. We wrote "Driving Away" and then got together again and wrote "Boundless".
We wrote them as duets because we were writing them as equals, so we decided that we would record them on that level and perform them on that level.
We’ve had a chance to perform a bunch on this tour — Annabelle doesn’t have the same flexibility of venues that we do, but she showed up at a bunch of northeastern U.S. dates and a couple Canadian dates and performed the songs with us. It was quite nice.
GM: This album features five instrumentals. I think the success of a guitarist is ultimately finding one’s own sound, and your acoustic guitar playing sounds like nobody else.
BC: The only other player that I used to get accused of playing like was John Martyn, because he did a lot of that "drone" bass and electro-acoustic playing. So some in the industry thought that I imitated him, which was sort of galling because I hadn’t even listened to him until well after I had a bunch of records out.
But there was a similarity in the playing for sure. It comes from trying to imitate the same old blues guys and never quite getting that right, so you end up with something that you have to make work on your own, using that technique.
With a musical history going back 20 albums and more than four decades, Bruce Cockburn reigns as one of Canada's most accomplished singer-songwriters.
GM: "Each One Lost" is your reaction to a ceremony honoring two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. You start out singing "Here come the dead boys moving slowly past the pipes and prayers and strained commanding voices." It’s not always easy to write so directly.
BC: No, you’re right. It’s not always easy to do. Sometimes it’s impossible, I find. But that one — the experience that it talks about — was extremely moving and deeply affecting in the same way that the refugee camp experience that produced [If I Had A] "Rocket Launcher" was. And I kind of relate to them in my mind, because of that, in part because they’re both products of the extremes of war zones. There was that feeling — it’s such a depth of feeling with what I was encountering that both songs came really fast and passionately. It doesn’t very often work that smoothly. I wrote "Each One Lost" pretty fast, right after I got back from the Afghan trip. Because of that, it was so fresh even though the event that it describes was at the beginning of the trip. But it was still really vivid and right there, close to the surface.
GM: The album’s last song, "Gifts", was first written in 1968 but not recorded and released until now. What was it like recording the song and performing it so many years later?
BC: It was fun. Actually I used to close shows with it back in the ’60s. When we did the first album, Bernie [Finkelstein] said to me, "What about that song ‘Gifts.’ Should we put it on the record?" And I said, "No, that’s all right,” because I just didn’t really want to, for no particular reason. I said, "I’m saving it for the last album," because it was obviously the closer of the show.
So we laughed at that — for all we knew, the first album could be the last album. I was picturing it somewhere down the road, but it wasn’t a serious plan. So eventually it fell from use as other songs came along, and it lay dormant for decades. Then I thought, when we were doing this new album, that I’ll be turning 65 and, "How many more albums am I going to make?" For all I know, there could be 20 more — we’re not predicting anything dire — but you start thinking like that at this age: It might be time to pull that song out and put it on a record." [laughs] So that’s what happened, and it’s been fun. We perform it at the shows. It’s short, so if you don’t like it’s over very quickly. [laughs]
~ from GoldmineMag.com by Todd Whitesel, Singer, songwriter, storyteller Cockburn offers ‘Small Source of Comfort’.
6 March 2012 -
The category: Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, Solo
The album: Small Source of Comfort
The competition: Craig Cardiff for Floods & Fire; Dave Gunnig for A Tribute to John Allan Cameron; David Francey for Late Edition; Lindi Ortega for Little Red Boots
Bruce Cockburn’s musical quest has taken him on a journey that’s lasted more than four decades and touched on everything from spiritual reflections to electric protest songs. Now 66, he’s had a significant influence on pop culture, and is still making music that matters, as you can hear on his 31st and latest album, Small Source of Comfort.
Born in Ottawa, Cockburn took guitar and piano lessons as a teenager. He attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music for two years in the 1960s before returning to Ottawa to play in various bands, including The Children and Three’s A Crowd (which also included David Wiffen). Cockburn’s career as a folksinger and guitarist began on the coffee house circuit, and was strengthened by an appearance at the 1967 Mariposa Festival. His first album was released in 1970.
By 1980, Cockburn was beginning to make an impact in the United States. His 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws yielded an unexpected top-40 hit with the cerebral Wondering Where the Lions Are, as well as an invitation to perform on Saturday Night Live.
The winner of a shelf-full of Juno awards and the Order of Canada drew even more attention a few years later with the release of Stealing Fire. Although music fans of the 1980s were not used to hearing outspoken songs about issues on the radio, they were drawn by a soft-spoken Canadian ranting about a rocket launcher. The single If I Had a Rocket Launcher was written after Cockburn visited Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico. A second single from the album was also inspired by his travels. Lovers In a Dangerous Time became one of Cockburn’s most popular songs, thanks in part to the 1990s version by the Barenaked Ladies.
Other politically charged songs by the silver-haired troubadour include Call It Democracy, The Trouble With Normal and If A Tree Falls. Driven by a desire to make the world a better place, Cockburn has visited places like Mozambique, Bahgdad, Cambodia and, most recently, a 2009 trip to Afghanistan. He usually comes home with an idea for an issue-oriented song, such as anti-landmine Postcards from Cambodia or Mines of Mozambique. The latest example is the powerful Each One Lost, a mournful ode to lost soldiers that’s included on his recent album, Small Source of Comfort.
Produced by Cockburn’s old friend Colin Linden, the 2011 album demonstrates the artist’s affinity for jazzy folk-pop and dazzling acoustic guitar meanderings. Insightful lyrics and a dash of humour complete the package, which earned last year’s Canadian Folk Music Award for contemporary folk album of the year.
Another recent milestone for the Canadian Music Hall of Famer (and his longtime girlfriend) was the birth of their daughter, Iona. The same year, Canada Post issued a stamp bearing Cockburn’s likeness.
For his humanitarian efforts, Cockburn was given the inaugural Allan Waters Humanitarian Award in 2006. In an interview with the Citizen that year, he explained his motivation.
"Growing up, I did a lot of canoe tripping in Algonquin Park. I went to a camp there in the summers and one of the things that they instilled in us was: Always leave your campsite better than you found it. It just seems to me that applies to life and the world," he said.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen - Bruce Cockburn Still Making Music That Matters by Lynn Saxberg.
5 March 2012 - One of the all-time greats in Canadian music recounts his life and times in the business from the 1960s to the present. Whether acting as a producer, record label owner, or manager of great singer/songwriters and bands, Bernie Finkelstein, recipient of the 2006 Juno Special Achievement Award, has played a pivotal role in bringing great Canadian music to the rest of the world.
Bernie Finkelstein has been a prominent figure in the Canadian music industry for nearly five decades. Now, a couple years after selling his beloved True North label and only recently stepping down from his role at MuchFACT, which has given out more than $63 million in grants to Grammy-winning acts like Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado and Arcade Fire, Bernie is finally ready to talk. In this wildly entertaining and outspoken memoir, the producer, label owner, and artist manager opens up about his childhood, breaking into the Greenwich Village scene with The Paupers at age 19, discovering Bruce Cockburn, producing the "loudest band in the world," Kensington Market, managing and producing Murray McLauchlan, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and Rough Trade, winning 40 Junos, and much more. ~ from McClelland.com.
Bernie also has a Facebook page where he states "If people want to post questions or comments on my wall I'm going to do my best to answer them. They can be about Bruce or anything else. The page is largely about my book but who knows where it might go."
Bernie's book, True North - A Life Inside the Music Business, is available April 17, 2012. You can order / pre order through the links below:
Amazon Canada: http://amzn.to/truenorthCANADA
Amazon USA: http://amzn.to/truenorthUSA
McClelland & Stewart (Publisher): http://bit.ly/truenorthPublisher.
16 February 2012 - When you hear the name Bruce Cockburn, what do you think of?
Bruce Cockburn says he's made records the same way since the 1960s - he jumps in the studio with friends and makes the best songs possible. He says it's that sense of camaraderie that's made his career such an enjoyable experience.
He's a Canadian singer/songwriter, sure, one of the best. He's also known as a champion for causes that are close to his heart, like human rights and the environment, and has carried the torch for those issues in many of his own songs.
But there is one specific cause, perhaps the greatest of them all, that's been occupying his time these days. Her name is Iona, and she's his three-month-old baby girl.
"She is the prime cause in my life right now. So, I haven't been looking outward all that much."
That's right: at age 66 Cockburn is a dad again. Iona and her mother (Cockburn's girlfriend) will accompany him across the East Coast to make up for a bout of shows that were cancelled after the new dad fell ill with pneumonia last year.
When 'Here' spoke to Cockburn by phone he was relaxing at home in Ontario before heading out for a tour in support of 2011's Small Source of Comfort. The album was inspired by Cockburn's many travels, including a visit with his brother in Afghanistan who was stationed there with the Canadian military.
"I think my nature is essentially nomadic. Home to me has seldom felt like more than base camp. Even when I was kid, though I didn't know it at the time, looking back I can see there never was a sense of being at home anywhere. I had a perfectly functional middle-class home growing up so it wasn't a physical issue, just spiritually I've always been a wanderer and that continues."
Even though he's been a veteran of the music business since the '60s and has 25 albums to his name, Cockburn says not much has changed about the way he prefers to make records. He still jumps in the studio with a group of friends, picks up a guitar, and tries to find a way to make his songs sound the best they can.
"Generally I've been lucky enough to work with people with whom I have a strong feeling of camaraderie and it's a really enjoyable process."
When asked how he'd describe this stage in his career, Cockburn laughs and says: "I guess I can categorically say I'm not at the beginning."
He also adds that he's not yet in the "throes of death."
Instead, the evolution continues for an artist whose songs have been covered countless times by both his contemporaries and a newer generation of performers. Cockburn is an officer of the Order of Canada, has a stack of honourary degrees from schools across the nation, and is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. But he's still learning about his country.
"When I first started touring in the early '70s it was really exciting. It gave me a sense of what I belonged to as a Canadian."
Fledgling musicians do ask him for advice from time to time, but he downplays his depth of knowledge. The industry has changed too much, he says, and there's no need for him to keep up.
"I don't feel like I'm a very good source of advice with respect to people's careers, in regards to what moves to makes. I never paid any attention to it. I made the moves that came to me when it seemed like the right time. I never had a plan."
Moncton Thursday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m. at Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St. 856-4379. $30.50-$34.50
@For tickets call the box office at 856-4379 or online at bit.ly/wKTG0v
Fredericton Friday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. at The Playhouse, 686 Queen St. 458-8344. Regular tickets: $42, under 19: $21
@Buy tickets online at bit.ly/xabXcW or by calling the box office at 458-8344
Saint John Saturday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m. at Imperial Theatre, 24 King Square South. 674-4100. $42
@Tickets available online at bit.ly/je4GSU or call the box office at 1-800-323-SHOW
~ from Herenb Canada East by Molly Cormier.
14 February 2012 - Bruce Cockburn has toured in many ways in a career that has spanned over 40 years.
This will be second time that the Canadian music legend has toured as the father of an infant. His daughter Iona was born November 20. Her mother, Cockburn’s longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett, is on maternity leave from her job in San Francisco. So, the three will travel on a tour bus as the 11 time Juno Award winner comes to the Playhouse in Fredericton on Friday, February 17 as part of a 12-show east coast tour which began in Quebec City February 10.
How will it go?
"Better ask me later," Cockburn quipped.
However, the timing works. Cockburn was to have played a solo show last fall in support of his 31st album Small Source Of Comfort. The October tour dates that would have ended a tour that started in March needed to be cancelled due to pneumonia and a partially collapsed lung.
The show will "defined by the new album”, in Cockburn’s words. The typical Cockburn pattern is 20 or so songs, about half of which are the new album’s material.
"The other half of the songs I will play are a cross-section,” he explained. "There are some obvious ones, and there are also some of my older songs."
In recent years, the shows have had some sure bets like Lovers In A Dangerous Time early and Wondering Where The Lions Are late. They are always sprinkles of his wide canon from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and this millennium.
A self-aware legend, Cockburn admitted, "A challenge is to avoid filling a couple of hours with long, slow songs!"
With respect to gear, Cockburn will be playing his Manzer 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars and a baritone guitar. He will also be bringing his dulcimer, issuing a heads up for Arrows Of Light on the set list. When asked, Cockburn lamented that he had forgotten his charango in San Francisco.
Cockburn still owns his home in Ontario. "Now, though, I have a family based in San Francisco and I am enjoying that hugely, and we still get to travel some of the time."
That travel has been Cockburn’s hallmark for the bulk of his career.
Much of it relates to weighty matters, but he had an enjoyable trip last summer to see his 35 year old daughter Jenny Cockburn, who is doing her PhD research in Anthropology in the highlands of Bolivia.
Cockburn’s world engagement and inner quest is the glue of his most potent work through the years. He cares deeply about the world and its people, but he offered, at once, a quip and a truism when asked how one should engage with the world:
Cockburn clarified that the whole matter is much more involved than that.
"There is a balance between being part of the world and being connected to the inner self. The inner connection has to inform one’s connection to the planet and the people you meet."
He conceded, "It is east to think of the world as scarier and scarier. I also see a tension between the forces of chaos and the forces of love."
Lamenting the "very negative” side of Christianity of North America in a particular form, Cockburn clarified that he decries "tribal notions" of any religious belief that would be "a cause for which they are willing to kill other people".
At age 66, Cockburn is also very aware that things have changed over his lifetime.
"I grew up in the relative simplicity of the Cold War world. Now, it’s all about money.
"We are confronted with money versus tribal religious identification."
He is encouraged, though. Cockburn stressed, "A lot of people are trying to get at the more visceral things that connect us.
"We should look for these connections – build real community rather than ‘us’ against ‘them’ – even if some of ‘them’ scare me."
Cockburn has every intention of making music and writing music as long as he is able. His composing has had rare dry spots, such as about 10 years ago, but Cockburn has what he called "fits of creativity which might produce more than one song".
Looking back, he said, "My life so far has been marked by longer or shorter periods of apparent predictability.
"The finger of fate continues to direct my movement."
That movement sees this beloved Canadian legend come to The Playhouse one more time February 17.
~ Wilfred Langmaid for the Daily Gleaner.
10 February 2012 - Before his Quebec City show, Jacquie sat down backstage with Canadian icon Bruce Cockburn, as he reflected on his 40 year career in music, on being a new father at the age of 66, and the renewed energy he has as a troubadour of the human condition.
Listen to the interview.
10 February 2012 - SOMETIMES life has a way of making its own plans for you.
Like any touring musician, Bruce Cockburn has learned to expect the unexpected over the years, but the last couple have brought more than their share, both pleasant and otherwise.
In the latter category, it was a case of pneumonia in 2010 that cropped up after a trip to Bolivia and forced him to cancel a string of East Coast dates.
This week the Canadian folk icon makes good on his promise to return to the Maritimes with a series of shows starting Monday in New Glasgow.
Besides the pneumonia, which took a month to recover from ("I lost weight, which I felt pretty good about, but I don’t recommend it as a way to get out of the rat race"), the 66-year-old musician also had to clear his schedule in November while he became a father for the second time.
"Ten years ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be doing this; I’ve never been much of a planner, but let’s say that my vision for my waning years wasn’t that," chuckles Cockburn, who now has an infant daughter, Iona, with his girlfriend M.J. Hannett in San Francisco.
"It’s exciting. My girlfriend’s ... at the age where if she was going to have a kid, now would be the time, so we decided to get on with it," says Cockburn, from his house near Kingston, Ont.
"For me, it’s kind of a second chance in a way, not that I feel terrible about my first chance at it. My grown-up daughter has two kids of her own and a third is imminent, and I’m very proud of her, but I’ve missed a lot. When I was younger I was too wrapped up in the concerns of my art and this and that, all the stuff you think is so important.
"I still think my art is important; I take it very seriously, but at the same time I recognize other things and I’m more awake to the details of having a baby now and appreciating the day-by-day changes. It’s fun."
The birth of Iona also meant missing out on attending the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards in Toronto, where Cockburn won for contemporary album and solo artist recording of the year with his latest release, the earth-toned Small Source of Comfort, produced by longtime friend and colleague Colin Linden.
The record was also nominated for a Juno Award this week for solo roots and traditional album of the year, a category he shares with Pictou County’s own Dave Gunning.
The pair was also tied as top nominees at November’s CFMAs, and although he was previously unfamiliar with Gunning’s music before the awards, Cockburn says he was glad to see some attention going to his tribute to the legacy of Nova Scotia’s Celtic godfather, John Allan Cameron.
"I have some fond memories of hanging out with John Allan in the ’70s," says Cockburn, who was also a guest performer on Cameron’s CBC-TV show at the end of that decade.
"I regret that I didn’t keep up with him in later years, because he was such a good guy.
"My life has been sort of a whole ... it continually drifts, so I’ve ended up inadvertently saying goodbye to people over the years, and he’s one of them. He and his wife Angela, and me and my then-wife, used to hang out in Ottawa and elsewhere, but his work deserves to be recognized."
Cameron was also one of the first artists to cover a Cockburn song, singing his theme to the Don Shebib film Goin’ Down the Road on his 1972 album Get There By Dawn, the first of a number of East Coast acts to dip into his catalogue, along with the Rankin Family, the Barra MacNeils and even Halifax indie rock pioneers Jellyfishbabies.
It’s no wonder Cockburn can’t wait to express his affinity for Atlantic Canada with this week’s solo shows, and the new songs from Small Source of Comfort are perfectly suited to an intimate setting.
The record is mostly acoustic, with some notable assists from Linden, violinist and Bill Frisell collaborator Jenny Scheinman and former Wailin’ Jennys singer Annabelle Chvostek.
Cockburn says much of the album was composed while staying in his girlfriend’s old apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., working primarily with variations on the DADGAD tuning used by guitarists ranging from Richard Thompson and Jimmy Page to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Trey Anastasio from Phish.
Originally he was thinking about making a record that was "really noisy," more electric and improvisational, "but you can’t make that kind of noise in an apartment."
"You can put on your headphones and plug in your guitar, but that just doesn’t do it for me. What I had in mind was Sunn meets Albert Ayler, and you need to have a big space for that."
To see Cockburn in some bigger spaces, check out his Maritime tour starting on Monday at New Glasgow’s Glasgow Square Theatre, followed by a Valentine’s Day show on Tuesday at Halifax’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
Nova Scotia dates continue on Sun., Feb. 19, at Truro’s Marigold Cultural Centre; Tues., Feb. 21, at The Pearl Theatre in Lunenburg; Thurs., Feb. 23, at Sydney’s Membertou Trade and Convention Centre; Fri., Feb. 24, at Mermaid Imperial Centre in Windsor; wrapping up on Sat., Feb. 25, at Liverpool’s Astor Theatre.
~ from The Chronicle Herald - by STEPHEN COOKE, 10 February 2012. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
8 February 2012 - SYDNEY — Travel is a necessity of making it in the music industry.
Luckily for Bruce Cockburn, hitting the open road has always been one of his favourite parts of the job.
"It’s a bit of a drug for me I guess in the sense that it’s a way to evade the day-to-day reality that most of us have to deal with when we’re sitting in one place," he said. "And of course the world of touring is even more like that. It becomes totally unrealistic, except with respect to the shows themselves, and that of course, is what it’s all about."
After taking a break from the road since September, Cockburn is set to head out on tour once again. The renowned singer-songwriter had to cancel an East Coast tour in 2010 when he developed pneumonia, but he’s now making up those dates, which will include a stop at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, Feb. 23.
"I’m very happy to be able to be doing this tour. It was a big disappointment to have to cancel it the first time around," said Cockburn.
It’s a solo show and one where audiences should expect to hear a mix of older material, and newer songs from his latest album, "Small Source of Comfort," released last year.
"The material will range from stuff from the recent album and just a cross-section of older stuff," he said. "The obvious ones will be in there. "Wondering Where the Lions Are" pretty much ends up in every show, and "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," things like that."
Cockburn’s travels have also contributed to much of his musical catalogue, as visiting new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things have served as inspiration for his songwriting.
"To oversimplify it’s kind of the shock factor. When you encounter anything that really moves you for the first time, think of the first time you fell in love or the first time you engaged in a sport that you’d never tried and found that you loved it, that kind of thing, it leaves a big impression," he explained.
Cockburn said when it comes to songwriting the lyrics typically come first, in a notebook he carries with him, and then he adds music to the words.
"I’ve never been good at deciding to write a song about a particular topic. A case in point on this album actually that’s kind of in that very dramatic experience category is "Each One Lost," which was the result of being at a ramp ceremony at Camp Mirage in Dubai. The whole thing was so incredibly touching and deeply moving that it stuck with me and the day I got back from Afghanistan I wrote that song."
On "Small Source of Comfort," Cockburn also branched into the world of co-writing with Annabelle Chvostek, on the songs "Driving Away," and "Boundless.”
“That is something I haven’t done very much of, the co-writing thing, and it was fun,” he said.
2011 was a big year for Cockburn, professionally and personally. He released "Small Source of Comfort," his 31st album, took home two Canadian Folk Music Awards, and his second daughter, Iona Cockburn, with his longtime girlfriend, was born in late November.
For 2012, Cockburn said he plans to do more touring and is always working on new material, but is particularly looking forward to spending time with his family.
Cockburn is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and an 11-time Juno Award winner. He was nominated once again earlier this week in the solo roots and traditional album of the year category.
~ Cape Brenton Post by Laura Jean Grant.
1 February 2012 - It’s been an interesting couple of years for Bruce Cockburn. Christmas gifts like BlackBerrys and an iMac have shoved him into the info-age ("My girlfriend decided she had enough of not being able to email me.")
Last year he released his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort, for which he earned two Canadian Folk Music Awards in December. The singer was originally set to tour in this area in 2010 but that set of shows was canceled due to a bout of pneumonia. When touring did resume in 2011 it was scheduled around the pregnancy of Cockburn’s long-time girlfriend and in November Cockburn became a father for the second time in 30-some years.
"I’m a lot more aware of it (this time) and more appreciative of it," he says, "It is fairly overwhelming this time, too. (The first time) I was more wrapped up in the perceived need at least to pay attention to music. I didn’t have the confidence to let it sit there and come back to it. Now I know it’s there and I can pay attention to the baby… My first daughter’s birth and childhood went by so fast."
While his first daughter’s childhood may have gone by fast, it didn’t go by unnoticed. Cockburn’s 1983 classic 'Lovers In a Dangerous Time' was in part inspired by his parental concern for her in light of then growing AIDS epidemic.
"’Lovers In A Dangerous Time’ was written early in the public school stage," he says. "I was thinking about her and her friends in the playground and looking at the headlines. When I was a kid we were growing up with the Korean War but our response was different. Our response was to have air raid drills and hide under our desk. But the idea of dying from being intimate with someone…it has a different significance."
Cockburn is, at heart, a folk-singer and ‘Lovers’, like many of his songs, tapped into the spirit of the time but did so in such a way that it remains relevant today. Songs like 'The Trouble With Normal’ or ‘Call it Democracy’, meanwhile, sound as though they may have been written in response to the Occupy Wall Street protests. When you take into account that those songs were written in 1981 and 1985 respectively it is an idea which becomes eerie, although Cockburn would be the first to tell you he isn’t a prophet.
"I wasn’t the only voice that was hollering that message out… That information was out there for a long time. The cause and effect was obvious. Over the years the powers that be have perfected that. Now people in New York can see how they’re being exploited, how they’re being screwed over and they’re in the streets. And they should be in the streets. They keep the issue in front of us and that’s a good thing. But they’re treated as a kind of side show to the real running joke which is these puffed up morons trying to be president. God help us if any of them get into that position."
Although recent tours have seen him supported by other musicians, his stop at Glasgow Square on February 13 will be a solo performance. The songs will be stripped down to just his voice and unique fingerpicking style but that’s fine by Cockburn, they work that way.
"There are a few songs from the middle of the 80s that are hard to pull off solo because they’re very band oriented and the guitar part is quite small," he says. "There’s a few, but not too many. In general I’ve written them to be played solo. I was in bands in the ‘60s but that was a long time ago and they were not always successful. The music never really worked either which is what led to me going solo. When I have bands now they tend to be small. I toured last time out with a trio and that was a great band. I do miss the band, I miss the energy and the companionship of those people."
Small Source of Comfort is Cockburn’s 31st album since his 1970 eponymous debut and by his own estimation in the years since he’s written between 350 to 400 songs although how he manages to find new things to say is a mystery to him.
"I have no idea. It’s never something I take for granted. It’s always sort of touch and go. And there’ve been points where I thought it was over. It’s always started up again. I have no reason to doubt it will continue to flow. It’s been important to me to try not to repeat myself. I try to avoid using the same devices over and over and not writing the same song over and over."
Bruce Cockburn will be performing at Glasgow Square in New Glasgow on February 13, 2012 at 8 p.m. in support of his 31st album Small Source of Comfort. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door.
~ from www.pictouadvocate.com by by Aaron Cameron.
23 January 2012 - On 17 September 2000, the CockburnProject published THE STORY OF A GUITAR - FROM LUTHIER TO CURRENT OWNER: COCKBURN'S BLUE "FLYING V". A few days ago we received an email from the luthier, Imre de Jonge letting us know that he is back in the guitar building business. Below is an excerpt:
I trust that John Rafaele still owns the guitar and is still happy with it... I hope so. Every year or 2 I get emails from far-flung people who own my guitars, telling me how much they love them, and how well they play and stand up to time... it's very gratifying. No bad news yet...
At the time I was interviewed about that guitar I had put luthiery on the back burner to join the Toronto film industry and work more on my music. http://users.vianet.ca/idejonge/music/index.htm.
But I never got rid of my collection of wood, including 5 guitars that I had already started. Now I'm at it again, and those guitars are getting finished, and that super well-aged wood will get used. I moved out of Toronto in '05 to a beautiful 20-acre property just outside of Huntsville, in north Muskoka. I have my own forest now, and have been cutting wood and stacking it away for future guitars, (some now ready) focussing on spalted, figured, and crotch woods, with a view to creating a truly home-grown guitar. I'm making many of my own parts now too, from wood, antler, and stone.
Anyway, the long-short of it is that I'm back to building, and I thought the Cockburn Project might be interested in that little update. I'm building better guitars with some cool innovations, and yup, I'm planning more V guitars, but this time they'll be carved one-piece full-length from a tree crotch. (I can afford a lot of scrap now, and I heat with wood) I've recently finished one of those that I started way back in '88; a very natural, organic guitar featuring electric, acoustic, and MIDI modes; the ultimate in versatility... Bruce would probably love this guitar. (and it stays on your lap when you sit down!) http://imredejonge.com/guitars/model-I.htm
I've erected a simple website to showcase what I'm doing now, as well as past guitars. (including the blue V, which I did manage to photograph before delivery) http://imredejonge.com/guitars.
To read the whole story, go HERE.
23 November 2011 - At 66 years old, Bruce Cockburn is a new father once again.
Iona Cockburn was born on Monday (November 20, 2011) in San Francisco to Cockburn and his longtime girlfriend, 36-year-old M.J. Hannett, his manager told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.
Iona is Cockburn’s second daughter, born more than 35 years after his first, Jenny.
"Bruce would tell you that he’s absolutely thrilled and just absolutely looking forward to being a father to his new daughter," said Cockburn’s manager, Bernie Finkelstein, in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Cockburn, an 11-time Juno Award winner, released his 30th album, Small Source of Comfort, in March.
Finkelstein says the Ottawa folksinger cleared his touring schedule for the most part due to the pregnancy, with the exception of concerts through Eastern Canada set to begin Feb. 11 in Quebec and wrapping two weeks later in Liverpool, N.S.
That jaunt is making up for a cancelled tour in 2010, when Cockburn suffered from a bout of pneumonia that led to a partially collapsed lung.
Cockburn is also working on a memoir to be released sometime in 2013 with HarperCollins, Finkelstein added.
"The one thing this now means is that he’s got more time on his hands to work on his new book," he said.
~ By Nick Patch, The Canadian Press, Nov 22, 2011
2 November 2011 -
On August 3, 1994, Bruce Cockburn performed live in studio with full band, on a show called Columbia Records Radio Hour.
Below are the YouTube videos of that show (in 3 parts) as well as direct links to the video.
8 September 2011 -
After a short break this summer and a trip to Italy, Bruce has started on the fall tour for Small Source of Comfort. He kicked off the tour at the Belcourt in Nashville, where Ramcey, a friend of the CockburnProject and a fellow Human has this to report. I walked by the entrance to the Belcourt Theater exactly 2 hours
before show time. There was already one woman standing by
herself, in line. I stopped to ask her if she were really standing
in line already? Yes, she was. By the time I went across the street
for a sandwich and cold one, a long line had stretched down the
sidewalk. The young and rich Vanderbilt kids walked by and looked
at all the gray hairs with bemusement. In line, the chatter all centered around how rare it is that we get
to have Bruce in our part of the world; remembrance of past shows,
and the like. Soon, the doors opened and we all streamed in. The Belcourt is a very small theater which holds less than
250 people. Initially, I was worried as there were less than 100 of
us inside. Bruce's sound guy was playing some bizarre house music
that ranged from contemporary and very mellow jazz to opera. I
started talking with folks around me, taking some pictures of
Bruce's stage setup, and soon the theater was nearly full. The stage was set up with huge chimes on both sides of Bruce.
Between the chimes, was a single wedge (stage monitor speaker)
which I thought odd since Bruce uses IEM's (in ear monitors).
Later, I would figure that the wedge was there for when Colin
would join Bruce. His main mic was centered, with another mic over the dulcimer
mounted up high on a modified piano stand.
In between was his array of guitars. Both green Manzers, the
National Steel, a 12 string, and another 6 string. He has a large
rack of gear all lit up behind him that he never touches. He uses
the top for his drink, capos and such. Sound was pretty good.
Bruce had brought his own sound guy/guitar tech, and his own
complete sound system. I went back to admire the sound gear
which was all very good equipment. I won't talk more about it
since I know that nobody here cares about such. There were
2 mics onstage pointed towards the audience so I was thinking
that they might be recording the show. I checked all the sound
gear and did not see any recording devices. An old time hippy
sound engineer approached me as he'd also been back there
to check out the gear. He figured out that the audience mics
were so that Bruce can hear the audience during performance.
Brilliant! 20 minutes past the 8PM start time, the audience was getting
a bit restless and started clapping. The sound guy was still
tweaking Bruce's guitars, but when I saw him exit the stage
and walk back towards the sound board, I told everyone
around me that it was show time, and it was! The lights dimmed. Bruce walked out unannounced to a fairly enthusiastic
greeting. It takes a lot to impress a Nashville audience.
Many of the people in the house are great musicians,
sound engineers and music industry folks. Bruce seemed
to be a little rusty perhaps from some time off. He missed
a chord or two, forgot a line in Each One Lost, and struggled
a bit with some of the high notes when singing. But as the
show went on and he warmed-up, he got in the groove. We got nearly a 2 hour show, not including the VERY long
intermission. So long, that the couple next to me walked
to one of the restaurants, ate, and made it back before
Bruce started the 2nd set. Before the show, when I was
back at the sound board area, Colin Linden walked in with
his wife. I said hello and shook hands with him, and he
intro'd me to his wife before they took their seats. During
the 2nd set, Bruce would invite him up twice; initially for
a stunning version of 5:51, and then for the encores.
There was clearly a chemistry and joy
between the two men that can only come from many, many
years of friendship and music together. I have some nice
pictures, a few of which are already up on FaceBook. I'll
try to put some into the files section of Humans if I'm
able, or share them in some other way. There are a few
that I know all of you would really enjoy seeing. [Editor note: All of Ramcey's photos are up on the CockburnProject's Facebook page.]
Columbia Radio Hour Video
Columbia Radio Hour Part 1:
Listen for the Laugh, Stolen Land
Columbia Radio Hour Part 2:
Closer to the Light, If I Had a Rocket Launcher
Columbia Radio Hour Part 3 - Bruce Cockburn featuring Youssou N'Dour:
Wondering Where the Lions Are and Chimes of Freedom
Bruce Cockburn in Nashville
by Ramcey Rodriguez
2 November 2011 -
On August 3, 1994, Bruce Cockburn performed live in studio with full band, on a show called Columbia Records Radio Hour.
Below are the YouTube videos of that show (in 3 parts) as well as direct links to the video.
8 September 2011 - After a short break this summer and a trip to Italy, Bruce has started on the fall tour for Small Source of Comfort. He kicked off the tour at the Belcourt in Nashville, where Ramcey, a friend of the CockburnProject and a fellow Human has this to report.
I walked by the entrance to the Belcourt Theater exactly 2 hours before show time. There was already one woman standing by herself, in line. I stopped to ask her if she were really standing in line already? Yes, she was. By the time I went across the street for a sandwich and cold one, a long line had stretched down the sidewalk. The young and rich Vanderbilt kids walked by and looked at all the gray hairs with bemusement.
In line, the chatter all centered around how rare it is that we get to have Bruce in our part of the world; remembrance of past shows, and the like. Soon, the doors opened and we all streamed in.
The Belcourt is a very small theater which holds less than 250 people. Initially, I was worried as there were less than 100 of us inside. Bruce's sound guy was playing some bizarre house music that ranged from contemporary and very mellow jazz to opera. I started talking with folks around me, taking some pictures of Bruce's stage setup, and soon the theater was nearly full.
The stage was set up with huge chimes on both sides of Bruce. Between the chimes, was a single wedge (stage monitor speaker) which I thought odd since Bruce uses IEM's (in ear monitors). Later, I would figure that the wedge was there for when Colin would join Bruce.
His main mic was centered, with another mic over the dulcimer mounted up high on a modified piano stand. In between was his array of guitars. Both green Manzers, the National Steel, a 12 string, and another 6 string. He has a large rack of gear all lit up behind him that he never touches. He uses the top for his drink, capos and such. Sound was pretty good. Bruce had brought his own sound guy/guitar tech, and his own complete sound system. I went back to admire the sound gear which was all very good equipment. I won't talk more about it since I know that nobody here cares about such. There were 2 mics onstage pointed towards the audience so I was thinking that they might be recording the show. I checked all the sound gear and did not see any recording devices. An old time hippy sound engineer approached me as he'd also been back there to check out the gear. He figured out that the audience mics were so that Bruce can hear the audience during performance. Brilliant!
20 minutes past the 8PM start time, the audience was getting a bit restless and started clapping. The sound guy was still tweaking Bruce's guitars, but when I saw him exit the stage and walk back towards the sound board, I told everyone around me that it was show time, and it was! The lights dimmed.
Bruce walked out unannounced to a fairly enthusiastic greeting. It takes a lot to impress a Nashville audience. Many of the people in the house are great musicians, sound engineers and music industry folks. Bruce seemed to be a little rusty perhaps from some time off. He missed a chord or two, forgot a line in Each One Lost, and struggled a bit with some of the high notes when singing. But as the show went on and he warmed-up, he got in the groove.
We got nearly a 2 hour show, not including the VERY long intermission. So long, that the couple next to me walked to one of the restaurants, ate, and made it back before Bruce started the 2nd set. Before the show, when I was back at the sound board area, Colin Linden walked in with his wife. I said hello and shook hands with him, and he intro'd me to his wife before they took their seats. During the 2nd set, Bruce would invite him up twice; initially for a stunning version of 5:51, and then for the encores.
There was clearly a chemistry and joy between the two men that can only come from many, many years of friendship and music together. I have some nice pictures, a few of which are already up on FaceBook. I'll try to put some into the files section of Humans if I'm able, or share them in some other way. There are a few that I know all of you would really enjoy seeing. [Editor note: All of Ramcey's photos are up on the CockburnProject's Facebook page.]
Bruce came out into the lobby where a long line had formed to meet him and get things signed. I have many autographs from Bruce and have met him numerous times, so I just stood there talking with friends and watching the activities for a few minutes absorbing the last of the good vibes before heading out the door into the cool Nashville night and driving out to the hills.
--------------- 1st Set
1 Last Night of the World
2 Lovers in a Dangerous Time
3 Child of the Wind
4 Bohemian 3-Step
5 When You Give It Away
6 Iris of the World
7 Strange Waters
9 Arrows of Light
--------------- 2nd Set
1 Lord of the Starfields
2 Pacing the Cage
3 Called Me Back
4 Five Fifty-One
5 Put It In Your Heart
6 Each One Lost
7 Wondering Where the Lions Are
8 If a Tree Falls
1 God Bless the Children
2 All the Diamonds
(Bruce had "Comets written on his set list for the encore but chose not to do it since he invited Colin up to finish the show with him).
Thanks for making it down "South", Bruce. Go get 'em in Atlanta tonight.........Ramcey Rodriguez
There are also some YouTube videos from this show, you can search from here.
~ bobbi wisby
27 June 2011 - As Bruce continues touring to promote his 31st album release, Small Source of Comfort, I, once again had the great pleasure of seeing // hearing Bruce and Jenny play a fabulous set of music. I saw them with Gary Craig on drums at the Uptown Theater in Napa on June 2.
The Kate Wolf Festival is a 3 day /night camping music festival. This year the temps were in the 80's with Sunday being the hottest day. This show had been promoted as a solo show, but a few days earlier I heard Jenny was going to be playing as well. And as it should be, Jenny grew up just a couple hours drive from the venue, you could say it was a family affair for her to be playing so close to home. And she did have the crowd in her pocket.
Sometime around mid-afternoon, (very hot) Bruce and Jenny did a short short sound check. The stage was full of people including the Festivals Childrens Grateful Parade with Wavy Gravy MC-ing. We heard a bit of Last Night of the World, Jenny's song, Littlest Prisoner, Iris of the World and Put It In Your Heart.
Their set started at 7:40pm. The sun was just going down behind the trees and stage (thankfully), and the lighting was great. Wavy Gravy gave Bruce a wonderful introduction, and they started into Last Night of the World, but stopped as Bruce's capo was placed wrong.. once fixed they took off.
One of the things that really stand out for me watching Bruce and Jenny perform together, is the great feeling of joy that seems to pass over him as she plays. They have great synergy.
Here's the setlist:
Last Night of the World
Lovers In A Dangerous Time
Iris of the World
Bruce tells the story of meeting Wavy Gravy in South Dakota many many years ago at a rally or concert supporting or surrounding the Wounded Knee incidents. (again wish I had a recording)
Parnassus and Fog
Call Me Rose
Littlest Prisoner - Jenny's song
If A Tree Falls
Wondering Where the Lions Are
Arrows of Light
Then the Wailing Jenny's joined them onstage for Put It In Your Heart and Waiting For A Miracle. Just before Waiting For a Miracle, Bruce says, "I don't know about you guys (to the audience), but "I'm having fun."
There was no encore as the schedule didn't allow any time for it :( althought the crowd did try to bring him back.
My friend and local photographer Kim Sallaway provided most of the photos above. Big Thanks to him!
I have more photos and some video up at my blog OnMyBeat.net ~ bobbi wisby.
Update : 4 July 2011 - I have added another whole page full of Kim Sallaway's photos.... go check it out!
~ by bobbi wisby
5 May 2011 -
Bruce Cockburn poses with his forthcoming stamp, which will be issued June 30. (Canada Post)
Canadians might find Bruce Cockburn in their mailbox this summer, following Canada Post's announcement of a new stamp featuring the celebrated singer-songwriter.
Canada Post said Thursday that a stamp honouring Cockburn will be issued on June 30 as part of the third instalment of its Canadian Recording Artists series.
His stamp will join the previously announced stamps of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Robbie Robertson and Ginette Reno.
The series will be issued June 30.
"This is very exciting," the Ottawa-born Cockburn said in a statement.
The stamp's design — a black and white image of him against a red background featuring titles of his hit songs — is "beautiful," he added.
Over the years, the folk-rock singer and activist has won multiple awards for his music, which includes hits such as The Coldest Night of the Year and If I Had a Rocket Launcher. His original songs have inspired covers by a wide range of artists — from Jimmy Buffett to the Barenaked Ladies.
He released his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort, in March and is currently touring the U.S. Cockburn, who is also an officer of the Order of Canada and member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, is slated to publish his memoir in April 2012.
Article from CBC News, via Bernie Finkelstein.
21 March 2011 - Small Source Of Comfort (True North) is the latest LP from legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. It’s also his 31st studio album in a career that dates back all the way to the mid-’60s. Over the years, Cockburn has become one of his country’s most successful and honored musicians, winning more than his share of awards and accolades, not only for his music but also for his longtime humanitarian work. This week, Cockburn adds MAGNET guest editor to his already impressive resume.
Cockburn: In 1970, I bought my first truck: a Dodge pickup with a three-speed floor shift. I think I paid around $3,500 for it new. I put an insulated cap on the back and built a bed in it. My then-wife Kitty and I, with our dog Aroo, spent much of the next few years driving back and forth across Canada, living in and out of that truck. The lifestyle changed when our daughter Jenny was born and when touring expanded into something more like a military exercise than the nomadic wandering it had been.
Later on I began to develop a certain nostalgia for that original road experience: for the meditative effect of an unfolding Western highway, for solitude in the presence of large landscapes, for the illusion of freedom. When my girlfriend moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco a while ago and the commute from my house in eastern Ontario got a lot longer, I found myself able to exercise my nostalgia. Having to. The difference now, of course, being that the landscape is that of the U.S. and no longer Canada. Not that it’s new territory. Over the years I’ve played gigs pretty much everywhere in North America. But the ability to savor the landscape and the feeling of travel is a whole other thing when it’s just me.
I have a van with a good sound system. It has a comfortable bed, and I generally camp in truck-stop parking lots. I don’t eat meals per se, but snack on the healthiest stuff I can find and drink too much coffee.
This is me and peak oil. The modern oil industry and I both came to life at the end of WW II. I expect we’ll peak and fade about the same time. It will soon be a very different world. Meanwhile, I don’t suppose my carbon footprint is any bigger travelling by road than by air. It’s likely smaller. And I love these long drives.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Transcontinental Driving - on Magnet
Cockburn: I’ve been on tour, and it’s now over. I drive north through the U.S., stopping here and there to take in the sights. I turn in to a forested area with some farms and continue driving on a gravel road up the back of a steep hill. There are a couple of small buildings that seem abandoned. Above me is another hill, which is grassy and steep and vaguely breast-shaped. I climb this. At the top is a small knoll like a nipple, also grassy. I climb up this, too, as I want to sit on it to take in the view. It’s precarious, because the other side of the hill is almost a straight drop. The wind is fresh, and I feel very happy.
I look back down at where I parked. There is an African-American family with grandparents and a couple of kids. One of the boys sees me and is clearly envious of my position. He wants to come up here too.
I carry on northward to a border town where some of my gear has been left for me in a sheriff’s department. SUV parked beside the police station. I spend the night at a motel next door, planning to leave early the following day with my belongings. In the morning, though, the vehicle is gone.
I anxiously go into the police station and talk to the two deputies who are inside. They say something to the effect that the SUV has been sold and they don’t know where it is. I remain respectful, but become agitated. Finally the officer who seems to be in charge leads me to an inner office in which all my gear sits piled on a couch. He says,''Do you have anything to say to me?'' I reply, "I feel like a total fool, having assumed you’d left all this stuff in the truck. I’m sorry and thank you!"
The sheriff himself, an older guy, now comes in along with another gray-haired man. He is jovial and gives me a little package. "This is for you," he says. "Go on. Open it!" It contains a crocheted scarf, which I can actually use, though it’s not quite my taste, and a tiny dog collar with little shiny chains hanging from it. It’s not at all clear what I’m supposed to do with this …
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - A Dream in Two Parts - on Magnet
Cockburn: Jenny Scheinman has performed and recorded with a legion of fine artists from Bill Frisell and Ani DiFranco to Lucinda Williams and Rodney Crowell. You may know her from this, but if you haven’t checked out her own CDs, you’re missing something great! As a jazzoid composer and player, Jenny has developed an eclectic style both fresh and varied. She performs her pieces with a range of ensembles, which feature ace musicianship from the likes of Todd Sycafoose, Myra Melford, Kenny Wollesen, Nels Cline and others.
Then there’s the songwriting. I’m not exactly clear on the genre boundaries involved, but with violin and mandolin accompaniment, Jenny has these songs with clever, thoughtful, sometimes humorous lyrics that sound to me like a kind of bent California neo-bluegrass. Full of good energy.
Aside from simply wanting to bring her to your attention, I have a certain stake in this. Jenny Scheinman is featured as a guest on my new CD and is also touring with me starting as both opening act and as part of my tiny-but-perfect band.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Jenny Scheinman - on Magnet
Cockburn: In all cultures, all times, there is in people a hunger for the divine. There is a feeling that each of us is part of something universal. That feeling is usually institutionalized into religion, which often replaces the divine with the counterfeit sense of being one instead with the tribe. The divine, though, means different things to different people. For some, it’s the planet. For some, it’s the projected psyche split into parts with the faces of gods, or science.
I believe in God. I believe there is a divine presence, an energy, that is the fabric of everything. Sometimes we can feel this presence as love. My relationship with God is very personal. If I still my internal fussing and pride, I might be able to discern what God wants for me, but I don’t think I’ll ever hear more than a suggestion of what is wanted for anyone else. You for instance. I might make that suggestion out loud, but if you don’t agree or don’t accept it, my part ends there. Anybody who says they know what God wants for you is deluded.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: God - on Magnet
Cockburn: The teenage son of a friend of mine was killed recently in a snowmobile accident. He was a popular kid—how much so his mother learned when it seemed like the whole town turned up to mourn his passing.
This inescapable transition from a living state to whatever awaits us is something we prefer to ignore much of the time, although our fascination with death is obvious from the constant stream of stories we are constantly telling ourselves. There are situations where it will be seen and felt. There are places where human death becomes another element in the landscape, along with roads and trees and air. In our own context, thankfully, death feels more like an occasion. I guess it’s safe to say it is always a shock to the deceased. I suspect (and fervently hope) that that shock is short-lived. To the survivors, the shock lasts a long time. In the case of a lost loved one, lifelong. I think I’ve seen that excruciating sense of loss be transmuted into a kind of interior altar where the lost one is honored.
We are this brief flare of energy sparked by birth and then snuffed out. It seems especially so when someone young goes down. Part of the energy goes on to what is next. Part of it remains as the memories of us held by those who knew us. When my mother died this past summer, she was just short of her 89th birthday. She had lived as much as circumstance and temperament permitted. She fought off the effects of cancer and its treatment for a long time. She curled and played tennis up to the last year of her life. She too was more popular than we had realized. At her visitation, a large number of her contemporaries showed up, most of them unknown to me, full of love and appreciation for her. That sad event became a celebration, even a joyous one, of mom and her life.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: Death - on Magnet
Cockburn: There was only one public latrine in the village. It was at the foot of the valley, below the ritually placed Dogon houses, where the spring’s ability to generate green vegetation came to an end at the dry plain of the Sahara. The structure was built up above ground: a mound of red earth 10 feet high shaped like a protruding navel. Finding myself in need of it, I went through the entrance to discover that I had to climb a short stair. This put me on a platform surrounded by an uneven, three-foot wall. As I squatted there with my head sticking up above the parapet, I felt extremely conspicuous. I wondered if I’d have to greet passersby from my elevated position, but the one or two women I could see hoeing in their garden ignored me.
I had a fine view of the surroundings. On one side, at my back, the looming 2,000-foot ramparts of the Bandiagara Escarpment. On the other, sand, thorns, the skeletons of dead baobab trees. Right where the patchwork of little-tilled fields hit the sand was a well spout from which water dribbled into a concrete trough. Nearby, a rectangle of chain-link fence stood next to a small house. While I watched, a wide column of dust approached that resolved itself into into a robed Peul herdsman driving a bleating, clanking crowd of sheep and goats. The animals rushed to the trough by the well, excited to be able to drink.
Startlingly blue sky. Red dust on the wind. This biblical scene of herder and flock. And if the shiny chain-link fence were not anomalous enough, inside it was a large array of solar panels, gleaming a darker blue.
I found out later that a former government had bought into the technology and installed a solar-powered well pump near each of the Dogon villages, dotting the escarpment. No ongoing tech support was given, so the systems broke down. Goats smashed the solar panels. This was the only one still working. The villagers had appointed a man to be trained in well maintenance. The little house was his, and he was charged with keeping everything running. When the well keeper grew too old, he passed on his knowledge to an apprentice in the traditional fashion.
For a fee of a few cents a year, the nomadic herders of the plain could water their livestock here. Back in the day, the Dogon and the Peul were mortal enemies, in the manner of farmers vs. herders the world over. They were enemies until France colonized Mali with cannons and forced peace on them 100 years ago. Now they coexist as partners facing ever-deepening desertification of the environment in which both must live.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: Water, Part 2 on Magnet
Cockburn: For a while, Battlestar Galactica and Dexter were running neck-and-neck as my favorite TV shows, but Dexter wins by default as the last man standing. It seems to me everybody with an imagination has, or has had, a secret inner life. I certainly have. All kinds of things happen in my imagination. Some are terrible, not in a Dexter way, but comparable. I don’t kill anybody, but at times my mind fills with horrible images.
That’s not as significant, though, as the fact of not being able (or willing) to share those thoughts and feelings. Not sharing means having secrets. When a young person develops the habit of keeping secrets (e.g. from parents, teachers, often for good reasons), it can be hard to break out of it later. You create strategies for avoiding the exposure of those secrets, and then you’re—presto—a bit like Dexter.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Dexter - on Magnet
Cockburn: When I was little, I wouldn’t go to sleep without my rubber knife hidden under my pillow. The sinister darkness under the bed could produce any number of monsters while I slept. The scary things under the bed moved to deeper and subtler places with the passage of time, but the love of a good knife only grew.
As a confirmed packrat, I end up with small-to-modest collections of things I like: bags and backpacks, jackets, comic books, DVDs U.S. quarters with states on them. And knives. Or, let’s say, edged implements. Some of them are agricultural in intent (e.g. old sickles). Some are art pieces, some utilitarian, some historical or exotic. The unifying factor is the beauty of form and function embodied in things with blades. There are a few made by high-end cutlers such as Jerry Fisk, Wolf Loerchner or >Brian Lyttle. Others are by lesser-known or up-and-coming makers. Some are traditional to various places: a delicate dagger from tango-era Buenos Aires designed to be worn in a woman’s garter, the one from Papua New Guinea crudely fashioned from the leg bone of a cassowary, the 150-year-old Chinese executioner’s sword. Some are purely practical camping or food-prep knives by companies like Benchmade and Spyderco. Being left-handed, I’m always on the lookout for folding knives oriented that way.
Sometimes a knife designed for one thing might get used for another; a combat knife doing duty in the kitchen, for instance. Actually, nearly all the knives get a bit of kitchen use, so they’re kept sharp. I have issues around my kitchen knives, insisting that they be treated with respect by any who use them. I seem to have impressed this so heavily on my daughter’s boyfriend that when he comes to visit, he brings his own knives.
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Knives - on Magnet
Cockburn: Back in the ’70s, I became interested in comics again. As a kid, I loved Tarzan and bought every issue for several years running. I lost interest in my teens, but it was reawakened when I discovered the French and Belgian bandes dessinées. These were comics with far better production values and a more adult orientation: sci-fi or fantasy stories, gritty noir detective tales, perverted humor. There was a whole world waiting to be savored in the union of story and dialogue with really good graphic art of many styles. Moebius, Hugo Pratt, Bilal & Christin and Jacques Tardi in particular lit up my imagination.
Over the years, some of the work of these artists has appeared in English, usually as a cheaper production and often with really bad translations. One of my favorites was Tardi’s series about a female private detective in fin-de-siecle Paris named Adèle Blanc-Sec. Fantagraphics has now released some of the Adèle stories in a form worthy of the original editions. They’ve put out other Tardi titles as well. This is exciting, even if I have them at home in French. It’s fun to think of a whole new audience discovering the work of such a great graphic novelist!
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Jacques Tardi - on Magnet
Cockburn: In the ’70s and ’80s, a lot of us became convinced that we shouldn’t drink tap water. We kept hearing about all the industrial and other pollutants, many of which don’t get caught by municipal treatment systems. It seemed as though bottled water was the way to go. Water from a spring somewhere had to be safer and usually tasted better. I, at least, didn’t suspect back then that we were being manipulated into yet another scheme to exploit our fear and the world’s poor at the same time. The bottled-water industry was setting itself up for windfall profits and a global takeover of fresh water sources.
There were those who saw it coming—as well as the potential for bad chemistry between water and the plastic of its containers. Now it’s become "common knowledge." Water is the new oil. Commercial interests in the developed world are pushing the old colonial agenda, now through so-called free-trade deals rather than conquest. As with oil, though, conquest is never completely ruled out.
Meanwhile, we now know we spent decades swilling a chemical cocktail of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Tap water begins to look better! Drink local. Aside from lessening exposure to all that noxious crap, it’s the only way to preserve our unfettered access to water. Surely that is the most basic of human rights.
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Water - on Magnet
Cockburn: - I like drinking wine. I’m currently trying to train myself to like pinot noir. I’ve never cared much for it, but so many of my friends and acquaintances do that I feel like I ought to understand what all the fuss is about. Pinot noir also contains the largest proportion among wines of resveratrol, the antioxidant that makes wine so good for you. I’ve now had a few that have gone down well, though some are too light and watery for my taste. Gimme the big wines, zin and merlot and amarone! Nothing brightens a day like well-chosen booze.
In Bolivia recently, my daughter and I were invited to help a number of Quechua villagers with their planting. Though it sounds like work, it was actually a social invitation. The custom is that all who work get fed and plied with chicha, a mildly alcoholic brew of corn, questionable water and, since everyone drinks from the same vessel, saliva. We arrived a bit late. Lunch was served, and we shared in it. A farmer mimed to me that if I didn’t do some work for my food and drink, I’d have to sing and dance for the crowd. This prompted me to grab a pickaxe and join him and the other men in crushing clumps of earth not sufficiently smashed by the bull-drawn plough. After 10 minutes of walking the furrows and slamming the pick down sideways on the thick clods, it was back to the shade and the pots of various forms of potatoes and corn. The men sat off to one side while Jenn and I sat with the women and kids, as she was acquainted with most of them and my Spanish is not up to chatting about the price of llamas or football or whatever the men were talking about. Jenn, on the other hand, had been living with these folks for six months and was able to communicate well in Spanish and their own Quechua tongue.
The boys were serving themselves drinks from a clear-glass gallon jug. Something other than chicha. One of them waved the bottle in my direction. I nodded back at him. He came over and poured me a glass and waited while I drank. It was fiery and smooth, like a fine grappa. The day was already bright. It got noticeably lighter …
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind - Alcohol - on Magnet
Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind:
Sex in Amsterdam
Cockburn: - So there we are, standing on the cobblestones, looking at a building with a big pink elephant sign: LIVE SEX. My companion says, “Let’s go in!” Curiosity rules! We trade some cash for a hand stamp with a friendly fellow who informs us that the show is 90 minutes long and we’ll see “all positions.” Up the dark stairs and through a curtain. We’re in a smallish room with 100 or so theatre seats facing a well-lit stage on which stands a heart-shaped bed draped in red silk-like material.
The show is in three “acts,” with intermissions featuring a sort of comedy striptease in which an attractive young woman takes off part of her already-skimpy costume and invites three tittering college boys up to perform with her. One of them has to eat a banana from between her legs? Breasts? Funny, I can’t remember …
In each of the main acts, a woman wearing a thong comes onstage, which is now a bedroom. She appears to be idle, perhaps pining for someone or something. A stocky, swarthy and hirsute man enters stage right. He too wears a thong, with rather more of a bulge. They kiss in a perfunctory way, like an old married couple. Then, as they recline onto the bed, she removes his thong and goes down on him. The red-draped, heart-shaped bed begins to slowly revolve. Chill disco music plays. There is caressing and a display of something like tenderness. The man enters the woman from one of several possible directions. This is followed by rhythmic movements. Change angle of approach. Further rhythmic activity. After all the positions have been tried, they stop. There is no evidence of a climax, although the woman tosses her head and makes moaning noises. The bed ceases to revolve. We all applaud as the couple holds hands and takes a bow.
Each act involves a different couple. Each couple has its particular routine. All is carried out in a sedate, deliberate manner, which is so mechanistic as to seem quite innocent. We’re like aliens watching a display of the mating practices of earthlings. Not in the least sexy, but interesting.
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: Sex in Amsterdam - on Magnet
Cockburn: - Why do I play guitar, as opposed to drums or keyboard or bagpipes? Because of Elvis Presley (actually Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis, though I didn’t know his name until later) and Buddy Holly. And because my grandmother happened to have one in her attic. When that beat-up, low-rent instrument came into my hands at the age of 14, I knew it would become a key component of my life. When I showed so much interest in it, my parents got me a better one. It became a refuge from the horrors of adolescence—a step into the world of cool for a nerdy kid with a crappy self-image. I studied other instruments—clarinet, trumpet, a bit of cello—but it was the guitar that got into the core of me and clung there long after delusions of Elvis-hood had given way to the notion of becoming a jazz musician, then a rocker, then a singer/songwriter.
I own several guitars. The ones with which I’m most closely associated were made by Linda Manzer of Toronto, a fine luthier and a great friend. Back in the ‘80s, when synthesizers were becoming a fashion necessity on every record, another friend, Jonathan Goldsmith, archly declared to me that the guitar was dead and had no future. Jonathan is a top-notch composer and pianist. Hah. Guess who was wrong!
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: Guitars - on Magnet.
Cockburn: - And speaking of distortion—Rasputina! Melora Creager’s Brooklyn-based, cellos-plus-drums ensemble is responsible for some great records. The songwriting is rich with brains and sanguine humor, a kind of lighthearted approach to darkness within and without. The folk roots run deep, but they pounce into the present like they’ll eat you. Alive.
~from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: Rasputina - on Magnet
Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind:
Cockburn: - Konono N°1 is a band from Kinshasa, Congo. They’ve been around for quite a while, but I became aware of them a couple of years ago. Their sound is based around the likembe, a thumb harp similar to the South African mbira. To this they add vocals, percussion, sometimes electric bass and guitar. My favourite Konono N°1 CD is the one I first encountered, Congotronix, but there’s a recent one called Assume Crash Position.
This is street music par excellence, brimming with brash energy and full of exciting sounds, the music of a true jam band. They play with a kind of joyous rage. The likembes they use are electrified and amplified to the point of a deliciously over-the-top distortion, especially on Congotronix. That sound is less of an element on Assume Crash Position, but the grooves on both are loose and hypnotic and crazy deep as the Olduvai Gorge!
~ from Bruce Cockburn May Change Your Mind: Konono N°1 on Magnet
Q&A with Bruce Cockburn
Magnet Magazine - Eric T. Miller
11 March 2011 -
MAGNET: This is your 31st studio album. If asked, do you think you could, off the top of your head, name the other 30 in the order they were released? How many songs do you think you have written in total?
Cockburn: I believe I could come up with the correct list of albums and the order of their release. I often use them as reference points when trying to remember when other things happened. I guess I’ve written between 350 and 400 songs. Quite a few crappy ones were written before the ones on the first record.
Your first album came out in 1970, before a lot of us were even born, so you have seen, up close, all of the changes in the music industry. What do you think are the most significant ones? How different is making and releasing records for you now than it was in, say, 1970 or 1980 or even 1990?
Cockburn:The most important and most obvious change is in the technology. We used to have to go to the store and buy vinyl (or even bakelite) discs. We used to have to go to a professional studio to record! For me personally, the way we do things hasn’t changed so much up to now. It seems likely that there are changes looming on the horizon, as record companies become ever more redundant and the means of distribution keep changing.
I heard you only recently finally got a computer. What made you give in to technology, and more important, is it a Mac or PC? Do you involve yourself with Facebook, MySpace, etc.?
Cockburn: It’s true I only recently got a computer. My girlfriend gave me a Mac for Christmas. It’s really she who has driven my plunge into the e-world, first with a BlackBerry, then a digital camera and now the Mac. I had not felt the need for these things before this relationship,, but because of my travels we spend a lot of time apart. It’s very helpful to be able to communicate faster. And then, of course, there’s the shopping!
You made a trip to Afghanistan in 2009, which inspired two songs on the new album. What prompted you to go there? How did it shape your view of the war going on there?
Cockburn: I went to Afghanistan in September 2009 as part of a small group of people from the world of music and sports. The expectation was that we would offer some entertainment and a morale boost to the troops based at Kandahar Air Field. This we did our best to do. At that time, the base was being run by the Canadian Forces. I was happy to perform for our people. My personal motivation had a lot to do with curiosity and also a sense of solidarity with, and concern for, all those young Canadians risking life and limb so far from home. My brother had recently joined the army as a doctor, after a successful career in the civilian sector. He was soon sent to Kandahar for the standard six-month tour of duty in one of the base hospitals. He and I both thought that I should try to get there during his stay. I’d wanted to do something like this for years and it had never happened, so it seemed like here was my chance. Over the years I’ve traveled to other war zones, first in Central America, then Africa, then Asia, and Kosovo and the Middle East. In the course of some of those trips, I have found myself in the company of soldiers, but never Canadians. It excited me to see what it felt like to be among my own people in that kind of situation. I have to say I was very impressed with the sincerity and professionalism I found among the many Canadian Forces members I talked to. They clearly believe in their mission, which they see as one of creating an atmosphere of peace in Afghanistan that would permit development in all its forms. They picture a 30-year process. A whole generation of kids has to grow up in relative security for there to be a sufficient level of education to afford the understanding and expectation of democracy, for example. Our soldiers feel they can succeed at this if given the necessary support. I’m not so sure they can. At the same time, though, how can our increasingly globalized world tolerate the chaos that has been that country’s history? The absence of human rights, especially for women, cries out for change, not to mention the festering sore of a strategically located state run by carpetbaggers and/or religious gangsters.
You have always been involved in humanitarian work. Most of the time, people concentrate on the positive changes you have made, but how has this work changed you?
Cockburn: Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in helping a lot of people who are committed to bringing positive change to the world. My role has generally been that of mouthpiece. Since I’m lucky enough to have the public visibility I do, I can sometimes be useful in drawing attention to things that need doing and to help generate support for the people and organizations who do the real work. This involvement has taken me to many interesting parts of the world and furthered my education immeasurably. Once in a while a good song comes out of these adventures! The landscapes I’ve walked, the people I’ve met, the relief of having come through a scary situation—all these have given me a very different understanding of myself and the world than I would otherwise have.
You have a reputation as being a restless spirit. How much time do you spend at home in Ontario as opposed to traveling?
Cockburn: I have a pretty cool house in Ontario, which I love being in. It’s the first place I can remember living, in my entire life, that actually feels like more than a base camp. I’m not there very much of the time.
Why did you call the new album Small Source Of Comfort?
Cockburn: When I wrote the song Five Fifty-One I wrote in the second verse, "Small source of comfort, dawn was breaking in the air … You don’t take these things for granted when you think of what’s in need of repair." Sometimes things seem that precarious. The phrase "small source of comfort" jumped out at me. It seemed to want to be an album title. I liked both the sense of hope and its faintness. I figured if nothing came along that said "title!" in a louder voice that the next album would be called that, and there it is.
Call Me Rose is written from the perspective of Richard Nixon. But the twist is he has been reincarnated as a poor, single mom. What inspired that?
Cockburn: I have no idea where Call Me Rose really came from. I woke up one morning with the song in my head, almost complete. I don’t remember having dreamt it, but it was there. I thought it was quite weird, but it seemed like a gift, so I finished it. I think it came out pretty well. With hindsight, I suspect it may have been sparked by what was then a recent campaign by Official (Bush) America to rehabilitate the image of Richard Nixon. Various pundits could be heard to say that he was the greatest president ever, that he was terribly misunderstood, etc. After several weeks the apparent campaign abruptly stopped. People just weren’t buying it. I may have been thinking about what his actual rehabilitation might look like, i.e., the redemption of Richard Nixon’s soul.
You wrote Gifts in 1968 but waited until now to record it. How come now was the right time for you to do so? Did you change it much over the years?
Cockburn: I used to use Gifts to close shows back in the late ’60s. When we made the first album at the end of ’69, Bernie Finkelstein, my manager and the founder of True North Records, asked me about including the song. I thought the album didn’t need it. I responded with, "Oh, I’m saving that one for the last album." Is this the last album? No idea. The first one could have been the last! It just felt like the right time to record it … just in case.
I love the line "I’m good at catching rainbows, not so good at catching trout" from The Iris Of The World. Do you know immediately when you come up with a lyric like that that you did good?
Cockburn: Sometimes a line comes out that feels as though it will touch people strongly. More often I have to live with the ideas and execution for a while before I know what I think I’ve got.
The shorthand description of your music is "folk," but that is really too limiting. How would you describe it? In your mind, how has it changed over the years?
Cockburn: The music is always in a state of flux. It’s the lyrics that mainly determine what the music should be like in any given song. Sometimes things want to go in a folkier direction. Other words need a rockier or jazzier slant. I keep wanting to explore the possibilities wherever that leads. In the beginning, I resisted being called a folksinger, as it seemed to me that the term implied a connection to some specific tradition. I didn’t feel I could make that claim. As time went on, I resigned myself to the idea that labeling is inescapable. They’re going to call you something, and there are worse things than "folksinger."
You are an Officer of the Order Of Canada, a member of the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame and the Canadian Broadcast Hall Of Fame, have been awarded a handful of honorary doctorates in Canada and the U.S., and only about 10 musicians have won more Juno Awards than you. First off, thanks for making the rest of us feel like no-talent losers. But what motivates you to keep going when no one would argue that you have already earned all the time off you want for the rest of your life?
Cockburn:I may have earned the time off, but somebody has to keep buying the food. I expect to retire when I become incapacitated, physically or mentally. I fervently hope I recognize the moment when it comes!
~ from Magnet Magazine - by Eric T. Miller Copyright © MAGNET Magazine Inc. 2011.
Catching Up With... Bruce Cockburn
by Andy Whitman Paste Magazine
8 March 2011 - During a career that stretches back to the late 1960s, Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn has explored introspective mysticism and political protest within a musical framework that encompasses everything from classic folk fingerpicking to a dizzying jazz/folk/rock hybrid. A dazzling guitarist and poetic lyricist, Cockburn is the recipient of numerous Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy), and has experienced the dubious glories of Top 40 hits and MTV airplay. He’s yet to release an album that is anything less than beautifully played and lyrically challenging. These days he splits his time between Canada and the U.S. and dreams of Richard Nixon. Paste caught up with Cockburn, discussing the release of Small Source of Comfort, his 31st album.
Paste: The song that I suspect will elicit the most commentary on your new album Small Source of Comfort is Call Me Rose, where you envision Richard Nixon reincarnated as a poor single woman with two kids in the projects. Can you tell me what inspired that song?
Bruce Cockburn: Well, you’re probably not going to like the answer. Honestly, it came to me in a dream. I woke up and the song was just there, pretty much fully formed. That’s only happened to me once or twice in the past. The first verse—the one where Richard Nixon is reincarnated as a poor single woman with two kids—was definitely right there when I woke up. And I couldn’t even tell you precisely what inspired it. I think, at the time, there may have been an effort underway at the U.S. State Department to rehabilitate the image of Richard Nixon, so that may have been in the back of my mind. But who knows? It was a strange experience. Songs don’t usually come to me that way.
Paste: What’s prompted the emphasis on instrumentals over the past few albums? You’ve always incorporated instrumentals as part of your music, but it seems like the past few years, with Speechless, the all-instrumental album, and the five instrumentals that appear on Small Source of Comfort, that there’s been a greater focus. Is there anything behind that?
Cockburn: I don’t know. It’s probably too early to call it a trend. We’ll see what happens. I usually start with the words, and then build the songs from there. But there were a number of songs this time that just came out as instrumentals. And, as you say, I’ve always incorporated instrumentals in my albums. But there were just a few more of them this time that presented themselves that way. Playing with Jenny Scheinman might have had something to do with it. She’s a wonderful violinist, and several of those instrumentals emerged through those collaborations, just playing off of one another.
Paste: She’s great. Let me ask you a little more about Jenny. I wasn’t familiar with her work before this album, and I was really impressed. I know she’s worked with Bill Frisell in the past, and you’ve worked with Bill as well. Was he the connecting point for you?
Cockburn: Not directly. I think the first time we met was at a Mountain Stage concert. I was on the bill, and Jenny was playing with Rodney Crowell. So that’s the first time I saw her. The next time was in New York. I was dating a woman in Brooklyn, and we were passing by The Village Vanguard in Manhattan, and it turned out that Jenny’s name was on the marquee. So we listened again. And I really liked what she was doing. So just through that process—listening to this great jazz violinist, getting to know her a bit—we decided to collaborate on this album. She’ll be playing with me on this upcoming tour as well.
Paste: You’re known, for better or worse, as a very serious songwriter. Obviously, songs like Call It Democracy and If I Had a Rocket Launcher have contributed to that reputation. But on the new album you have a funny take on our busy lives (Called Me Back), and the line about the Nixon/Single Mom selling her memoirs in Call Me Rose made me laugh out loud. Is this a looser, more fun-loving Bruce Cockburn we’re seeing?
Cockburn: [laughs] Yeah, maybe. Maybe I got all that angry young man angst out of my system when I was an angry young man. But, you know, I’d like to think that I’ve always incorporated some humor in my music. Even some of the early albums from the ‘70s had songs like The Blues Got the World by The Balls and Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse. So I don’t think it’s necessarily anything new. And honestly, a lot of the angry, political stuff has already been said. The players change, but it’s still the same world, you know. So maybe this time I decided to take a little more lighthearted look at the darkness. But it wasn’t anything conscious on my part.
Paste: You noted in the press materials that you had anticipated that this album would be raw and electric. It turned out introspective and acoustic. Can you describe your songwriting process, and what might have prompted the changes from your original intentions?
Cockburn: I did think, initially, that maybe it was time to mix it up sonically. But there’s no formula here, and you just have to see where the songs take you. And we ended up with an acoustic, fairly introspective album that isn’t all that different from what I was doing in the 1970s. Some of it was just my physical and geographical surroundings. I was spending a lot of my time in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, and there was just no opportunity to turn up the volume without incurring the wrath of the neighbors. You work with what you’ve got.
Paste: Two of the songs on the new album were written out of the experiences of your recent trip to Afghanistan. How did the trip to Afghanistan come about?
Cockburn: Well, it was just a short trip that happened three years ago. It only lasted a week. And it came about because of my brother. He’s an emergency room anaesthesiologist, and he signed up for a 6-month tour of duty with the Canadian army in Kandahar. He pestered on his end, and I pestered on my end, and eventually the army agreed to the visit. And I hate to say it, given the serious circumstances, but we had a lot of fun. But there were some serious moments, as well. The day we arrived in Afghanistan, at the staging area, we watched a plane come in bearing the coffins of two Canadian soldiers who had been killed. And we were privileged to witness what they called the Ramp ceremony. And, you know, there were recorded bagpipes, and prayers, and tears. It was difficult.
Regardless of how you view the conflict, or whatever your political views, it was very evident to me that these soldiers were doing the best they could do, making the best out of a place where they didn’t want to be. And that ceremony really helped to put it in perspective. You think, God, these kids could have been my kids. And the song Each One Lost came out of that. It was a good visit. It was hell. I’m glad I was there.
Paste: I’d like to ask you about a song that goes back 13 or 14 years now, a song from your album The Charity of Night. I want to ask you about Strange Waters, which is a song I come back to again and again, at least partly because of the startling imagery and the twist in the title. There’s a biblical reference there, as you know, but you take the imagery of one of the best-known Psalms and change it from "still waters" to "strange waters." Can you comment about that song’s meaning to you, specifically in light of the spiritual imagery that you use?
Cockburn: Okay. Well, if you live a life where you’re trying to figure out what the existence of the divine means, and trying to live in accordance with that, my experience has been that you’re going to encounter a lot of beauty and a lot of weird shit. And that song was an attempt to come to grips with the weird shit. You’re right that it references the 23rd Psalm. But I hadn’t encountered still waters. I had encountered strange waters. And my take is that it’s going to continue to be strange. It’s funny that you brought that up. I hadn’t been singing that song, but I just recently started singing it again. Maybe it’s because I’m very aware of the strangeness these days.
Paste: Following up on that idea, during the course of your career, you’ve written time and time again about your travels to foreign locations—Japan, Italy, Central America, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. It’s also evident that those travels have impacted your understanding of and appreciation for different cultures. And yet your early albums were marked by mysticism and introspection. I realize that these issues are never completely clear-cut and black and white, and they’re not in your music either, but was there a turning point in your life where you chose to shift the focus from a sort of inward isolation to a more outward engagement with the world? And if so, what brought about the change?
Cockburn: You’re correct that there was a turning point. It coincided with my divorce in the late ‘70s. You know, that just turned my world upside down. It was something I never expected, never thought would happen. And then it did. And I had to make some major adjustments. Up to that point I’d mostly been living in the country, living inside my head. And I realized then that introspection had gone as far as it was going to go. I needed to get involved with people. I needed to be where people were. So I moved to Toronto. And shortly after that I started getting involved with organizations where that travel became a way to get more connected. Of course, there’s a balance in all this, and I’ve never totally lost that introspective side. This new album was recorded at least partly because I realized that I needed to find that self-reflective mode again.
Paste: You’ve been at this for more than 40 years now. During that time, your music has obviously evolved and adapted. But how do you think you yourself have changed during that time? What parts of the guy who recorded High Winds, White Sky and Sunwheel Dance are still there? What parts have changed? What would the Bruce Cockburn of 1970 have to say to the Bruce Cockburn of 2011? What would the Bruce Cockburn of 2011 have to say to the Bruce Cockburn of 1970?
Cockburn: [laughs] There’s nothing like summarizing a life! Well, I think the Bruce Cockburn of 1970 would say, "Oh, my God, what are you doing?" And the Bruce Cockburn of 2011 would say "What an idiot!" You know that cliché about youth being wasted on the young? It’s true.
When I think back on it, the Bruce Cockburn of 1970 wasn’t very good at being with people. I didn’t communicate very well, and I didn’t understand others very well. But deep down I’m still the same person. I’d like to think that I’ve grown up. And so much of this is just living life, learning the lessons that are common to everyone who gets older. It’s still unfolding. I’m not done. I hope that I can learn to be more kind.
~from Paste Magazine interview by Andy Whitman.
21 April 2010 - SAN FRANCISCO - HarperOne and HarperCollinsCanada announces today the forthcoming publication of celebrated singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn’s memoir, sold to HarperOne’s Senior Editor Roger Freet by Bernie Finkelstein—Cockburn’s 40 year management partner and founder of True North Records and of The Finkelstein Management Company. Cockburn’s long awaited memoir is set to publish in April 2012.
Since 1970, with 30 albums and numerous awards to his credit, Bruce Cockburn has earned high praise as an exceptional songwriter and pioneering guitarist, whose career has been shaped by politics, protest, romance, and spiritual discovery. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, blues, rock, and worldbeat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, Afghanistan, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders.
"Bruce’s decades-long devotion to social justice and spiritual depth is a perfect fit for our list. We’re excited to be publishing his memoir," said SVP/Publisher, Mark Tauber.
"Over the years, the notion that there should be a book about me has popped up now and then, along with offers to write it," said Mr. Cockburn. "It always seemed too soon, and I've felt all along that such a book should be mine to author. When HarperOne expressed their interest, it finally did seem timely, so here we go! It's very gratifying to be associated with this important publisher."
"Bruce’s music has enriched my life, and the lives of so many, over the years," said Mr. Freet. "I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Bruce as he shares his amazing life story."
BRUCE COCKBURN: Born in 1945 in Ottawa, Ontario, the Canadian music legend began his solo career with the self-titled album in 1970 released by Bernie Finkelstein’s newly founded label True North Records. Cockburn’s ever expanding repertoire of musical styles and skilfully crafted lyrics have been covered by such artists as Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffett, and k.d. lang. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. And he remains deeply respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Friends of the Earth, and USC Canada.
About HarperOne: HarperOne, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers, strives to be the preeminent publisher of the most important books and authors across the full spectrum of religion, spirituality, and personal growth literature, adding to the wealth of the world’s wisdom by stirring the waters of reflection on the primary questions of life, while respecting all traditions
About HarperCollinsPublishers: HarperCollins, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world, is a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups around the world including the HarperCollins General Books Group, HarperCollins Children's Books Group, Zondervan, HarperCollins UK, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand and HarperCollins India. HarperCollins is a broad-based publisher with strengths in literary and commercial fiction, business books, children's books, cookbooks, mystery, romance, reference, religious and spiritual books. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins has published some of the world's foremost authors and has won numerous awards including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott. Consistently at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, HarperCollins is the first publisher to digitize its content and create a global digital warehouse to protect the rights of its authors, meet consumer demand and generate additional business opportunities. You can visit HarperCollinsPublishers (http://www.harpercollins.com) .
~ For Immediate Release - www.finkelsteinmanagement.com