-- Political Issues: Benefit Concerts --

Issues Index


This page archives comments by Bruce Cockburn on why he performs benefit concerts.

  • 8 September 1999 - Commenting on the benefit concerts (September 10-12, 1999) to benefit the artists in Kosovo, who's cultural community was completely destroyed during the political unrest in that country

    "I'm one of the few artists at the pop end of the spectrum," says Cockburn. "It's a strange hodge-podge, but the invitation was so interesting that I couldn't say no.

    "Part of the attraction is to get an opportunity to first-hand glimpse of what we're only able to read about in the newspaper, but the downside is, it's such a short glimpse that it won't afford very much insight. But at least the smell and feel of the place will be real for me. It's such a newsy place right now and the scene of so much human drama that it's one that I would like to get a taste of."

    "The whole cultural infrastructure was destroyed so I think the idea is to get that back on its feet and, in doing so, that will help pull the society together."
    -- from "Cockburn Helping Out Kosovo Artists", Jam Music, 8 September 1999.

  • December 1999 - Commenting on the benefits to ban land mines

    KBCO: I've always admired you because musically you've spent a lot of time, put a lot of your effort into environmental causes and political causes in the'80's. I know you took a trip to Central America and Mexico which influenced a lot of your music. You've been doing some benefits on the west coast. I know that you performed in Kosovo in September and you were invited to Vietnam by the Vietnam Veterans of America. Can you talk about that?

    BC: Which one of those things would you like me to talk about?

    KBCO: I believe it was to ban land mines.

    BC: There's a connection among several of the things that you mentioned. That connection is the issue of land mines. We did a series of shows in California - we being EmmyLou Harris, who organized this thing, and Steve Earl - they were on all of the shows, I was in on three of them. The other sort of revolving cast included John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Patty Griffin, a host of others - really good people, good shows, and generated quite a bit of public interest in the issue of land mines.

    If you live in North America, which we do, you don't tend to run across those things, unless you're in the military and have done service overseas. But when you travel in countries where land mines are a problem, you can't ignore it. At the very least, you're limited in terms of the places you can go because these things are sitting there in the ground waiting to get you. People who live there, of course, don't have the luxury of not going where they live, so they go out in the woods to gather firewood or fruit to eat or the kids go out to herd cattle or other farm animals or whatever and they hit mines and they blow up.

    And of course, they don't blow up dead, they survive the encounter and they're missing pieces at that point and they're condemned to a life of suffering and a life of being a burden to their families and on the social systems that they're a part of. It's a terrible and relatively easily solve-able problem in the world. It's a plague not unlike AIDS in a way. It's a 20th century creation. The cure, unlike AIDS, is very easily in sight. It's just a matter of people deciding that we don't need them any more.

    A lot of countries have made that decision - there's 136 or 137 countries that are signatory to an international treaty banning the manufacture and the use of land mines. Unfortunately the US isn't one of those countries. So the purpose of doing shows like the ones we just did is to help get people aware of the need to help get the US involved in that. To be fair, to keep it in perspective, the US is doing good work in terms 'de-mining' of taking the mines out of the ground that are there, and there's about 100,000,000 of those, so there's a lot of work to be done in that department.
    -- from KBCO Interview, December, 1999.

  • 20 March 2000 - Commenting on people's reactions to the landmine issues

    "There are people who wilfully don't want to know, that's one category of person," he says. "But there are also people that are generally interested in things once they're confronted with issues like this, but who just haven't had the opportunity to be confronted."

    "I didn't know anything about land mines before I was asked to get involved (with anti-land mine causes)," he says. "And in the process, you study up on the issues to learn what's going on. That's how you become informed and, in my case, emotionally involved."
    -- from "Weight of the World", Ottawa Sun, 20 March 2000, by Ian Nathanson.

  • December 2000 - BC comments on the series of concerts to raise awareness of the Landmine Treaty

    Tomorrow night's sold-out National Arts Centre show is significant, because it seems appropriate to everybody that we try to play in Ottawa on the (third) anniversary of the Treaty's signing.
    [editor's note: The 1997 Ottawa Treaty sparked an international landmine-ban campaign, which garnered high-profile awareness from the late Princess Diana, as well as concerts spearheaded by Premier Harris.]

    "The main focus of the efforts of Campaign for a Landmine Free World, with respect to these concerts, is to get people in the States to notice and subsequently getting them to sign."

    "Greater awareness is better, because any support that people can give to agencies working to alleviate the problem is welcome. And needed."
    -- from the Ottawa Sun, Ian Nathanson, December, 2000.

  • 21 October 2001 - Commenting on the Music Without Borders benefit concert for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal

    Rick Mercer: "Artists and musicians like yourself, they are constantly called upon to perform in benefit concerts for worthy causes. But this is the first time I've seen a benefit come together, on this scale, this fast. Not only the artists are performing for free, but EVERYONE involved. The technicians to networks, the building; every single thing! The credit card companies, Ticketmaster... What is it about this cause, at this time, that has made everyone come together for such a colossal event in such a fast time?"

    Bruce Cockburn: "I think people are afraid of World War III. In a nutshell. I think, as you said, there are many worthy causes and the issues that have lead us to the current state of things have been around for a long time. But people tend not to notice because they are absorbed in their own particular things. And, you kind of know there is stuff going on in the background but it doesn't touch you. So all of a sudden we have an incident in which people close to us ARE touched and its a big wake up call for everybody. And now, of course, the follow up to that is this sort of very violent atmosphere that will go 'who-knows-where'? So as well as having the emotional ranch of having tragedy on our doorstep, there's the fear factor. People are, I think, rightly concerned, that, 'we better do something', to offset the militarization of everything."
    -- from an interview by CBC personality Rick Mercer (This Hour has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada)...following the Music Without Borders benefit concert for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal, 21 October 2001. Submitted by Rob Heinbecker.

  • 21 October 2001 - from a press conference before the Music Without Borders Live benefit concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto

    "When the Sept.11 thing happened and all that's followed it, I felt first of all what good are songs in a context like this? Everything I'd written to that point seemed kind of meaningless. But then better judgement took hold and I realized that now more than ever we need to engage in the sharing of human experience." - folk singer Bruce Cockburn.
    -- from an article "Canadian stars hold concert to raise awareness, money for Afghan refugees" on, 21 October 2001, by Andrew Flynn.

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    Issues Index

    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.