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A salute to Bruce Cockburn on his 75th birthday

by Paul Corby
May 27, 2020

Bruce Cockburn photo collage

Today, as Bruce Cockburn reaches his 75th year, we can rejoice that he is still a stealer of fire, dancing his sunwheel dance in the falling dark of the dragon’s jaws. Roots Music Canada joins the rest of the world in celebrating his birthday, his music, his Junos, his doctorates, his investiture into the Order of Canada, his inductions into numerous musical Halls of Fame, his redemptive presence as a cosmic troubadour in Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren & The Shack by William P. Young, his performances on Saturday Night Live and at Pete Seeger’s birthday party, and his perilous witness, from the front lines of fear, at scenes of political violence around the globe.

Examine his talents. How much faceting can one diamond sustain? Lyrical master of specifically Canadian imagery, startlingly complex guitar explorer, bold mystic with Christian / Taoist / Buddhist / Sufi sleeves proudly spread, one of the original bilingual folk singers (ses textes ont été imprimés en français depuis l’époque de Trudeau), international peace-seeker, singer of both delicacy and urgency, shy public figure, punky Gemini, outspoken political critic and beacon, muscular ecologist, memoirist (Rumours Of Glory, 2014), gentleman feminist, and member of the all-star Canadian chorus, the Northern Lights, that rose up to roar out the crucial ”Let’s show ‘em Canada still cares!” line on the African famine relief anthem “Tears Are Not Enough.”

Bruce is waiting out this current deterioration of normal at home in San Francisco, “quite a lot busier than what used to be normal,” he reported, “(fathering), listening and reading: Fernando Pessoa’s novel The Book of Disquiet, William Gibson’s Agency, and poetry by Charles Bukowski, Joan Logghe and Wislawa Szymborska. For music, it’s pretty random. Recent listens include YouTube videos of David Russell’s stunning guitar playing as well as various performances by Voces8, Charles Mingus’ Tijuana Moods (an old favorite), the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, and Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht.”

In honour of this birthday, one of Bruce’s first musical friends who celebrated his own 75th in March,, Sneezy Waters, recalled the beginning stages of his journey, saying “When I failed Grade 12 (from too much folly) my parents thought it would be a good idea to switch schools and buckle down. So at Nepean H.S. I ran into Bruce. He told me he played guitar, so I brought my Martin to school one day, and after school we went over to his house to jam. He brought out his guitar, which was a big Gibson hollow-body, just like Wes Montgomery played, and a lovely Ampeg jazz amp. He played so well but wasn’t the least [bit] boastful. He also loved Grant Green’s playing. We really had a good time and arranged many more jams.

“We eventually formed a band called The Children, along with my friends Nev Wells, Sandy Crawley and Chris Anderson. He played some keyboards for us and also played a 12-string, along with a Telecaster.

He was writing back then and encouraging the rest of us to write songs.

The rest, for both of us, is history.”

Fellow musician Ian Tamblyn, who worked with him on 2008’s Dancing Alone: The Songs of William Hawkins, remarked on Bruce’s “composure and openness” in the studio. He also had the honour, in 2014, of presenting Bruce with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Carlton University for his work in environmental, First Nations and social causes. In his presentation, Ian noted that “Bruce has had three overriding themes in his work: his great spiritual search, his dedicated call for social justice in the world, and his articulation of the collision of human relationships in these dangerous times.” He continued, “Bruce Cockburn has been both bold and courageous, whether it be in his work with Lloyd Axworthy to end the use of land mines, his environmental work with David Suzuki and Greenpeace, his work on behalf of the Unitarian Service, or his demands for democratic and environmental rights in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mozambique or Mali.”

His outstanding personal qualities have kept him rooted in long-lasting friendships. Publicist Jane Harbury, who has been buddies with him since their days together at Toronto’s fabled Riverboat, respects him for being always “funny, smart and gracious.” She elaborated: “He doesn’t change on a personal level. He has an ability to make people want to love him. And he remembers everything.” She recalled him best, “coming in the back door of the club in a fluffy old hat with his big dog Aroo.”

Illustrator Michael Wrycraft, who has designed the last nine of Bruce’s album covers, revealed that, “although he comes across as serious, Bruce is actually very light-hearted. Once you get past his professional presence, you find out he has a great laugh.” Their creative collaboration in bringing the unique visuals that accompany every new record together is consistently stress-free (with the exception of the altered American cover of You’ve Never Seen Everything, “which the record company thought looked like speed metal, or the devil.”). Of Bruce’s part in the process, Michael confided, “He plants a germ, a tiny seed of an idea, usually drawn from the album title; and after extensive chat, I come back with the work, and he says “That’s great!” Bruce’s loyalty to Michael’s vision has now stretched over 21 years. Manager Bernie Finkelstein has guided his career for over 50 years now, based upon a handshake.

Michael Reinhart is a composer/singer-songwriter and visual artist who has released five albums, the most recent being eCHO. He lives and works in both Montréal, QC and Edmonton, AB. Recently he’s been creating several new instrumental guitar pieces. He has been a Cockburn fan since his teens. “I loved that on those seminal albums, with so many instrumentals featured, above all I could hear the rich wood tone of the guitar, moreso than the metal of the strings, an analogue sound I still aspire to myself. I’ve never been much interested in doing cover versions, but among the few that I have attempted, ‘Foxglove’ was one that, despite the initial frustrations and physical pain involved, was invaluable to my finding my own way, my own style, my own sound.”

Michael has composed a gamboling birthday air to pay tribute to his musical mentor —

On behalf of all of his friends and fans at Roots Music Canada, we would like to say “Steady on Mr. C., and well done.”

A recent release, Bruce Cockburn – True North – 50th Anniversary Box Set with five LPs became available this month.

Credit: www.rootsmusic.ca/2020/05/27/a-salute-to-bruce-cockburn-on-his-75th-birthday


Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Group of Seven

24 April 2020 – Join us on May 7 at 2 pm (2 to 3:30 pm) for a virtual presentation celebrating the centenary of the Group’s founding with Ian Dejardin, Executive Director of the McMichael and curator of the exhibition “A Like Vision”: The Group of Seven at 100.

Followed by a special musical performance by Bruce Cockburn.

Bruce Cockburn - Linda Manzer - McMichael Gallery - Group of Seven - Mt LeFroy - Lawren Harris
Bruce Cockburn – Linda Manzer – McMichael Gallery – Group of Seven Guitar Project

Please register below through Zoom and you will be sent a link to the event on Zoom in advance. You do not need any special equipment to participate. Simply click the link that is provided in your confirmation email from your computer, tablet or smartphone to access the presentation on the day of the event. The presentation is password protected so you will also need to enter the password found in the confirmation email.

https://mcmichael.com/event/g7virtualtalk/

Bernie Finkelstein: Bruce will be doing a song which we will keep as a surprise but its not one that you hear him do too often.

He will also be providing the gallery with an essay on Tom Thompson who actually is not a member of the Group of Seven but was their biggest influence. This essay will be part of a book the gallery is preparing but at this time I don’t know when it will be released. The book will have several essays from famous Canadians who are familiar with the Group of Seven and Tom Thompson. You might recall that Bruce played and wrote the Mount Lefroy Waltz for a display of guitars built by luthiers, *his was built by Linda Manzer, inspired by the Group. The version Bruce gave to the gallery for the show was solo but the song as you know it is on Crowing Ignites with a pretty cool little band. ~Bernie Finkelstein


Pacing The Cage documentary on Canadian TV

Bruce’s feature length doc “Pacing The Cage” debuts on Canadian TV tonight. This is the same version that is on the DVD but has never been screened on TV before as the original as seen of Vision was only around 47 minutes long and this version is around 1 hour and 6 minutes.

Pacing The Cage documentary tv screening

MAR 04 2020 7:45 PM ON HS00
MAR 05 2020 5:00 AM ON HS00
MAR 05 2020 4:00 PM ON HS00

The direct link to the film page on our site is:

Pacing The Cage


Bruce Cockburn Nods to Scottish Heritage With ‘Pibroch: The Wind In the Valley’: Premiere

8/26/2019 by Gary Graff

A funny thing happened to Bruce Cockburn as he started making his new album Crowing Ignites — whose track “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley” is premiering exclusively below.

The all-instrumental acoustic album was designed to be a Speechless II, a sequel to his 2005 instrumental set Speechless, again compiling instrumental tracks from his albums with a few new compositions. “I set about looking for ideas for new material and ended up with so much of it that (Crowing Ignites) became its own album,” Cockburn tells Billboard. “I wasn’t expecting to come up with so much (new) stuff. The ideas just kept coming. So it’s not Speechless II. It’s its own thing entirely.”

The new 11-track set, recorded in San Francisco, where the Canadian-born Cockburn now resides, and produced by Colin Linden, is titled after the translation of the Latin motto ‘Accendit Cantu’ that appears on the Cockburn family crest. It is, of course, markedly different than Cockburn’s more traditional song-oriented releases, but he says the process is “equally enjoyable.” “The big difference is the obvious one — there are no lyrics,” Cockburn explains. “The way I write songs, the lyrics generally come first, and then it becomes a question of finding the right music to carry those lyrics. With instrumental pieces it’s more like, ‘Here’s an interesting riff on the guitar’ and that suggests something else and it grows from there. It’s a bit like scoring a film; You’ve got images, ideas, characters that need to be supported by the music but not overpowered by it. It’s considerably freer.”


Rise Up – Cockburn highlights series of events commemorating 1919 strike

Cockburn highlights series of events commemorating 1919 strike
by Scott Billeck

Rise UP

A Canadian music legend is among several artists who will headline a free concert to help commemorate the centennial one of the country’s largest and most influential labour movements.
Rise Up Smaller Poster

For 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been writing and signing about the human experience. In June, the multi-time Juno Award winner and member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame will join Grammy winner and feminist icon Ani DiFranco along with several others for Rise Up 100: Songs for the Next Century Concert, one of four events being put on by Manitoba’s unions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

“We want to welcome people of all generations, all backgrounds, all abilities — everybody in our city — to join us and celebrate the Winnipeg General Strike together, with music, as a community,” said Winnipeg Folk Festival executive director Lynne Skromeda at a launch event on Tuesday. “Folk music has long been tied to the labour movement, advocating for social justice and providing a sense of connection to one another through divisive times, and we need this connection now more than ever.”

The free concert will take place in Old Market Square on June 8 between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.

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The 2018 Canadian Folk Music Award Nominees

Organizers of the Canadian Folk Music Awards have announced 96 nominees vying for the 14th annual edition that takes place at The Gateway in Calgary over two separate events on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

The two separate concert award shows are open to the public. Tickets and wristbands go on sale Oct. 1, with tickets priced at $35 for each night. A wristband covering workshops and both show nights is priced at $60. More information about the gala performance and the line-up will be announced shortly.

Bruce has been nominated in 2 categories:

SOLO ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Bruce Cockburn for/pour Bone On Bone
David Francey for/pour The Broken Heart Of Everything
Jolene Higgins (Little Miss Higgins) for/pour My Home, My Heart
Catherine MacLellan for/pour If It’s Alright With You: The Songs of Gene MacLellan
Buffy Sainte-Marie for/pour Medicine Songs

ENGLISH SONGWRITER(S) OF THE YEAR
Bruce Cockburn for/pour Bone On Bone
Lynne Hanson, Lynn Miles of/de The LYNNeS for/pour Heartbreak Song For The Radio
Dana Sipos for/pour Trick Of The Light
Noosa Al-Sarraj (Winona Wilde) for/pour Wasted Time
Donovan Woods for/pour Both Ways

Continue reading see all the nominations




Bruce Cockburn Announces His First Studio Album In Seven Years – Bone On Bone

For Release On Vinyl, CD And Digital Download
September 15, 2017

BONE ON BONE

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone

States I’m In – Slide Show YouTube Video
States I’m In – Soundcloud Stream (Album Version)
States I’m In – Spotify (Album Version)
Pre-order from True North Records
Pre-order on iTunes
Pre-order on Amazon
Bio – and – Bio – Bone On Bone google doc
Bruce Cockburn – At A Glance – or – At A Glance google doc
New Bruce Cockburn photo

TORONTO, July 12, 2017 – Bruce Cockburn has announced the September 15, 2017 release of his first full-length album in seven years, Bone On Bone (True North Records). The release coincides with his induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, and the launch of his longest touring schedule in decades.

Few recording artists are as creative and prolific as Bruce Cockburn. Since his self-titled debut in 1970, the Canadian singer-songwriter has issued a steady stream of acclaimed albums every couple of years. But that output suddenly ran dry in 2011 following the release of Small Source of Comfort. There were good reasons for the drought. For one thing, Cockburn became a father again with the birth of his daughter Iona. Then there was the publication of his 2014 memoir Rumours of Glory.

Bruce Cockburn - promo photo by Daniel Keebler

“I didn’t write any songs until after the book was published because all my creative energy had gone into three years of writing it,” Cockburn explains, from his home in San Francisco. “There was simply nothing left to write songs with. As soon as the book was put to bed, I started asking myself whether I was ever going to be a songwriter again.”

Such doubt was new to the man who’s rarely been at a loss for words as he’s distilled political views, spiritual revelations and personal experiences into some of popular music’s most compelling songs. What spurred Cockburn back into songwriting was an invitation to contribute a song to a documentary film about the late, seminal Canadian poet Al Purdy and he was off to the races.

Bone On Bone, Cockburn’s 33rd album, arrives with 11 new songs and there’s a prevalent urgency and anxious tone to much of the album, which Cockburn attributes to living in America during the Trump era. But, more than anything, Bone on Bone amounts to the deepest expression of Cockburn’s spiritual concerns to date. The 12-time Juno winner and Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s “Forty Years in the Wilderness” ranks alongside “Pacing the Cage” or “All The Diamonds” as one of Cockburn’s most starkly beautiful folk songs. “There have been so many times in my life when an invitation has come from somewhere…the cosmos…the divine…to step out of the familiar into something new. I’ve found it’s best to listen for, and follow these promptings.

“Forty Years in the Wilderness” is one of several songs that feature a number of singers from the church Cockburn frequents, for the sake of convenience referred to in the album credits as the San Francisco Lighthouse “Chorus.” “Among other songs, they contribute call-and-response vocals to the stirring “Stab at Matter.” Other guests on the album include singer-songwriters Ruby Amanfu, Mary Gauthier, and Brandon Robert Young, along with bassist Roberto Occhipinti, and Julie Wolf, who plays accordion on “3 Al Purdys” and sings with the folks from Lighthouse, together with LA songwriter Tamara Silvera.

Produced by Colin Linden, Cockburn’s longtime collaborator, the album is built around the musicianship of Cockburn on guitar and the core accompaniment of bassist John Dymond and drummer Gary Craig. Also very much part of the sound is the accordion playing of Cockburn’s nephew John Aaron Cockburn and the solos of noted fluegelhorn player Ron Miles (check out his stunning work on the cascading “Mon Chemin,” for example).

Cockburn, who won the inaugural People’s Voice Award at the Folk Alliance International conference in February and will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in September, continues to find inspiration in the world around him and channel those ideas into songs. “My job is to try and trap the spirits of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal,” he once noted. More than forty years after embarking on his singer-songwriting career, Cockburn keeps kicking at the darkness so that it might bleed daylight.

Bone On Bone Track Listing:

1. States I’m In
2. Stab At Matter
3. Forty Years In The Wilderness
4. Café Society
5. 3 Al Purdys
6. Looking And Waiting
7. Bone On Bone
8. Mon Chemin
9. False River
10. Jesus Train
11. Twelve Gates To The City

TOUR DATES

For more information, please contact:
Eric Alper, Publicity
True North Recordsv P: 647-971-3742
E: Eric@TrueNorthRecords.com

Photo by Daniel Keebler.

Press Release Bone On Bone

You may download the pdf as well.

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone - Press Release pdf

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