Folk singer Bruce Cockburn is encouraging U.S. musicians to keep pushing for free speech under the Donald Trump administration.
While accepting an honour at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo. on Wednesday night he took a moment to address the volatile political climate.
“It seems evident that the current administration is not much interested in democracy,” he said in prepared remarks.
“They are trying to stifle opposition across the board by a range of means. Looks to me like they’re just getting started.”
The Canadian singer, who lives in San Francisco, then urged musicians to be a catalyst for dialogue and debate.
“We may get tired, but we have to keep singing,” he said.
Country singer Kris Kristofferson presented Cockburn with the People’s Voice Award in recognition of his role in social and political commentary. His 1984 track “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” is widely considered a staple of activist music.
Cockburn reflected on his experiences as a young performer during the Vietnam War, and on later years when he found his voice during the U.S. presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
He then turned to the current U.S. political climate and told songwriters to consider their music as more than just words, but a “focal point for collective energy” of the community.
“Doesn’t mean we can’t sing love songs,” Cockburn reasoned.
“But if you think you can keep your head down and ignore the political side of things, it’s liable to be waiting for you with a blackjack in the alley when you come out the stage door.
Credit:MontrealGazette.com Photo: Bruce Cockburn, left, accepts his People’s Voice Award for his role in social and political commentary from country singer Kris Kristofferson at the Folk Alliance International awards show, in Kansas City, Mo., on February 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Brian Hetherman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Bruce will start touring in the eastern U.S. in November 2017, in support of his yet to be released new album Bone On Bone. Released date is set for 8 September 2017. He will tour in Canada in September 2017 and in the U.S. and Canada in January/February 2018. This tour will be a band tour, and details of that will be coming along shortly.
Bruce Cockburn to receive People’s Voice Award from Folk Alliance International
23 January 2017 – Kensington has produced 3 one-hour documentaries over the years with Bruce
For his hard-work, dedication and creativity over the past 40 years, Bruce will be receiving the People’s Voice award at the February 2017 Folk Alliance International Awards Show. The Folk Alliance organization presents the award to individuals who have unabashedly embraced and committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career.
To celebrate Bruce’s accomplishments, we’re offering ‘My Beat: The Life and Times of Bruce Cockburn’ for the first time to stream on VIMEO for FREE. You can freely stream the documentary until February 14th, 2017.
Go tell the sergeant-major
To get that thing repaired
The lunatics rule in the asylum
Chaos is in the air
Oh oh oh
It’s going down slow
It’s going down slow
They’re grinding the marrow of history
The ground underneath us quakes
The board of directors is looting
What’s left of the ship of state
Oh oh oh
It’s going down slow
It’s going down slow
Everybody seems to be leaving
Better say your travelling prayers
It don’t matter how you get it
It’s where do you go from there
Oh oh oh
It’s going down slow
It’s going down slow
It’s going down slow
It’s going down slow
God, damn the hands of glory
That hold the bloody firebrand high
Close the book and end the story
Of how so many men have died
Let the world retain in memory
That mighty tongues tell mighty lies
And if mankind must have an enemy
Let it be his warlike pride
Let it be his warlike pride
Recorded at Studio Frisson in Montreal on March 19, 2003.
Thanks to Daniel Keebler.
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 installment 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.
Folk Alliance International to Launch People’s Voice and Clearwater Awards
Posted by: Jerod Rivers
11 January 2017 – As part of a permanent commitment to honoring the socially-conscious roots of folk music, Folk Alliance International (FAI) will launch two new awards during the 2016 International Folk Music Awards show.The People’s Voice Award will be presented annually to an individual who has unabashedly embraced and committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career. The Clearwater Award will be presented annually to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in education and sustainable event production. Additional awards include Lifetime Achievement, Spirit of Folk, and Album, Song, and Artist of the Year presented on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Folk Alliance International Awards Show
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 6 pm
Westin Crown Center Hotel, Century C Ballroom
Kansas City, Missouri USA
Open to FAI conference delegates and registered members of the press.
Bruce Cockburn to Receive People’s Voice Award
The inaugural People’s Voice award will be presented to multi-platinum recording artist Bruce Cockburn, whose 40-year career has consistently highlighted environmental, social, and indigenous issues globally.
Bruce Cockburn has been all over the world to Mozambique, Nepal, Vietnam, Baghdad, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to protest refugee camps, landmines, and Third World debt. He has been tirelessly vocal in support of native rights, the environment, the promotion of peace, and has highlighted the work of Oxfam, the UN Summit for Climate Control, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth.
His songs “Mines of Mozambique” from album The Charity of Night, “Stolen Land” (Waiting For A Miracle), and “If a Tree Falls” (Big Circumstance) have traveled the globe providing context for some of the world’s biggest issues of the day, while exhorting to all who listen for engagement with our shared humanity.
In over 300 songs on 30 albums that range from folk to jazz-influenced rock, he has sold more than seven million records worldwide and prolifically captured the story of the human experience through protest, romance, spiritual searching, and politics. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1985, after observing the horrors of refugee camps along the Guatemalan-Mexican border he shared that he went back to his hotel room, cried, and wrote in his notebook, “I understand now why people want to kill.” The experience led him to write “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” from the album Stealing Fire.
Cockburn is the recipient of 13 Juno Awards, the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, nine honorary doctorates, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Pacing the Cage, a documentary film about his life, music, and politics was released in 2013. His memoir, Rumours of Glory, was published by Harper Collins in 2014.
“We can’t settle for things as they are,” Cockburn has warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”
At her Cabbagetown studio, the luthier Linda Manzer talks about the organic nature of her trade. Holding a guitar of her invention, she says you can’t make wood what it is not, that you have to co-operate with it, that you have to be honest with yourself. “You can’t fake it,” is how she puts it.
Of course, the honesty Manzer speaks of doesn’t refer solely to the craft of guitar making. A novelist or a ceramist would agree with her; even a cocktail mixologist – the booze doesn’t lie? – would find common ground here.
As would a painter. The guitar Manzer cradles is a salute to the Canadian landscape rock star and Group of Seven ringleader Lawren Harris. It’s a doozy, untraditional with its grooved ridges on the bottom, icy-blue splashes of colour on the top, big mechanical drawing on the back and a second neck thrusting outward from the body like a Harris-y mountain peak.
The acoustic instrument is part of The Group of Seven Guitar Project, an exhibit commissioned by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and set to open on May 6, in time for the country’s sesquicentennial summer.
Seven masterwork guitars were made by seven of the country’s top luthiers – each instrument an homage to a particular Group of Seven member. An eighth instrument (a baritone guitar that honours the rough-cut woodland enthusiast Tom Thomson) was a creation by committee.
While the project will be seen as a unique commemoration of Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, et al, what it really represents is a party thrown for the Canadian guitar makers themselves, a group that has carved out an impressive standing in the luthier world. Seven guitar-makers, then, as a loose-knit, supportive collective – a group, for lack of a better word.
Manzer, well known for the four-necked Pikasso Guitar she designed and built for the jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, refers to the project as an “amazing journey of discovery.”
That discovery began with her visit to the National Gallery of Canada, where she saw a collection of Group of Seven sketches in a back room. Thinking about the support the artists had for one another, she began to draw a comparison to her own experiences in the 1970s, when she was one of the first six apprentices to work with the master guitar-maker Jean Larrivée.
Doing the math wasn’t difficult: Group of Seven, seven luthiers, hmmm. And neither was it very hard to get the other luthiers – Sergei de Jonge, Tony Duggan-Smith, David Wren, George Gray, Grit Laskin and the guitar-making godfather Larrivée – on board.
Matching a luthier with a Group of Seven artist was an organic process – no drawing of straws involved. Duggan-Smith had lived in a house once lived in by Arthur Lismer, so that was an easy pairing. Laskin was attracted to the landscapes of F.H. Varley, and so on. Manzer was drawn in particular to the 1930 oil on canvas Mt. Lefroy, a snow-capped quintessential Harris depiction. “If Lawren Harris made a guitar, what would it look like?” she thought to herself. “And if one of his paintings morphed into a guitar, how would that look?”
The result, which won’t be unveiled until closer to the exhibit’s opening, is an exotic six-string acoustic model with an extra neck that holds an eight-string harp-like offshoot. “Technically, it was quite hard to do,” Manzer says. “But I think the result is a little controversial, and I had fun doing it.”
The next step was an audition. The folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn, a friend and customer of Manzer’s, would give the guitar a playing. Reached in San Francisco, Cockburn described the guitar as a “pretty spectacular piece of sculpture, which manages to sound decent as well.”
Cockburn, who has sung about trees in forests but has never made paintings of them, wrote a song specifically for the guitar that will be featured in documentary film on the Group of Seven Guitar Project. The Mount Lefroy Waltz is a solo instrumental in F minor, played by Cockburn with the strings capoed at the third fret, with the strings tuned D-A-D-G-A-D.
“I tried to come up with something icy sounding,” Cockburn says. “The guitar favours the higher frequencies, and I tried to write that into the piece. It played very well. I was even able to use the ‘harp’ strings that are part of its architecture.”
The process of making the guitar was a lengthy one. Manzer spent more than two years just researching Harris. The turning point in her study was reading his letters to his confidante and fellow artist, Emily Carr. “He was a cheerleader for her, and the things he wrote to her about being brave became my inspiration from him,” Manzer says. “I took those words to heart.”
Each of the luthiers worked on their individual guitars on their own, but in talking to them all, Manzer believes their processes were similar to hers. “I was going to do what was best for my journey of discovery of Lawren Harris,” she says. “I think we all did that.”
As Manzer says, the wood doesn’t lie. And neither does the muse.
Special thanks to Brad Wheeler – Twitter: @BWheelerglobe
In 1995 Bruce Cockburn wrote “The Mines of Mozambique,” a song which helped call attention to the plight of Mozambicans dealing with the aftermath of almost 30 years of war: a war of independence from Portugal and an even longer civil war. Wars which left the country riddled with unexploded landmines inflicting injury and death whenever men, women and children stepped, unawares, on them. It took over 20 years of work, but in September 2015 it was announced that the last landmine was removed.
The Coming Rains - The Charity of Night
“The Mines of Mozambique” (along with a good chunk of “The Coming Rains“) was composed on the night of September 11, 1995 in a hotel room in Quelimane, Mozambique while Bruce was on a fact-finding tour at the invitation of charitable organization Cooperation Canada Mozambique (COCAMO). It wasn’t his first time in the country. He had been there 7 years earlier when COCAMO asked him to Mozambique to help them generate support for a hunger-relief program. At that time the country was still in the grip of civil war and he was very restricted in his movements around the countryside, being shuffled from city to city.
Between that time and when he returned, the war ended and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was founded in 1992. De-mining efforts were well underway, but moving slowly due to the dangerous conditions of the job. In a 1997 interview in Pause and Play, Bruce said,
“It was a country at peace when I went there, but the effects of war were everywhere. Landmines are almost like an evil spiritual part of the landscape, like some kind of mythical ogre that’s under your bed when you’re a kid and you’re afraid to step down onto the floor at night. People just simply walking or driving down the road and who have to take a leak, they have to think before they make any moves. They have to remember to leak on the road and not wander off into the bushes or they might be killed by a landmine. And the children can’t be children and venture off to play. The landmines are everywhere.”
Similar to the way his earlier song “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” came about, he witnessed the situation and then distilled those experiences into words and music. “The Mines of Mozambique” was “not an attempt to address the issues of land mines, but it reflects the atmosphere in a country that’s infested with them,” he explained in an interview on Portland, Oregon’s KINK FM. The track was included on The Charity of Night, issued in February, 1997. Yet, it had become a standard part of his shows immediately following his return from Mozambique in 1995, and would remain in his set lists for years after. To give context and to raise awareness of the landmines crisis, Bruce usually preceded performances of the song with a spoken introduction.
The opportunity to publicize and build awareness of the landmines issue even more directly came in the fall of 1995, immediately following his return from Mozambique. It was during that time that he embarked on a cross-North America speaking tour with Mozambican singer Chude Mondlane and the executive director of COCAMO, Michael O’Connor. The last stop on the tour was a visit to Canada’s Parliament to meet with leaders about instituting a landmine ban and to hold a press conference on the issue. In his autobiography, Rumours of Glory, Bruce describes how he was given five sample, inert landmines to use in his presentation. He brought them into the parliament building and startled all present, including security staff, when he placed them on the table to illustrate his comments. This caused a bit of a problem when he returned later in the day and he was promptly surrounded by security agents and questioned about the mines. As he writes in the book, “I was earnestly admonished not to bring them with me again.”
Due to the efforts of Bruce and many others around the world, on December 3, 1997 the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention was signed by 122 countries in Ottawa, Ontario. It became known as the Ottawa Treaty and banned the production, stockpiling and use of landmines. Since then, 39 additional nations have joined the treaty. Unfortunately, there are still those, including the United States, who have not signed on.
Even though the treaty signified a marked reduction in new landmines, there were (and are) still millions in the ground internationally. Mine removal was still ongoing in Mozambique and in 2013 the U.N. estimated there were still more than two million in the country. Due to continued diligence and unwavering effort, however, the humanitarian and demining organization HALO Trust declared Mozambique mine free two years later. People can now safely farm, can safely walk and drive wherever they want to, and the continually rising burden on health care due to landmine injury has been stemmed.
The landmine problem is over for now in Mozambique, but continues in other parts of the world. The issue is still one of great importance to Bruce and he devoted a generous part of his autobiography to an examination of landmine issues. In 2000 he told the Tucson Weekly,
“For me, it’s all one big issue. All of these things are aspects of how we treat each other and how we relate to the nature of which we are part. Anytime I can address any of those aspects, I’m happy to do it. It’s all really about human dignity and human survival.”