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Bruce Cockburn and Hawksley Workman on artistic legacy

22 February 2016 – The title of Bruce Cockburn’s memoir, now out in paperback, is Rumours of Glory. Upon reading the book, it occurred to the Cockburn enthusiast and fellow Juno-winning musician Hawksley Workman that there was too much rumour and not enough glory affixed to the standing of Cockburn. The two artists spoke to each other recently by phone, about credit due, MTV and roads worth taking.

Hawksley Workman: The passing of David Bowie got me to thinking about artists who seem supremely aware of what they’re creating for themselves and their own self-mythologizing. My sense, Bruce, is that you weren’t ever really aware of the legacy you were creating. Is that fair to say?

Bruce Cockburn: It strikes me that legacy is a very ephemeral thing. I’ve had that word thrown at me, but I don’t know. I think it’s out of my hands.

Workman: But people like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, they nurtured or fostered an image of themselves that accompanied their art. I have trouble that you’re not included in the group of names we seem to culturally deify, and that it’s because their kind of self-mythologizing wasn’t part of your landscape. Do you feel that?

Cockburn: For me, it’s always been about the music and words. But under the surface, I recognize I have an ego like everybody else. I want to be noticed. In the beginning, I was defensive about that. I didn’t want to think in those terms, and I went to great lengths to avoid acquiring an image of any sort. But then I found that I had acquired an image of somebody who was trying not to have an image. So, I couldn’t beat that one. Once you put yourself in front of the public, an image is thrust upon you – by people’s response, by the media, by some sort of natural reaction to having somebody who is up on stage seem larger than life.

Workman: I hear all that. But your compulsion to do or to go or to be seems to eclipse that of somebody who might stroke their chin and think about what move might make them cool.

Cockburn: I’d be a liar if I denied being aware of how things might look to other people. But, again, it’s out of our own control. You can make choices, and people might see you as being cool or as a jerk. I got called names for supporting the Sandinistas. You can’t take that out of the picture, but, for me, it’s always been about curiosity more than anything else. I don’t see anything as a compulsion.


Bruce in Colorado

UPDATE: March 28, 2016

The KSUT.org interview is now online.

Bruce has 2 shows in Colorado, today at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and Thursday in Durango.
At last check, there were tickets available.

Also he will be on KSUT.org radio on March 23 at 2:06pm.

“The legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn will grace our studios for a KSUT Session at 2:06 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23. Bruce will play the Community Concert Hall the next evening. A songwriter for a generation, he last performed for us on-air in 1997, prior to his DSCPA concert that was the grand opening of the Community Concert Hall. Make sure to tune in!”

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Cockburn performs at St. Lawrence Acoustic State

Thursday, January 21, 2016 – The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage has brought the area some pretty big names and some fantastic talent, but none more so than their headliner on Feb. 21 when Bruce Cockburn will be gracing the stage.

“I would say that this is the single biggest show we have done at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage,” said Sandra Whitworth, SLAS board member. “And I say that even though we’ve brought in artists like Serena Ryder, Garnet Rogers and Shane Kayczan. But Bruce is so widely known as Canadian music royalty. We are hugely excited to have him in.”

The concert is already sold out and audiences are sure to be pleased with what Cockburn will be offering.

“There’s a few new songs,” said Cockburn in a phone interview. “My hope is to get an album together this year sometime, towards the end of the year. The show will be a cross-section, which is typical of me.” Cockburn said when there is a new album already out, there is a lot of emphasis on it during a show, but that is not the case this time.

“So there will be some new material, some brand new stuff people haven’t heard,” he said. “Otherwise it will be a cross-section of whatever. There are always a few of the ones that I feel like people pay the money to hear. Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Wondering Where The Lions Are, stuff like that tends to be in every show because people want that stuff. At least they appear to.”

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WHYY Video – Performance and Interview

In early 2015 Bruce sat down with WHYY, here is the video that came from that meeting.

WHYY Video Interview / show from early 2015

(video will open in a new window) ( http://video.whyy.org/video/2365579910/ )

Aired: 10/09/2015
Runs: 28:46

Bruce Cockburn, legendary Canadian singer-songwriter, has traveled to the corners of the earth out of humanitarian concerns, often leading to some of his most memorable songs for four decades. In this episode, we will explore what’s behind his passion for human rights, politics and spirituality and how he expresses this drive by creating a unique variety of folk and jazz-influenced rock songs.



Parting Shots: Bruce Cockburn by Dean Budnick – Relix.com

May 01, 2015

In his new memoir, Rumours Of Glory, Bruce Cockburn shares stories from a career that began in the mid-1960s, following a stint at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The Canadian troubadour also offers accounts of his world travels, social activism and spiritual life. There are plenty of musical memories as well, which are reinforced by a 9-CD box set of the same name, with tracks selected by Cockburn from his 31 albums to offer parallel audio accompaniment.

In your book, you describe your rather unique reaction to hearing yourself on the radio for the first time back in 1970.

I had been writing songs for a few years in a bunch of different bands. So I had these bodies of songs and I felt choked up on them. I felt that having to carry all these songs in my head was getting in the way of writing new ones. So I wanted to make a record, and in my imagination, that record would allow me to forget about those songs because they would have been there and accounted for, so I could get on to writing new ones. Of course, what I didn’t realize was that it doesn’t work like that—when you record those songs, then everyone wants you to play those songs.

On the day my album came out, I was in the Yorkville area, which was the Toronto equivalent of Haight-Asbury or the Village in New York, and was the center of the counterculture scene. This was at a time when free-form FM radio was really just taking off and all the stores in that area would listen to this particular radio station called CHUM. So I’m in a store and they were playing my music. No one knew me but I felt like I had a big finger pointing at me. It was terrifying.

So I left the store and went into a different store that had the same radio station on and they were playing the whole album. You could do that kind of thing back in those days. I felt like I would never have a sense of privacy again. It was a very excruciating experience and I felt I had to duck and hide.


A Conversation with Bruce Cockburn by Andy Whitman – Image Journal

April 15 2015 – In our current issue, Andy Whitman interviews legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who is this year’s recipient of Image’s Levertov Award and will play a live concert on April 23, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. Read the full interview in issue 84.

Image: The late seventies and early eighties were a time of profound change for you. Looking back on that transformation, what advice would this newly enlightened Bruce Cockburn offer to the old Bruce Cockburn? And, turning it around, what cautions would the old Bruce Cockburn offer to the new Bruce Cockburn?

BC: The new Bruce Cockburn would say, “Lighten up,” and the old Bruce Cockburn would say, “How?” That’s the gist of the inner battle that was taking place.

I had a conversation at one point with an artist in Toronto whose studio space we were using. We were shooting a video, I think. We were chatting, and he said something like, “Having fun is what it’s all about, after all.” And I just looked at him like, “What?” “Well, isn’t it?” he said. And this other guy with a heavy German accent said, “We’re supposed to be having fun.”

It had never occurred to me that anything was supposed to be about having fun, other than very specific things like watching a movie.

At the time, my conclusion was that this was a worldview that this guy had embraced. And my worldview was about duty. It was not about fun at all; it was about doing what you were supposed to do. If I stepped back from the idea of duty, from the perhaps neurotic or unduly Victorian element of it, for me, life was ultimately about doing the next appropriate thing. Whether I thought of it is as duty or embracing the possibilities, appropriateness had a lot to do with it.

But being hung up on duty can interfere with your appreciation of the appropriateness of something that comes up spontaneously, and that would be a caution that the new Bruce would offer the old Bruce. The old Bruce would say, “It’s all about doing what you’re supposed to do. There’s a job to be done, and the job is to be the right kind of human being. People who have no moral base, or who don’t have one that I can see easily, are wasting their energy and time and pissing away their God-given talents and souls on having fun.” The new Bruce would say, “Yeah, but they’ve got something you don’t. They’re open to others and they can hear each other, and you’re not, and you can’t.”


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