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Bill Usher recalls radio production from tour with Bruce Cockburn

Bill Usher, Bruce Cockburn, Jenny Scheinman, Gary Craig - 2013 - Golden, CO
Bill Usher (left) poses with renowned Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn (centre, left) and members of Cockburn’s backing band, Jenny Scheinman and Gary Craig, following Cockburn’s 2013 show in Golden

Mar 24, 2016 – Long before he arrived in Golden, Colorado and began to have an impact on what is now a bustling arts and culture scene, Bill Usher was a radio documentary producer and musician, with one of his proudest works coming in the form of a two-hour documentary titled On Tour with Bruce Cockburn.

Usher had worked with the Canadian folk icon on his 1976 release In the Falling Dark and toured across Canada with him on the subsequent tour. The idea to document the cross country tour with Cockburn seemed like a winner, and Usher took his idea to CBC, having produced documentaries for them previously.

“As soon as I knew that I had the gig…I basically went into one of the producers (at CBC) and said ‘I’m going out on the road with Cockburn for 12 weeks. I have this idea that I could do an on the road back stage documentary, are you interested?’,” he remembered.

The producer was interested, and Usher proceeded to round up all of the five inch reels of tape that he could before hitting the road for the tour.

Film and radio was a different animal back then. The days of digital recording were but a pipe dream, making production a lengthy, time-intensive process compared to contemporary standards.


Circles In The Stream – On Tour With Bruce Cockburn in 1977

February 2016 – Daniel Keebler, over at the Gavin’s Woodpile, has put together a wonderful article, including a 2 hour audio documentary which was made in 1977.

Special Occasion presents – ON TOUR WITH BRUCE COCKBURN

A two-hour program produced for the CBC in 1977. Bill Usher documents aspects of the Circles In The Stream tour of which he was a part. Included are intimate conversations with Bruce Cockburn about himself, his music and those who listen to it.

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Hawksley Workman and Andrew Burashko’s Art of Time Ensemble – A tribute to the songs of Bruce Cockburn

Hawksley Workman - Tribute to the songs of Bruce Cockburn

1 May 2016 – TORONTO, ON: Andrew Burashko’s Art of Time Ensemble is presenting its tenth Songbook concert featuring Hawksley Workman and the music of Bruce Cockburn. May 13 – 14 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Workman will perform Cockburn’s protest songs in new arrangements by Canadian composers.

The program includes If I Had a Rocket Launcher (arranged by Jonathan Goldsmith) and If a Tree Falls, as well as Workman’s We’re Not Broken Yet from his latest record, Old Cheetah.

“I’ve loved Bruce Cockburn’s music for a very long time and consider him one of my biggest influences,” says Workman. “He is a master of the protest song, always keeping beauty and poetry front and centre. In a time where protest is stifled and muted, I thought it might be good to revisit his music.”


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.


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