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Cockburn thanks Mac for taking his ‘mongrel assortment’

May 3, 2013 – Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn was at McMaster University Tuesday night to take part in a celebration of his recent donation of a huge chunk of his personal archives to McMaster University.

Bruce Cockburn and Bernie Finkelstein - McMaster Universary - 7 May 2013 - photo Scott Gardener
Bruce Cockburn and Bernie Finkelstein – McMaster Universary – 7 May 2013

It’s hard to be humble when one of Canada’s top academic institutions enshrines your life’s work alongside collections representing the careers of philosopher Bertrand Russell, and authors Farley Mowat, Margaret Laurence and Pierre Berton.

But Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn managed to be just that Tuesday night at a reception to honour the donation of his personal notebooks, correspondence, recordings, photos and memorabilia to the McMaster University archives.

The Ottawa-born writer of songs such as Lovers in a Dangerous Time and If I Had a Rocket Launcher sat quietly in the front row at Convocation Hall, listening to a string quartet perform instrumental versions his music.

Cockburn, 67, then heard university provost David Wilkinson tell the 180 invited guests and dignitaries assembled there what a significant gift the collection represents to the institution.

Bruce Cockburn - McMaster University 7 May 2013 - photo by Scott Gardener

When called to the stage to say a few words, Cockburn bashfully downplayed the importance of his gift.

“I want to thank McMaster University for graciously accepting all my crap,” joked Cockburn, who is known almost as much for his social activism as for his music.

Cockburn spoke for about 10 minutes, relating anecdotes from a career that spans five decades. He told the audience about the time he brought a shoulder bag filled with unarmed landmines to an anti-mine news conference at Parliament Hill, much to the chagrin of the Centre Block security guards.

“My major regret is that I couldn’t include those landmines in the donation to McMaster,” Cockburn deadpanned. “But I had to give them back.”

During the reception, several artists performed versions of Cockburn’s songs. The rock group Of Gentlemen and Cowards, all of whom are former McMaster students, sang an acoustic version of Wondering Where the Lions Are.

Hamilton’s Tom Wilson sang All the Diamonds and Colin Linden, who flew in from Nashville for the event, sang Anything Anytime Anywhere.

Wilson and Linden are members of the group Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and are longtime friends and collaborators of Cockburn.

Bruce Cockburn McMaster 7 May 2013 photo by Scott Gardener

The Cockburn collection is stored in 63 boxes of varying size in the basement of McMaster’s Mills Memorial Library. It includes correspondence from notable figures such as former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, former cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and John Crosbie, environmentalist David Suzuki, Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and singer Anne Murray.

The collection also includes fan letters, photos, tour shirts, recordings, videos and guitars, all carefully catalogued in a 64-page finders’ guide for researchers.

The core of the archives, however, is found in 32 personal notebooks, in which Cockburn wrote many of his songs, as well as snippets of poetry and day-to-day observations.

The notebooks, which cover the years 1969 to 2002, offer insight into how Cockburn worked his songwriting craft.

“That process is documented in the mongrel assortment of stationery that is now in the hands of McMaster,” he said.

Credit: Cockburn thanks Mac for taking his ‘mongrel assortment by Graham Rockingham – thespec.com. Photos by Scott Gardener / The Spec.


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Receives Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Bruce Cockburn Diamond Jubilee Gala 2013 - Photo LGOntario
Bruce Cockburn performing at the Diamond Jubilee Gala – 2013

1 February 2013 – TORONTO – The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and Mrs. Ruth Ann Onley are pleased to host a DIAMOND JUBILEE GALA to present Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals to members of the Order of Canada residing in Ontario, members of the Order of Ontario and other deserving individuals. This will draw to a close Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Year, on Wednesday, February 6, 2013, the 61st anniversary of The Queen’s accession to the Throne.

In keeping with the tradition of honouring milestone years of service, the commemorative medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the Throne. The medal serves to honour the contributions and achievements made by Canadians from all sectors of society.

Their Honours will be joined by a number of prominent Canadians who will also act as distinguished medal presenters to ensure that each of their peers receives his or her medal in a dignified and meaningful way.

Following the medal presentations, guests will enjoy a short performance by some of Canada’s best known performers, including Tafelmusik, and Michael Burgess, Liona Boyd, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Cochrane, themselves members of the Order of Canada.


Music icon Cockburn receives doctorate from Queen’s University

May 11, 2007 – by Rob Tripp

Bruce Cockburn - Doctorate Queen's University - 9 May 2007
Bruce Cockburn – Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Queen’s University – 2007

Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian music icon who once penned a song about retaliatory killing with a rocket launcher, has received an honorary doctor of divinity from Queen’s University.

The 61-year-old Ottawa native, whose 29 full-length albums are infused with religious and spiritual imagery, was bestowed the doctorate at the convocation ceremony for Queen’s Theological College Wednesday night [May 11, 2007].

“In all the time I’ve spent thinking about God in my life, I never thought I’d be recognized for it,” Cockburn said at the ceremony.

Cockburn charged the graduates, many of whom will become ordained ministers in the United Church, to look past New-Age spirituality and fundamental evangelism and focus on God.

“In between those cracks there is a place for sharing real experiences about God,” Cockburn said.


Canadian Music Hall Of Fame Award

5 March 2001 – At the 30th Annual Juno Awards ceremony (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys), Bruce Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Bruce Cockburn 2001 - Canadian Music Hall of Fame - photo BurlMusicAndArtFest

The Toronto Sun’s Jane Stevenson reported on March 3rd that Cockburn said,

“It seemed like you’re supposed to be dead or something to be in the Hall Of Fame — and I didn’t feel that dead. It kind of took me aback slightly — it’s a great honour at the same time, so the feelings were mixed. I was slightly uncomfortable because of that but I’ve kind of gotten over that now. It’s just a nice thing.”

The Toronto Star, also on March 3rd, listed some of the many honours Cockburn has received before, including 10 Juno awards; 20 gold and platinum album awards; an honorary music doctorate from his alma mater, the Berklee College of Music; doctorates in letters from Toronto’s York University and Nova Scotia’s St. Thomas University; Billboard International’s lifetime achievement award; Canadian and international songwriting awards; a Toronto Arts Award and a Governor- General’s Performing Arts Award.

Cockburn told the Star:

I’ve had time to reflect on the Hall of Fame thing, time to get over my fear of taxidermy. That was a very big part of my initial response. Some of my fellow inductees are still alive, some aren’t. Some are active, some aren’t. Some are doing living things, others are repeating what they’ve already done. That’s the category I don’t want to find myself in.

 

It’s a compliment, of course, a great honour,” he says. A lot of people take this stuff really seriously and put great stock in it, and good for them. They’re saying something really nice to me and about me by inducting me, and that’s great, I appreciate it. But I’ll never stop what I’m doing. I’m concerned about age as a human being facing certain prospects, though I’m not yet aching in the places where I used to play, as Leonard (Cohen) says. But, as an artist, I’m not concerned. If age means shutting down, closing the heart, relying on past habits to get you through, it’ll be a problem for any kind of creative work. So far that hasn’t been the case. I feel as if I’m learning at the same rate as I always have, but I’m more aware of it now, and able to appreciate it more.

 

My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop. Eventually time is going to get everyone, but in the meantime, they stay out there, doing their thing – out of necessity, to a degree, as I fully expect to be doing – and just getting better as musicians and as human beings. You don’t have to stop maturing just because you become mature.

Cockburn’s induction to the Hall Of Fame was presented by David Suzuki and Gordon Lightfoot.

In accepting the award, Cockburn said:


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