In 1998, acclaimed singer/songwriter and activist Bruce Cockburn travelled to Mali, West Africa with a documentary film crew, led by producer/director Robert Lang.
Over the course of several weeks, Bruce traversed this country, over half of it hugging the Sahara Desert, exploring its roots, people, ancient cultures, musical traditions and the ongoing struggle against drought and desertification.
Along the way, Bruce jammed with musicians like legendary bluesman Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate, master of the traditional 21 stringed instrument, the Kora. In the ancient city of Timbuktu, the film team visited prehistoric cliff dwellings in Sanga and met face to face with people working for a brighter future by changing the face of the desert.
River of Sand, which premiered on Vision TV in October 1998, is a travelogue of a different sort – one that touches upon the cultural, musical, and environmental roots of Mali.
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.
Hi, As many of you know Bruce has been a supporter of the USC for many many years now. The USC has come up with a great program Celebrate Seeds. Here’s what the USC has to say about it. ~ Bernie Finkelstein
Feb 12, 2015 – It’s time to celebrate seeds! A medley of Canadian musicians and USC Canada are celebrating good seeds and everything they mean for human health, environmental protection and food security.
“Join the celebration! Watch this video to find out why I’m (we’re) celebrating seeds and farmers who save them. Let’s get the conversation rolling about this important food issue:
Seeds are important to me (us) because they are at the base of all of our food. Growing good food from good seeds helps to ensure that not only will crops to adapt and grow resiliencies, but they’ll also maintain biodiversity, flavour, abundance and choice. Learn more @USC Canada – Seeds of Survival and all the great benefits of good seeds.
Have you ever thought about where your food is coming from, not where you bought it or where it was physically grown, but where it REALLY comes from? Maybe it’s time that we all looked a little closer at where everything began. Human beings once used more than 7,000 different plant species to feed us. Today we rely on only 12 of them. Learn more about how to make a difference and join the celebration.
We’re celebrating seeds because of the power of their enormous diversity that is key to withstanding all kinds of shocks and changing conditions. We’re losing this diversity to uniformity. 75% of the global seed supply is controlled by only 10 companies. There are hundreds of rice varieties in the world but 65% of the rice we eat comes from only 4 varieties; 75% of the potatoes we eat come from just 4 varieties.
Jan 28, 2015 – The March 2015 issue of Acoustic Guitar will feature an excerpt from Bruce Cockburn’s new memoir, Rumours of Glory, in which the Canadian singer, songwriter, and guitarist talks about why, at 23, he left ’60s-era folk-rock to focus on solo acoustic music. He’d met fingerstyle guitarist Fox Watson, who taught Cockburn how to play in alternate tunings.
“I was sort of disdainful of open tunings back then because I didn’t like most of what people did with them—playing the same four chord formations in different tunings, trying for a specious variety in their sound without going to the trouble of actually learning their instrument,” Cockburn writes. “But when Fox played in any of several tunings he used, what came out was fluid as a mountain creek and agile as a gull.”
That was more than four decades ago. Since then, Cockburn has returned to playing electric guitar in rock bands, but he never left an acoustic guitar far behind, and he’s developed a style that is unmistakably his. In this special half-hour edition of Acoustic Guitar Sessions, senior editor Marc Greilsamer talks at length with Cockburn about his love of acoustic guitars and the singer-songwriter performs three tunes: the instrumental “Bohemian 3-Step,” “Waiting for a Miracle” and his most famous song, the politically fierce “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”
12 June 2014 – Carleton University today conferred a Doctor of Music, honoris causa, on Bruce Cockburn in recognition of an outstanding career in music, along with a commitment to voicing environmental, First Nations and social causes.
“Communication must become everybody’s thing,” said Cockburn. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a scientist, a journalist, a painter, a nurse, a cop or an accordion player–we have to be able to hear and see each other’s reality.”
Cockburn was honoured during Convocation for the Faculty of Engineering and Design, some of the 3,359 undergraduates and 782 graduate students receiving their degrees over four days of ceremonies.
“Being prepared has to include the notion of teamwork, of community and of mutual support,” said Cockburn. “And as valuable as this support may be in the event of a disaster, it is also vital in the day-to-day we currently move through.”
29 May 2014 – Bruce Cockburn has been honoured with the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award on May 7, 2014, at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards gala in Toronto, during Canadian Music Week. Throughout his forty year-plus career, Bruce has expressed his core beliefs through his songs, philanthropy, social activism and support for humanitarian causes. This is evident in songs like “If I Had A Rocket Launcher“, “Call It Democracy” and “Lovers In A Dangerous Time“, his activism alongside The David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, OXFAM, Friends of the Earth and others, along with his performances in aid of such groups as UNICEF, Bring Leonard Peltier Home, and Music Without Borders.
This honour, following a Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, an Order of Canada induction and 13 Juno Awards, including being named the Sustainability Ambassador for the 2013 JUNO Awards, Is an expression of the respect that Bruce has earned both nationally and internationally, as he continues to “kick at the darkness, till it bleeds daylight.”
Here is the video of Bruce receiving this award and his speech .. do give it a listen.
“There’s only one boat and we’re all in it together.”
May 2014 – Canadian Music Week is pleased to announce acclaimed Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn as the 2014 recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. The award – bestowed to the singer/songwriter in recognition of his social activism and benevolent support of humanitarian interests and causes – will be presented in Toronto on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards gala held during Canadian Music Week 2014.
“My Father Allan and I have both respected Bruce Cockburn as an artist and humanist since his early coffeehouse days,” said Gary Slaight. ”His philanthropy and compassion for charitable issues is commendable and something all of us should strive to emulate – even if on a personal level. Bruce has long been deserving of such an award and recognition, and we are thrilled to see his efforts honoured this year.as the recipient of the Allan Slaight humanitarian award.”
“It seems to me that if we accept that it’s appropriate to love our neighbour, whether as people of faith or as people just trying to live well, then we all need to do whatever we can to look out for that neighbour’s welfare,” said Bruce Cockburn. ”I’m very honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. I hope the existence of the award will help to inspire ever greater numbers of people in the music community to throw their support behind the many ongoing efforts to make this world better.”
November 13, 2014 – Cockburn also continues to lend his voice and name to causes he feels strongly about. Earlier this year, he became involved with the Collateral Damage Project, a cause concerning suicide rates among men in Native or First Nations communities. Cockburn was approached by the organization’s founder Scott Chisholm about bringing awareness to the organization and doing a Public Service Announcement regarding it.
For a long time when I was younger all the people I knew who died were suicides,” he says. “There weren’t that many, maybe half a dozen people I was acquainted with who killed themselves. I’m not sure if I totally agree with the negativity of suicide if you are a cancer victim or if you’re terminally ill with anything and looking forward to years of suffering. As long as it doesn’t come back on your family.
“The big problem with suicide is in all but those circumstances it’s a terribly selfish act. Some of that made it seem like something to get involved with. And, of course, in the Native communities where suicide is a huge social issue, not just a matter of individuals, it’s kind of epidemic. So there’s a real point to try to head it off in that setting too.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wilson and Linden are members of the group Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and are longtime friends and collaborators of Cockburn.
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.