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.
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:
It’s a thrill to be included in the incredible company of artists who make up the Hall of Fame.
I want to thank the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Ross Reynolds, Randy Lennox and everyone at Universal, the gang at True North for their daily tolerance and support; the many excellent musicians and technicians I’ve had the good fortune to work with and learn from; my family and friends who fed me in so many ways; and Bernie Finkelstein who’s gifts of heart and mind have, for 31 years, kept me visible and audible to people around the world.
David [Suzuki], Gordon [Lightfoot], Sarah [Harmer], Jann [Arden], Terri [Clark] and the [Barenaked] Ladies, you do me great honour being part of these proceedings. The world is richer for having all of you in it and I’m proud to be on this stage with you and, in the case of the Ladies, almost with you [smiles].
It’s been my privilege to be one voice in the human choir during a period which I think will turn out to have been a formative one for English Canadian culture. Over the years there has been a wonderful flowering of creativity and spunk in our music scene, paralleling, often reflecting other currents flowing around us. In the 60s, when I was just beginning to play for people and write songs, the world began to recognize it’s oneness. We had McLuhan, Vatican II, we had Swami Vishnu Devananda dropping chrysanthemums from the air over Belfast and Suez. We had a generation of people, worldwide, who began to appreciate their common burdens and strengths, instead of fixating on what separated them.
This spirit has developed into a widespread embracing of each others music and cultures, at least, important aspects of them. Some people are afraid of this, but to me it’s a positive thing. There is a dark side. That is, the promotion of uniformity by those who’s interest is power by profit. Their job is easier if we’re all the same – if we all like whatever they tell us to like. So much so that they sometime act like we are all subscribers to the same shaky pyramid scheme with them at the top. It’s this thinking that has led to the weakening of national sovereignty, of democratic principles. That has, in effect, hijacked the movement to global community and tried to turn it into commerce under the name “globalization.”
To thrive, society needs a sense that we’re looking out for each other, needs to know where it came from and what sacrifices were made to create it. It needs to be literate as well as web-wise. We have to stop the hemorrhaging in health care and education, the shrinking of environmental safeguards. We’ve got to get past the fad of privatization, the mercantile system sucked when they tried it in the 1700s and it sucks now. It’s our community, it’s our world.
[said very emphatically, accompanied by lots of cheering from audience].
My job is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper, in the pulling of notes out of metal. These become songs and the songs become fuel. They can be fuel for romance, for protest, for spiritual discovery, or for complacency. That’s where you all come in. You decide how a song will be heard and felt. I’m filled with gratitude that so many of you have let my songs touch you. To all of you who have done me the honour of listening to what I have to say, thank you. I love my job, I can’t wait to see what I’m gonna do next. I love you.
[big smile as Cockburn says this, opening his arms wide. He then bowed slightly with his hands in the prayer position, like in recent promo photos such as that used on the Project main page, and said “Namaste” (Nepali greeting for “I salute the Spirit in you”)]
Credit: Transcription by Rob Caldwell. From the CockburnProject.net archives.