Having sold more than nine million albums worldwide, acclaimed songwriter, performer, author and activist Bruce Cockburn is a member of both the Canadian Songwriter and Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a winner of Folk Alliance’s People’s Voice Award, as well 13 JUNO Awards from more than 30 nominations.
WATERDOWN ON – On Rarities, Bruce Cockburn is finally sharing twelve rarely heard recordings with digital music consumers that were previously only available within the Rumours of Glory limited-edition box set, along with four remastered tracks that appeared on tribute compilation albums dedicated to Gordon Lightfoot, Pete Seeger, Mississippi Sheiks and Mississippi John Hurt. Released on True North Records, Rarities will be available on November 25, 2022, on all digital platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music and Deezer. An advance single, the theme song from the 1983 Bill Mason-directed National Film Board film, Waterwalker, is available to stream now, along with pre-order and pre-save links for the digital album, and details on the musicians, studios, producers and recording dates for the tracks, all of which can be found here.
Bruce Cockburn – Rarities – Track Listing:
Juan Carlos Theme
Avalon, My Home Town
Going Down The Road
The Whole Night Sky (Alternate Version)
Song For Touring Around The Stars
Come Down Healing
The Trains Don’t Run Here Anymore (Re-Mastered)
Ribbon Of Darkness (Re-Mastered)
Turn, Turn, Turn (Re-Mastered)
Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down (Re-Mastered)
Twilight on the Champlain Sea featuring Ani DiFranco
Bird Without Wings
Also found on Rarities are two songs not on the original limited-edition CD, Rumours of Glory: “Twilight On The Champlain Sea” featuring Ani DiFranco, originally intended to be on Life Short Call Now and used on the Japan-only release, and 1966’s “Bird Without Wings,” the oldest Cockburn demo from his personal vault, later recorded by Ottawa’s 3’s A Crowd and produced by The Mamas & the Papas’ Mama Cass.
On the same day as the Rarities album is released, Cockburn and True North Records are releasing three albums on 180g black vinyl – 1996’s Charity of Night, 1999’s Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu and the 1970 debut album Bruce Cockburn, all of which can also be pre-ordered here.
An Interview with Bruce Cockburn – Mockingbird Magazine by BEN SELF
19 May 2022 – The following appears in the Success & Failure issue of The Mockingbird magazine.
Despite growing up in what he calls “a typical 1950s Canadian middle class household” in suburban Ottawa, Bruce Cockburn has done his share of wandering. He first became a star in the Canadian music scene in the early 1970s, winning the JUNO for Folksinger of the Year three years running. In 1974, he converted to Christianity and went on to release several albums with overtly religious themes. Among the best of these was In the Falling Dark (1976), which includes stirring songs of faith like “Lord of the Starfields” and “Festival of Friends.” While he never quite embraced the label of a “Christian” musician, and has often struggled with the legalism and reactionary politics of much organized religion, the push-and-pull of Christian faith has remained a central thread in Cockburn’s work and life.
Following the dissolution of his first marriage the in the late 70s, Cockburn made a conscious decision to “embrace human society” and moved to Toronto, Canada’s largest city. His musical style soon became heavier and grittier, and his lyrics darker and more politically-charged. He was also deeply impacted by his travels abroad, especially an intense Oxfam-led trip to Central America in 1983. These influences culminated in a “North-South trilogy” of albums that included the bracing hit Stealing Fire (1984), which featured two of his career’s biggest singles: “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”
After an exhausting decade that ended in a period of writer’s block, Cockburn reinvented himself again in the 1990s, shifting back to more acoustic, introspective material. His output from the period included deeply meditative albums like The Charity of Night (1997), which captures the world-weary wisdom of middle-age in songs like “Pacing the Cage” and the final track “Strange Waters.” The latter, for example, functions like a grungy, latter-day psalm:
You’ve been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?
Now in his mid-seventies and settled in San Francisco, Cockburn is still asking the deep questions and watching for those “inexorable promptings” of the Spirit, or what he sometimes calls “Big Circumstance.” To the delight of his fans, he continues to tour and release new studio albums, including the soulful Bone On Bone (2017), for which he won his 13th JUNO award, and the rich instrumental album Crowing Ignites (2019). Below he shares about both his musical and his religious journeys, his complicated relationship to success, along with insights on the creative process, and much more.
JUNE 6, 2022
BY ANDREA BEENHAM
Players: Bruce Cockburn – vocals, guitar, dulcimer, percussion
Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist and distinguished humanitarian Bruce Cockburn did not disappoint at the San Luis Obispo stop of his COVID-postponed 50th Anniversary tour. Arriving on stage to a standing ovation of passionate fans, the 77-year-old delivered an impeccable two-hour show that included favorites from his more than 25 studio albums, as well as songs from his forthcoming record, some of which were released online during the lockdown.
The evening included ethereal guitar work, traditional folk sounds, and elements of rock and blues, opening with 2019’s “Sweetness and Light,” a gentle, captivating instrumental that highlighted Cockburn’s gracious, unassuming persona. Shifting to his trademark poetic stories of deep unconditional love and humanitarianism, he followed up with “When You Give It Away” –with poetic lyrics including “time goes fast, but learning goes slow”—and “Tropic Moon,” inspired by the Salvadorian guerilla movement of the 1980s, highlighted by the phrase “should be a cry of love, but it’s a cry of fright.”
The lilting, bluesy roots jam “Café Society” poked fun at the ritual gossipy morning cup of joe, while “Pacing The Cage” delivered a gentle lullaby feel with amazing loving energy. A true showman, Cockburn added in wind chimes (kicking them as he strummed the guitar and sang) on “States I’m In,” and delivered gorgeous vocals on “Last Night of the World” with the hook “If this were the last night of the world, what would I do? What would I do that was different? –unless it was champagne with you.”
Says Cockburn, “The songs don’t really come alive until you play them for people, so the recording studio is a sort of compromise in that regard. I like being in the studio. It’s fun. It’s like putting a puzzle together or something, but it’s a very different kind of experience than performing a song in front of a bunch of people. That’s when the songs really assume their proper life.”
After over an hour, Cockburn took a short intermission, continuing on with eastern-influenced, “Stolen Land,” his lament for the theft of land and racism experienced by the First Nations, dramatized by falsetto vocals in unison with the chorus guitar lines. He remained unflappable as someone shouted out that the crowd in the room was on stolen land, pausing only to briefly highlight, wryly, that it was a fact across the country, except for the City of Manhattan, which was “purchased.” “In The Falling Dark” brought heavy-strummed tones that resolved with gentle, melodic lines like “smoke on the breeze, eyes that sting.” Cockburn, like fellow Canadian musician-songwriter peers Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen—and Bob Dylan, born just across the border—is a poet.
In his second set, Cockburn introduced new song, “Into The Now” (written during his stay in Maui in July 2001), that includes the lyrics, “love trickles down like honey from God,” and played the dulcimer for “Arrows of Light,” before engaging the crowd in a rousing call-and-response rendition of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” sparking a beautiful communal moment. Cockburn’s incredible falsetto and breath control reminded the audience of the strength and power of love in any circumstance with “Lovers In A Dangerous Time,” and his closing song, “If A Tree Falls,” an anthem about human destruction of the natural environment, delivered with breathtaking guitar work and vocals, was absolutely stunning.
Clearly in his element on the stage, Cockburn returned for a three-song encore, donning his dobro, and adding more wind chimes and fabulous echoplex pedal work with eloquent delays on “The End of All Rivers.” He followed the moving instrumental soundscape with his straight-up old school blues tune, “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long.”
Focusing on writing and recording during lockdown brought forth ten new songs, four of them released on YouTube last year as a means of sharing them with fans. Cockburn performed two pieces from the “Four New Songs” collection, including “Orders”—with its haunting guitar refrain and magnetic, soothing storytelling that held the crowd captive—and “Us All,” the latter closing the evening’s encore with patient, masterly delivery. “I didn’t want to wait,” said Cockburn, “because a couple of those songs seem pertinent to the current situation, so I wanted to get them out there in the world before we were able to go in and do a whole album.”
Throughout the evening, Cockburn (pronounced co-burn) engaged the audience with dry comedic wit between pure, beautiful guitar playing, layered with his indelible observations and experience of the world. Cockburn is committed to the idea of creating some sort of common space through the magic of music, rather than perpetuating narratives of divisive conviction. The truth of his words is poignant and meaningful, while his grounded, easy presence and the performance itself create a safe, healing space. Being back on the road is what it is all about for him. “Doing something that we weren’t able to do for so long, that sense of joyous relief, is characteristic of all the shows,” he says.
While many musicians have paid homage to his brilliant writing—including The Barenaked Ladies, Judy Collins, Jimmy Buffett, The Jerry Garcia Band, and Steve Bell—Cockburn says that a couple of interpretations of his music stand out. The first is that of Jimmy Buffet. “[He] really went out of his way to do them in the way they were intended to be,” says Cockburn. The second is that of Michael Occhipinti, a jazz guitarist from Toronto, who took the time to deconstruct Cockburn’s writing and rework it as a jazz album. “It’s a beautiful record,” Cockburn says.
When asked about his thoughts on the current state of music, Cockburn shared that he feels we are in for some new sounds. “Every now and then, when you reach that point where the basic sound of pop music becomes the basic sound of commercials, It’s ripe for some new thing to come along and the window is down for about five minutes. Some really great stuff will show up, and then the windows start to close again because it’ll get refined and they’ll figure out how to package it.”
Cockburn’s new album is anticipated in early 2023.
Singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn talks about Christianity and what he’s dropping from his setlist
by Bill Forman May 11, 2022
When it comes to live shows, Bruce Cockburn has no shortage of songs to draw upon. There are the ‘80s hits like “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” the steady stream of albums that have followed in their wake (which have earned him ten Juno Awards in his native Canada), and a few unreleased songs he’ll be debuting on his current tour.
But one hit that Cockburn won’t be playing is “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” a song he wrote after visiting Guatemalan refugee camps back in 1984. It was Cockburn’s best-known hit in America, as well as his most controversial, with an accompanying video that depicted the genocide carried out against Indian villagers by the Guatemalan army, with whom the CIA happened to have close ties.
While MTV aired the music video frequently, radio programmers were less inclined to add the single to their playlists, not least because of its closing line: “If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die.”
The song has long been a staple of Cockburn’s live shows, but that changed back in March when Russia fired more than 30 cruise missiles at a Ukrainian military base.
“I’d been playing it on all the U.S. dates, but stopped during the Canadian shows, because I just felt like it’s gone too far that way,” says Cockburn. “It’s always made me uncomfortable when people cheer for that song. And I don’t mean applause at the end of it because it was a good performance or something. But just when I sing the various lines — like even at the end of the first verse, ‘If I have a rocket launcher, I’d make somebody pay’ — and there’s invariably somebody — some male — in the audience that hollers out, ‘YEAAHHH!’ And I hate that, because that’s not what it’s about. And if they were thinking about what they were hearing, they would not do that. And I just didn’t want to play into that kind of sentiment in the current situation.”
I think my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life.
— Bruce Cockburn
This isn’t the first time that Cockburn felt the need to give the song a rest. “The same thing happened after 9/11,” he says. “I didn’t sing it for a long time after that, because, you know, people were just looking for motivation to go out and do really bad things. Not that anybody in my immediate audience is likely to go do that, but it just was playing into the wrong part of the heart.”
While Cockburn has written numerous songs about human rights violations and third-world exploitation, he’s always done so with a poetic sensibility, and a depth of emotion, that sets him apart from more didactic political songwriters. He’s also a phenomenal guitarist, which is particularly evident on a pair of instrumental albums that prompted Acoustic Guitar magazine to place him on the same level as Django Reinhardt, Bill Frisell, and Mississippi John Hurt.
“When I was learning to fingerpick, I did my best to emulate Mississippi John Hurt and Mance Lipscomb, and some other guys like that,” says Cockburn. “Brownie McGhee was also an influence. I saw Brownie and Sonny [Terry] play dozens of times at this club in Ottawa that I hung out at on a regular basis. Well, probably it wasn’t dozens of times, but it might have been, because they’d come a couple of times a year. I love that music, and it’s still part of what I do.”
Cockburn was 14 years old when he found the dusty old guitar in his grandmother’s attic that would put him on the path to a life in music. Another pivotal moment, he says, was dropping out of Berklee College of Music.
“I was headed toward a bachelor’s degree in music, which would have entitled me to teach music in high schools, which I had no interest whatsoever in doing,” he says. “I was interested in the content of what was being taught, but not in terms of using it as a teaching career. And then I reached the point where I had this realization, ‘I gotta get out of here, this is not where I’m supposed to be.’ And I listened to that, and I acted on it.”
The other primary influence on Cockburn’s life has been his spiritual beliefs, which find their way into his lyrics without hitting you over the head with them.
“I think my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life, and the one I sort of struggle with the most probably too,” he says. “I wasn’t plugged into a community for a very long time, but through a combination of circumstances in San Francisco, I started going to church again after having not done it for maybe 30 years, 40 years. It was a small, non-denominational church with all these really accepting and loving people. The congregation was racially mixed — you know, people from all sorts of Asian extraction, African-Americans, white Texans, and Samoans — all kinds of different cultures mixed there. And it was accepting of gays and, you know, whatever else — people that feel, as I do, that their relationship with God is of paramount importance.
“When I showed up, they didn’t know who I was. I was just the old guy with an attractive wife, who’d discovered the church before I did, and eventually persuaded me to go. Then they found out I played guitar, and I ended up sitting in with the band and becoming more or less their guitarist. But then COVID, of course, killed that. So new things have happened since, but there was definitely a sense of community.”
All of which is a far cry from the divisive preachings — or, as Cockburn puts it, the vile bullshit — that comes out of the religious right.
“If you start using the Christian faith as a reason to hate people, it’s completely antithetical to what it’s about,” he says. ”And yet, historically, of course, it has been used for that over and over again.
“But, you know, I don’t think anybody who pays attention to what I have to say is gonna confuse me with that other stuff. The challenge, of course, is will they listen to what I have to say, or just write me off? Either way, I’m not gonna stop calling myself a Christian. And if you can’t deal with it, well, that’s your problem.”
For more than five decades, Ottawa’s Bruce Cockburn has been writing and performing hit songs, and now, he’s been honoured in the capital.
Cockburn was awarded with a Hometown Star following his recent induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame. He says this award is special.
“This was comfortingly informal and casual, and yet substantial too,” says Cockburn. “So I guess, of the two, I prefer this thing, if we had to take one or the other.”
Dozens of friends, family and fans were in attendance at the National Arts Centre to celebrate Cockburn’s achievements.
“We have transformed Canada’s Walk of Fame to mean more, to more people, more often,” says Canada’s Walk of Fame CEO Jeffrey Latimer. “And our hometown visits also include a placement of a permanent plaque displayed in a location of our inductees’ choice. Something that was significant to them.”
Cockburn’s songs truly represent the voice of his generation. Songs like Lovers in a Dangerous Time, which was covered by fellow Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies.
He’s won 13 Juno awards and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
“You know, it’s great to see Bruce in his hometown, just getting close again. I like that,” says Cockburn’s manager and long-time friend, Bernie Finkelstein. “Not that it was apart, but just, it’s nice. I just think on a human level it’s nice.”
The plaque will most likely be placed on the wall outside what used to be Le Hibou Coffee House on Sussex Drive, where Cockburn, as well as many famous Canadian musicians frequently played in the 1960’s and 70’s.
“One of the things that is great about Canada in my mind, is our willingness to celebrate each other,” says Cockburn. “And it feels really good to be part of that.”
This honour comes with $10,000 charitable donation. Cockburn, the humanitarian, is glad to help. Giving half to Seeds of Change and the other half to the Unison Fund.
“One of the greatest things about it is the ten thousand dollars that I get to divert to a charity of my choice,” says Cockburn.
The world knows about Bruce Cockburn, his music and his compassion. Now his hometown can recognize his impact forever. ~ by Dave Charbonneau CTV
On April 25, 2022 a number of SeedChange staff, alumni and supporters had the honour of celebrating with Canadian legend and longtime SeedChange champion Bruce Cockburn, as he received his Hometown Star from Canada’s Walk of Fame in Ottawa. During his acceptance speech, Bruce spent a few minutes explaining why he selected SeedChange as one of the two charities to receive a $5,000 cheque from Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Bruce has been a generous supporter and Champion for SeedChange for more than five decades, thanks to the impression that our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, first left on him as a boy.
Throughout his special day, Bruce’s commitment to social justice and global solidarity continued to shine as bright as ever. Congratulations Bruce on receiving this well-deserved recognition for your music, and thank you for growing a better world with us all these years!
Photo credit: Patrick Michel weseedchange.org FB weseedchange.org
The Unison Fund
Unison was formed in 2010 with one simple but important goal in mind: to ensure that the people who make up the Canadian music business never face times of crisis alone. Created by the industry, for the industry, we deliver life-saving emergency financial services and professional counselling that offer much-needed hope to those in need. Unison Fund – Twitter unisonfund.ca
Taming Sari – Mary Bryton Nahwegahbow & Joe Fraser
Mary Bryton Nahwegahbow & Joe Fraser who had the extreme honour and pleasure to perform ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time’ at the NAC – National Arts Centre for the Canadian icon Bruce Cockburn himself.
17 April 2022 – Acclaimed singer-songwriter and Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn is many things. A skilled guitarist. A natural wordsmith and prolific lyricist. An experimenter of folk, rock, pop and jazz. A spiritually minded creative.
But if you ask the Ottawa-raised performer, he’ll likely tell you he’s merely a vessel: a man with a guitar trying his best to convey the human experience one melody at a time.
“An artist’s job is to distill what you can grasp from life into some communicable form and then share it with people; and life includes all of these different things: sex and politics and violence and love and the divine,” Cockburn said in a recent interview.
“I mean, it’s all in there, so why not sing about it?”
Now marking 50-plus years in the industry with an anniversary tour in Canada and the U.S. — including a stop at Peterborough’s Showplace Performance Centre on Tuesday — Cockburn is reflecting on his decades of work and his celebrated catalogue.
It all started with an old guitar. At the age of 14, Cockburn discovered the stringed instrument in his grandmother’s attic. He was transfixed. Already enamoured with early rock and roll, the avid sci-fi reader and lover of poetry put down his clarinet and picked up the guitar.
“I understood that whatever my life was going to be about, it was going to revolve heavily around the guitar,” Cockburn said. His parents supported his dreams — with a few conditions: take lessons and don’t grow sideburns or wear a leather jacket.
“I didn’t know if I had a knack for it or not. I just knew I wanted to do it and, in taking lessons, I progressed. By the end of high school, there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life except play guitar,” Cockburn recalled.
The Canadian music icon has been making music for most of his life, and there’s no sign of his slowing down. In fact, Cockburn is about to embark on the Ontario leg of his cross Canada and the U.S. tour. This feature interview touches on his music, and activism – both in the climate crisis and anti-war movements.
It’s a second attempt at the 50th anniversary tour for Bruce, who recently released a 34th album, Greatest Hits (1970-2020), because his first tour attempt in late 2020 was derailed by the pandemic.
At age 76, he just completed 27 concerts in 13 states on his 50th Anniversary Concert Tour 2nd Attempt and is scheduled to resume the tour with 19 concerts in the next two months in various western states and Canada.
Here are just a few photo highlights from the first part of the tour.
Stage Santa Cruz 8dec21- photo Tom Skeele
Bruce Cockburn - Grass Valley 7dec21 - First show of tour - photo John Tabor
Bruce Cockburn 8 dec21 Santa Cruz - photo Tom Skeele
Bruce Cockburn Santa Cruz 8dec21 - photo Tom Skeele
Bruce Cockburn Freight&Salvage Berkeley 10dec21 photo Bob Doran
Bruce Cockburn Freight&Salvage Berkeley 10dec21 photo Bob Doran
Bruce Cockburn 13dec21 Bend photo Victor Johnson
Bruce Cockburn 12dec21 Eugene - photo Daniel Keebler
Bruce Cockburn 16dec21 Portland- photo
Bruce Cockburn 16dec21 Portland- photo
The shows have been fantastic with a wide spread of songs through the years.
Get your tickets now for the spring-summer shows – Tour Dates.