The Bruce Cockburn Newsletter Online
April 11, 2014
Napa Valley Register
Bruce Cockburn dazzles opening night audience at
City Winery- Folk legend covers four decades of songwriting
by David Kerns
A Bruce Cockburn concert is two hours of
lyrical and instrumental mastery. To an enthusiastic packed house,
the 68-year-old Canadian folk legend graced opening night at City
Winery Napa on Thursday with 20 original songs from 13 albums
spanning four decades of celebrated work.
He was an ironic vision as he strolled out to
begin, the outspoken pacifist dressed black-on-black, his trousers
tucked into high combat boots, looking about as military as civilian
clothes will allow. This may be a simple fashion choice, but his
artistic interest in the play of opposites, which runs through his
entire body of work, makes me wonder.
Cockburn combines lyrical imagery and
complexity with stunning guitar work both as a very percussive
rhythm player and as a soloist. For those unfamiliar with his
repertoire, the songs can satisfy without interpretation on the
sheer pleasure of the melodies and the performance. On repeated
listening, he is drilling deeply into personal, political and
A few lines from one of his most popular
songs, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” itself a title loaded with
tension, exemplify the kind of polarity that Cockburn is intrigued
“One day you're waiting for the sky to fall,
the next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all.”
“Nothing worth having comes without some kind
of fight, got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.”
Onstage, Cockburn is surrounded by
instruments, some expected and some surprising. He moves between
four guitars — two six-strings, a 12-string, and a steel National.
To his right a standing mountain dulcimer waited almost the entire
evening until he stepped up to it to close the main body of the show
with the prayerful “Arrows of Light.”
Most surprising were four sets of towering
vertical chimes, two on each side of him, which he ignited with foot
pedals while performing the six-string instrumental, “The End of All
Rivers,” and an intense solo on “Stolen Land.” In the latter, a song
raging against injustice, the chimes were church bells juxtaposed
with the explosive guitar work. Opposites again.
There were light moments. No Cockburn show
goes without a sing-along on “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” his
biggest commercial hit, with a call and response chorus likely to
leave many an attendee with an earworm for a while.
Two of his three encores were distinctly
unserious. The first, “The Blues Got the World,” is completed in all
three choruses with “by the balls.” Several years after writing it,
Cockburn said, “I remember sitting in the back of my camper, feet
dangling off the tailgate, being highly amused at myself over this
The second encore was “Anything Can Happen,”
a hilarious meditation on all of the improbable things that could
kill you at any moment, from botulism to the neutron melt to being
drilled through the head by a shooting star. “Anything can happen,”
he sings, “to put out the light. Is it any wonder I don't want to
But those moments aside, Cockburn is a
serious artist passionately addressing serious matters. His
intensity during performance is palpable. Eyes typically closed, he
immerses himself in the content. As he puts it, singing many of
these songs “requires the necessary amount of commitment.”
In one of his most admired songs, “If I Had a
Rocket Launcher,“ the peacenik folk singer rages “Cry for Guatemala,
with a corpse in every gate. If I had a rocket launcher, I would not
“Some songs, like 'Rocket Launcher,'” he
said, “are hard for me to do, because I have to go emotionally where
I was when I wrote them.”
Cockburn is into his art, absorbed in
re-creation. He is quietly appreciative of the audience's responses,
dignified without being aloof, but seemingly with a healthy
detachment from approval.
My single quibble about the show was what was
left out. Two fan favorites, “Pacing The Cage” and “Tie Me at The
Crossroads,” didn't make the setlist.
After a bit of muddiness at the start of the
opening song, the new Meyer sound system performed beautifully,
putting to rest concerns that the new configuration and flooring of
the hall might be an acoustic problem
This concert was a big experience, immensely
enjoyable musically, and challenging to the heart and intellect.
City Winery is off and running.
Canadian Music Week
Bruce Cockburn | Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award
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
“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.”
For more than 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been revered
as one of Canada’s most prolific singer/songwriters and advocates for human
rights. His politically and socially charged lyrics have continuously brought
Canada’s attention to causes around the world while his travels to such
countries as Mali, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Iraq
have underscored his commitment to humanitarian and environmental relief.
A social activist since the early-eighties, Cockburn has
worked throughout his career alongside such groups as the USC (Unitarian Service
Committee), OXFAM, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, The David Suzuki
Foundation and numerous other advocate groups speaking out and raising awareness
about landmines, famine, Third World debt, native rights, unsustainable logging,
climate change and air pollution. He has been at the forefront of efforts to ban
landmines, which met a resolve with the signing of a United Nations treaty
banning their use in 1997, and to obtain justice for North America’s Aboriginal
Cockburn’s progressive causes and political concerns
permeate his repertoire, including such tracks as “If I Had A Rocket Launcher”
(inspired by a visit to Central American refugee camps on behalf of OXFAM),
“Call It Democracy” (a social commentary on the devastating effects of the
International Monetary Fund’s policies in Third World countries), “The Trouble
With Normal” (citing labour strikes, tenant struggles and Third World
subjugation), “If A Tree Falls” (calling for an end to destruction of the
world’s rainforests), “Mines of Mozambique”, and “Postcards from Cambodia” (both
documenting the deadly impact of anti-personnel mines). A more recent example is
the powerful “Each One Lost” (stemming from a trip to war-torn Afghanistan in
2009), a mournful ode to lost soldiers that can be found on his latest album,
Small Source of Comfort.
Cockburn’s activism is equally notable in his live
performances, touring internationally in support of his causes. He performed at
a UNICEF concert in Kosovo, the UN Summit for Climate Control in Montreal, Live
8 in Barrie, Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 in New York, Child Soldiers No
More in support of ending the use of child soldiers in Victoria, the 100th
Anniversary of Wounded Knee in South Dakota and Music Without Borders for the
United Nations Donor Alert Appeal in Toronto to name a few.
His music, along with his humanitarian work, have brought
Cockburn a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the
Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, several
international awards as well as seven honourary Doctorates. In 1982, he was made
a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year,
the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn’s extensive songbook with a tribute
concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti,
folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk
singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and
Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin’ Jennys.
Earlier this year, Cockburn was named the Sustainability
Ambassador for the 2013 JUNO Awards in an effort to raise public awareness about
the organization’s environmental efforts in reducing their carbon footprint. An
interactive exhibit dedicated to different sustainability themes featuring
exhibits by Cockburn as well as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Young and Sarah Harmer
complemented the campaign.
Most recently, Cockburn donated a large share of his
archives – including three guitars, scrapbooks, notebooks, recordings, and
original song lyrics – to Hamilton’s McMaster University to be used as resource
material for students and fans. Personal observations, schedules, correspondence
and other meaningful memorabilia are included, offering a window into Cockburn’s
imagination and creative process.
Bruce Cockburn continues to actively write and record
music as well as support his humanitarian interests and causes. He will be
releasing his memoir in May of 2014.
April 3, 2014
Singer-songwriter Cockburn finds inspiration across
by Nathan Weinbender
Bruce Cockburn has been writing and recording music
for more than 40 years, and yet he’s never been comfortable doing the same
thing twice. Listening through his 34 studio albums, it’s immediately
apparent that Cockburn is a difficult artist to peg down and that his
musical influences are all over the map.
“What got me excited about music in the first place
was the early rock and roll,” Cockburn said from his home in San Francisco.
“There was ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ and ‘Hound Dog’ and all the Buddy Holly
stuff, and that just got me all fired up.”
Cockburn, a native of Ontario, started taking guitar
lessons as a teenager, where he was exposed to jazz and swing and the music
of Les Paul and Chet Atkins.
“And then before I was out of high school I got
introduced to country blues and folk music, and all of that kind of melded
together,” he said.
Cockburn later attended Boston’s Berklee School of
Music, where he studied composition with the intention of becoming a
composer for jazz ensembles. “But at the same time I was listening to John
Lennon and Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot, all the songwriters of that
generation,” he said, “and I thought, ‘Maybe I should try that, too.’
“By the end of the ’60s, I’d figured out what I
wanted to do, and I had a body of material that was on the first couple
albums,” he added.
Following stints in several psychedelic rock bands,
Cockburn released his self-titled solo debut in 1970. It’s a collection of
evocative, stripped-down acoustic ballads – think Nick Drake or Leonard
Cohen – but more diverse styles creep in with each consecutive record.
There’s a country flavor to 1973’s “Night Vision,” hints of Cockburn’s jazz
background on 1976’s “In the Falling Dark” and 1980’s “Humans” flirts with
new wave and reggae.
Cockburn will be playing tonight at the Bing Crosby
Theater (it’s the first stop on his current tour), and he’ll be performing
alone without a backing band. Not only is that approach a sort of throwback
to his earliest albums, but Cockburn said it stylistically unifies his deep
catalogue. “If you strip it down, the stylistic differences are softened a
little bit, because it’s just a guy with a guitar singing,” he said.
“There’s more homogeneity in the material than you might hear on
But Cockburn’s music isn’t
merely defined by its sources of inspiration. His work is distinctively
and the complex musical arrangements and socially conscious lyrics (songs
like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Call It Democracy” are pointed
sociopolitical commentaries) of his songs elevate them beyond sleepy
“Every time I hear anything I like, I end up
incorporating it in some way into what I do,” Cockburn said, “and if I’m
profoundly affected emotionally by something I encounter, that’s very likely
to end up in a song. I don’t feel like I’m in need of being propped up by
somebody else’s style.”
March 21, 2014
Bruce Cockburn Supports Glashan Public School In National Contest
Glashan Public School National Finalists
$20,000 Outdoor Classroom Contest
Glashan Public School could soon have an outdoor classroom valued at
$20,000. The central Ottawa public school is one of just ten
national finalists in the Majesta Outdoor Classroom Contest.
However, Glashan Public School students need your help to make the
outdoor classroom a reality! The $20,000 will be awarded to the school
that collects the most on-line votes. School Principal, Jim Tayler says
we need all of Ottawa to vote daily for Glashan to ensure victory! There
is also a personal incentive to cast your ballot – you could win $10,000
just for voting.
Throwing his support behind the Glashan Outdoor Classroom project is
Ottawa native and world renowned musician, Bruce Cockburn. Mr. Cockburn
says, “I am pleased to offer whatever support I can to a plan that will
surely bring a needed and healthy component to the school's teaching
program.” Mr. Cockburn added, “It seems like the closing of an odd sort
of life circle that I should be invited to support Glashan Public
School's efforts to acquire an outdoor classroom. I'm pretty sure my
mother attended Glashan in her public school years. Even without that
little bit of synchronicity, I'm very pleased to be able to offer
whatever support I can. Good luck in the contest!"
Principal Tayler says, “We know there is an abundance of research that
supports the use of outdoor learning environments and we feel that
Glashan students deserve to have an outdoor space on their schoolyard
that supports their learning and provides alternatives to our existing
The Trees of Knowledge competition was launched in 2011 by MAJESTA, in
partnership with Tree Canada and Focus on Forests, to help teachers and
students experience the benefits of being outdoors. Each year through
Trees of Knowledge one Canadian school is awarded a complete, customized
outdoor classroom, valued at $20,000. Additional prizes are also awarded
to the schools that finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th and a $3000 prize for the
school that has the most creative idea for rallying support. The school
will host a contest kick-off event on Monday, April 7that
9:45 am. Voting starts at
Glashan’s Outdoor Classroom project is part of a larger-scale initiative
organized by the Parent Council to refurbish and reinvigorate the school
yard that is used by the diverse student population of 400 students.
The concept of an outdoor classroom fits philosophically with Glashan
staff’s desire to explore and expand the possibilities of what they can
do for their students. Staff is excited about using an outdoor classroom
to enhance their own teaching practices and the ability to meet the
needs of students in a non-traditional setting.
March 7, 2014
Bruce Cockburn concert raises $21,000
for Kindness Project
by Lauren Baron
The Bruce Cockburn concert, held February 15 at the
Sanderson Centre in Brantford, Ontario, raised $21,000 for Freedom House Church’s Kidness Project. The
downtown church hopes to use the money to provide additional resources for its
new Kindness Centre located in Market Square Mall and toward drafting a kindness
curriculum for schools. Pictured from Freedom House are pastor Dave Carrol,
left, and Kindness Project chair, Phil Gillies.
February 12, 2014
The Brantford Expositor
Bruce Cockburn in concert Saturday night in Brantford
by Michelle Ruby
Bruce Cockburn may be the only person in southern Ontario
happy about the weather.
The iconic Ottawa folksinger who has been living in
California for the past four years and is embarking on a short “tour-ette” of
the province, said he welcomes the mid-February freeze.
“It's the major beef I have about San Francisco,”
Cockburn said from Toronto. “It doesn't have any winter.”
The condensed tours -- this time with eight dates,
including a Saturday night performance at the Sanderson Centre -- fit into
Cockburn's changed lifestyle. At age 66, he became a father for the second time
to daughter Iona, who is now two. His eldest daughter, Jenny, is 36 and mother
to four children.
The composer and virtuoso guitarist whose music is often
rooted in his humanitarian concerns has spent the past year reflecting on his
life in order to write his memoir -- tentatively titled Pacing the Cage, also
the name of a documentary film released last year.
“It was both agonizing and fun,” he said of the writing
process. “I have been approached a number of time since the early 1980s by
people who wanted to write my biography. But I felt it was my story to tell and
I didn't want someone else to do it. And, until now, I didn't feel there was
enough life to write about.”
After 40 years in the music business, 31 albums, and a
load of politically- and spiritually-charged hits to his credit, Cockburn said
it has been an interesting ride.
He was about 14 when he found his first guitar in his
grandmother's attic and used it to play along to radio hits. He attended Berklee
School of Music in Boston for three semesters in the mid-1960s before joining an
Cockburn's first solo appearance was at the Mariposa Folk
Festival in 1967 and, in 1969, he was a headliner. The following year he
released his self-titled, first solo album.
Through the 1980s, Cockburn's songwriting became first
more urban, more global and then more political as he became heavily involved
with progressive causes.
If I Had A Rocket Launcher, Call It Democracy, Stolen
Land, and If A Tree Falls, some of Cockburn's most successful songs, are also
the most politically charged.
He says it was his travels that inspired him to write
lyrics that reveal his passion for human rights, political issues and
“My personal motivation was travelling and meeting people
and seeing the crap people have to deal with,” said Cockburn. “We live the way
we do because other people don't live that way. It became important to mouth off
Saturday's concert at the Sanderson will support the
Kindness Project of Freedom House, a non-denominational downtown church. The
concept behind the project is simple: to change cities with kindness.
The first fundraising concert for the Kindness Project
was held last year when Canadian rock band Lighthouse performed, raising $12,000
for the charity.
“I think it's great,” said Cockburn of the cause. “I'm
glad to be able to help. A sense of community increasingly is all we've got. If
we can further and foster a sense of community that's really good.”
Cockburn's music and his humanitarian work have brought
him a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the
Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award. In
1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer n
Cockburn, who says he is itching to get back to
songwriting after focussing on his book writing for the past year, said his love
of performing has grown as he ages.
“I was afraid of it in the beginning. I hated the thought
of getting up in front of people. I had to get over it. Now it's a privilege to
share myself and my life with people who are interested.”
AT A GLANCE
What: Bruce Cockburn concert in support of the Kindness
Project of Freedom House.
Where: Sanderson Centre
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $45. Limited availability at the box
office, 88 Dalhousie St., by calling
or at www.sandersoncentre.ca.
February 5, 20014
Two Row Times talks with Bruce Cockburn
Two Row Times
by Jim Windle
The Two Row Times was fortunate enough to have an
exclusive telephone interview with Bruce Cockburn from his home in San
Francisco. Cockburn just got back from an extended tour of dates to rest up and
visit with his family before heading out on the road again on a new string of
dates including a stop at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in
Brantford, February 15th.
The Canadian troubadour was born May 27th, 1945, in
Ottawa, Ontario. At age 14, he picked up a guitar and began his life’s journey
of mastering both his instrument and his craft as one of the most important
songwriters of our age.
Since those early formative years, he has amassed an
astounding 32 Juno Nominations of which he has won 11. Cockburn has also earned
a list of awards too long to mention and has appeared on Saturday Night Live,
the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration
among many other high profile events.
But, Cockburn is not just a very successful singer
songwriter. He is also one of the world’s more outspoken celebrity
humanitarians, environmental and Native Rights activists today.
Cockburn grew up in the hippy movement of the 1960’s and
cut his musical teeth, and his social and political awareness on the so-called,
“protest” bands and singer/songwriters of the era, which still seems to drive
his creativity today, albeit in a deeper and at times more intense way.
TRT asked him if he feels any different from those days
when racial equality and the Vietnam War were the topics of the new radical
youth movement known as the ‘New Left’.
“I hope I have changed some,” he said about those early
days. “In some ways we are always changing. In other ways we don’t change
because we carry so much baggage with us when we go into anything. We hope that
with life experience, and people we meet, we manage to change our perspective on
what people are dealing with. I think it certainly happens to me and happens to
everybody, unless they need some help or are impaired in some way. When we start
out in life we feel like we are the centre of everything and we gradually have
to unlearn our centrality. To some extent, time has softened me too,” he admits.
“I’m more capable in recognizing other points of view than I was.”
But his social and environmental awareness actually began
some years earlier.
“My parents, especially my father – although he wasn’t
inclined to be what we call an activist today – was very aware of the world
around him. I guess I was encouraged by example to be aware of what’s going on
around me which gave me a bent towards social justice.”
He also points to one in particular, Elsie Beachant, his
Grade 3 teacher, as being important to his own political curiosity and
appreciation and openness to other points of view.
“She used the classroom at least once a week to read
clippings from the newspaper and talk about them,” he recalls.
“One day, somebody brought in a clipping that talked
about demonstrations by student ‘radicals’ in Turkey,” he remembers. “Somebody
asked, what’s a radical, and nobody knew the answer. She said a radical is
someone who thinks things need to be changed and is willing to get out on the
street and make a public statement about that.”
He recalls his class reading about the U.S. Senator
Joseph McCarthy trials during the Communist witch-hunt of the late 1950’s.
“She was talking about Pete Seeger and what a hero he
was,” Cockburn recalls.
He has since had the opportunity to meet and play on the
same venue as Seeger more than a few times, the latest time being the “Free
Leonard Peltier” concert in New York a couple of years ago when Seeger was still
performing into his 90’s.
Seeger died in New York City, January 27th, only days
before we spoke with Cockburn.
“He was a powerful force for good in this world,” he
Cockburn says he can’t really point to anything in
particular that started him singing about and speaking out on issues of concern
and against the unfairness of racism and corporatism, but rather, he says all of
those seeds cast throughout his life, even at a very young age, fell on fertile
Cockburn has had his finger on the pulse of the world for
a very long time, and that includes Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights for
North, Central and South American Indigenous peoples.
“I started to become aware of Native issues when I
started touring out west,” says Cockburn. “Growing up in Ottawa, if I knew any
Native people, I didn’t know they were Natives.”
Like most non-Native kids in Canada, he grew up
recognizing both the positive imagery of Native life, like campfires and an
affinity for nature, as well as the negative Hollywood stereotypes.
“Out west, I started to meet some Aboriginal people and
got pretty friendly with a couple of them,” he says.
They started telling the singer about things that were
foreign to most Canadian’s image of a Native’s place in society.
Through these relationships, Cockburn also began to learn
about the real history of Canada, which he and his generation had not heard of
“I was getting acquainted with individuals who had lived
the experience that opened up my eyes about that,” Cockburn says. “And once you
got your eyes opened, you start seeing it everywhere.”
As one might expect, Cockburn is very supportive of Neil
Young’s recent “Honour the Treaties Tour,” which focused on both the ecological
disaster of the Alberta tar sands, and the protection of the Native people
living downstream from the site whose rights have been bulldozed away for the
love of money.
“I think, good on him,” says Cockburn about Young. “It’s
good that he is drawing people’s attention to that issue, and in particular, to
the whole question of Aboriginal people in North American society. I think the
urgent stuff is all around the treaties and around large Native urban centres.
And there are issues around that too, like poverty and substance abuse.”
As far as he is concerned, “one cannot give these issues
too much attention.”
“If you are a person with any kind of moral concern and
you care about what happens to your fellows, then you have to take a position on
that,” he challenges. “And there is only one position to take. They say that
people need the jobs. That’s colonial thinking. It’s like saying, well let’s
take all the ivory out of the Congo because we can. Jobs are not justification
for what they are doing to the land and the Aboriginal people on it.”
In our conversation, we told Cockburn about the Great Law
of the Haudenosaunee, and the wisdom found within it. He showed definite
interest in finding out more and said he would look it up online and do some
reading about it.
February 5, 2014
In conversation with Bruce Cockburn-
Famed Canadian performer, songwriter set to headline Kindness Project benefit
by Colleen Toms
The last time Bruce Cockburn was in Canada, he was stranded in Toronto for three
days after wind chill temperatures of -40 C caused a "ground hold" at Pearson
“We were sitting on the tarmac for six hours waiting to take off,” Cockburn
said. “As soon as they said we weren’t going anywhere, my wife got on the phone
and booked us a hotel room. It was chaos, a lot of people were getting displaced
Still, Cockburn, who was born in Ottawa and now resides in San Francisco, looks
forward to returning to the ice and snow.
“I’m enjoying being here, but I still feel very much like a Canadian” he said
during a telephone interview from his home. “I’m looking forward to a little hit
Cockburn will headline the second annual benefit concert in support of the
Freedom House Kindness Project at the Sanderson Centre on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Funds raised from the concert will be used to develop kindness-based curriculum
for area schools.
“(Bullying) seems to be more and more prevalent these days,” Cockburn said. “I
went to school a long time ago and experienced some bullying, but I don’t feel
it was the same as the way it is portrayed in the media these days.”
Cyber-bullying is a much more relentless and vicious form of bullying that
victims are unable to escape from, he added.
“When bullies were ganging up on you physically you could avoid it by taking a
different route home or by going out the other door,” Cockburn said. “With the
internet, kids can’t do that, and when you get to an age where you start
worrying about your reputation, it becomes a big problem. Whatever we can do to
mitigate that is important.
“I have a two-year-old daughter growing up in this atmosphere that is now
considered the norm and I’m concerned about the possibility of her being
impacted by that.”
Becoming a father again at age 68 has made Cockburn look at life differently. He
also has a 36-year-old daughter and several grandchildren.
“In some ways, it’s a different perspective than when I was in my 30s,” he said.
“A lot of things mattered to me then that don’t matter now. I felt pressure to
perform, to pay attention to the world and I’ve done a lot of that over the
years. Now I can still pay enough attention, but I don’t have to be driven crazy
by it the same way. I think I have a greater capacity to love and be loved. I
think I might be a little bit nicer.”
Well-known as a staunch activist, Cockburn said he feels a lot of satisfaction
in the ability to use his music as an impetus for change.
“The ability to travel and experience a lot of the world, not just touring to
perform but through invitations to go to interesting places that comes with the
public visibility that I have, that has made a big difference in my life,” he
said. “Performing for people gives me a great sense of satisfaction, if I do it
Using his music as a means to effect change is important to Cockburn, but he
believes every person has a role to play when it comes to protecting the planet.
“I think it comes down to everybody to do what they can,” Cockburn said. “I
heard over and over again as a kid to leave the campsite the way you found it.
Because I have an audience I am able to communicate to a lot of different
people. What I can do to leave the campsite better is to share what experiences
Over his 40-plus year career Cockburn has released more than 30 albums – which
included hits like Lovers in a Dangerous Time, If I had a Rocket Launcher and If
a Tree Falls – won 13 Juno awards, was named an officer of the Order of Canada
and a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canadian Songwriters Hall of
His most recent album, Small Source of Comfort, was released in 2011 and
Cockburn recently released a documentary titled Pacing the Cage. In November
2014, his first memoir will be released by Harper Collins.
“It’s the first time I felt like it was appropriate,” Cockburn said. “It always
felt 'too soon.' I mean, Avril Lavigne has a biography out – what’s with that?
She hasn’t had a life yet. To me, I had to wait until I had a story to tell and
I felt it was my story to tell.”
Cockburn’s solo performance at the Sanderson Centre will include a collection of
songs from his early days, as well as his recent works. Tickets cost $55 for
orchestra seats and $45 for balcony seats and are available through the
Sanderson Centre box office.
February 3, 2014
Cockburn helps Conrad Grebel celebrate golden anniversary
by Robert Reid
WATERLOO — When Conrad Grebel University College
decided to present a concert in celebration of its 50th anniversary, the alumni
committee searched for an artist who reflected the Christian liberal arts
college's teaching philosophy.
They found the perfect representative in Bruce
Cockburn returns to the familiar digs of the
Humanities Theatre to perform a solo concert Feb. 13. A small number of tickets
Fred Martin, the college's director of development,
said acknowledged that the renowned Canadian singer/songwriter was "at the top
of the list."
"His music has always been popular with students and
alumni, and his humanitarian work and voice for social justice … have always
struck a chord."
As it turns out, the chord resonates both ways.
In an interview from behind the wheel of a car
travelling somewhere in California, Cockburn confirms he has always enjoyed
performing in front of students.
"The energy and sense of imagination are palpable,"
Cockburn acknowledges, adding he doesn't design repertoire specifically for
college or university audiences.
Cockburn maintains a number of associations with
institutions of higher learning.
McMaster University conferred an honorary doctorate on
Cockburn to add to his Order of Canada, multiple Junos and numerous awards and
accolades. The 68-year-old artist donated his archives to the university.
With a career extending back to the mid-1960s,
frequent world travels (both music and humanitarian tours), and more than 30
albums to his credit, there isn't much Cockburn hasn't done professionally.
Still, after nearly 50 years in the public eye, new
insights into the man and his music continue to emerge.
In a recent DVD, Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage, the
singer/songwriter reflects on his life and career as a film crew follows him
around while on tour.
The behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal
documentary features appearances by Bono, longtime collaborator Colin Linden,
longtime manager Bernie Finkelstein, author Michael Ondaatje and retired Lt.
Gen. Romeo Dallaire, among others.
Initially, Cockburn thought the idea was "horrible,"
but concedes the project "turned out pretty well."
Describing it as "a sweet, little film," he suggests
"it is less colourful than it might have been" had it "been grittier."
He has a chance to provide a grittier picture of
himself this fall when Harper Collins releases his memoir which, incidentally,
is also called Pacing the Cage (originally a line from his song of the same
"It wasn't my first choice for a title, but people
seem to like it," he admits. "I didn't want people getting confused. The book is
quite different from the film."
Written with the assistance of a co-writer, the
500-page memoir ends in 2005.
"I didn't have any trouble writing the early stuff,
but I needed perspective on the adult stuff, since a lot of people I write about
are still alive."
He solicited the help of a longtime, American
journalist friend to "help (me) make sense of things" and "provide a structure."
Because the memoir ends prematurely, room is left for
a sequel, but Cockburn says he is "in no rush" to tackle a companion volume.
"This has been difficult enough," he asserts with a
Cockburn has been approached many times by authors who
wanted to write biographies, but he always rejected the idea.
"I thought I hadn't lived long enough to develop an
overview of my life."
When the proper time arrived, he decided "it was
appropriate for me to tell my own story."
When Pacing the Cage hits the bookstores, one of
Canada's greatest singer/songwriters will continue to be a creative pilgrim in
January 29, 2014
M.I.A., Tegan and Sara, Neko Case to Headline Canadian
Annual festival brings over 1,000 artists to Toronto
by Ryan Reed
On May 6th, Canadian Music Week will kick off its 32nd
year with an eclectic lineup that includes Tegan and Sara, Neko Case, M.I.A.,
Television and Ellie Goulding as headliners. The five-night festival will run
through May 10th and include over 1,000 artists performing at 60-plus venues
around downtown Toronto.
Other notable acts include City and Colour, the Dodos,
No Age and Flashbush Zombies. CMW 2014 will also include interviews with such
artists as Nile Rodgers, deadmau5, Amanda Palmer, Bruce Cockburn and City and
Colour, along with keynote speeches from industry figureheads.
CMW was created in 1981 to increase exposure for
emerging artists and form a networking platform for industry professionals. In
its three-decade run, it's rapidly grown into one of the most influential media
conferences in the country and featured appearances from Slash, Gene Simmons,
Public Enemy, Alan Parsons and Sir George Martin.
In addition to its musical performances, awards
ceremonies (including the Industry Awards and Radio Music Awards) and other
industry-related events, CMW 2014 will also include film and comedy festivals.
For full details, check out the official CMW website.
January 12, 2014
Bruce contributed his voice to the song, Hellbender,
by a band called Fire Dog. The song is a tribute to a salamander of the same
name. You can listen to the track and purchase the music at the
Fire Dog website.
January 17, 2014
Cockburn's 15 Minutes of Fame
by Luke Hendry
Bruce Cockburn is doing what many dream of doing: quit
his day job to become a writer.
But it's really only a sabbatical.
Cockburn, 68, is at work on his memoir and daydreaming
about meeting his deadline and returning to songwriting. In the meantime he'll
perform Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. at Belleville's Empire Theatre.
“Pretty sure I'll be able to think about music again,”
he says through static on the phone.
He's walking around his neighbourhood San Francisco,
where he now lives with his wife, M.J., and their two-year-old daughter, Iona.
With chronically self-deprecating humour – and
apologies for the poor reception on his phone – Cockburn sounds relaxed but soon
describes the pressure of writing his memoir. It shares a title, Pacing the
Cage, with a Cockburn song and a new documentary film about him. It's set for a
“Then I'll just have to go around justifying it,” he
There are notes of optimism and relief in his voice as
he talks about the possibility of writing music again and explains he simply
hasn't had the headspace or time.
“The book's taken up all the creative energy and
imagination for now.
“The book has turned out to be much more of a burden
than I imagined it would.
“It started off easy because I started off writing
about my early childhood. That far away in time, the memories are concise.
They're sharp, they're clear, they're short, and they're not complicated by
concerns for the feelings of people I don't know anymore.”
But the term “tell-all” isn't something that'll appear
on the jacket.
“I'm not naming people if I feel it's going to
compromise them somehow.”
Cockburn says he'd written 100 pages himself but then
called for help as he “got bogged down” and struggled with the book's structure.
He recruited fellow Northern California resident Greg
King as co-author. King's photos have appeared in Newsweek, Rolling Stone and
Smithsonian magazines; he's also president of Siskiyou Land Conservancy.
King now writes a chapter in Cockburn's voice; the
artist then tweaks the text, ensuring it still sounds like him.
“It sounds like it is me talking – and it is, in fact,
Cockburn's also the focus of the documentary film –
also called Pacing the Cage – covering his 2009 tour.
“The process of making it was fun.
“It's a bit of an ego stroke, having this camera
follow you around.
“I think they caught they flavour of me on tour very
He compared it to hearing your recorded voice for the
“It doesn't have the kind of automatic humiliation
factor that it did in the beginning.
“Then you realize how it's everybody sees you anyway.”
The only problem: “I think there's some bad hair in
the film,” says Cockburn, laughing.
He says he's now much more comfortable in the
spotlight, but it took years of work.
“Some people are lucky enough to have the show-off
“I'm sure I have the inflammation as much as anyone,
but the way I was raised, it wasn't appropriate behaviour.
“In the beginning I was very, very reluctant to be
exposed at all.
“I wanted to people to come to the music. I wanted
people to come to the shows. I didn't want to be a 'personality' in public. I
wanted to be anonymous.
“Of course it doesn't really work like that.”
He says he'd never been called “sir” and found it “so
embarrassing” to be recognized and treated as a celebrity.
“I felt like I was being drawn into this class
Yet now, he joked, “if somebody doesn't do it, you're
“There's a sort of insidious element to it in that
Cockburn says he isn't keen to invite his fans into
his private life and is “not a fan of social media.” Manager Bernie Finklestein,
however, maintains his client's busy Facebook page.
Though some are billing his current tour as being in
support of his 32nd album, 2011's Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn says the
tour's setlists are “all over the place,” mixing old and new tunes.
His live act didn't have much of a band component
until the 1980s and he's again performing alone.
And soon, he says, there may be more music to play.
“I'd love to write another song,” he says, “but when I
think of ideas, I have to put them in the book, because the book has to get
And in the meantime, he says, all the attention feels
“Hey, man. It's my 15 minutes of fame,” he laughs.
Tickets: $57.82 at the theatre, 321 Front St.,
613-969-0099 ext. 1 or theempiretheatre.com