Media


MEDIA 2016


December 30, 2016
Toronto Globe & Mail

Masterwork guitar exhibit honours Group of Seven painters
by Brad Wheeler

‘The wood doesn’t lie.”

At her Cabbagetown studio, the luthier Linda Manzer talks about the organic nature of her trade. Holding a guitar of her invention, she says you can’t make wood what it is not, that you have to co-operate with it, that you have to be honest with yourself. “You can’t fake it,” is how she puts it.

Of course, the honesty Manzer speaks of doesn’t refer solely to the craft of guitar making. A novelist or a ceramist would agree with her; even a cocktail mixologist – the booze doesn’t lie? – would find common ground here.

As would a painter. The guitar Manzer cradles is a salute to the Canadian landscape rock star and Group of Seven ringleader Lawren Harris. It’s a doozy, untraditional with its grooved ridges on the bottom, icy-blue splashes of colour on the top, big mechanical drawing on the back and a second neck thrusting outward from the body like a Harris-y mountain peak.

The acoustic instrument is part of The Group of Seven Guitar Project, an exhibit commissioned by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and set to open on May 6, in time for the country’s sesquicentennial summer.

Seven masterwork guitars were made by seven of the country’s top luthiers – each instrument an homage to a particular Group of Seven member. An eighth instrument (a baritone guitar that honours the rough-cut woodland enthusiast Tom Thomson) was a creation by committee.

While the project will be seen as a unique commemoration of Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, et al, what it really represents is a party thrown for the Canadian guitar makers themselves, a group that has carved out an impressive standing in the luthier world. Seven guitar-makers, then, as a loose-knit, supportive collective – a group, for lack of a better word.

Manzer, well known for the four-necked Pikasso Guitar she designed and built for the jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, refers to the project as an “amazing journey of discovery.”

That discovery began with her visit to the National Gallery of Canada, where she saw a collection of Group of Seven sketches in a back room. Thinking about the support the artists had for one another, she began to draw a comparison to her own experiences in the 1970s, when she was one of the first six apprentices to work with the master guitar-maker Jean Larrivée.

Doing the math wasn’t difficult: Group of Seven, seven luthiers, hmmm. And neither was it very hard to get the other luthiers – Sergei de Jonge, Tony Duggan-Smith, David Wren, George Gray, Grit Laskin and the guitar-making godfather Larrivée – on board.

Matching a luthier with a Group of Seven artist was an organic process – no drawing of straws involved. Duggan-Smith had lived in a house once lived in by Arthur Lismer, so that was an easy pairing. Laskin was attracted to the portraits of F.H. Varley, and so on. Manzer was drawn in particular to the 1930 oil on canvas Mt. Lefroy, a snow-capped quintessential Harris depiction. “If Lawren Harris made a guitar, what would it look like?” she thought to herself. “And if one of his paintings morphed into a guitar, how would that look?”

The result, which won’t be unveiled until closer to the exhibit’s opening, is an exotic six-string acoustic model with an extra neck that holds an eight-string harp-like offshoot. “Technically, it was quite hard to do,” Manzer says. “But I think the result is a little controversial, and I had fun doing it.”

The next step was an audition. The folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn, a friend and customer of Manzer’s, would give the guitar a playing. Reached in San Francisco, Cockburn described the guitar as a “pretty spectacular piece of sculpture, which manages to sound decent as well.”

Cockburn, who has sung about trees in forests but has never made paintings of them, wrote a song specifically for the guitar that will be featured in documentary film on the Group of Seven Guitar Project. The Mount Lefroy Waltz is a solo instrumental in F minor, played by Cockburn with the strings capoed at the third fret, with the strings tuned D-A-D-G-A-D.

“I tried to come up with something icy sounding,” Cockburn says. “The guitar favours the higher frequencies, and I tried to write that into the piece. It played very well. I was even able to use the ‘harp’ strings that are part of its architecture.”

The process of making the guitar was a lengthy one. Manzer spent more than two years just researching Harris. The turning point in her study was reading his letters to his confidante and fellow artist, Emily Carr. “He was a cheerleader for her, and the things he wrote to her about being brave became my inspiration from him,” Manzer says. “I took those words to heart.”

Each of the luthiers worked on their individual guitars on their own, but in talking to them all, Manzer believes their processes were similar to hers. “I was going to do what was best for my journey of discovery of Lawren Harris,” she says. “I think we all did that.”

As Manzer says, the wood doesn’t lie. And neither does the muse.


December 11, 2016
Simcoe

Cockburn and Andersen to hit the stage at Orilia's Mariposa Festival
by Frank Matys

Orillia’s Mariposa Folk Festival is shaping up to be a guitar player’s dream. 

Bruce Cockburn and Matt Andersen are among the heavy hitters on this year’s roster, both revered for their fleet-fingered and soulful approach to the six-string. 

Cockburn, an iconic singer/songwriter, performed regularly at the festival during its years on Toronto Island, appearing there six times following his Mariposa debut in 1968. 

“He is a highly respected, much loved, very talented artist whose work is consistently original, relevant and of the highest integrity,” said artistic director Mike Hill. “He’s also a fantastic performer.” 

Maple Blues- and Juno Award-winner Andersen played the local festival seven years ago, leaving audiences slack-jawed and wide-eyed with his powerful vocals and blistering guitar work.  

“In the years that have passed since then, the entire world has discovered this impressive artist,” Hill added. 

Additional artist announcements for the 2017 festival (July 7 to 9) are forthcoming, Hill added. 

 

November 30, 2016
CTV News


'I wasn't sure I'd be a songwriter again': Bruce Cockburn bucks creative drought

TORONTO -- Folk singer Bruce Cockburn didn't think he'd ever write another song.

After four years dedicated to penning his 2015 memoir "Rumours of Glory," he found he had sopped up most of his words.

"There was no songwriting because it was all about prose," he said in a recent interview.

"Any ideas I had -- or creative juices flowing -- went in that direction."

But Cockburn did start laying the foundation for his forthcoming 25th studio album earlier this year. Sifting through ideas took some time but eventually rough concepts were shaped and the lyrical drought began to subside.

"Songs started to come," he said. "And they've been coming up pretty steadily ever since."

Cockburn, a 12-time Juno winner and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, is now in the early stages of recording his still-untitled album, which he hopes to release next year.

He'll be in the spotlight on Saturday when he takes the stage at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Toronto for the first time ever. It's a warm up of sorts for the inevitable tour dates tied to his next album.

Cockburn, whose career is defined by folk favourites like "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" and "Pacing the Cage," is a three-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner. But he says this year his schedule finally allowed him to perform.

He's not "overly thrilled" with the idea of handing out trophies to musicians.

"Getting awards, to me, is pretty meaningless," he says.

"But the idea of celebrating what you do is not."

Cockburn prefers to focus on how awards shows draw attention to artists overlooked by the mainstream.

"There's a place for that in the scheme of things," he adds, "Especially when stuff doesn't get on the radio."

Other performers at this year's awards show include the Ennis Sisters, Sultans Of String and Colin Linden, a longtime producer on Cockburn's albums.

After the show, the two musicians plan to jet off to Nashville where they'll smooth out parts of the new album. Cockburn is pushing to finish the project by mid-January.

"It's kind of a hodge-podge in the way most of my albums are," he says.

"It ranges from social observation to personal, spiritual stuff."

Don't expect any rants about Donald Trump and the outcome of the U.S. election, even though Cockburn has waded into conversations about social and environmental issues through his past songs.

"I haven't written anything about it," he says of Trump's presidency.

"It might take a while for whatever potential material there ... to sort of percolate through. But it's not always obvious to (write a) song that isn't just a propaganda diatribe."

 

November 22, 2016
Ottawa Citizen

Bruce Cockburn will host the 2017 JUNO Songwriters’ Circle in Ottawa on April 2.

The intimate and interactive concert benefits MusiCounts, a music education charity associated with Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) that works to keep music alive in schools and communities across Canada. 

“This one-of-a-kind showcase will offer people a unique look into the raw emotions and art of storytelling that come with songwriting,” Cockburn said in a news release. “I’m also pleased to participate in an event that supports MusiCounts … These programs have a huge impact on fostering our future artists and developing a creative youth within Canada.”

The 12-time JUNO Award winner, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, and music legend will perform at the event, which is considered the “jewel of JUNO Week” and which will feature some of Canada’s most talented songwriters, performing their songs and sharing the stories behind them.

The 2017 JUNO Award nominees joining Cockburn on stage will be announced in February.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 22, 2016
Tickets to ‘Jewel of JUNO Week’ benefiting MusiCounts go on-sale November 24

TORONTO, ON – The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) announced today that Ottawa native, 12-time JUNO Award winner, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, and music legend Bruce Cockburn will host and perform at the 2017 JUNO Songwriters’ Circle, to be held in the NAC Theatre at the National Arts Centre on Sunday, April 2, 2017 from 12pm to 2pm EST. 

JUNO Songwriters’ Circle is an intimate and interactive concert benefiting MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS that works to keep music alive in schools and communities across Canada. Co-presented by SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers) and Yamaha Canada Music, in association with the Canadian Music Publishers Association, this event is considered the “Jewel of JUNO Week,” and will feature some of Canada’s most talented songwriters, performing their songs and sharing the stories behind them.

Tickets to the 2017 JUNO Songwriters’ Circle go on sale on November 24 at 10am EST at www.ticketmaster.ca,  the National Art Center Box Office or by phone at 1-888-991-2787. Tickets are available for $49.50 and $59.50 (plus taxes and service fees), with proceeds supporting MusiCounts.

“I’m honoured to have been asked to host the Songwriters’ Circle during JUNO Week 2017 in Ottawa. This one-of-a-kind showcase will offer people a unique look into the raw emotions and art of storytelling that come with songwriting,” said Cockburn. “I’m also pleased to participate in an event that supports MusiCounts and the work they do for school music programs across the country. These programs have a huge impact on fostering our future artists and developing a creative youth within Canada.”

JUNO Songwriters’ Circle will be available for streaming through CBCMusic.ca and will also be broadcast on CBC Radio One and CBC Radio 2. Dates to be announced in the new year. 

Promotional Partners: 92.3 JACK FM, 580 CFRA, 1310NEWS, boom 99.7, CBC Ottawa, Le Droit, Metro News, Ottawa Citizen, Pattison Outdoor Advertising and Rouge 94.9

The 2017 JUNO Award nominees joining Cockburn on stage will be announced in February 2017. 

JUNO Week 2017 will be hosted in Ottawa from March 27 through April 2, 2017.

Website: www.junoawards.ca Twitter: @TheJUNOAwards Instagram: @TheJUNOAwards

Premier partners of the 2017 JUNO Awards: CARAS acknowledges the financial support of FACTOR, the Government of Canada and of Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters, Radio Starmaker Fund, Ottawa 2017, the Province of Ontario, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, Tourism Ottawa, Google Play Music and TD Bank Group. 

About Bruce Cockburn:One of Canada’s finest artists, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed a 40 year long illustrious music career, releasing 31 albums to date. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while traveling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. For his songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery, Cockburn has been honoured with 12 JUNO Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists.

He remains respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Friends of the Earth.

About SOCAN:
SOCAN connects more than four-million music creators worldwide and more than a quarter-million businesses and individuals in Canada. Nearly 150,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers are its direct members, and more than 130,000 organizations are Licensed To Play music across Canada. With a concerted use of progressive technology and a commitment to lead the global transformation of music rights, with wholly-owned companies Audiam and MediaNet, SOCAN is dedicated to upholding the fundamental truths that music has value and music creators and publishers deserve fair compensation for their work. For more information: 

About Yamaha Canada Music:
Established in 1969, Yamaha Canada Music Ltd. offers a full line of musical instruments and audio/visual products to the Canadian market. Yamaha Canada Music is a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation, Japan, whose products and services are recognized the world over for superior quality in acoustics, design, technology, and craftsmanship.

About the Canadian Music Publishers Association: 
Canadian Music Publishers Association is the oldest music industry association in Canada (founded in 1949). We create global business opportunities for our members and promote their interests and those of their songwriting partners through advocacy, communication, and education. Website: www.musicpublisher.ca | Social: @canmuspub http://twitter.com/canmuspub

About MusiCounts:
MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and The JUNO Awards is helping to keep music alive by putting musical instruments into the hands of children that need them most. MusiCounts’ mission is to ensure that children and youth in Canada, regardless of socio-economic circumstances or background, have access to music programs through their schools and communities. MusiCounts achieves its mission through the Band Aid Program, the MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, Scholarships and other music education initiatives. 

For more information on the JUNO Awards or interview requests, please contact:
Michelle Easton, rock-it promotions, michelle@rockitpromo.com, 416 656 0707 ext. 103Zai Karim, rock-it promotions, zai@rockitpromo.com, 416 656 0707 ext. 127

 

Canadian Folk Music Awards
Toronto: December 2-3, 2016

CFMA GALA PERFORMERS ANNOUNCED:
Bruce Cockburn, Colin Linden, The Ennis Sisters, Sultans Of String, Red Moon Road, Klô Pelgag
December 3, 2016 @ Isabel Bader Theatre 


CFMA WEEKEND SHOWCASE PERFORMERS ANNOUNCED:
Jocelyn Pettit, The Small Glories, Hillsburn, 
Beppe Gambetta & Tony McManus, Old Man Luedecke, Élage Diouf, Rosie & the Riveters, The Andrew Collins Trio, Keltie Monaghan, William Prince, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin 

TORONTO - The Canadian Folk Music Awards (#CFMA2016), now in its 12th year, are coming to Toronto, Ontario from December 2 - 3, 2016. The 72 talented artist nominees for the 2016 CFMA were recently announced at Toronto City Hall and hail from Canadian provinces and territories from coast-to-coast-to-coast. This year's gala event is taking place at the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles St West) in downtown Toronto on Saturday, December 3, 2016. 

The gala is hosted, in both official languages, by award-winning musicians Jean Hewson and Benoit Bourque (La Bottine Souriante) and is open to the public.Tickets for the gala are$45 (plus a $2 processing fee) and are available at uofttix.ca/cfma. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the event.

The Canadian Folk Music Awards are pleased to announce the 2016 gala line-up, which includes prolific Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His achievements and decorations include being an Officer of the Order of Canada, an inductee of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, 13 Juno Awards, 24 Gold and Platinum records, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, numerous honorary doctorates, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.  

Award-winning guitarist, producer and singer Colin Linden also graces the CFMA performer line-up. The founding member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has had an exceptional career, releasing numerous albums with the band, as well as several solo albums. He has also produced and shepherded many upcoming musical talents. Since 2012, the iconic man in the black hat has been the Music Director on the hit TV show Nashville.

Juno Award-winning trio and CCMA nominated sisters from Newfoundland, The Ennis Sisters, bring their beautiful vocal harmonies to the line-up. Past CFMA winners and 2016 nominees The Sultans of String join the gala line-up, adding a view of worldly folk; their music merges Celtic and Cuban, flamenco and Gypsy-jazz, Arabic and South Asian in one delirious musical swell. Winnipeg folk trio Red Moon Road return from a rigorous European tour to join the gala line-up, adding some forward-thinking folk live performance to the proceedings. Quebec folk multi-instrumentalist Klô Pelgag adds some quirky excitement to the gala line-up (and possibly large scale fruit costumes.)    

Along with the gala awards event, the weekend features two open-to-the-public musical showcase concerts. On Friday, December 2, 2016 from 8 p.m. - 11 p.m. at Hugh's Room (2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto) the evening features CFMA 2016 nominees Jocelyn Pettit, The Small Glories, Hillsburn, Beppe Gambetta & Tony McManus, Old Man Luedecke and Élage Diouf. A brunch showcase concert happens Saturday, December 3, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hugh's Room (2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto) and features 2016 CFMA nominees Rosie & the Riveters, The Andrew Collins Trio, Keltie Monaghan, William Prince, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. Both showcases at Hugh's Room are $29 in advance via hughsroom.com and $32.50 at the door.  

The CFMA will hand out twenty awards throughout the gala evening. Nominations for the CFMA were announced this September at Toronto City Hall during the second annual #NationalStrum, celebrating folk music across Canada. Born from a pool of volunteers deeply invested in the wealth and breadth of folk talent in Canada, the CFMA celebrate all genres of folk music from across Canada. Well known for having a vibrant culture of folk festivals, folk traditions and folk values, the country comes together for a weekend of celebration.  

For a complete list of nominees by category: http://bit.ly/CFMA2016UsefulDocs
For nominee artist bios incl. province and hometown: http://bit.ly/CFMA2016UsefulDocs
For high-resolution images of all this year's nominees, go here.

Canadian artists and groups whose albums were released in Canada between June 15, 2015 to June 14, 2016 were eligible to submit their work. The CFMA currently boast 19 categories and one special achievement award. For the category awards, five nominees are chosen for each category. A two stage jury process by 95 jurors located across Canada, representing all official provinces, territories and languages determine the official winners in each category. Complete eligibility requirements are listed here: http://folkawards.ca/eligibility/

 

October 13, 2016
Toronto Globe & Mail

Canadian artists on the genius of Bob Dylan
by Brad Wheeler


With the news of Bob Dylan being awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in literature, we asked some of Canada’s top singer-songwriters to weigh in on the genius of the first songwriter to ever win the esteemed prize.

Bruce Cockburn, the 13-time Juno winner: “Dylan, especially the young Dylan, was the tip of the spear when it came to contemporary, folk-based songwriting. The elements of his style, both as a writer and in the way he at first presented himself, included lots of borrowed stuff, but he had the ability to distill those elements into a whole that captured everything we cared about in a single package. Nobody has ever written a better song than Hard Rain or Visions of Johanna or, for that matter, Tangled Up in Blue or Ring Them Bells. It’s interesting to me that the Nobel committee has seen fit to include songwriting in its definition of literature. No one exemplifies that connection better than Bob Dylan.”

Colin Linden, the producer-musician who played with The Band and was recently a member of Mr. Dylan’s touring ensemble: “The power, imagination, honesty, depth and beauty of what Bob Dylan says and how he says it cuts to the core and make you feel deeper. I crave that feeling and I need to hear Dylan to get it. Each of Bob’s songs is like its own universe. Each one comes from somewhere and takes you somewhere. And each fulfills so many desires. Literature doesn’t even begin to describe it, but it’s a good place to start.”

Tamara Lindeman, of The Weather Station: “Each of us approach Dylan in our own way, finding at different times of life another Dylan to happen upon, whether the gentle romantic, the rake, the mystic. Dylan makes words feel beautiful, or wry, or thunderous or ugly – he twists and rearranges the ordinary syllables of our monolith of a language in ways that still feel fresh, years later. When music feels colourless and stale you can stumble across a few bars of another Dylan and feel shaken through and through.”

Corin Raymond, the Hamilton-based troubadour: “As Warren Zevon put it, ‘Bob Dylan invented my job.’ When I get asked at a party what I do for a living, I say ‘I’m a singer-songwriter.’ It’s not an answer my grandmother would’ve understood, but it’s enough to claim my place in the social fabric. ‘Singer-songwriter’ comes directly down from Dylan, the first for whom such a term was required. Bard, folksinger, rocker: Dylan expanded every tradition from which he sprang. He brought a blazing literacy to music, and provoked new poetic possibilities for the word ‘song.’ And the force of his creative daring can never be undared. His songs are a ‘call to alms’ for any of us who labour at this vocation.”

Chris Luedecke, the Nova Scotia banjo-playing songster who records under the name Old Man Luedecke: “There is literature in Dylan’s folk songs we have loved so long and sometimes known without loving. There are musical rhymes that rise above the music, that stand alone in space and time, transcendent, that knock around in your head at odd moments, changing your daily life. This is the door that Dylan opened for so many people and so countless many artists. Them old dreams aren’t only in your head.”

Melissa McClelland, of Whitehorse: “These days, lyrics are often considered to be more superficial window dressing than legitimate poetry. Is the purpose of a lyric simply to be a phonetically pleasing ear worm? A shallow accompaniment to the music being heard? Thanks to Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, I am reminded that lyrics are the beating heart of a song. His lyrics can be viewed and felt from a hundred different angles. They are funny, disturbing, sexy and deep all at once.”

 

September 7, 2016
Exclaim!

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings Tap City and Colour, Bruce Cockburn, Nick Lowe for 'Kings and Kings'
by Gregory Adams


Five years on from the release of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' collaborative Kings and Queens release, the roots rock group have announced a companion LP. Bringing aboard male musicians including City and Colour's Dallas Green and Brit power pop vet Nick Lowe, their Kings and Kings collection is due October 7 via File: Under Music.

While the project last delivered South in 2013, Kings and Kings is the spiritual successor to Kings and Queens, which found Blackie and the Rodeo Kings working with vocalists including Roseanne Cash and Lucinda Williams. As a press release explains, this time around the band's Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing reached out to their "best 'guy' friends from the world of roots, blues, and country" to help put together some new tunes.

The roster of talent includes past collaborators like Bruce Cockburn, Buddy Miller, and Keb Mo, while Linden brought aboard artists like Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson and Sam Palladio, with whom he'd worked with on the Nashville television series.

Other notable names involved with Kings on Kings include Dallas Green, Nick Lowe, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Eric Church, and Raul Malo.

Thematically, the full-length kicks off with "Live By The Song," a tune written by all three Rodeo Kings, and featuring guest vocals from Crowell, that is dedicated to "every working musician/songwriter committed to the 'life.'" Elsewhere, Cockburn and Linden wax on "timeless beauty" for "A Woman Gets More Beautiful."

You'll get the full breakdown on the LP below, where you'll also find a stream of the set's Wilson-led, City and Colour-assisted "Beautiful Scars."

Kings and Kings:

1. Live By The Song (ft. Rodney Crowell)

2. Bury My Heart (ft. Eric Church)

3. Beautiful Scars (ft. City and Colour)

4. High Wire (ft. Raul Malo)

5. Playing By Heart (ft. Buddy Miller)

6. Bitter and Low (ft. Fantastic Negrito)

7. Secret of a Long Lasting Love (ft. Nick Lowe)

8. A Woman Gets More Beautiful (ft. Bruce Cockburn)

9. Land of The Living (Hamilton Ontario 2016) (ft. Jason Isbell)

10. Long Walk To Freedom (ft. Keb Mo)

11. This Lonesome Feeling (ft. Vince Gill)

12. Where The River Rolls (ft. The Men of Nashville)

 

August 17, 2016
The Town Courier

And What a Time It Was: Telling the WHFS Story on Film
by Ellyn Wexler

Jay Schlossberg wants to take us back in time to an “era of cultural, social and political upheaval.” During those years from 1961 to 1983, he and countless other mostly teens and twenty-somethings were steadfast fans of the free-form progressive radio station that rocked the metropolitan area’s airwaves from the Triangle Towers apartment building in downtown Bethesda.

Feast Your Ears – The Story of WHFS 102.3 FM” is Schlossberg’s work-in-progress documentary about WHFS, where locally-legendary DJs—including Weasel, Cerphe, Damian, Josh, Adele and Thom—spun non-Top 40 tunes and chatted about the important issues of the day. “It was more than a local radio station,” Schlossberg said. “It was the voice of a generation.”

The substance was transmitted in more than one way. “Not only were we getting messages through the music of these national and local musicians,” said the Dufief resident who is the film’s director and executive producer, “but we also were getting local news (on topics like) when an anti-war protest would be held, where to buy records, health food, the nearest surf shop. The station served as a conduit for all the thriving retail businesses that sprung up around the culture.”

Most important, Schlossberg emphasized, was that WHFS promoted and supported local music. “We heard news about the live music venues—who was playing where and when.” After rattling off the names of some of the major places—The Psyche Delly, The Cellar Door, Redfox Inn, the Bayou, Lisner, the Warner, he observed, “’HFS was the center of it all.”’

Schlossberg’s allegiance to the station was cemented at age 17 when the Charles W. Woodward High School student was fortunate enough to have a summer job there. “I’d pay you to let me work here,” he remembers thinking in 1972. At Montgomery College the following year, Schlossberg was among 16 students who started the campus radio station. He served as WMCR’s program director and DJ, aspiring to be like Weasel and Cerphe, and honed his guitar skills by jamming in the student lounge when he was supposed to be in class.

The idea to tell the WHFS story came to Schlossberg some 30 years later after seeing a group photo on Facebook of the iconic station’s DJs, taken at the April 20, 2013 Record Day celebration at Joe’s Record Paradise in Silver Spring. “I said out loud, ‘Oh my God, they’re all not dead yet. Someone needs to tell this story,’” he recalled. “Of course, I knew them all already, but seeing the photograph just crystallized it. A flashbulb went off.”

Schlossberg is president and owner of Media Central, the global crewing, production and post-production services broker-agent company he founded on Aug. 1, 1993 (Jerry Garcia’s birthday, he noted). His clients have included HBO, Lucasfilm, Discovery Channel, Paramount Pictures, Showtime and BBC Worldwide. His company Media Central Films has produced a web series, “AutoExotika Presents: Cars ‘N Coffee,” with episodes in Bethesda, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, Cincinnati, Palm Beach and Paris.

Despite his successful businesses and concomitant media industry contacts, Schlossberg had never done a documentary before. Thus, it was essential that he research and brainstorm the project by talking to people who  had been there as well as industry professionals. About six months post-epiphany, he hosted what he called a “meeting-party” with the WHFS DJs in the building where they once broadcasted.

Maryanne Culpepper, former president of National Geographic Television, was enlisted as executive producer “to help with the front and back ends, to help me get the plane off the ground and into the air and with the landing,” he said. “She knows about film festivals.” Also on the team are consulting producer Jonathan Gilbert AKA Weasel; story consultant and former Washington Post writer Richard Harrington; and Bethesda native and writer of “Homicide” and “The Wire” David Simon, who helped with background and context.

Filming began in June 2014, and a Kickstarter fundraising effort in October and November 2015 raised $65,000 for the project. With two-thirds of the filming completed, Schlossberg expects the editing process to begin in September with a rough cut by the end of the year. Plans include local screenings—perhaps at AFI in Silver Spring and Landmark in Bethesda—and Netflix and Showtime and even director Morgan Spurlock have expressed interest and encouragement. Schlossberg is confident and optimistic about the film’s future. “We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the trailer,” he said. “And I think the film will have wide-ranging international appeal, too.”

Having acquired a taste for music documentaries, Schlossberg is also acting as executive producer of “The Humbler,” a film about legendary guitar player Danny Gatton.

Visit www.feastyourearsthefilm.com to see the trailer, donate to the film, buy merchandise and read other stories about the documentary.

Photo: Courtesy of Jay Schlossberg. Bruce wih Jay at the City Winery. Bruce appears in the trailer and in the film.

 

August 13, 2016
Digital Journal


Claire Lynch talks 2016 IBMA nomination, new CD 'North by South'
by Markos Papadatos 


Award-winning bluegrass musician Claire Lynch chatted with Digital Journal about her 2016 IBMA nomination, as well as her new album "North By South."

She has been nominated for the coveted 2016 "Female Vocalist of the Year" award by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), an award that she has won three times throughout her career in the music industry. "I am always surprised, after all these years," she said. "It has been a long time since people have been recognizing me, and it's a great honor." Lynch will be releasing her new studio album, North by South, on September 16, via Compass Records


In this collection, produced by Compass Records co-founder Alison Brown, Lynch pays homage to her favorite Canadian songwriters on a set of bluegrass and new acoustic tracks. After her recent marriage to a Canadian, she selected songs that were penned by Canadian songwriters such as Gordon Lightfoot ("Worth Believing") and Ron Sexsmith, and hence, she found the inspiration for this project. "It's a collection of songs written by Canadians," she said. "My wedding has been a wonderful adventure, and an education beyond what I can imagine." 

While it was difficult for Lynch to select a personal favorite tune, one that stands out to her is 
Bruce Cockburn's "All The Diamonds in the World." "I love them all. The tracks are just wonderful," she said. 

Several acclaimed musicians who lent their talents on this project include Bela Fleck on banjo, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and David Grier on acoustic guitar. "We had Bela Fleck play banjo on two tracks, so we have something to please the bluegrass radio people, but the album is mostly Americana due to the nature of Canadian writing," she said. To learn more about bluegrass star Claire Lynch, check out her official homepage
.

 

August 11, 2016
Vancouver 24 Hours


24 Seconds with the great Bruce Cockburn
by Joe Leary

24: You’ve been doing this for 40 years and have released 30 albums or so. Does it seem like you’ve really been at it this long?

BC: It depends on where you start counting. I kind of date my professional career from the beginning of 1966, which makes it 50 years and 31 albums officially but some of them are compilations. It’s been quite a run so far and it doesn’t seem like it’s over yet, which I’m grateful for.

24: I was surprised to learn that back in your group era, your band Olivus actually opened for Jimi Hendrix and Cream. How did that come about?

BC: The bands I was in were rock bands and they varied stylistically. The first band was sort of ‘Beatles-y’ oriented singer/songwriter band. I’m kind of understating it somewhat — it was a broader range of stuff than that makes it sound but just for the sake of the conversation that was The Children in Ottawa. I was in a couple of other bands and then I went to Toronto and joined the band that was originally called The Flying Circus and then became Olivus. That band opened for Jimi Hendrix in Montreal and for Cream in Ottawa but the band couldn’t make up its mind — the organ player was a big fan of Garth Hudson and would have like our group to go in the direction of The Band and I wanted to be more like Frank Zappa and the drummer and bass player were coming from an R&B place. We had all of those elements in there and I injected as much psychedelia as I had the chops to pull off I guess, as the rest of them were willing to accommodate. Actually we got reviewed in a Montreal paper and the guy said that if it had been anybody other than Hendrix and Soft Machine that we were opening for we would have ended up stealing the evening; which I think is a measure of how much that guy smoked (laughs). We opened for Wilson Pickett in Toronto and the audience was not into our kind of music at all; two songs in their yelling at us and shaking their fists. That was a short set. We didn’t have very many gigs but the ones we did have were kind of spectacular.

24: Did you feel confined in the group environment and want to go solo?

BC: When I dropped out of Berklee School of Music and joined that first band, I had no idea what I wanted to do or what my direction was supposed to be. The only thing I knew was it wasn’t was I was learning in Berklee. So I joined this band and I started writing songs in earnest at that point. By the end of the sixties I had a little body of songs that I liked better when I played them alone than with any of the bands that I had been in. The songs were the product of trying to write for each of the different bands so there was quite a wide variety but the ones I liked best just sounded best when I just played them. I was also getting tired of big long, wanky guitar solos; not tired of playing them particularly but tired of hearing them and I thought that I probably wasn’t alone in that and I thought there must be an audience for the kinds of songs that these represented; basically what’s on the first two albums. I went solo and initially just played little gigs in little clubs and it kind of expanded from there.

24: The music business you embarked upon is completely different than the one we see today. Back in the day one needed to be signed to a label and the record label needed to get radio play. What do you think of the way the business is today?

BC: Well it’s certainly different. I’m not involved in it enough at the starting level to really have much of a say to the extent of what the difference is and the fact that there obviously aren’t record companies offering record deals and if they are, it’s extortion to the extent of publishing and so on. Unless you’re the type of artist who’s really aimed at mass commercial radio, you’re on your own basically. That was to some extent the same back in the day because in Canada at least, there weren’t very many record companies; in fact there were no Canadian record companies other than independents that weren’t interest in Canadian talent at all in the sixties. One or two people maybe leaked through in spite of that; Bobby Curtola from Thunder Bay had a hit; the Beau Marks from Montreal had a big hit around the world in ‘Clap Your Hands’ and Paul Anka of course but that was really rare. It took awhile for there to be enough momentum in the Canadian scene; it took the CRTC regulations in fact to get the business going to push radio to play Canadian stuff and it worked. I’m not really in favour of government intervention but it worked.

24: You were one of the artists getting radio play before it became mandatory.

BC: I was getting a limited amount of play before those rules came into effect but I’ve never been motivated by stuff like radio play or awards or that whole end of things but there are people and really legitimate artists who really do think about those things. For me it was all about the songs about living a life that would allow me to find fodder for the songs in a way. I didn’t think of it consciously like that but that’s what it amounted to. So I didn’t want to get in on playing the success game for wont of a better way to put it. Luckily I hooked up with Bernie Finkelstein and he did want to play that game so it kind of worked out because he was very good at that and is still and I was able to offer him enough ammunition that he could play the game well. What artists now are facing is something that’s pretty intimidating in a way because it’s not hard to get your stuff out there; everybody can make a record in their bedroom and put it out but to get anybody to notice it to be able to make a living off of it is a whole other thing. In other words; like getting paid. It’s one thing to have your song everywhere but how does that translate into making a living and I don’t think anybody’s really figured that out yet. Maybe I’m behind the curve and there are theories now that can be applied. I hope so because otherwise it’s not a very attractive picture. The thing that’s missing from the equation is money and to me the important thing about the money is the ability to pay musicians. Not every record wants to be made in a bedroom. Sometimes you want to make it in a good studio; sometimes you want to have an orchestra or horn players or something and where do they come from? Somebody has to pay for that and traditionally it was paid for by record companies who then got their money back from selling the records to the public. That only works for a very few people now. The audience is being deprived of a great variety of stuff that they might like. I feel for people starting out. I remember when the coffee house era ended, suddenly there was an absolute sense of rooms in which people really listened to the music. In bars people were noisy and it changed songwriting because the songwriters couldn’t expect to have an attentive audience and those that didn’t want to make that change had to struggle with the presence of noise and whatever else adverse working conditions. That was one  thing but we all kind of got over that but this is a whole other ballgame; the interface between art and technological culture.

24: You’ve always been an artist with a strong social conscience. Has that ever inhibited perhaps some of the access to your music whereas the content might steer someone away because it was considered too political?

BC: I think there’s been a little bit of that but I don’t think I’ve suffered greatly from it. The point being ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’ and ‘If a Tree Falls’; those kind of songs have done well and I didn’t find any great resistance that I saw. The people in the trenches; the sales people may have I don’t know but I didn’t feel that coming back at me. With very few exceptions that I am aware it really hasn’t hurt me.

24: When you have songs like ‘Rocket Launcher’ and ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’; songs that have become Canadian standards, does it ever frustrate you as an artist because that’s obviously what people know you best for but perhaps in your estimation you’re probably thinking there’s much better material on deeper cuts on the albums.

BC: The regrettable part of that picture might be that people don’t get to hear some of those songs and then make a choice. It’s just a fact of life. To the extent that radio’s been a part of my career for wont of a better thing to call it, radio obviously can’t play everything. Even the most enlightened freest form radio can’t play everything so people are going to be attached to the things that they hear repeatedly; hopefully something will catch their ear and maybe they’ll come out to a show and they get to hear the other stuff and even more hopefully they’ll buy the record but nowadays that’s a bit of a forlorn hope because people just download the tracks they want and there are no deeper cuts but we’ll see what happens with my next album because I’ll be swimming in that same sea. 

 

July 15, 2016
The Star

 
The dam over Almonte's troubled waters
by Linda Manzer

Citizens of a picturesque town outside of Ottawa lament the expansion of a hydro dam they claim will ruin a pice of paradise

Picture a lovely, quiet town surrounded by old stone mills that have scarcely changed in a hundred years. The main street is full of charming shops selling local crafts and restaurants that attract interesting visitors — including recently Justin Trudeau and family.

Right through the heart of town runs a magical river with cascading waterfalls. It’s a special, loved place where people fish, kids swim and wildlife abounds. This is Almonte, a town of 5,000 people about 50 km southwest of Ottawa, recently voted one of the 10 most charming towns in Canada by Expedia travel site.

Alongside  turtles and herons, this section of the Mississippi River (no connection to the famous U.S. river) is also home to the endangered Rapid’s clubtail dragonfly. You can sense the river running through Almonte is magical, but the dragonfly’s presence here highlights how truly rare this setting is. 

Yet right in the centre of this enchanted river, a company called Enerdu Power Systems wants to add a massive new powerhouse to a small existing generating station, blasting the riverbed to increase water flow and installing a dam over top of the cascades.

Although the town of Almonte has fought this dam tooth and nail for years, its construction is due to start this week.

Along with several dozen other Almonte residents, I protested this dam last week by wading into the river. We stretched across it in a line, holding hands, desperately hoping for publicity to attract the attention of someone with power to stop the company at the final hour. We started a petition to Catherine McKenna, federal minister of the environment, which includes signatures from singers Bruce Cockburn and Paul Simon, as well as cartoonist Gary Larson.

This is truly a David versus Goliath story. The town of Almonte has never wanted this project and has been fighting for more than four years to stop it. Despite the strong local opposition, including from Mayor Shaun McLaughlin, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has approved the project. Jeff Cavanagh, owner of Enerdu, is determined and has ample resources.

Yes, his dam will generate electricity. But, actually, no new energy will be added to the overall grid because the Appleton dam just upstream will lose whatever power it gains due to changing water levels, according to a report by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.

Cavanagh also says his project will create jobs, which is true. But they’re just temporary jobs. Once the project is done, there will be, at most, a few employees.

Unlike another power plant downstream, which is owned and operated by the town, Cavanagh’s privately owned plant will add no new revenue to Almonte.

Something is wrong here.

There is an endangered dragonfly making its habitat at the exact location Cavanagh wants to dynamite to build his power plant.

The MNR is mandated to facilitate renewable energy but it is also tasked with implementing the Endangered Species Act. So where do the MNR’s priority lie? Given that there is another power plant upstream that can easily handle increased capacity, the answer should be clear.

The MNR insists the dragonfly does not make its habitat here, even though there have been documented sightings of the dragonfly in areas impacted by this project.

We believe the entire Environmental Assessment conducted by provincial authorities on this Enerdu project was based on insufficient and outdated facts. 

The report by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist documents how the high­water levels caused by Enerdu water control devices already in place are drowning 600 hectares of protected wetlands.

Now Cavanagh wants to expand further down the river and add a dam that will control even more of the river’s flow. Does the government of Ontario serve the people of Ontario or Jeff Cavanagh?

There is so much wrong with this project, which will forever mar the beauty of Almonte with unsightly fences, safety notices, warning systems and restricting buoys. The part of the river where children now swim will be off­limits.

A river that was once teeming with life and the jewel of our town will be harnessed like a wild animal in a cage.

I stood beside the river last week with a native elder and asked him if this would have been a sacred place. “Most definitely,” he said.

Sometimes you do know what you’ve got before it’s gone.

Linda Manzer is a guitar maker living in Almonte.

Photo: Emma Jackson

 

July 13, 2016
The CBC

Bruce Cockburn still kicking at the darkness at 71
Canadian guitarist talks politics and free jazz ahead of headlining Vancouver Folk Music Festival

A legend in the Canadian music world, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has made his home in San Francisco for the last seven years — but he wears his status as a foreigner with pride.

"I don't get to vote there, because I'm what they call a 'resident alien,'" Cockburn told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"I love the term. I'm very proud of being called a resident alien. Any kind of alien, actually."

Over his more-than-four-decades-long career, Cockburn has become known for his political songwriting. But even if he could vote, Cockburn is not particularly excited by any of the options currently available to Americans.

"It might have been [Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie] Sanders, actually, who described himself as a 'hopeful pessimist,'" Cockburn said with a laugh. "I kind of feel like that."

"I see people working on particular issues [locally] and doing a good job. But you know, globally, nationally, not much is being done to address very, very big issues."

Music critics are also often quick to pick up on themes of faith in Cockburn's songwriting, but for him, it's not the most apt description.

"That's not a word I use, exactly," Cockburn said. "It's more of a quest than a faith. It's really about finding out what that relationship [with God] is supposed to be and how to actually make it go, how to hold up my end of it."

For much of his life, Cockburn identified as a Christian. But over time, he grew less comfortable with it, for a variety of reasons — "some personal, some social."

Lately he finds himself coming back around to religion. Is it a product of the 71-year-old's age? He figures it probably is, in some part.

"After a while you become sort of more concerned again about the spirit, [and] in some contexts, mysticism — that question of how we relate to the divine."

Cockburn is an accomplished guitarist who has dabbled in numerous genres, but the one genre he's never been able to tackle? Free jazz.

"I get attached to a rhythm, and then I start playing the rhythm, and then I can't depart from the rhythm because the bottom falls out if I stop playing it," he said.

"I've always wanted to do that, and I've never really quite had the chops, or given myself the space to do it."

As a kid, the last thing Cockburn wanted to listen to was his parents' music, so it still surprises him to see kids singing along with their parents at his shows — but he's come to enjoy it.

"It's actually really rewarding to think that the music isn't just kind of growing cobwebs and dying with my generation."

Bruce Cockburn plays the main stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this Sunday at 8 p.m.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition
Photo: Margaret Gallagher/CBC

 

July 6, 2016
The Ottawa Citizen

Remembering Bill Hawkins: The poet who became a songwriter
by Chris Cobb

A poet is deeply conflicted and it’s in his work that he reconciles those deep conflicts.’— Irving Layton

It’s traditional to begin these types of obituaries with an anecdote that best sums up the subject as a whole person.

But Bill Hawkins defies the one anecdote rule.

Bill Hawkins defied many of the rules, often to his personal and professional detriment.

And as with most people who communed with many, and lived the younger portion of life to excess, it’s occasionally difficult to determine where the truth ends and exaggeration begins.

Indeed, Kris Kristofferson might have written his song The Pilgrim for Hawkins – “He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth, partly fiction
 . . .”

First and foremost, Hawkins considered himself a poet – he WAS a poet, with several books and some fame to his name, and who early in his career was the opening act with Leonard Cohen for a poetry road show starring Irving Layton.

To many of Ottawa’s political elite, he was a cab driver of 35 years and always able to engage his customers in conversation whether the subject was Marcel Proust, Zen Buddhism, the latest episode of Homeland or last night’s Senators’ game.

So it’s no surprise that he had a group of regular customers – MPs, journalists, judges, political operatives and the like who contacted him directly when they wanted transporting from A to B with a little erudite conversation on the way.

And then there was Bill Hawkins the reluctant musician who could find his way up and down a guitar fret board, had a decent voice, but disliked being on stage.

Ottawa impresario and arts patron Harvey Glatt recalls booking Hawkins’ band The Children as one of the opening acts for The Lovin’s Spoonful and The Association. It was at Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-’60s.

“Bill walked off the stage and said ‘that’s it for me. I’m done performing.’ ”

Hawkins was in three bands – The Children, Heavenly Blue and The Occasional Flash – with members that variously included Bruce Cockburn, Sneezy Waters, Amos Garrett, Sandy Crawley, David Wiffen, Neville Wells and other luminaries of the 1960s Ottawa music scene.

Sneezy Waters recalls a poet who was reluctant to become a songwriter – or perhaps writing songs had never occurred to him.

“Bruce began to write the music for some of Bill’s poetry,” Waters, “Then told Bill ‘you’re missing out on 50 per cent’ start writing the music. But there weren’t too many people writing songs in those days. Bruce and Sandy Crawley wrote some, but most of us did covers.”

And so it was that the poet became a songwriter.

Perhaps the best reference for how good a songwriter he became is the double compilation album Dancing Alone produced by Ian Tambyn and featuring an array of younger and older singer-friends, including Cockburn, Waters, Murray McLauchlan, Sandy Crawley, Lynn Miles, Ana Miura and Neville Wells.

“When I think back to those early days I see Bill as a cool gent and recall great conversations,” recalls Waters. “I didn’t see too much of him in later years, but I play with my band every year at the (NAC’s) Fourth Stage and he always did his best to come down – last time, with his big bottle of oxygen.

“Bill has always been with us and was always going to be with us,” adds Waters, “and then suddenly he’s gone. Many of us had wonderful relationships with him.”

Cockburn recalls his early writing experiences with Hawkins somewhat differently than Waters’ version of events and says he was writing music for Hawkins’ lyrics and that it was Hawkins who encouraged him to write his own.

“Bill was an inadvertent mentor to me,” Cockburn told the Citizen pn Wednesday. “I don’t think he would have seen himself that way, but he had that influence and it was important to me. We were both interested in the mystical and metaphysical things that were around in the ’60s. And I had been studying the beat writers in high school and I equated Bill with the great beat poets. I held him in great esteem.”

Cockburn says he lost contact with Hawkins for a long period after those musical beginnings and didn’t re-connect until a decade or so ago at the Ottawa Folk Festival when Hawkins had emerged from his alcohol and drug abuse.

He went pretty dark but became a somewhat different person,” adds Cockburn. “He had become a gentler person and more considerate of other people’s feelings. It looked good on him.”

Musician David Wiffen, Hawkins’s close friend of 50 years, describes him as “a smart and talented, very caring and loving individual.”

Both Wiffen and Hawkins shared a notoriety for alcohol and drug abuse that too often pulled them into dark abysses.

“He helped me out when I was down on my luck,” says Wiffen. “He’d give me somewhere to sleep and something to eat until I got on my feet again.”

Wiffen, who wrote his classic song More Often Than Not in Hawkins’ basement, credits the cab-driving poet with encouraging him pursue songwriting.

“He taught me it was all right to write and wasn’t just a fool’s errand,” says Wiffen. “Bill wrote a lot of his songs with my voice in mind. I was also the first person to record his material on the 3’s A Crowd album.”

(3’s A Crowd was another group with multi-personnel changes during its short life from 1964-69).

An emotional Wiffen was still coming to terms with Hawkins’ death when he spoke with the Citizen on Tuesday.

“The first time I met Bill he said: ’I think we’re going to be very good friends. He became my best friend – a dear and caring best friend.”

In his book We Are As the Times Are: The Story of Café Le Hibou author Ken Rockburn refers to Hawkins as “The Ringmaster” to describe his influence on the Ottawa music scene of the 1960s and early ’70s.

It was his friend and fellow musician Sandy Crawley who came up with the ringmaster epithet.

Poet and novelist Roy MacSkimming rounded out Hawkins of the 1960s for Rockburn: “He took drugs, drank too much, and insulted important people. In fact, he insulted most people, important or not, more or less on principle. A few exceptions earned his respect – artists of one kind or another who were his close friends.”

One of the better-known, perhaps apocryphal, Hawkins anecdotes involved the $6,000 Canada Council grant he got back in the day when $6,000 was a handsome sum – especially in Mexico where Hawkins re-located with the grant money.

He returned six or seven months later with no money and one poem.

When someone asked why only one, Hawkins replied: ‘They didn’t tell me how many they wanted.’

William Alfred Hawkins died July 4 of cancer. He was 76. He is survived by his adult children Andries, Jennifer and Cassandra. Family and friends will place a plaque in his memory at Beechwood Cemetery’s Poet’s Corner on Friday. A future public event is being talked about.

 

July 5, 2016
The Ottawa Citizen

Local music legend Bill Hawkins dead at 76
by Norman Provencher


A man who was one of the great names of Ottawa’s thriving 1960s music scene has died at the age of 76.

Bill Hawkins was a songwriter, poet, musician and journalist. In 1997, he had been working as a Blueline cab driver for 25 years when the Citizen’s Norman Provencher spoke with him as he prepared to pick up the pieces of a promising career he left behind. Below is part of that interview.

• • •

Bill Hawkins was once a pretty big fish in this small-ish pond. As a poet, a songwriter and a musician in the ’60s, he was at the epicentre of Ottawa’s thriving blues-rock-folk scene, a scene that pre-dated the snootier and over-hyped Yorkville. He was tutor, mentor and self-described ”megalomaniac manipulator” behind a series of lamented bands that featured younger artists like Bruce Cockburn, David Wiffen, Colleen Peterson, Sneezy Waters and a dozen others.

There are those who were around at the time who insist to this day that, with a break or two and maybe a little more discipline, Hawkins could have been a bigger fish in a bigger pond. But, in case you weren’t there, the ’60s weren’t a time of moderation and Hawkins wasn’t the sort of guy to deny himself a pleasure or two. Ask people who were around at the time and they’ll tell you — in terms midway between admiration and a shudder — that Hawkins was a guy of considerable appetites, even taking the open-mindedness of the times into consideration.

As sometimes happens, the pleasures eventually became liabilities, and then just plain dangerous, and life can drift away from you.

Unlike some less fortunate victims of the times, Hawkins was strong enough and had enough friends to come out the other side. But the stress was powerful and, in the early time of recovery there’s always the fear of relapse. For some, a nice, fairly comfortable job as a cab-driver is a lot more attractive and healthy sounding occupation than trying to push your luck in the music business snake pit.

”The cab was a perfect way to hide out,” Hawkins says now. ”It was an outlaw existence, nobody knew where you were. It kept the temptations away.”

But, anyway, the past is done with, for better or worse. At 57, he’s looking to the future and he figures he’s finally ready to face the music business again.

More important, he’s confident the music business is finally ready for him.

He laughs and calls himself ”just a lad from the Valley,” but that’s not strictly true.

William Hawkins is Ottawa born and bred, son of the late Graham Hawkins, a car salesman, and mother Fern (now Fern Horsey). He grew up mostly around Ottawa, near Hopewell Avenue School. To hear him tell it now, he  wasn’t much of a student, not much interest in it really, but he was raised to be a hungry reader by his maternal grandmother Jenny Louisa Lockyear, who was the subject of one of his first poems.

”She was a wonderful old woman. She read everything, she had this broad, exciting imagination and she made me see the world of books and writing.”

Jenny Louisa Lockyear gave him a love of writing, but Hawkins says the Canadian Press news agency, which he joined at the age of 17, taught him the basics of writing. The agency’s meat-and-potatoes, just-the-facts style taught him to organize thoughts on paper and tell a story simply and effectively.

What the agency couldn’t provide was an outlet for Hawkins’ growing love of poetry. Coming into the ’60s, Hawkins was hanging out more and more with the bohemian types who gathered in the Market and, in 1961, he and author Roy MacSkimming combined for their first published work, a chapbook with the goofy title Shoot Low Sheriff, They’re Riding Shetland Ponies!

The book was a minor phenomenon in Bytown literary circles, such as there might have been at the time. More important, it caught the attention of Harvey Glatt, then and now something of a godfather for the Ottawa music scene. Glatt, now chairman of radio station CHEZ-FM, was then the owner of the Treble Clef chain of music stores and he encouraged Hawkins to keep writing, offering him a job selling records in the downtown Treble Clef store.

”It was one of those things that Harvey did that he did for so many musicians and artists in this town, things he never talks about but things that are crucial moments in peoples’ lives,” Hawkins says.

Around this time, the memories start to get fuzzy. It’s probably the ’60s/Woodstock syndrome: If you were a full-fledged participant you really can’t pin specific dates to specific events. All anyone can agree on is that, around the mid-’60s, the nucleus of what was to become The Children, one of the most talent-heavy acts to ever come out of Ottawa, were hanging out together.

For example, Hawkins remembers running into a teenaged Bruce Cockburn at a ”jazz-mass” Cockburn had composed for a west-end church. Other original Children, people like Sneezy Waters, Neville Wells and Sandy Crawley were hanging out at Glatt’s Le Hibou coffee house on Sussex Drive. Later, folk-blues singer David Wiffen joined the group. The characters and personalities just seemed to float together until they gained critical mass. Hawkins urged Cockburn to write lyrics, Cockburn urged Hawkins to write music.

”It was probably the nature of the time,” says Hawkins.

”You met people, you jammed, you showed people your stuff. It was, I hate the way this sounds now, a sharing period and we came together as mostly equal partners.”

Well, by Hawkins’ memory of events, some members were more equal than others. In a way, there were just too many talented people for The Children to remain together as a band. In another way, though, Hawkins says he feels responsible, as the oldest member of the band, for not being able to keep the group together.

”It’s true that there were a lot of internal pressures. But I was slipping badly, drinking way too much, partying too much. You’ve got to remember I was five years older than the rest of the band. When you’re 50 or something, five years is nothing, but when you’re in your 20s, it’s a huge difference and I was the de facto leader and I wasn’t leading.”

The highlight of the band’s career was an opening slot for the Lovin’ Spoonful at Maple Leaf Gardens (”probably in 1966”), but by early 1967 The Children were no more and things started getting strange.

Hawkins still had some personal control and he formed the band Occasional Flash, which included the late Colleen Peterson and Cockburn and which performed before the Queen and 50,000 others at Lansdowne Park for Centennial year. There was the jazz blues supergroup Heavenly Blue with Amos Garrett on guitar, Darius Brubeck (son of Dave) on piano, Sandy Crawley on bass and Carl Corbeau on drums. There was another top-rate band called Heaven’s Radio …

For this period in his life, Hawkins’ memory starts to get shaky. He and his crowd were the centre of attraction in Ottawa and not only did they have party friends in the community, visiting performers looked to Hawkins and the bunch to show them the sights.

”Every day was party time. I remember going up to Wakefield (then a major centre of pharmaceutical distribution) with Wiffen, Jerry Jeff Walker and (insane Cajun fiddler) Doug Kershaw. We got into more trouble in six hours than most people could get into in six years.”

By 1969, even Hawkins realized things were out of control and he came up with the idea of travelling to Mexico to get his life together. It seemed like a good idea at the time. In hindsight, it was stupid.

”(David) Wiffen tells me I left in October (1969) but I’m sure it was earlier. Anyway, all I know is I got in the car with (his ex-wife) and two kids and didn’t stop until we got to Mexico.

”I thought I’d go down there to get my strength back, that’s how screwed up I was. I mean, beer was, like eight cents a litre, tequila was eights cents a glass and you could walk into the pharmacy and say ‘Could I have a quarter-grain of heroin, please?’ and they’d give it to you. A guy like me was not going to get healthy there.”

Of course, it took him about 10 months to come to that realization, and by the time he got to Toronto in the summer of ’70 he was worse off than when he left. He tried gigging and got a little work that way, but mostly he remembers the early ’70s as the years he spent dealing dope and using it.

The memories are also unclear as to how he ended up at the Donwood rehab centre in 1973. He knows the entry sheet listed ”acute malnutrition (he weighed 118 pounds), alcoholism, heroin and a bunch of pills. I can’t remember which ones.”

Twenty-eight days later he was certified clean and sober and was faced with a choice. So, he got behind the wheel of a Blue Line taxi.

Which brings us to the Elgin Street Diner on a Sunday morning in 1997.

It’s not that nothing’s happened to Hawkins for 24 years, it’s just that, fortunately, it’s been pretty much a normal existence. There was a divorce from Sheila Frances Louise, although Hawkins says they remain good friends and the three kids grew up and left home. There are four grandkids (”the loves of my life, it’s a whole lot less responsibility than raising your own”). There’s the cab.

What there wasn’t was music.

”I don’t know if it was a conscious thing or not but I just stopped listening to anything, really. Bruce’s 23 albums? I haven’t heard one of ’em.”

That started to turn around a couple of years ago when he stopped smoking cigarettes. He started fooling around on guitar again and found himself invited to a workshop at the 1996 Folk Festival with the late Colleen Peterson. Surprising himself as much as anyone, he found himself enjoying performing a couple of songs on stage.

”It was the first time in my life I’d been on stage when I was straight. I was terrified, but what a rush.”

He picked up the pace a little bit and, on a vacation to visit his son in B.C., he put together the idea of a comeback.

”He’s built this beautiful home up in the mountains and he offered to build me a sort-of grampy-cabin on the property. It’s spectacular up there in the mountains and it’s completely different from Vancouver, it’s dry and crisp. When you get to be my age you don’t need damp weather.

”So I had this offer of a cabin, but he’s sure not going to give me spending money so I started thinking about an album of my songs and maybe a complete book of my poetry.”

Oddly, in this age when 12-year-olds in garage bands have CDs, neither Hawkins songs nor The Children as a band ever officially recorded their own material, so Hawkins and producer Victor Nesrallah had lots of fresh material to work with. Nesrallah, a respected singer-songwriter and musician, brought his recording equipment to Hawkins’ living room, looking for simplicity, and together they put down 15 tracks.

What surprises many listeners hearing the 95-per-cent-finished tape for the first time is how current most of the material is, despite having been written 30 and more years ago.

”I think there are a lot of factors, but I like some of the songs and Bill’s performance a lot more than I did when I heard them the first time (30 years ago),” Harvey Glatt says today.

”Maybe he just didn’t have the voice to carry the material then, I don’t know, but it’s there now. The music is very current, too, I hear chord changes that were out of place then but they’re almost perfect now.”

Right now, Nesrallah’s putting some finishing touches on the recording while Hawkins girds himself to take on the music business again. This time, he’s going to try to do things as much on his own terms as he can.

”For one thing, I’m not going to play any more bars. I want to concentrate on the universities and the folk circuit and the festivals. I just want to get this together and make a few bucks. I’ll survive, I’ll be poor and humble.”

The photo of Bill was taken in 1997.


April 18, 2016
Exclaim!

Hawksley Workman and Art of Time Ensemble Team Up for Bruce Cockburn Tribute Concert
by Sarah Murphy

This spring, Andrew Burashko's Art of Time Ensemble will team with Hawksley Workman to present the work of one of Canada's most beloved songwriters — Bruce Cockburn. The 10th concert in the "Songbook" series will run for two evenings on May 13 and 14 at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

The sets will hear Workman and Burashko's group of musicians performing original arrangements of Cockburn's most famous protest songs. Joining the lead vocals of Workman will be Phil Dwyer on saxophone, Rob Piltch on guitar, Erika Raum on violin, Amy Laing on cello and Burashko himself on piano.

New takes on "Call It Democracy," "Red Brother Red Sister," "It's Going Down Slow," "If a Tree Falls," "Burn," "Gavin's Woodpile" and "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" will all appear in the show, as will a rendition of Workman's recent 
Old Cheetah track "We're Not Broken Yet."

"I've loved Bruce Cockburn's music for a very long time and consider him one of my biggest influences," Workman said in a statement. "He is a master of the protest song, always keeping beauty and poetry front and centre. In a time where protest is stifled and muted, I thought it might be good to revisit his music."

Find ticketing information for the special two-night performance over here

 

March 24, 2016
The Golden Star

Bill Usher Recalls Radio Production With Cockburn
by Joel Tansey

Long before he arrived in Golden and began to have an impact on what is now a bustling arts and culture scene, Bill Usher was a radio documentary producer and musician, with one of his proudest works coming in the form of a two-hour documentary titled On Tour with Bruce Cockburn.

Usher had worked with the Canadian folk icon on his 1976 release In the Falling Dark and toured across Canada with him on the subsequent tour. The idea to document the cross country tour with Cockburn seemed like a winner, and Usher took his idea to CBC, having produced documentaries for them previously. 

“As soon as I knew that I had the gig…I basically went into one of the producers (at CBC) and said ‘I’m going out on the road with Cockburn for 12 weeks. I have this idea that I could do an on the road back stage documentary, are you interested?’,” he remembered. 

The producer was interested, and Usher proceeded to round up all of the five inch reels of tape that he could before hitting the road for the tour. 

Film and radio was a different animal back then. The days of digital recording were but a pipe dream, making production a lengthy, time-intensive process compared to contemporary standards. 

“Back then we had a razor blade, cutting the tape. I’d sit there for two or three months with pieces of tape hanging all off the walls…you’d cut out all the good stuff and keep that and you’d start to put it together on a reel separated by white tape and you’d listen to it over and over again,” he said. 

After splicing and editing reel upon reel of tape, Usher submitted his work to CBC and his documentary aired in September of 1977. 

The doc remained mostly dormant in recent years. Usher kept a copy of the old reels in storage, but it wasn’t digitized and released online until earlier this year. When the Kicking Horse Culture Director gave it a listen this year, he was pleased to hear how it sounded nearly forty years after the fact. 

“I’m really proud of it. It holds up,” Usher said. 

One area that surprised Usher was how much his and the rest of the crew’s accents had changed over four decades. 

“If you hear me talking now and you listen to the way we were all talking back then, our accents have changed,” he said. 

There are several highlights for Usher throughout - one involving a grumpy tour manager during a show’s setup - but the most poignant commentary featuring Cockburn came during a one on one interview that Usher had with the famed musician at the tour’s conclusion. 

“He was pretty loose by then. He’s a shy guy, he’s always been a shy guy,” Usher recalled. 

“Shy folks like that that are out in that world of adulation, it’s really tough…I don’t know why it is but we went down this certain path around reconciling the adulation with the real person and that is the theme of the interview.” 

On Tour with Bruce Cockburn, as well as a new introduction from Usher, is available for streaming athttp://brucecockburn.org/circles_in_the_stream_tour_1977.html.

 

March 1, 2016
The Brock Press


Concert Review - St. Catharines, ON
by Adam Bradley Thompson

There’s nothing quite like a warm, intimate concert on a cold February night, especially in a beautiful setting like the new FirstOntario Performing Arts Center (FOPAC) in downtown St. Catharines. On February 24, the sold-out crowd of 782 people were treated to a spectacular show by humanitarian, 13 time Juno winner, and Order of Canada Officer, Bruce Cockburn.

Cockburn shuffled onstage to emphatic applause, while he flashed a smile and thanked the audience. Cockburn’s seemingly small presence on the large stage of the FOPAC was quickly enlarged with the first clear strum of his guitar. Jumping into a passionate version of “Rumours of Glory”, the sound of Cockburn’s strong voice and pristine guitar filled the room. The clear sounds floated by and then disappeared with no hint of feedback or echo. Cockburn’s skillful picking created elaborate patterns and rhythms that danced around the verses and themes of the songs. The first set was met with many of Cockburn’s hits including “Lover’s in a Dangerous Time” which according to the CBC was a positive message to his daughter and her generation, as well as the politically charged “Call It Democracy” where Cockburn pulled out a sleek black guitar and strummed a rocking version, bringing passionate cheers from the crowd. Other highlights from the first set included “World of Wonders”, the galloping instrumental “The End of All Rivers”, and the chugging blues number “Jesus Train” which ended the set and brought a break for, as Cockburn said, both himself and the Audience.

The second set was as immaculate as the first, transporting the audience to different places as he transferred from song to song. The most moving piece of the set titled “When it’s gone, it’s gone”, had no lyrics, but an instrumental story that featured the sound of waves roaring on a beach like a squadron of F-16s according to Cockburn’s song “Planet of the Clowns” which he transitioned into using the waves as a Segue. The atmospheric songs moved the audience to a small island off the coast of Morocco, on a beach, with nothing but the whole universe in the sky to look at, and together with Cockburn the meaning of the songs was discovered. The set continued with the massive sing-along that was “Wondering Where the Lions Are” as Cockburn’s jovial picking continued to fill the room. The set ended with a version of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”, the lyrics describing the horrible atrocities that occurred in Guatemala, Mexico and Central America in the 1980s are still relevant today and seemed to comment on the violence and politics of the time.

The end of the second set was greeted with hooting and hollering as the previously quiet audience had finally found their voice and appreciation for the Canadian Legend. The standing ovation was well deserved and Cockburn responded with a moving three song encore of “Deer Dancing Round A Broken Mirror” and “All The Diamonds in the World”, the latter featured a disco ball which made the room sparkle as if Cockburn’s song was coming to life. The final song of the night was a bluesy “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night”. After the show, Bruce came into the lobby and greeted a crowd of fans with a smile and a glass of red wine as he shared more stories and signed autographs. It was truly a special show and Bruce Cockburn continues to prove that even at 70, he is still a virtuoso on guitar and an example of vocal prowess. This Canadian icon’s show is surely not one to be missed.

 

February 22, 2016
The Globe and Mail


Musicians Bruce Cockburn and Hawksley Workman on artistic legacy


The title of Bruce Cockburn’s memoir, now out in paperback, is 
Rumours of Glory. Upon reading the book, it occurred to the Cockburn enthusiast and fellow Juno-winning musician Hawksley Workman that there was too much rumour and not enough glory affixed to the standing of Cockburn. The two artists spoke to each other recently by phone, about credit due, MTV and roads worth taking.

Hawksley Workman: The passing of David Bowie got me to thinking about artists who seem supremely aware of what they’re creating for themselves and their own self-mythologizing. My sense, Bruce, is that you weren’t ever really aware of the legacy you were creating. Is that fair to say?

Bruce Cockburn: It strikes me that legacy is a very ephemeral thing. I’ve had that word thrown at me, but I don’t know. I think it’s out of my hands.

Workman: But people like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, they nurtured or fostered an image of themselves that accompanied their art. I have trouble that you’re not included in the group of names we seem to culturally deify, and that it’s because their kind of self-mythologizing wasn’t part of your landscape. Do you feel that?

Cockburn: For me, it’s always been about the music and words. But under the surface, I recognize I have an ego like everybody else. I want to be noticed. In the beginning, I was defensive about that. I didn’t want to think in those terms, and I went to great lengths to avoid acquiring an image of any sort. But then I found that I had acquired an image of somebody who was trying not to have an image. So, I couldn’t beat that one. Once you put yourself in front of the public, an image is thrust upon you – by people’s response, by the media, by some sort of natural reaction to having somebody who is up on stage seem larger than life.

Workman: I hear all that. But your compulsion to do or to go or to be seems to eclipse that of somebody who might stroke their chin and think about what move might make them cool.

Cockburn: I’d be a liar if I denied being aware of how things might look to other people. But, again, it’s out of our own control. You can make choices, and people might see you as being cool or as a jerk. I got called names for supporting the Sandinistas. You can’t take that out of the picture, but, for me, it’s always been about curiosity more than anything else. I don’t see anything as a compulsion.

Workman: After reading your memoir, the thought that came to my mind was that I’m not working hard enough.

Cockburn: I’ve been curious and I’ve had opportunities that I’ve taken advantage of. In some cases I went around looking for the opportunity, like the first trip to Central America. I tried to make that happen, and had given up on it, before it actually did happen. Once I did that, I got invitations to all sorts of interesting places. And it seemed morally appropriate as well. I don’t feel I’ve ever been a crusader of any sort. But I feel it’s good to do what you can do.

Workman: You were putting political videos and songs on MTV. You were doing things that were as punk rock or as rebellious as you could at the time. Did you understand just how unreal it was?

Cockburn: Oh, I don’t know. Most of the credit I receive for anything I’ve done has had a lot to do with [long-time manager] Bernie Finkelstein. He’s the one who knows how to get out there and get people’s attention.

Workman: I just don’t feel it’s been recognized or celebrated that you were breaking all kinds of rules.

Cockburn: I suppose people could say there was a certain amount of strategizing that I didn’t do. But I don’t feel like I’ve given anything up. People would say, especially in the U.S., “Do you think this political involvement stuff is going to hurt your career?” For one thing, I don’t think of what I do as a career. It’s just what I do. And for another thing, it doesn’t appear to have hurt it, because the most quote-popular-unquote song of all, which was If I Had a Rocket Launcher, was almost the biggest hit. Mind you, I was totally shocked it got on the radio.

Workman: Do you feel that you’ve received all the credit you deserved?

Cockburn: I’ve done what I’ve done. I didn’t go to Central America looking for song material or anything else. I went there to see what the Nicaraguan revolution looked like up close. When I got there I found myself very deeply moved by the things I was encountering. That experience changed the direction of the next couple of decades for me. Invitations came up – invitations for adventure, to Nepal, for instance. And who’s going to say no?

Bruce Cockburn is touring Southern Ontario through Feb. 27 (brucecockburn.com/tour). Hawksley Workman, with the Art of Time Ensemble, plays the songs of Bruce Cockburn at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre May 13 and 14 (harbourfrontcentre.com).

 

January 27, 2016
The Vancouver Sun

Q&A: Brian D. Johnson offers a refresher course in the work of Al Purdy

Many Al Purdys captured in documentary
by Shawn Conner


Al Purdy Was Here

Jan. 28 & 31, Feb. 3 at Cinematheque
Tickets and info: thecinematheque.ca

Who remembers Al Purdy? The poet, regarded by those in the know as one of Canada’s finest, has largely been forgotten by the general populace. Produced, directed and co-written (with Marni Jackson) by Brian D. Johnson, the former film critic for Maclean’s, Al Purdy Was Here offers a refresher course in the Ontario-born writer’s work, as well as bringing insight into his personal life and his influence on other poets and artists. (Purdy died in North Saanich, B.C., in 2000 aged 81.) The documentary includes performances and/or appearances by such literary luminaries as Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Joseph Boyden and George Bowering, as well as music from the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, and singer/songwriters Sarah Harmer and Bruce Cockburn. The film debuted at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, where it finished third in audience voting for the documentary category.

Q: One of the most impressive moments in the documentary is Sarah Harmer performing her song Just Get Here.

A: Doing the music was the most exciting thing for me. I have spent time as a full-time musician on the road in the late seventies, early eighties. Music’s always been important to me. The great thing with Purdy is, it’s not my name that drew in these talents, really. It helped to have connections. But it was Al Purdy’s name that let me go to somebody like Sarah Harmer and say, “Would you like to write a song for The Al Purdy Songbook,” which is the album we were producing in tandem with the film, and for the film. And then months pass. And then we drove out to her farmhouse, and she basically performed it for the first time on her piano. That was the first time I’d heard it, and we shot the performance. You don’t get to see that kind of thing very often, you don’t get to see people recording live off the floor. We did the same thing with Bruce Cockburn. That song (3 Al Purdys), again, just blew me away. It’s one of those classic Bruce Cockburn songs, sort of overstuffed with lyrics. He’s the only singer-songwriter we approached who seemed to try to embody Purdy’s persona.

Q: Another impressive moment is when we hear Leonard Cohen.

A: It’s kind of the piece de resistance. It’s an amazing reading of what is really my favourite Al Purdy poem, Necropsy of Love, which is about sex and death. Which is right in Leonard’s wheelhouse. I didn’t send him that poem right away. I sent him a much more canonical poem, The Country North of Belleville, to read, thinking that would be historic. Leonard sent me back a message saying that he didn’t quite understand the poem, and he couldn’t pronounce all of these Scottish names. He said, “Maybe if you sent me a recording of Al reading it, I could figure out how to pronounce the names.” And I wrote him back and said, “Leonard, if the poem doesn’t speak to you I’m not going to ask you to read it.” I said, “I’ll find something else.” The reason I didn’t send him Necropsy of Love in the first place was I thought it was a little too close to home. I though it sounded exactly like a Leonard Cohen poem. But sometimes the obvious thing is the best thing. And he responded, “Yeah, I think I can take a crack at this.”

Q: For someone just learning about Al Purdy, there are a lot of layers in the documentary. People are going to come away with different aspects of the story in their heads.

A: That was the biggest problem in making it, is that we had more than one story to tell. Ideally, you want one story. This was a bit of a balancing act. I started out wanting to tell the story of the A-frame’s restoration (part of the doc is about the restoration of the house Purdy and his wife Eurithe built on the shores of Roblin Lake, Ontario) and artists young and old who were drawn to Purdy. It was going to be more of a celebration of Purdy through contemporary poetry and music. But the deeper we got into it the more we realized, well, Al’s story has not really been properly told. The documentaries that exist are all done with people interviewing Al Purdy. His version of his own life is very selective. So the element of biography got much bigger. At the same time I didn’t want to just make a biographical film. At one point Sam Solecki, who was his editor, says in the film, “Well, there are many Al Purdys.” And I did feel we were dealing with a subject that couldn’t have a simple, easy focus.

Q: One of the neat things about the doc is how it quotes Al Purdy’s statue’s Twitter account ( People love the statue. I think the statue is the most popular thing in the film. It happened by a real quirk of circumstance. I didn’t know about the statue. I was interviewing Margaret Atwood for the film and she said, “Oh, did you know that the Al Purdy statue in Queen’s Park has a Twitter feed? We don’t know who it is, but he comments on what’s happening that day.” That same day I interviewed Atwood, that night I went to the Griffin Poetry Prize Awards gala and this guy comes up to me and says, “You’ve got to introduce me to Margaret Atwood.” I said, “Why?” There were reasons why. And then he blurted out, “I’m the voice of the statue of Al Purdy. The Twitter voice.” Well I’d just heard about this thing that day, and here’s this mysterious figure tapping me on the shoulder at the poetry awards saying he’s the voice of the statue. And I thought, “This is weird. And interesting.” And it occurred to me that making the statue a part of the film would be a cool interstitial device. It’s so ethereal and otherworldly. Some people thought that we’d made it up. I picked the tweets from years of tweets that the statue actually tweeted. What’s interesting is that it’s not as if he’s tweeting from the POV of Al Purdy, it’s tweeting from the POV of the statue. Whatever the statue sees that day is what gets tweeted by the mysterious voice of the statue. I’m not going to give away his identity. It’s actually somebody I knew. And I remember he told me, “I’m not that crazy about Al Purdy. I just love the statue.”

Photo: Al Purdy at Robin Lake, 1968


January 21, 2016
Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

Cockburn performs at St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage
by Lois Ann Baker

The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage has brought the area some pretty big names and some fantastic talent, but none more so than their headliner on Feb. 21 when Bruce Cockburn will be gracing the stage.

"I would say that this is the single biggest show we have done at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage," said Sandra Whitworth, SLAS board member. "And I say that even though we've brought in artists like Serena Ryder,  Garnet Rogers and Shane Kayczan. But Bruce is so widely known as Canadian music royalty. We are hugely excited to have him in."

The concert is already sold out and audiences are sure to be pleased with what Cockburn will be offering.

"There's a few new songs," said Cockburn in a phone interview. "My hope is to get an album together this year sometime, towards the end of the year. The show will be a cross-section, which is typical of me." Cockburn said when there is a new album already out, there is a lot of emphasis on it during a show, but that is not the case this time.

"So there will be some new material, some brand new stuff people haven't heard," he said. "Otherwise it will be a cross-section of whatever. There are always a few of the ones that I feel like people pay the money to hear. Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Wondering Where the Lions Are, stuff like that tends to be in every show because people want that stuff. At least they appear to."

Cockburn said he isn't quite sure what he is going to do at the concert just yet, but if anyone has seen him in concert the past couple of years it will be similar.

"It's a solo show," he said. "That defines certain parameters of what happens."

Cockburn said his daughter requested he include a song from the 1970s, Free To Be, "which I haven't performed in at least 40 years," he said. "Whether I will get that together or not I don't know yet, but I am under some pressure to do so."

When asked if his music has changed at all through his career, he said he prefers to think of it as growth or development.

"I think it's (still) recognizable," he said. "If you put my last album and my first album back-to-back, you would hear it is the same guy. But there are a lot of other elements I have acquired, a certain amount of guitar techniques that I have acquired over the years. There has been change and what I am doing right now, especially in a solo context, is going to sound more like the stuff from the early 1970s than the stuff I did in the 1980s."

Cockburn said people familiar with his work with bands in songs like Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Tokyo, If I Had a Rocket Launcher and others that were on the radio, will see a difference in his show.

"It kind of depends on what people are expecting," he said.

Cockburn said he draws inspiration for his music from "life, the universe and everything."

"The songs spring from an emotional response to a situation that I am confronted by," he said. "It might be a situation in my own life or it might be a situation in the life of someone who is close to me or whose company I find myself in. It might just be something kind of geographical. But it all starts with this emotional response and then I think where does it go from here."

Cockburn said with a song like If I Had a Rocket Launcher, it was specific to a place and time. Most of his other music can be applied to any place and time and they wouldn't seem out of place.

Whitworth said everyone on the SLAS board has seen Cockburn perform at different points throughout his career in both large festival settings and more intimate venues.

"Of course his songs are so widely known, but when I saw him two or three years ago in Toronto at Roy Thompson Hall, it was the guitar playing that gave me chills," said Wentworth. "He is such a masterful guitarist."

Whitworth said the concert has been four years in the making, but schedules never seemed to line up until now.

"In the end it seems particularly fitting that we were able to include him in our series this year, after we made the move to the new venue at the Upper Canada Playhouse," she said.

Cockburn said it is his first trip to Morrisburg and he is looking forward to it.

"I hope people will be pleased," he said. "And perhaps they will be a little surprised or maybe they won't. But I think we will have a good time and I am looking forward to that."



MEDIA 2015

 

Al Purdy Was Here
Photo: Recording at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA

 

December 27, 2015
From Ben Rei

San_Fran_IMG_3197ax3

My thanks to Ben for the setlist and photos from Bruce's two Christmas concerts at the San Francisco Lighthouse Church on December 11 and 12, 2015. The setlist was the same both nights. -DK

San_Fran_IMG_3190ax3San_Fran_IMG_3212ax3

1st Set

1. World Of Wonders (Bruce solo)
2. Last Night Of The World (Bruce solo)
3. All The Diamonds (Bruce solo)
4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (with A Capella vocal ensemble coda)
5. I Saw Three Ships
6. Lord Of The Starfields
7. We Three Kings (instrumental, with TS Elliott poem read by Jeff Garner)
8. Early On One Christmas Morn
9. Go Tell It On The Mountain (lead vocal by Thadeus Lee)

2nd Set

10. Lovers In A Dangerous Time (Bruce solo)
11. Emanuel (solo vocal by one of the female singers)
12. Sunrise On The Mississippi (Bruce solo)
13. Lament For The Last Days
14. Mary Had A Baby
15. Shepherds (original 1976 version)
16. Cry Of A Tiny Babe
17. Away In A Manger (solo A Capella vocal by one of the female singers)
18. Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes
19. Joy Will Find A Way (encore)

 

December 7, 2015
Bruce Cockburn – Three 2015 UK Shows 
Reviewed by Richard Hoare

The Stables, Milton Keynes Tuesday 13th October
Bush Hall, London Thursday 15
th October
The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff Saturday 17
th October


I attended three of the eight UK shows this October. Bruce Cockburn brought with him three of his trusty instruments made by Linda Manzer all with interesting inlays in the headstocks. The six string has a red-tailed hawk, the twelve string a round face, an image from the 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, and an abalone shell in the ten string charango. The stage set-up included two small tables, one for the tuner and effects controls and on the other sat two apparently woolly toy sheep.

bush_hall_london_poster_400x

Two years ago, in November 2013, Cockburn played a single UK show at Bush Hall in London, and the last CD of new work, Small Source Of Comfort, was released in 2011.

Bruce introduced Rumours Of Glory by explaining that he had been hung up writing his memoir for 3 years, not writing songs, but here was the title song of the book. Cockburn went on to say that he was trying to throw off the mantle of author to get back to writing songs. He also added that he wasn’t promoting a new album, just playing the same old songs! In fact this notion had a liberating effect on how he selected the set lists from his wider catalogue.  While there were core songs across the three gigs Bruce introduced some great variants here and there. 

At Milton Keynes Cockburn settled into the set with Last Night Of The World and Night Train before playing a beautiful After The Rain. Rumours Of Glory was introduced as written about New York on a grey day. Open and Lovers In A Dangerous Time followed, topped off by an exquisite Bone In My Ear on the charango.

Planet of the Clowns, which I had not heard in the set list for years, was played against the background of the sound of the sea produced by the woolly Sleep Sheep. This background effect continued for a rendition of the instrumental, The End Of All Rivers, which as Bruce commented, is the ocean. This latter piece provided Bruce with a canvas to stretch out over with some intense and fiery guitar work. The maritime trilogy was completed with a beautiful performance of All The Diamonds, which also concluded the first set.

Cockburn opened the second set with the melodious instrumental, Sunrise On The Mississippi, another track not played live for a while, followed by Whole Night Sky. There then followed a couple of beautiful songs from Dancing In The Dragons Jaws. The rarely-played-live Hills Of Morning and the ubiquitous Wondering Where The Lions Are. If A Tree Falls reminded us again of climate change and he then swapped his six string for the twelve string for the last three songs of the set – God Bless The Children, Jesus Train (out of four new songs the only one currently fit for the public) and a rousing Put It In Your Heart.

sleep_sheep_400x

The crowd called Bruce back for some encores and were unexpectedly provided with an instrumental verse of Rule Britannia followed by Pacing The Cage and Lord Of The Starfields.

The Stables had been two thirds full, however Bush Hall was, like in 2013, sold out with a number of the audience standing. The room was humming hotter and you could see Bruce was responding.

The set list was the same as Milton Keynes with the addition of If I Had A Rocket Launcher in the second set. After Night Train Bruce referred to everything being sun at the time of the first three albums, i.e. Sunwheel Dance. However, since then there has been a lot of night – in a good way! Unusually the heat put the charango out of tune. After Hills Of Morning Bruce put us off the scent by playing a blues instrumental introduction to Wondering Where The Lions Are, but that didn’t stop the whole audience singing the chorus. The encores that night were Lord Of The Starfields and Mystery.

The Cardiff show didn’t sell out, punters possibly being put off by the traffic generated from a Rugby World Cup Quarter Final down the road at The Millennium Stadium. To my surprise however, four different numbers had been substituted into the first set. The show kicked off with the sprightly instrumental Bohemian Three Step and Iris of the World, followed by a wonderful Strange Waters with great guitar solo. After the title song of his memoir we were treated to Mango with that beautiful kora style guitar. To encourage audience participation on Wondering Where The Lions Are Bruce offered “We are small but potent!” 

manzer_guitar_headstock_400x

The breadth of Bruce’s catalogue that he can currently play was further demonstrated by a couple of sound checks I caught where he aired the new City By The River, All The Ways I Want You, Anything Can Happen, Rouler Sa Bosse and a traditional carol from his Christmas album which I won’t name here and spoil for the upcoming San Francisco shows.

Three gigs over five days, a wonderful immersion into the soul and song of Bruce Cockburn.     

Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue interviewed Bruce for Radio Scotland to coincide with the UK tour and offered some astute observations making for an interesting conversation. In the late 1980s I was back stage at a Greenbelt Festival in Northampton, England, when Ricky appeared wanting to have his photograph taken with Cockburn. They were both wearing black leather jackets. Ross enthused about Bruce and his work suggesting he was going to cover a Cockburn song one day. I have yet to find one!

And finally, although Bruce did not articulate it, he was in a way promoting the box set of CDs tied into his memoir. On the face of it the track list may look like you have most of the music already but the tracks include some remastered songs from albums not yet released in that format as well a few otherwise unreleased gems.

Photos by Richard Hoare

 

November 18, 2015
D. Keebler

Christmas With Cockburn Live, Featuring Bruce Cockburn with the singers and players of San Francisco Lighthouse Church


You can find details and ticket information for the two Christmas shows that Bruce will be performing in San Francisco 
at this link.

Christmas With Cockburn Live, Featuring Bruce Cockburn with the singers and players of San Francisco Lighthouse Church

Bruce will be performing at the San Francisco Lighthouse Church on December 11 and 12, 2015. In an email, Bruce told me “The shows will be benefits for social programs the church runs.”

Tickets are expected to be limited to about 400. You can learn more about the event at the church's webiste.

 

November 6, 2015
Albuquerque Journal

Bruce Cockburn on tour in support of ‘Small Source of Comfort,’ stops at the Lensic Performing Arts Center
by Adrian Gomez


SANTA FE, N.M. — For more than 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has done everything his way. Whether it is in his public or private life, the singer-songwriter has used his music to give a glimpse of what it’s like to be him.

Oh, not to mention he penned his memoir “Rumours of Glory” in 2014, which gave a deeper look into his decades-long career.

“I’ve always searched and found out things for myself,” he says during a recent phone interview. “I wanted to see everything firsthand. This is the way I chose to live.”

Cockburn has created a career most would envy. He’s picked up a dozen or so Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Award). He’s also recorded 31 albums, with his latest being “Small Source of Comfort.” The album is a blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. It was inspired by his trips around the world, including San Francisco, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“The songs are representative of what I feel,” he says. “I’m impacted by everything that I get out and see. That’s the best part about touring – I get to see the world.”

There are five instrumentals on the album. “Each One Lost” and “Comets of Kandahar,” stem from a trip Cockburn made to war-torn Afghanistan in 2009. The elegiac “Each One Lost” was written after Cockburn witnessed a ceremony honoring two young Canadian Forces soldiers who had been killed that day and whose coffins were being flown back to Canada. He says it was “one of the saddest and most moving scenes I’ve been privileged to witness.”

Cockburn will continue to write and release more music.

“As you go through life, it’s like taking a hike alongside a river,” he says. “Your eye catches little things that flash in the water, various stones and flotsam. I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to saving these reflections. And, occasionally, a few of them make their way into songs.”

 

November 6, 2015
County Weekly News

Film Serves as Fundraiser

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, ONTARIO - Al Purdy was an icon. 

Looming tall, almost always with mad, fly-away hair, a cigar in his mouth, a drink in his hand, pounding away at his typewriter or lounging by the lake. What a character. And what a writer.

Filmmaker Brian Johnson has crafted a moving and complex portrait of the artist in his documentary film “Al Purdy Was Here” to be screened at the Regent Theatre in Picton in advance of the film’s full release next year. On Dec. 12, at 1:30 p.m., Purdy fans and aficionados, theatre-lovers, film-lovers, Canadiana and literature lovers, poets, readers, neighbours and friends are invited to come together to raise funds and spend a most-excellent afternoon bringing this Canadian icon to life.

The film was a hit at Toronto International Film Festival in the fall and features an outstanding array of Canadian icons, both literary and musical: Leonard Cohen, 
Bruce Cockburn, Gord Downie, Gordon Pinsent, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Sarah Harmer, Tanya Tagaq and Joseph Boyden to name a few.

The screening is a fundraiser for two local organizations; The Al Purdy A-Frame Association – raising funds to support the upkeep of the famous A-Frame cottage and the writers-in-residence who come to work there and Festival Players – raising funds to support its world premiere production of A Splinter in the Heart, Purdy’s only novel, adapted for the stage by playwright Dave Carley.

In the mid 1950’s, when Al and his wife Eurithe bought the plot of land on the south shore of Roblin Lake in Prince Edward County, Purdy was just beginning to find his voice as a poet. The space played host to a who’s who of Canadian Literature, Purdy holding court and hosting the likes of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, George Bowering, Margaret Laurence, Earle Birney and more. The A-Frame, which had fallen into disrepair over the years, was purchased and refurbished by a Canada-wide initiative to maintain this legendary literary space.

In 2014, after a great deal of structural work had been done on the property by numerous volunteer groups, the cottage was ready to receive its first batch of poets-in-residence. These residencies allow writers time and a space to write, to focus on their work. Writers are provided travel funds, a writing stipend, and a cozy and historied retreat.

Festival Players, celebrating its tenth anniversary season in 2016, has been bringing high-caliber professional theatre to the region since its inception. Artists from across the country have joined the company to perform, design, compose, and create for the appreciative resident and visiting audiences. In the tenth season, the company is focused on stories by, for, and about Prince Edward County. One of the pieces in the season will be a stage adaptation of Purdy’s only novel, A Splinter in the Heart. Dave Carley, a prolific and accomplished playwright whose deep respect for his subject is clear in his work, has tackled the translation from page to stage with aplomb.

Splinter is set in 1918 in Trenton. WWI is coming to an end but the British Chemical Plant in town is still in full swing, producing half of the TNT for the allied war effort. Patrick, the young protagonist, is struggling with looming adulthood and with his place in the world. On Thanksgiving Day the British Chemical goes up in flames and flattens the town in a nearly Halifax-sized explosion. Life for the town, and for Patrick, is never the same. Workshopped in 2015, Splinter will be Festival Players’ mainstage production in 2016, the jewel in the crown as it celebrates a great story, a great story-teller and a little known piece of this country’s history.

On Dec. 12, the afternoon begins at 1:30 when guests are invited to grab a drink or a snack, browse the Purdyana, rub elbows with some lovely folks, get a copy of the A-Frame Anthology or tickets to the premiere of Splinter in 2016, browse some interesting and rarely seen bits of Purdyana. Filmmaker Brian Johnson will host a Q & A following the screening.

 

October 9, 2015
The Scotsman

Bruce Cockburn - St. Andrews Square, Glasgow
Review by Fiona Shepherd

If anything, the solo, acoustic format of this show threw his dexterous guitar playing into even more impressive relief than usual, his hypnotic mix of picking and strumming providing the backbone for his songs, with his own vocal rhythms woven into the fabric, creating mood music as much as protest song.

The two strands came together via the cascading chords of his environmental warning If A Tree Falls. Like the solidly scathing Call It Democracy, it was written almost 30 years ago but could have been composed yesterday.

Cockburn raised consciousness in other ways too, transporting the listener with ringing New Age chimes over strident strumming, using an ambient field recording of waves to enhance the mesmeric reverie of his playing and utilising the heavenly harp-like timbre of 12-string tenor guitar to tug at the soul as much as his beseeching voice.

The quaint but complex folk instrumental Sunrise on the Mississippi conjured up a sense of place, though he packed more of an emotional hit with The Whole Night Sky and generated a spontaneous call-and-response from the audience on Wondering Where the Lions Are.

Overall, this was a sober affair but, ever mindful of the mood, he decided not to end on one of his “ain’t life crap” songs, choosing to bow out with the more spiritually nourishing Mystery instead.

Show date: October 6, 2015

 

September 19, 2015
Calgary Mayor
Naheed Nenshi

The Canada We Hope For - Mayor Nenshi's speech

On September 19, 2015, Mayor Naheed Nenshi presented at the LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium hosted by the   Institute for Canadian Citizenship and its co-founders and co-chairs, John Ralston Saul and the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson. It is an annual signature event hosted across the country, showcasing leading thinkers. An adapted version of the speech appears in today's Globe and Mail and the portions of the speech (plus interview) ran on CBC's Ideas.The full video of the speech can be viewed below or through this link.  

The following is the full text of Mayor Nenshi's speech: “The Canada We Hope For: A Naïve View”.


[Thank you and good morning. It truly is a great honour for me to be with you today. I’m honestly a bit surprised to be here. When I was a volunteer helping organize George Elliot Clarke’s lecture in 2006, when I proudly carried quotes from His Highness the Aga Khan’s 2010 lecture on my phone (they’re still there), when I tried to understand all the big words in John Ralston Saul’s inaugural lecture, I never thought I’d be in the company of these artists, these intellectuals, these people who’ve changed the world. I’m just a kid from East Calgary who likes to share stories. And I will do that today, in the hopes that the stories may help us better understand this place we call Canada and the roles we all have in this play we’re writing together.] 

I bring you greetings today from a place called Moh’kinsstis—the Elbow, a place where two great rivers meet. It’s the traditional land of the of the Blackfoot people, shared by the Beaver people of the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the Nakota people of the Stoney Nations, a place where we walk in the footprints of the Metis people. 

The Blackfoot people have honoured me with the name A’paistootsiipsii, meaning “Clan Leader: the one that moves camp while the others follow”. It is a name that humbles me. And it reminds me of the humbling responsibility I have every day. 

It is an honour to be with you here today, in this time of reconciliation, on the traditional lands of the the Huron-Wendat, the Hodnohshoneh and the Anishnabe. We are not on new land newly populated. We are on ancient land that has been the source of life for many people for thousands of years. For more than 5,000 years, people have lived, hunted, fished, met, and traded here. People have fought and loved—held fast to dreams and felt bitter disappointment. 

This is part of our collective history—a reminder that we are all treaty people. And our common future is one of opportunity for all. 

Today, I’m going to tell some stories. Some are personal, some have nothing to do with me. But I believe in the power of stories to help us better understand who we are, and crucially, who we want to be. 

So, please allow me to indulge in some origin stories, beginning with my own. 

My parents came to this country in 1971 when my mother was pregnant with me. I was therefore, born in Canada, but made in Tanzania. 

This summer, I went on a family trip. I took my mother and my sister’s family, and we all went back to Tanzania. Our little group ranged in age from six to 75, and we were exploring our roots. We saw the house my mum grew up in and the hospital where my sister was born and lots of elephants. But, more important, we reflected on our own roots. I stood on the shores of Lake Victoria in Mwanza and gazed across the lake. I realized that, if my parents had been born on the other side, instead of being immigrants in 1971 they would have been refugees in 1972. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the early 1970s, my parents were working in a place called Arusha. Then, as now, Arusha was used for many international and UN meetings. My dad met some Canadians working for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). They used to get the Toronto Star delivered to them, and dad, a voracious reader, used to ask for the newspaper when they were done with it. So he read, and he learned all about this strange place. 

One day, he read an article about the new city hall in Toronto. As he saw the pictures of that great building and Nathan Phillips Square, he was amazed. How do you build such a tall building, he wondered, and make it round? He resolved that, one day, he would see that city hall. 

A few years later, he got his chance. He had saved up so he could go to his sister’s wedding in London, England. He figured that, since he was in London, he might as well make a side trip to Toronto (I’m not sure he consulted a map). Just before leaving, they discovered my mum was pregnant and decided to go anyway, leaving my three-year-old sister with relatives. Much to my regret, they did eventually send for her. 

When they got to Toronto, they immediately fell in love with the place (it was summer). They felt a certain freedom, like their kids could do anything there, and they decided to stay. 

What followed was a very ordinary story familiar to so many of us. 

When my parents arrived, there were six Ismaili families in Toronto and they did prayer services at someone’s home. On Fridays, my mother would strip her only bed sheets off the bed, wash them by hand, hang them to dry (there was no nickel for the dryer), and hope they would be done in time to fold, take on the subway, and bring to evening services so there would be a decent cloth to cover the small tables and lend some dignity to the basement. 

Only a few months later, this little group of six families found themselves having to look after hundreds of Ismaili families—refugees from Uganda—and show them how to make it in this strange new place. They never once begrudged this. Even though they had so little, these new arrivals had even less. 

Even though my parents barely knew how to navigate Canada, the newcomers had no idea. So they got to work. It was the right thing to do. 

When I was a year old, having done my research and crafted a thorough argument, I convinced the family that our future was in the west, and we packed up a Dodge Dart and moved to Calgary. Sometimes we were very poor. Sometimes we were only mostly poor. 

But what we lacked in money, we gained in opportunity. I went to amazing public schools. I spent my Saturday afternoons at the public library. I learned to swim, kind of, at a public pool. I explored the city I love on public transit. And through it all, I was nurtured by a community that wanted me to succeed, that had a stake in me, and that cared about me. 

And in 2010, 20 months before he died, my dad, who loved Toronto City Hall, got to sit in another city hall and watch his son be sworn in as mayor. 

While that story may seem extraordinary in its details, what’s extraordinary is just how ordinary it is. It is a very Canadian story. It is a story of struggle, service, sweat and, ultimately, success. 

Almost every Canadian has such an origin story and every one is worth telling. And with each telling, we share in the story of who we are. 

There is another origin story that touches my people—Calgarians—very deeply. This Canadian story reaches back even before the origin story of Lafontaine and Baldwin. 

It is the story of Treaty 7. Actually, it’s the story about the story of Treaty 7. 

A few years ago, a small group of visionary artists, historians, and cultural leaders came together to create a theatrical presentation about the creation of Treaty 7. With over 20 First Nation and non-Aboriginal performers, it would explore the historical and cultural significance of the events at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877. 

The resulting production, Making Treaty 7, is the origin story of my people. 

That may sound a bit odd. I’m not that kind of Indian, after all. How can I find my origin in the story of people who signed a treaty while my ancestors were a world away? 

But that’s the point. 

This beautiful and funny and sad and inspiring and painful work of art reminded us that we are all treaty people. All of us who share this land. It’s our origin story. 

Certainly, it hurts at times to think about what we’ve lost. But it’s elating to think about what we’ve gained. 

The story doesn’t end there though. It continues through unbearable tragedy and emerges in triumph. 

A few months after the performance, and after I was granted my Blackfoot name, two of the creators of Making Treaty 7, Narcisse Blood and Michael Green (Elk Shadow) went to Saskatchewan to help the people there understand their origin story—Making Treaty 5. And then, on their way to the Piapot First Nation, on Highway 6, with two Saskatchewan artists, Michele Sereda and Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, they were killed in a terrible car accident. 

That night, as news spread, one after the other, Calgary buildings and roads and bridges lit up in yellow to honour Michael’s artistic home, One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre. No one organized it—it just happened. It was the right thing to do. Michael’s memorial service was held in a packed concert hall—the same place that had hosted the memorial for a much-loved former mayor and premier just a year earlier. 

And, of course, the stories continue to be told. On January 7, One Yellow Rabbit will open the 30
th Annual High Performance Rodeo. And, on Wednesday, Making Treaty 7 will remount as one of the first shows in a brand-new concert hall, reminding us again that we are all treaty people. 

So far, I have only told you origin stories. I have told you two Indian stories, and they show us what we love about Canada and what we hope Canada was and will continue to be. 

They tell us about when Canada works. 

And when Canada works, it works better than anywhere. 

What we know is that the core strength of our community is not that there are carbon atoms in the ground in parts of this country and maple trees with amazing sap in others. 

What we know is that we’ve figured out a simple truth—one which evades too many in this broken world. And that simple truth is just this: nous sommes ici ensemble. We’re in this together. Our neighbour’s strength is our strength; the success of any one of us is the success of every one of us. And, more important, the failure of any one of us is the failure of every one of us. 

This means that our success is in that tolerance, that respect for pluralism, that generous sharing of opportunity with everyone, that innate sense that every single one of us, regardless of where we come from, regardless of what we look like, regardless of how we worship, regardless of whom we love, that every single one us deserves the chance right here, right now, to live a great Canadian life. 

But this is incredibly fragile. It must be protected always from the voices of intolerance, the voices of divisiveness, the voices of small mindedness, and the voices of hatred. It’s the right thing to do. 

As that great Canadian philosopher, 
Bruce Cockburn, reminds us “nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.” 

And our fight is for that Canada. 

And I worry that, in our current public and political discourse, we are losing that fight. 

Let’s talk about Bill C-24. 

One of the highlights of my time as mayor is being able to go to citizenship ceremonies. Every time, without fail, I cry. I cry with joy to be with so many people to have chosen to be Canadian. They have worked so hard to be a citizen (in the formal sense of the term). They have taken on the great responsibility of being a Canadian. And I weep as I share in that special moment, talking about how growing up, I always wondered why my family all had these fancy citizenship certificates and all I had was a lousy birth certificate. 

As I grew up, I realized that those pieces of paper were not only the most valuable possessions we had, but that they were really the same. 

No longer. 

How is it that those individuals I get to watch saying their oath should somehow be less Canadian than others? How is it that we should allow it to be easier for our government to strip them of that privilege and responsibility of citizenship? 

How is it that I, born at Saint Mike’s in downtown Toronto, could be stripped of my Canadian citizenship? How did we let this happen? 

(An aside: two weeks ago, when asked about my concerns about this, a spokesperson for Minister Chris Alexander said “As for his views on our strengthened citizenship laws, unless he [Nenshi] intends to commit and be convicted by a Canadian court of acts of terrorism, treason, espionage or taking up arms against the Canadian military, he has nothing to worry about.” Not only does this person spectacularly miss the point, she doesn’t even know what the act that her boss is responsible for actually says. As Prime Minister Harper likes to say, look, let me be clear: either you believe in the rule of law in Canada, or you don’t. 

One Canadian citizen committing the same crime should be treated the same as any other citizen, not subjected to a different sort of justice if they had a parent or grandparent who was born somewhere else. And the bill allows her boss to exile people from Canada without any Canadian court being involved. I suspect Canadians don’t really want him to have that authority.) 

How did we get here? 

I am deeply troubled at the language of divisiveness we hear in Ottawa these days. The label of “terrorist” is thrown around with disturbing regularity. But it is not done haphazardly. It is targeted language that nearly always describes an act of violence done by someone who shares my own faith. 

The man who murdered Edmonton Constable Daniel Woodall was, we are told, a very unwell, dangerous man. The man who ran over two soldiers in Quebec was a “radicalized” terrorist. According to our Prime Minister, one of our greatest threats is of “Jihadi terrorism.” Well, sometimes he says “jihadist terrorism.” He generally avoids saying “Islamist terrorism” these days, so I guess there are small blessings. 

But this is very specific, very deliberate language. It ties violent action to a religious group—many of whom are Canadian citizens. It does little to understand the causes of violence or the potential solutions. Instead, it encourages division; the opposite of the Canada to which we aspire. 

The ridiculous debate on the niqab at citizenship ceremonies is another example. On the one hand, our government warns us of the radicalization of Muslim youth in our own communities. Law enforcement officers and community activists have repeatedly warned us that the cause of this radicalization is alienation and isolation; that the kids being radicialized are the same kids who join gangs. It truly is not about religion. So, we work hard to make these kids feel part of the community. 

But then, on the other hand, in order to give a sop to some elements in our society, the government picks a fight on a completely irrelevant issue. So the government announces it will appeal two court decisions (an unwinnable appeal if I’ve ever seen one) and spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money, to prevent one woman from voting. 

And those kids—the ones we are trying to convince that there’s a place for them in our society—are told that no matter what, they can never be truly Canadian. That their faith is incompatible with our values. All that good work on de-radicalization? Completely undermined by our own actions. 

When we act like this, whether the issue is dealing with the extraordinary human suffering of those fleeing conflict or the right to vote, we are failing ourselves, our nation, and the world. It’s the wrong thing to do. 

And I’m serious when I say “the world”. Canada, the idea of Canada, is a powerful beacon for all humanity. But here again, I fear we are failing. 

The government has been running commercials that end with the slogan, “Strong. Proud. Free.” (Who knew that countries have slogans). The Economist last week called us “strong, proud and free-riding.” A study by former CIDA president Robert Greenhill and Meg McQuillian indicates that our foreign aid performance from 2008-2014 ranks us dead last in the G7. 

In a recent interview, Mr. Greenhill suggests that that if spending had stayed at 1979 levels and the money been used to help destabilized countries, hundreds of thousands fewer people might now be fleeing, and thousands fewer dying. 

And it’s important to note that this is not a partisan argument. Our commitment to assisting in global poverty began to flag in 1995 and has largely continued for 20 years, under Liberal and Conservative governments. 

My friend John McArthur tells a story about a recent debate. December 2013 marked the multi-year replenishment deadline for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria—one of the world’s most successful modern life-saving institutions. Months earlier, the United States and the United Kingdom had made their own anchor pledges. They also offered matching grants to help motivate other countries’ contributions. Nations such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden each stepped in with commitments equivalent to $8 to $10 per citizen, per year. Canada, by contrast, left its decision to the final moment. After a flurry of last-minute internal deliberations, the government committed less than $220 million per year, or only $6 per Canadian. The lowball pledges from Canada and a few other countries meant that hundreds of millions in matching dollars were left on the table and the Global Fund suffered a billion-dollar annual shortfall. That billion-dollar shortfall will cost one million lives. And we bear too much of that responsibility. 

The shocking part of all of this is not that it happened, but that we collectively did not notice. It was as though we had stopped thinking about the world around us and about our role as leaders. 

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark warned in 2013 that we were gradually turning inward, writing: 

"An essential question for citizens of lucky countries is not simply who we are or what we earn, but what we could be. That question implies others: To what do we aspire? What are our talents and advantages and assets? How can we be better than we have been, in our impact on events both inside and outside our country?" 

I say we aspire to a better Canada in a better world, and that we have that power as citizens to make it happen. It’s the right thing to do. 

In just a few days, while those kids are performing Making Treaty 7 in Calgary, we will be witness on the other side of the continent to the largest gathering of world leaders in history. 

Those leaders will adopt a new series of Sustainable Development Goals—the Global Goals. They will commit to an extraordinary vision: a vision of a world free of poverty, hunger, disease, and want. A world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity. A world of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential. 

There are 17 goals, 107 outcome targets, and 62 targets for implementation. And we have to do it by 2030. 

So what, then, is our role as Canadians? We must take on the challenge given us as lucky citizens. It’s the right thing to do. 

I’m speaking as though these failures of the Canada to which we aspire are recent. They’re not. I’m naïve, but I’m not that naïve. 

After all, we are the nation of Japanese internment camps. We are the nation of the Chinese head tax and Africville. We are the nation of Komagata Maru and provincial eugenics programs. We are the nation of “none is too many.” We are the nation that created and sustained residential schools. 

These are our stories too. They are not lapses in our citizenship. They are not moments when we temporarily forgot what it was to be Canadian. They are real and they are stories we tell—as uncomfortable as we are in the telling. 

We feel a deep, cold, dark discomfort when confronted with those stories of ourselves. The truth is not easy. It wasn’t easy for the victims of residential schools to tell their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It wasn’t easy for Canadians to bear witness to those stories. But it is profoundly important that we did and that we do. 

But there’s something noble in this. 

We cannot shy away from these stories of divisiveness. 

In telling those stories alongside our origin stories, we move forward. 

But there is also something noble and true and real and perfect and Canadian in the stories that we tell that inform us about who we want to be. The stories of the best Canada. The stories of the Canada to which we aspire. 

They allow us to proudly say to the world who we are and what it means to be Canadian. They are stories of ideas and, more important, they are stories of actions. Because the best stories are stories of action. Stories of everyday people using their everyday hands and their everyday voices to make extraordinary change. Because it’s the right thing to do. 

Let’s start with us—our actions as individuals. 

When I first became mayor, I pulled together a group of super-volunteers and gave them what I thought was a simple task: figure out a way to get more people involved in the community and report back in 30 days. Forty-five days later, they came back and said “great news, mayor! We’ve come up with a name for our committee!” They could not have done worse. The Mayor’s Committee on Civic Engagement. (They’ve since changed it, I kid you not, to “The Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee.”) 

A few days after that, they came to me with a simple idea: Three Things for Calgary. A social movement that encourages every citizen, every year, to do at least three things for their community. Three things, big or small. 

I thought this idea was crazy. It’s paradoxically too simple and too complex, I said. It’s too simple because we’re not telling people what to do. I’m a researcher, and I know the research shows that the number one reason people don’t volunteer is “nobody asked me.” We have to match people with non-profits. We have to give them ideas. 

It’s too complicated because we want to lower the barriers. Why ask people to do three things instead of one small thing? 

I was wrong. 

It turns out the weaknesses I saw were the strengths of the idea. In not telling people what to do, we allowed them to answer two questions for themselves: What do I care about? What am I good at? It’s at the nexus of these two things that people figure out the right thing to do. 

And they do things I would never have thought of. Like the mum who had the terrifying experience of rushing her child to the children’s hospital and spending the night in the emergency room. She didn’t get any sleep, of course, and felt awful in the morning as she took her daughter to various tests and appointments. 

When they were all safely at home, she reflected on the experience. And now, every year, she conducts a toothbrush drive for the Alberta Children’s Hospital ER. Not kids’ toothbrushes—adult ones. This is so that parents, having gone through the scariest night of their lives, can brush their teeth in the morning and feel just a little more human. And as they brush their teeth, they are reminded that they live in a community that cares about them—that has a stake in them. For that mum, it was the right thing to do. 

And, of course, it’s not really about doing three things every year. It’s about setting up an expectation for a lifetime of service. It’s about creating a habit of service. It’s about internalizing the right thing to do and doing it. 

And that habit manifests itself every day in a million little ways. This was never on display as much as during our community’s greatest challenge: the 2013 floods. I won’t dwell on the crisis—that’s a whole other speech—but I’ll share a couple of, you guessed it, stories. 

Very early on during the flooding, we were inundated with people asking simply, “how can I help?” We weren’t quite sure what to do, and eventually invited everyone who wanted to assist with the cleanup to meet one morning at McMahon Stadium. My colleagues at the City of Calgary didn’t give much notice—just a couple of hours. When I asked why, they said “well, your worship, we don’t really know what we’re doing. We figure that if we keep this low-key, only a hundred or 200 people will come, we’ll figure out what we’re doing and be ready for more tomorrow.” 

I was skeptical, but I went to the stadium to meet the few volunteers I expected. You’ve probably seen the pictures. I was greeted by thousands of people—some in work boots and some in flip-flops—united only in their desire to help strangers in their community. 

There was no PA system. I climbed up on a folding table, reached into the driver’s side window of a fire vehicle, and used the radio attached to the sirens. My city colleague yelled up at me, “Send them home! We’ve run out of forms!” 

I took a deep breath, visions of municipal lawyers danced before my eyes, and I said “We’ve run out of forms. There’s no more room on the buses. But you’re here to help. Just go help. You know what neighbourhoods have been badly hit. Just go. You may have to go door to door, but it will probably be clear what to do. Just go.” 

And they went. And they went. And they went. In the hundreds and thousands, they went. The largest outpouring of humanity I have ever seen. Not organized, driven only by the very real, the very Canadian, desire to help. Because it was the right thing to do. 

I got into a habit during the flood of just taking quiet walks in the flood-impacted neighbourhoods. If I could steal away from the emergency operations centre for an hour, I would. No fanfare, just a chance to talk to people about what had happened and how they were coping. 

On one of those walks, on a quiet street in Rideau/Roxboro, just down from the Mission Bridge, I met Sam and his mum, Lori. They were kind enough to invite me into their home, or what was left of it. Everything was gone; it was stripped down to the studs. 

“We’ve had a tough few days,” she said. “There’s nothing left in my house. I have no stove, no fridge, no cabinets. I have no way to prepare meals for my family. But you know what, Mayor? Tonight, for dinner we have hot shepherd’s pie.” 

I often think about that shepherd’s pie. When I’m having a bad day, I think of the anonymous hands that made it. The hands that boiled the potatoes and peeled them, that mashed them and turned the mixture into a casserole dish and covered it tightly in foil. The person who stopped and thought: “I’m never going to see my casserole dish again. But you know what, it doesn’t matter. Somewhere out there, there’s a family that hasn’t had a hot meal in days, and they have to get this shepherd’s pie while it’s hot. It’s the right thing to do.” 

I think of Bev. Bev, like so many others in Calgary, went to help a friend. Then she helped the friend’s neighbour, and the neighbour’s neighbour. One day, she found herself in a stranger’s basement and she saw the one thing that finally knocked her to her knees. It was a beautiful photo album—“Our Baby”—and it was ruined. 

She stopped short, and she thought: “We can replace people’s furniture. We can replace their appliances and their flooring and their drywall. But how do we replace their memories?” 

And she made a decision. Bev has a hobby. She’s a quilter. And she decided that she would make a quilt. She would make it good, and she would make it strong. And she would give it to a family that had lost everything. 

And they would make blanket forts with it. And they would curl up under it to watch a movie on cold nights. And the kids would want it when they left home. 

And that one family would have a new heirloom and create new memories. 

Word spread about Bev’s project. People started talking; they wanted to help. A group of senior ladies wanted to help, but didn’t have any materials. Someone organized a small fundraiser and got scraps of fabric and cotton batting. 

I had no idea any of this was happening until I got a call in September. They were going to distribute the quilts, door-to-door in the flooded areas. Could I please come and say thank you to the volunteers? 

So, on a sunny and crisp autumn Saturday morning, I went to the Inglewood Community Hall to see 1400 quilts. 

They had come, not just from a few senior citizens in Calgary, but from across Canada and the world—as far away as Brazil. And every one of them had a card attached. “In this difficult time, please know that you are part of a community.” 

It was the right thing to do. 

And my dream for Canada, my dream for this nation in the world, is that simple. That we do the right thing. 

Can you imagine if for 2017, for the sesquicentennial of this great nation, we give Canada a birthday gift? Can you imagine if Canada gives the world a birthday gift? Can you imagine Three Things for Canada? Let’s make the commitment today to each do three things for our country, for the world, starting now and continuing through our 150
th birthday. Showing everyone the right things to do. 

But the real answer in crafting an ideal Canada—the Canada to which we aspire—lies in engaging muscularly with the past and the future. It means a thousand simple acts of service and a million tiny acts of heroism. It means acting at the community level: on our streets, in our neighbourhoods, and in our schools. It means refusing to accept the politics of fear. 

And then it means exporting the very best of Canada, that ideal and real Canada, to the rest of the world. 

I want to leave you with one last story. One I tell all the time. One that I will keep telling, since it encapsulates who we are and who we aspire to be. 

I had the chance a couple of years ago to visit the 100
th Anniversary of a school in Calgary. It’s called Connaught School, named after the Duke of Connaught—the Governor General of Canada, the son of Queen Victoria. 

Now, the population of the school looks different than when it first opened. Because it’s right downtown, it’s often the first point of arrival for newcomers to Canada. There are 240 students. They come from 61 different countries. They speak 42 different languages at home. 

I spoke to some of those kids and their parents. I heard horrible things. I heard stories of war and unspeakable poverty. I heard stories of degradation and loss of dignity. I heard stories of violence so horrific I could not imagine one human being doing that to another, let alone in front of a child. 

I looked out at those kids, sitting on the floor in the gym, wearing their matching t-shirts celebrating their school’s birthday. 

I looked beyond them, at their parents, in hijabs and kanga cloth, in Tim Hortons uniforms and bus driver caps, in designer suits and pumps. 

At that moment, it would have been so easy to feel despair, to mourn for our broken world. 

But I didn’t. 

Because in that second, I had a moment of extraordinary clarity. I knew something to be true beyond all else. 

I knew that regardless of what these kids had been through, regardless of how little they have or had, regardless of what wrath some vengeful God had visited on them and their families, they had one burst of extraordinary luck. 

And that luck was that they ended up here. 

They ended up in Canada, they ended up in Calgary, they ended up at Connaught School. They ended up in a community. They ended up with people who would catch them if they fell. They ended up in a community that wants them to succeed, that has a stake in them, that cares about them. 

And I knew at that moment, that those kids, right here, right now, would live a great Canadian life. 

That’s the promise of our community. That’s what I have the humbling responsibility to make real every day. 

And that’s the opportunity you have. Because it’s the right thing to do. 



September 15, 2015
Canadians.org

[Woodpile editor's note: Bruce is among many who signed the Leap Manifesto]


Leap manifesto: bold climate and economic vision for Canada
by Andrea Harden-Donahue

We could live in a country powered entirely by truly just renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

Canada is not this place today – but it could be.

These are the inspiring words of the leap manifesto, a bold 15 point vision for Canada, launching today. Maude Barlow will be one of several high profile speakers alongside David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis, Tantoo Cardinal (and more) attending a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival for the manifesto.

You can read, and sign the manifesto at www.leapmanifesto.orgdownload a useful graphic outlining the 15 demands and supporting research paper from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives on why we can 'afford to leap.'

Here are the manifesto's 15 demands.

  1. The leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land, starting by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  2. The latest research shows we could get 100% of our electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now.
  3. No new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.
  4. The time for energy democracy has come: wherever possible, communities should collectively control new clean energy systems. Indigenous Peoples and others on the frontlines of polluting industrial activity should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects.
  5. We want a universal program to build and retrofit energy efficient housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities will benefit first.
  6. We want high-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit to unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.
  7. We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean energy economy.
  8. We need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
  9. We must develop a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, absorb shocks in the global supply – and produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.
  10. We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.
  11. We demand immigration status and full protection for all workers. Canadians can begin to rebalance the scales of climate justice by welcoming refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.
  12. We must expand those sectors that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. A national childcare program is long past due.
  13. Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid and often performed by women, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income.
  14. We declare that “austerity” is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth. The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. An end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending.
  15. We must work swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.

This transformation is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.

Now is the time for boldness.

Now is the time to leap.

Andrea Harden-Donahue's blog

 

 

September 12, 2015
D. Keebler

We Are as the Times Are

Ken Rockburn's book regarding the history of the famed Ottawa music venue, Le Hibou, can be purchsed here. Bruce played many a show at Le Hibou in the 1960s and early 1970s.

More online info can be found at Denis Faulkner's website. He was the founder and first owner of the venue from October 1960 to December 1968.

 

 

September 11, 2015
The Ottawa Citizen


Coffeehouse nights: New book remembers Le Hibou
Review by Parick Langston

Book review: We Are as the Times Are
By Ken Rockburn

In town: The author will launch his book at Irene’s on Bank Street on Sept. 14, 2015.


Ken Rockburn’s many nights at Café Le Hibou, the legendary Ottawa coffeehouse that between 1960 and 1975 showcased an extraordinary lineup of musicians and other artists, included one which left him bemused.

The veteran broadcast journalist and author of the newly published We Are as the Times Are: The Story of Café Le Hibou recalls being 16 and squiring an attractive young lady to the coffeehouse for a concert by American blues great John Hammond. After his first set, Hammond made a beeline for the couple’s table and started chatting up Rockburn’s date.

Says Rockburn: “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Am I pissed because John Hammond is hitting on my date or am I in awe because John Hammond is sitting at my table?’ I chose the latter.”

Le Hibou was, in other words, a spot where expectations might be rattled, where almost anything could happen thanks to a cavalcade of culture that included not just nervy performers like Hammond and the voodoo-influenced Dr. John the Night Tripper and the up-and-coming Gordon Lightfoot but also poetry readings (by Irving Layton among others), theatre (including Too Many Guys For One Doll, an original musical satire on municipal affairs and then-Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton), film (English and French), and dance (including a lecture and demonstration of modern dance by the now-renowned Elizabeth Langley).

With entertainment options few and far between, “People saw Hibou as this kind of oasis where things were happening outside their (life) in Alta Vista,” according to Rockburn who’s known for his work with Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), CBC, and others.

The idea for his comprehensive, highly readable book, which he launches Sept. 14 at Irene’s Pub, came from Rockburn’s friend Paul Kyba. Realizing that all the former owners of the coffeehouse were still living, Rockburn set out to record the memories before it was too late.

The memories include those of Denis Faulkner.  A University of Ottawa student at the time, he co-founded with three others the coffeehouse at its first location above a Rideau Street chiropractor’s office just east of Coburg Street. Faulkner says he had no inkling at the time that “a little place for people to meet and talk and have good coffee and listen to folk singers or flamenco would morph into an almost-iconic institution.”

Just how iconic is clear from Faulkner’s website Café Le Hibou Recollections  (lehibou.ca). In addition to a history of the place and a comprehensive list of its 15 years of bookings, the website includes a slew of recollections from fans. Those memories range from a first date at the club that blossomed into marriage to a posting from someone who says hanging around Le Hibou transformed him from a respectable student with good grades to a grungy guy barely eking out a pass but who, in retrospect, “wouldn’t trade those days for anything.”

Such heartfelt posts, says Faulkner, prove that not just the club with its red checked tablecloths and candle-stuffed Chianti bottles but the entire era was meaningful to many. “It was a remarkable time. It was the 1960s; the future was wide open.”

Judging from the performers, it was an inclusive future at Le Hibou. Folk singers Judy Collins and Murray McLauchlan played there as did bluesmen Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. So did jazz guitarist Lenny Breau. Ditto a nascent Neil Young.

A very young Joni Mitchell landed a three-week gig for $150 a week in 1967. While there, reports Rockburn, she hooked up with musician Bill Stevenson, and the two dropped acid in Strathcona Park.

Rockburn also quite rightly dedicates considerable space to poet/songwriter William (Bill) Hawkins. He was a regular at Le Hibou and a member, along with Bruce Cockburn, Sneezy Waters and others, of the Ottawa band the Children which played the venue. A troubled man from whose poem Gnostic Serenade the title of Rockburn’s book – We Are as the Times Are – is taken, Hawkins was, says Rockburn, “an intellectual magnet” in Ottawa’s counterculture scene. But substance abuse sapped his creative drive, and Hawkins vanished from the scene in 1974 to drive a cab for years before finally re-emerging with new music and poetry. It’s an especially poignant section of the book.

Le Hibou was also a locus of live theatre for several years. Saul Rubinek, Luba Goy and others performed at the club after it moved to Bank Street in 1961 and after its final move to Sussex Drive just over three years later. Productions were eclectic, from original pieces to John Webster’s 17th century tragedy The Duchess of Malfi.

None of which made the owners wealthy. “I never intended it to be, but it was non-profit,” says music promoter and former Treble Clef music store owner Harvey Glatt. He was a partner in Le Hibou from 1961 to 1968 and booked the music acts.

Glatt also recalls the respect paid to performers. “It was very important that people be quiet; if they weren’t, we’d ask them to leave.”

Sneezy Waters, whose first gig at Le Hibou was in that show about Charlotte Whitton, recalls the community-building aspect of Le Hibou. “It wasn’t a drug den or a bar. For me, it was like a library: you’d go to learn something.”

Waters was also there when Le Hibou closed in the spring of 1975. It was the victim, as Rockburn details, of everything from increased competition from licensed clubs (Le Hibou was basically dry) to the coup de grace: a leap in rent at the National Capital Commission-owned Sussex Street address from $450 a month to $2,000.

“I was there on the last day,” says Waters. “There was gnashing of teeth and wailing and a pretty heavy sadness. There were people on the street looking through the windows. It was hard to imagine it would be gone.

A Le Hibou timeline

October, 1960: Café Le Hibou opens at 544 Rideau St. Owners: Denis Faulkner, Andre Jodouin, Jean Carriere and George Gordon-Lennox. It serves coffee and light food, and hosts poetry readings and occasional impromptu concerts.

October, 1961: The club moves to 248 Bank St. and hires its first paid entertainer: local folk singer Tom Kines.

February, 1965: Le Hibou moves to its final home at 521 Sussex Dr., a heritage building with a 15-foot, stamped tin ceiling.

June, 1965: Gordon Lightfoot, who had not yet released his debut album, plays the first of several dates.

November, 1968: John Russow, the coffeehouse’s night manager, and his wife Joan buy Le Hibou.

June, 1968: Newly sworn-in prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau pays a late-night visit to Le Hibou accompanied by his chauffeur and a single bodyguard. He misses the show but signs a poster.

October, 1969: Van Morrison and his “jazz rock band” play a multi-night gig.

Spring, 1972: Pierre Paul Lafreniere, the final owner, buys the club.

May 3, 1975: Le Hibou closes.

Sources: Denis Faulkner, Ken Rockburn, lehibou.ca

 

September 11, 2015
The Star


Al Purdy Was Here exposes Canada’s cultural roots
by 
Martin Knelman


Al Purdy Was Here
, Brian D. Johnson’s documentary about the deceased, highly combative Canadian poet, is not only one of the engaging treats in this year’s TIFF Docs program; it’s multi-dimensional.

Part warts-and-all investigation of how a rebel poet created his own myth and part total-pleasure songbook, the film will have its world premiere on Tuesday, Sept 15 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. And 15 years after his death, this should remind a lot of people that Al Purdy was indeed here.

From the perspective of fall 2015, this is not just nostalgia but a timely reminder of those golden pre-Harper years decades ago when culture played a key role in Canadian nation-building, and poets led the charge.

Just as striking for many is the emergence of Johnson, best known for more than two decades as the film critic at Maclean’s, as a hot director.

No one is more surprised — almost apologetic — than Johnson himself.

“I know this sort of looks like a man-bites-dog case about a long-time film critic deciding to reverse engines,” he told me one recent evening at a Yorkville cafe.

True, he had retired from Maclean’s in early 2014 and had time to do something completely different.

“But it wasn’t a career choice. I got pulled into this thing gradually and before that I didn’t know a thing about Al Purdy.”

It was Marni Jackson, the talented author, who lured her husband into this project, one chapter at a time.

“Marni had interviewed Purdy and she had written about him,” says Johnson. “I owe the film to her.”

Jackson knew all about the legendary A-frame cabin that the back-to-the-land poet and his wife, Eurithe, had built out of discarded lumber in Ameliasburgh. That’s in Prince Edward County, which later became a high-end rural favourite of Ontario’s social elite.

Indeed, Eurithe, at 90, emerges now as one of the great strengths of the new film, with sheer star quality. Terrific songs and a surprise Act 3 plot turn are the other ingredients that make this a breakthrough not just for Purdy followers but for many who know little or nothing about the poet.

Along the way we get performances by Bruce Cockburn, Tanya Tagaq and Sarah Harmer, as well as insights from Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Leonard Cohen.

“Marni was well down the Purdy road,” Johnson says. She worked on a 2013 event at Koerner Hall: a fundraiser to restore the A-frame house and keep it going as a mecca for writers, while raising money to maintain a poet-in-residence program there.

The event was filmed and Jackson asked Johnson to edit the footage.

“I found this guy enchanting and charismatic,” he recalls. He was also boisterous and an entertaining raconteur.

But there were many sides to this hard-drinking, high-school dropout who hopped a freight train, heading west during the Depression, and worked in factories before pioneering the idea a guy could earn a living writing poems.

A lot of bad poems came before the good ones, such as his best known work “At the Quinte Hotel,” in which beer drinking looms large. He won the Governor-General’s Award twice.

Songwriters agreed to contribute to the Purdy legend. The obvious next step was a documentary film about this larger-than-life character.

Asked for his advice, Johnson replied that maybe there could be a half-hour for TV.

It was the music that later made him think this should be a full-length documentary. And since he had previously made a seven-minute short film in which other poets read a book by Dennis Lee, Johnson was the right guy to direct this movie.

It was the CBC, through its documentary channel, and film distributor Ron Mann (of Films We Like) that drove the project forward. Now the film is likely to have a limited theatrical release before reaching TV screens in 2016.

For CBC management, this was a great opportunity. The public network was enduring scandal, crisis and cutbacks.

It helped that the team for this film included Jackson as co-writer, Nicholas de Pencier as cinematographer and a young co-producer, Jake Yanowski, who, according to Johnson, wound up mentoring his much older partner.

“This is a tale about Al Purdy and his legacy, but people are bringing more to it,” Johnson told me. “This is about our cultural roots. It evokes nostalgia for a time when poetry mattered, when Canadian culture was still being invented and this activity was a key part of nation-building. Today that seems like a far-fetched ambition for anyone to entertain.”

 

August 25, 2015
Wicked Local Beverly

MUSIC REVIEW: Bruce Cockburn performs 'gem of a show'
by Blake Maddux 


Bruce Cockburn, a 2001 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, treated a general admission audience to gem of a show at The Cabot last Friday night.

Performing a total of 20 songs, Cockburn drew from 14 albums, the best represented of which was 1997’s "The Charity of Night."

If there was a pattern or strategy to his song selection, it was apparent only to him.

Thankfully, this was no mere greatest hits show. In fact, anyone who knew only the contents of the 1979-2002 singles anthology that was available for purchase in the lobby would have been able to sing along to only five songs. And those familiar with the 1970-1979 collection, which was not for sale that night, would have recognized two others.

However, a performer as seasoned, versatile, prolific and dependable as Cockburn would have done a disservice to both long-time fans and newcomers -- not to mention himself -- by serving up only the “hits,” which I put in quotes because he has reached the U.S. top 40 only once in his 45-year career.

The fact that Cockburn was perfectly free to eschew playing it safe was evidenced by the myriad requests that those in attendance shouted out, as well as the surprising number of times that the audience registered familiarity with a given song immediately after he started plucking his guitar and before he sang a word.

Speaking of the guitar, Cockburn has clearly retained all of what one is justified in calling his virtuoso mastery of the instrument. Having attended the Berklee College of Music in the mid-60s, he is rarely, if ever, satisfied to simply select the few chords that are necessary to accompany his words.

In fact, three of the evening’s numbers were instrumentals, including the first song that he played after taking the stage and the one that opened the second set following the 30-minute intermission.

The first instrumental was “Bohemian 3-Step,” from the 2011 release "Small Source of Comfort," which is Cockburn’s latest album, but one that he acknowledged is “not very recent.”

Before diving into “The Iris of the World,” also from "Small Source of Comfort," he explained that he had spent the time since that album’s release writing an autobiography (titled "Rumors of Glory" after a song from 1980 that he played early in the first set) and being the father of a daughter who is about to turn 4 years old.

Given the time and energy required for those hefty endeavors, he said, there was “nothing left over for songs.” Reassurance that something still remained came in the form of a song that he introduced as a new one, of which he said “there aren’t very many,” but that he was “happy to have any."

This suggested that he remains a devotee of the Christian faith that he has embraced on a personal level for several decades, but from which he has also distanced himself due to his disapproval of the use of Christianity to advance political agendas, with which he disagrees.

I should note that Cockburn did not neglect all of his better-known songs. “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” which Cockburn released in 1984 and the soon-to-be hugely popular Canadian band Barenaked Ladies covered seven years later, appeared in the first set. He saved the aforementioned lone top-40 entry “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which prompted a call-and-response sing-along, for the second spot of the two-song encore.

Other crowd-pleasers included “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Call It Democracy,” two politically forthright compositions that he played back-to-back.

Last month, I reviewed a show about which I wrote that two septuagenarians – namely, Brian Wilson and Rodriguez – had set the bar pretty high for all of the younger acts currently on tour. Having turned 70 in May, Cockburn may now join that distinguished company.

Photo by Blake Maddux


August 13, 2015
Philly.com


Bruce Cockburn Accepts His Folk-Hero Status
by Nicole Pensiero

Bruce Cockburn - who will give a solo acoustic performance at 9:05 p.m. Saturday - recalled a time, early in his career, when he would "vehemently deny" he was a folksinger.

"I didn't want to mislead people, and I was fussy about labels like that," said the 70-year-old Canadian-bred, San Francisco-based singer-songwriter. "But if Ani DiFranco's a folksinger, then I guess I am, too."

Cockburn, who last year released his well-received "spiritual memoir" Rumors of Glory, has lasted more than 40 years in the fickle music business, and has dozens of albums - ranging from jazz-influenced rock to worldbeat to, yes, what's probably best termed folk - to show for his efforts.

A word-of-mouth favorite in the United States, Cockburn's something of a national treasure in his native Canada, where his face has adorned postage stamps. (He has also been honored with 13 Juno Awards - the Canadian version of the Grammys - has 21 gold and platinum records, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.)

But accolades mean far less to Cockburn than the durability of his music.

"My songs, from an emotional point of view, are like a scrapbook of a place and time," he said. Singing the intense, overtly political "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" from 1984, can be "outright painful." It takes Cockburn back to his state-of-mind at the time he wrote it in response to the appalling conditions at Guatemalan refugee camps. But, Cockburn noted, there are times when performing that very song is "necessary or appropriate," depending on current world events.

"It's part of the process of performing from the heart," he said. And regardless of a song's topic - love, politics, or spiritual connection - Cockburn always welcomes the opportunity to play for his fans, as well as hopefully attract some new ones.

"I like people to listen to what I'm doing," Cockburn said, adding that he also gets to be a music fan himself at outdoor festivals, always discovering "something interesting and new."

This Philadelphia Folk Festival appearance will afford Cockburn the opportunity to sing his best-known songs - like 1979's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" and the haunting "Pacing the Cage" - as well as introduce some new material, "depending on how confident I feel."

August 10, 2015
The Western Star

Cockburn to play two shows at Woody Point literary festival
by Gary Kean


If a tree falls in the Newfoundland forest next month, there’s a chance Bruce Cockburn just might hear it.

The stalwart of the Canadian music scene for the past four decades is coming to Newfoundland and Labrador and plans to drive between shows in St. John’s and Woody Point.

He’s played the capital city before, but this will be his first time venturing outside of St. John’s to play or to take in the scenic landscape.

“I hear there’s a lot of spruce and moose,” he said in a recent interview from San Francisco.

Cockburn’s visit will feature appearances at two folk festivals. He was scheduled to play the 39th annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John’s this past Saturday, before trekking to the Writers at Woody Point literary festival.

Cockburn will open the festival with a pair of concerts at the Heritage Theatre in Curzon Village on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the third day, he will be interviewed before a live audience at the theatre by Canadian novelist, essayist and memoirist Lawrence Hill.

His albums have sold more than seven million copies worldwide, but Cockburn has more than his well-known music to discuss. Last November, he released his memoir, “Rumours of Glory,” at the request of publisher HarperCollins.

He said he had been asked to write a book before, but the time just wasn’t right until now.

“We’ve all seen coffee table books about 20-year-old rock stars and 25-year-old hockey stars and stuff like that that say ‘here’s the life of so-and-so, but there’s no life there to talk about really,” he said. “It’s just an excuse to sell people something.”

Cockburn, who was born in 1945, said he didn’t know what the publisher meant when they asked him to pen “a spiritual memoir.” Others have also expressed interest in the background stories of his songs and his life of humanitarian work and advocacy.

The end result is an intimate peek into the inspiration behind all of his work.

“I thought it was worth trying to do the book because there was room in between the songs for a more concrete statement about the kinds of things the songs talk about and about my own life,” he said.

 

David_Landry_Collection,_Archives_of_Manitoba_1975_edit_size

July 9, 2015
Winnipeg Free Press

Excerpted from the article Good Times, Great Music by Melissa Tait & Joe Bryska

Last month, the Free Press sat down with Winnipeg Folk Festival legend Mitch Podolak and asked him to flip through a pile of archival photographs of the event he founded 41 years ago.


"We owe the Winnipeg Folk Festival in a lot of ways to Bruce (Cockburn), because people did not have any idea at all what a folk festival was — none. We knew we had Bruce and we used Bruce in a way we didn’t use anybody else.

"We said, ‘There’s a free Bruce Cockburn concert in the park,’ and 14,000 people showed up the first night to see that, and what they got was the folk festival. Thank you, Bruce."

Photo 1975, David Landry Collection, Archives of Manitoba

 





July 7, 2015
The Independent

In Conversation With Bruce Cockburn
by Justin Brake

Thelegendary Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist talks colonialism, warfare, music as activism and his hopes for the upcoming federal election, in advance of his performance at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival Saturday in St. John’s.

Few Canadian musicians have earned as much respect and admiration as Bruce Cockburn.

The 70-year-old singer-songwriter has recorded 31 albums and has a lengthy resume of awards for his music and social justice work. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 1998. In 2001 he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and the following year into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame.

Cockburn has six honorary doctorates, including a 2007 Honorary Doctor of Letters from Memorial University. He also earned a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

He recently married, moved to San Francisco and is raising his three-year-old daughter with his wife.

Pacing the Cage, a documentary film about his life, music and politics, was released in 2013. And last year his memoir, Rumours of Glory, was published by HarperOne.

On Saturday Cockburn will perform at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John’s.

In advance of his trip to Newfoundland, he spoke with The Independent from his home in San Francisco about his life, music, activism and politics.

JUSTIN BRAKE: You’re living in San Francisco now. What’s it like living in a state that’s running out of water?

BRUCE COCKBURN: [Laughs] Well, you wouldn’t really notice it in the city. There are parts of the state where it seems to be pretty obvious, but there are also people claiming that it’s not really running out of water — that it’s a scam to raise the price of water. But I’m not sure, I hear a lot more of there actually beig a shortage, and certainly there hasn’t been any rain anywhere, so I think it’s pretty genuine.

Like I said, in San Francisco you don’t really notice it; the city is surrounded by water for one thing, and I think we’re insulated from the effects of the drought. The drought is very noticeable inland, when you go into the central valley where the agriculture is mainly placed, and then it becomes noticeable. And that’s where you hear the largest comments and complaints coming from.

JUSTIN BRAKE: It’s hard to know, when you see produce here in Newfoundland that’s grown in California, whether it’s ethical to buy it or not.

BRUCE COCKBURN: Those farmers still have to make a living, so to the extent that it’s not corporate— [Laughs.] I mean, I’m not sure there’s anything that isn’t corporate, but there are a lot of people out there growing stuff and the industry employs quite a lot of people, so whether the water is running out or not, people still have to grow food. It could be argued that the way the water’s allocated is at times unethical for sure, but there’s also a whole lot of water that gets diverted to L.A….and especially to southern California. But certain elements of the agricultural [industry] seem to use more and have more clout in terms of containing that use than other sections. It’s still all unfolding here. It’s been going on for three years now, this drought, so if it keeps going like this it’ll become way more noticeable I think than it is now.

JUSTIN BRAKE: So how is your life in San Francisco? I know you have a daughter who is three years old. And your wife, who I understand got a job in San Fran—and that’s how you ended up there. What is your life like in California?

BRUCE COCKBURN: It’s pretty much like life anywhere else with a three-year-old. It’s not so much the place as the circumstances that determine what your life is like. We live in an apartment in San Francisco — it’s an alright place to live, [but] we don’t get out much because we have a three-year-old. I get out on tour from time to time; I’m doing a little bit less touring than previously because I want to be home. But only a little bit less; this has been a pretty busy summer and spring. So, you know, life goes on. It’s not very different than what my life was like when I was living at my house near Kingston, Ontario, or when I was living in Toronto.

JUSTIN BRAKE: I just watched Pacing the Cage — I hadn’t seen it yet, so I watched it to prepare for this interview. And I really enjoyed it and want to talk to you about some of the themes that emerged in the film…around your music and your life and your politics.

BRUCE COCKBURN: Sure.

JUSTIN BRAKE: The first one is how time and experience intersect in your music. You’ve said that while you acknowledge similarities that can be heard on your earlier and your most recent albums, there’s also an entire lifetime between them that can be heard. You’ve been making music for 40 years — how has that lifetime influenced your music, lyrically: how you write, and what you write about?

BRUCE COCKBURN: Well it’s hard to know. All of the songwriting was suspended for the three years I was writing [Rumours of Glory], so it’s only been since that came out last November that I’ve been able to think of myself as a songwriter again. I have a couple new instrumental pieces and maybe three new songs — two for sure, maybe one that may or may not be finished. So it’s a little hard to say.

There’s never been much of a pattern to where the lyric ideas come from. You can see it with hindsight of course, but if I’m involved in anything that’s really sort of emotionally intense, whether it’s a first-time exposure to third world conditions, or whether it’s a love affair, or whatever it might be, that’s obviously going to show up in the songs. And the emotional flow that’s going on will trigger the writing of songs. It’s between those kind of events — it’s just catch-as-catch-can and the ideas come from wherever they come from.

Having said that, there’s certainly an effect I can see if I look back over all the stuff, a difference between the way I approached writing in the beginning and the way I do now, for one thing. And that differs in the circumstances that produce the songs. So in the ‘70s there was a lot of travel across Canada, and not very much outside Canada — so until late in that decade you get stuff like How I Spent My Fall Vacation that talks about touring in Italy and Japan and so on, but really most of the 70s stuff is about Canada and about spirituality, and to some extent love songs and other things.

But then in the 80s there’s a lot of travel, the kind that produced If I Had a Rocket Launcher, or and Call it Democracy. Those encounters with third world reality that initially were really quite shocking, and eventually the shock factor wears off because you become familiar with what you’re going to encounter. But that kind of content showed up a lot in the songs from the 80s.

In the 90s it kind of swung back toward the personal again, and there’s a bunch of love songs and the effects of personal life experiences and spirituality starts to show up. In the 80s it wasn’t the downplaying of the spiritual side of things, but it was I suppose in a way more of an exploration what that spiritual reality means in the day to day, like how do you apply your spiritual understandings to the state of the world, basically?

And at this point, like I said, of the three songs I’ve [recently] written, assuming that third one actually is finished — that one’s about Detroit, and the other one is the product of an invitiation from some people in Toronto who are trying to rehabilitate the late Canadian Al Purdy’s A-frame house in rural Ontario as a kind of artist retreat. So they’re putting together a CD to raise money for that and they asked for a song from me having to do with Al Purdy, so I came up with something, and it was actually a godsend because that was the first invituation like that that came up after I finished the book. So I felt like this was a gift that will force me to get back into the songwriting frame of mind, and it’s a little too soon to say whether it really did that, but I think it did.

So the point of all this is, the content of these songs comes from wherever it comes from, and at this point I expect to make a next album but I don’t know what’s going to be on it.

JUSTIN BRAKE: You were raised in a non-religious family from what I understand, and at a certain point in your life turned to Christianity…which you’ve been quite open in talking about. Earlier in your career you were writing about social justice, and in [Pacing the Cage] you said, “the job of everyone, regardless of their occupation, is to affect the world in whatever positive way they can.”

I’m wondering where that sense of duty that you’re expressing—maybe that you feel, that you write and sing about—comes from? Does it have roots in your faith or your spirituality? Or would you say your spirituality evolved from that felt sense of duty?

BRUCE COCKBURN: I think it’s the first one, if anything. But I think that I owe that point of view a lot to my parents, and to [my] teachers. When I used to go to summer camp…they were always hammering into us when we would go on these 100-mile canoe trips in the northern Ontario bush: always leave your campsite better than you found it. And that sort of ethic was just repeated over and over again, and it just sort of seemed like the right way to be in the world.

So I think really it’s that kind of thinking that set me up for being receptive to the issues that might fall under the heading of social justice, specifically with Native people, for instance, when I started to travel across Canada in 1970. Up to that point I’d never met an ‘Indian’ who I knew was an Indian. I mean, I might have met people who didn’t say so, but I knew nothing; all I knew about Indians was Tonto. So in Manitoba and elsewhere I found myself meeting a whole lot of others — other songwriters, artists and whatever — who happened to be Native and have had an extremely different life experience growing up. These were people my own age and it was an eye-opener to discover the kinds of experiences that they had and the kinds of racism that you saw taken for granted everywhere. It’s less of an issue, at least in the cities now, I think. But it’s still there.

So an old song from the 70s, Red Brother, Red Sister, talks about that. The whole history of the original inhabitants of North America and how we interfaced with them — our ancestors, I should say — coming here from Europe, primarily. It’s such a tragic history and one that you can’t ignore; I think it’s a mistake to ignore — let’s put it that way. I don’t feel like I’m personally responsible for the things that were done any more than I feel responsible for the things that the Iroquois did to the Jesuit missionaries or whatever. But at the same time, I am where I am because those things were done, and I have to acknowledge that. And if there’s something I can do to improve the situation then I feel like I should do it.

JUSTIN BRAKE: It’s interesting that you brought that up. Everything that exists right now in what we call Canada exists because of that colonial legacy, which many would say is still going on today, still—

BRUCE COCKBURN: —Yes. The rhetoric around it is different, and the economics are a little different, but basically it’s the same. I mean, I think it’s probably down to human nature — any kind of entity that has power wants to use that power for its own gain. And then of course there’s the people that don’t have power who want to get it. And that’s all tied up with money and everything else. So the principles haven’t changed and the tendencies among people haven’t changed, so it’s something I think we all have to be paying attention to.

JUSTIN BRAKE: You traveled to Afghanistan a few years ago, in 2009, and met with the troops that were serving there — and I understand your brother is in the Canadian Armed Forces as well.

BRUCE COCKBURN: He was, yes, but he’s retired from the forces now. But that was what triggered my going there, was the fact that he joined the Army and got posted there. So it was like, well, if he’s going then I’m going. [Laughs.]

I don’t have skills or a fitness level the military could use, but I managed to get myself involved in a morale-boosting group that went over there. And I was impressed with our people; I didn’t know what to expect. I was looking forward to it because, of all the times I’ve been in or near war zones, I’ve never been among Canadians, never been among people I could really communicate with. So that was exciting to me, to be able to hear what people have to say, how they felt about what they were doing or just what they were doing in general. It was great. I came away pretty impressed, but the likelihood of that mission being successful seemed slim — and I’m kind of understanding that. It’s a loaded thing; on one hand you can’t have a country that just behaves utterly lawlessly in this globalized world that we live in. But at the same time, how do you deal with the presence of a country like that? Is it by invading them and taking them over? Is it by nuking them? Is it by working something out in a more gentle way? And I suppose, if there’s a way to work things out gently, then that’s obviously the first choice. But anyway, I don’t know. I could go on.

JUSTIN BRAKE: You did an interview with the Ottawa Citizen last year and I pulled a quote from it because I thought it was interesting. You said:

I have had a difficult time convincing my lefty friends that this was important. This was to right a wrong … that can’t be ignored. 

I sort of agree that you can’t have a country in the world these days where people go around throwing acid in women’s faces simply because they want to learn to read. There are some cultures that don’t deserve to persist. 

There are aspects of the Afghan culture — here I am Mr. white man talking about it — the admirable traits deserve promotion and the opposite ones deserve suppression or removal. 

That’s true of us too.

That last part I guess goes back to the persisting colonialism that exists in Canada and the oppression of First Nations Peoples here. You’ve spoken out against violence in your music before, but you’ve also expressed the inclination to respond to violence with violence — and I’m thinking Stealing Fire and in particular If I Had a Rocket Launcher, and I know there have been other songs as well. Do you think in some cases that responding to violence with more violence is the only way to correct an injustice, and is that the feeling you have about the War in Afghanistan and Canadian troops there?

BRUCE COCKBURN: The short answer is no, I don’t think that violence produces justice. It might in the short term at least lessen injustice that somebody’s perpetrating on somebody else, but what I think about that kind of violence really comes from observations in Central America and Mozambique, and that there are times when there was no choice but to fight. I mean, literally no choice — you either fight or die. So do you take the ‘turn the other cheek’ point of view and just die? OK, I can decide that for myself; I might think that’s the right way for me to go. But I can’t make that decision on behalf of my daughter, or on behalf of my friends; they have to make their own decision that way. If somebody came and threatened my daughter, I wouldn’t think twice about fighting back. And that’s a reflex — there’s no philosophical justification for it and maybe none is required.

There are circumstances where fighting just seems to be inevitable, and I don’t think the invasion of Afghanistan is such a circumstance. I think it’s more complicated than that. But I do think that there has to be — and it’s not just Afghanistan, if you talk about people throwing acid. It’s happening all over India in massive numbers, and it’s happening over a whole lot of Asia — seemingly countries where there’s a large Muslim presence, and I’m not sure whether that’s fair or not, because I don’t think it’s an exclusively Muslim practice in India by any means. But all of that part of the world seems to want to do that, and in India it’s not just about subjugating women — it’s women doing it to other women as well. So how do you address that? It’s utterly abhorrent, barbaric behaviour being carried out by people who should know better in this world. How can you be a human being and not know better than that? But I’m not them. I don’t live in their culture and I don’t know what they have to deal with. But at the same time, you can’t just say, oh, they do that over there and it’s OK.

The acid-throwing was just a case and point. There’s all kinds of bad things that get done in the world, including here. There’s lots of ways in which women are abused in North American culture, and in which especially poor people are abused in North American culture. We can’t hold ourselves apart from that kind of stuff, but at the same time whether we have the right to judge or not because of our own failings, it’s still wrong. So you don’t make a wrong better by saying, you go ahead and do what you gotta do [and] I’m going to just do my thing over here. It has to be addressed because the world is the world — it’s this little ball and we’re all on it. We’re too close to each other for that stuff to not be addressed.

JUSTIN BRAKE: The question of whether or not it’s right to make judgments of other cultural practices and values and so on, versus militarily intervening in other countries’ affairs — you acknowledged the hypocrisy of having problems here in Canada. Of course we have the major problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women, colonialism of course. There are lots of major human rights issues right here at home, and of course more [Canadian] Afghanistan veterans have died by suicide than actually died in combat, so we obviously haven’t taken care of the people who we did send to Afghanistan.

BRUCE COCKBURN: No. It’s disgraceful, actually. The hypocrisy runs very deep. It’s all over the whole political world, but our particular government at the moment has the burden of what to me is the very reprehensible mistreatment of the people that they got so gung-ho about supporting. I mean, Harper was so pro-war, so pro-military, for a minute or two. And then it ceased to be expedient or it ceased to be something for him, and all of a sudden: ‘Oh yeah, we’re not going to get those new helicopters after all, we’re not going to get this, we’re not going to get that.’ If you’re going to have an Army — which it’s hard to imagine a major country in the world not having one — you’re asking people to go out and take major chances on our country’s behalf, then give them what they need to do the job. What kind of crap is that? [Laughs.]

JUSTIN BRAKE: The question I was leading into there was, in light of the fact that we don’t look after our veterans and we have major human rights issues here in Canada, do you feel we have an obligation to address those before we engage in military operations elsewhere in order to tell other nations and cultures how they ought to be doing things?

BRUCE COCKBURN: Well, in a perfect world that would be how it [should work], but I think it’s never that clean and tidy. It would be great if you thought you could actually get that done in a reasonable amount of time, and then be able to turn your energy to doing good elsewhere. But that just doesn’t happen — the world is messier than that. So in the meantime I think you have to look for a balance, I think you have to look for some kind of healthy perspective there.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to go to war, first of all, without some extremely serious consideration because it’s a horrible thing. But if you decide you’re going to go—I think it would be naïve to assume that any government anywhere is ever going to do things for altruistic reasons. I don’t think governments work like that any more than business works like that. I think that once in a while when government’s adopt policies or make moves that  have a kind of humanitarian or altruistic spin-off, it’s only a spion-off. We didn’t go to war in Afghanistan because the Government of Canada was outraged at the treatment of Afghan women. It happens that that’s a component of it, but really those choices are made based on politics and power and money, more than on anything else. And you might drum up popular support if you can whip people up into some kind of fighting frenzy based on notions of humanitarianism and rescuing somebody, but that isn’t why we were there.

But it is a side-effect of us being there, and to me…it’s just the fact that we as human beings can’t countenance the evils that other people do anymore than we can countenance our own. So the fact that we might have some issues doesn’t mean that we can’t be addressing other people’s issues if it can work, if there’s some possibility of something good being done. I don’t know.

It’s easy enough to just start hating people and think that they should be out of the picture. I don’t take back what I said about aspects of certain cultures that seem to have no justification, in my worldview at least. The world doesn’t need people who do that kind of stuff; the world doesn’t need some ultra-orthodox Israelis stabbing people in a gay pride parade. I mean, who needs that shit? It’s there. I don’t know that the answer is to try and round up all the Israelis who might do that — in fact, I’m pretty darn sure that’s not the answer. But you can’t ignore it.

JUSTIN BRAKE: In the film you were asked about the environment and you said, “We’re f—ked.” [Laughs.] Pretty succinct, frank statement. You’ve had four decades to experience and reflect on the power of music, not only to communicate things but to change things. And there’s also another great quote from the film where you said:

It’s hard sometimes to feel like anything you do has any meaning, and when we all do it together it at least crates the illusion that it is meaningful, and you go away with that illusion and it kind of energizes you. And it may not be an illusion, of course, and we may get lucky and a decision-maker may actually be influenced by what goes on in things like this.

On the issue of music and activism … the things you saw when you went to Central America we’re [now] able to see on the Internet with the click of a button. We can stream live television feeds from almost anywhere and watch injustices going on all around the world. You would think there might be more of a protest music movement going on, or in arts more generally. But mainstream and popular music has no time for these injustices—

BRUCE COCKBURN: —No, and it never has. The mainstream of anything is essentially commercial and it’s going to offer what sells, or what could be marketed to someone else’s benefit. I mean, there are people who feel that protest is inappropriate no matter what, just because it’s not the place of musicians to do that sort of stuff. There are people who genuinely hold that point of view. I don’t, but there are those who do. And some of those people live in places where if you stick your head up out of the sand, someone chops it off. So, they can be forgiven for thinking that way. But some of them don’t live in places like that and they just make a choice, and everybody’s allowed to choose how they’re going to live.

But I think there’s a lot of stuff going on. At the grassroots level there’s all kinds of protest [movements] and all kinds of interest in issues, certainly among musicians and I guess in the rest of the population — but it doesn’t get the media coverage unless Bono does it, or somebody very high profile. But the cumulative effect has weight, I think, over time. It remains messy, everywhere you look.

An individual song isn’t going to change the world, but a whole bunch of people singing about an issue and encouraging people to feel the truth of an issue might result in some sort of demographic of resistance that would then affect the choices that the politicians make. And I think that’s what we hope for. That’s what the Occupy movement almost was, and to some extent actually was — the bankers got around that stuff, but it was a close one and it made a lot of people pay attention, and it was also the result of a lot of people who were paying attention, who were being affected by things or were empathizing with those who were. It’s the empathy — I guess that’s what songs can do, and what musicians can do. But I think a song is stronger if it comes from your own experience than if you write about theory, and that’s true of the stuff you see on the media.

Yes, you can go online and you can watch ISIS cut people’s heads off, and it’s outrageous and horrifying — but it’s not the same as being there, by a long shot, and it’s not the same as knowing the people who are involved by a long shot. You could meet those ISIS guys that turn out to be really nice, you could hang with them and talk about God and stuff and they’ll be great, chances are. But then they go and do that — it’s a very complicated thing. But if you’re going to be an artist writing about stuff like that you kind of have to know what it is. There’s probably a million exceptions to what I’m about to say, but I don’t think you can really produce art that’s just about stuff you’ve seen on TV. I think you kind of have to have a feel for it.

JUSTIN BRAKE: Last question for you. Are you following along with Canadian politics, with the federal election coming up?

BRUCE COCKBURN: In a general way, yes. There’s a lot of day-to-day stuff that I don’t get to see, but in a general way, yes. And I think we’ve got to get those buggers out. [Laughs.] If you want an opinion in a nutshell, that’s what it comes down to. One can wish for a stronger alternative to what I see there, but in the absence of that stronger alternative just get them out of there, because they’re damaging everything in sight. It’s like turning your house over to a tribe of termites. That’s what these guys are, so get them out.

Bruce Cockburn performs at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival on Saturday, Aug. 8. For more information, including ticket prices, visit the festival’s website.

 

Posted June 30, 2015

Bruce Cockburn

Montreal Folk Festival Friday 19th June 2015
Ottawa Jazz Festival Saturday 20th June 2015 

Reviewed by Richard Hoare

When it was announced that Bruce was appearing at The Montreal Folk Festival and Ottawa Jazz Festival with Gary Craig and Roberto Occhipinti I experienced an adrenalin rush. This was followed by return to rational thought, “Leave it Richard, you live in the UK”! 

Something clicked in me that the drummer/percussionist that is Gary Craig coupled with the versatile bassist that is Roberto Occihpinti would make Cockburn’s performances incandescent. Bruce has known Roberto since the days that he lived in Toronto, once sat in with one of Roberto’s R’n’B bands in that city and has wanted to work with Roberto for some time but calendars clashed. Roberto is the brother of Michael Occhipinti who recorded a CD in 2000 of Cockburn’s songs as jazz instrumentals. The album was entitled Creation Dream and the musicians included Hugh Marsh, Jon Goldsmith and Bruce himself on one track. I reviewed this fine work for Gavin’s Woodpile when it was still a paper newsletter [Issue number 52, August 2002].    

The nagging draw continued until, on Friday 19th June, I strolled out of Monk metro station, Montreal, in the bright sunshine to walk the length of Monk Boulevard trying to find the Theatre Paradoxe where Cockburn was headlining the festival that night. At last I spotted the vertical sign on the side of the historical Church Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, now a community centre. I had arrived. Before the sound check started Bruce introduced me to his daughter, Jenny, who lives in Montreal.

The new trio had just spent two days in a rehearsal studio in Toronto. The sound check in Montreal was largely able to be a rehearsal, as the crew had ironed out the bugs in the PA. Roberto and Gary were already subtly jamming when Bruce arrived on stage to sing a few lines of Fever over their riff! Playing a vintage double bass Roberto has drive, subtly, solos, a violin bow and diverse talent to bring it all together. Gary’s playing with Cockburn goes back to the early 1990s involving both recordings and concerts. Craig brings that magical combination of beat and percussion without drowning out Cockburn’s amplified acoustic instruments. Fresh life was being blown through a back catalogue that was not specifically tied to an album release. Bruce selected instruments for different songs from his collection of two Manzer guitars, a 12 string guitar, the metal bodied Dobro and a charango made by Linda Manzer.

This trio brought an urgency and vibrancy to the Cockburn catalogue. Bone In My Ear, with Bruce on charango and Roberto on bowed bass, was absolutely amazing. There were tears in my eyes. Occhipinti even asked to try various “chugging” numbers before the close of the sound check.

The evening concert had had a variety of start times banded around in advertising and the media so by the time the musicians walked on stage at 9pm the audience in this 700 person capacity theatre were more than ready for the show. 

The back catalogue tracks, After The Rain, Rumours Of Glory, Lovers In A Dangerous Time and Tokyo were well received. Mango, Open and Bone In My Ear all benefitted from Roberto’s bowed bass. Slow Down Fast enabled the trio to stretch out and Waiting for a Miracle brought the first half to a close. 

The interval was over when the guys returned to kick off with Comets Of Kandahar, almost more appropriate for the double bass than the recorded violin version. City Is Hungry employed some jazz chops before settling back into songs like Iris Of The World, Strange Waters, Rocket Launcher and Let The Bad Air Out. Wondering Where The Lions Are gave a boost to the proceedings and the fire of Call It Democracy and Put It In Your Heart brought the second half to a close.

Thelast new album was 2011’s Small Source of Comfort, and for the last three years Bruce has been writing his Memoir. During that time, song writing has taken a back seat but Cockburn has started to write again. When the trio came back for encores Bruce explained that he was surprised to have written a gospel song before launching into the urgent Jesus Train “heading for the city of God” and this was the first time he was playing it to a concert audience. The show concluded with the timeless God Bless The Children. The day had been very enjoyable with just a faint hint of energy loss from the trio halfway through the second half.

It was late, the merchandise line was long and the metro would close soon for the night so I headed back to my hotel without seeing the band. At the end of the sound check that day Bruce had invited me to join the tour bus for the two hour drive to Ottawa tomorrow. 

Saturday was another bright sunny day and the tour bus left midmorning from the hotel downtown that the trio and crew had stayed at on Friday night. The bus banter included films, other music projects and family. Before I knew it the bus was pulling into Ottawa up to the backstage area of the jazz festival. While the stage was being set up Gary and I took a walk passed the parliament buildings, The Rideau Canal locks and took in a couple of markets for snacks. As we wandered, Gary said to me - Today we have to avoid the “sophomore slump”.   The Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage was housed under a tall marquee tent with a reputed 500 person capacity. With two of the tent sides rolled up for an additional standing audience on the left and back, the atmosphere was expectant for the earlier start of 7.30pm.

Cockburn grew up in Ottawa and the Ottawa Sun newspaper billed this show as a homecoming gig. Bruce’s two brothers, who still live in the area, were chatting with him in the bus when Gary and I returned from our walk and we were introduced.  We were even very close to the various locations of Le Hibou where Cockburn started performing all those decades ago.

The sound check was largely that, getting interference out of the PA system. However I was entertained with three instrumental jams along the way.   

As a festival date there was no interval, the set was slightly shorter than the day before but the audience and trio interaction maintained a vibrancy throughout the set. In fact this home crowd gave several standing ovations during the set. Comets Of Kandahar and City Is Hungry nailed the trio’s jazz credentials to the stage and Bruce played some wonderful guitar solos on Rocket Launcher, Jesus Train, Put It In Your Heart and Slow Down Fast. If you think it’s just Richard raving about Bruce again check out the review in the Ottawa Sun on line  [Or see the article just below this one].

I waited at the end of the merchandise line to thank Bruce and his road manager for a great visit. “See you in October in the UK” they both said in unison!  

I really hope that any new work incorporates the talents of Gary Craig and Roberto Occhipinti. A while ago Cockburn was quoted as saying he would like to record with Sunn O))), Seattle drone metal band. Scott Walker has recently done that. What we need now is the new twist to Cockburn’s music that is Bruce, Roberto and Gary.


My thanks to Daniel Keebler, to my wife, Mary, our family and my employer for their blessings, which enabled the dream to become reality.

 

June 20, 2015
The Ottawa Sun

Bruce Cockburn diehards packed the tent for hometown hero
by Aedan Helmer 


As odd pairings go, it was a doozy.

Ottawa-raised Bruce Cockburn making a celebrated return to his hometown -- tucked away in a full-to-bursting Laurier Ave. tent -- while the Philly-bred Roots crew invaded TD Ottawa Jazzfest's Main Stage, taking a Saturday night off from their house gig under the bright late-night television lights of The Tonight Show.

You could almost sense the spirit of Pete Seeger at the side of the stage, vowing to yank the plug.

But once Questlove, Blackthought and company took the stage, they left no doubt they were right where they belonged -- though some of the jazz traditionalists in the crowd may have disagreed, once their lawn chairs were evicted from prime dancing ground.

And while Tonight Show viewers are only treated to snippets around commercial breaks The Roots got to strut their stuff in front of a packed Confederation Park.

Launching into their signature The Next Movement -- with its acid jazz-infused Rhodes hook putting The Roots in a class of their own when they broke out with 1999's seminal Things Fall Apart -- the band did proceed to rock the mic with Proceed, The Fire and Mellow My Man, barely pausing to take a breath through the entire 90-minute set.

A late addition to the festival's star-studded roster -- and one that would have been circled on calendars of the young, urban crowd who might otherwise give Jazzfest a miss -- The Roots ended up bumping Bruce Cockburn to a side stage, and an earlier time slot, after he was originally announced as a Main Stage headliner.

It was a shame Cockburn's throng of fans didn't get to see him in all his glory, and while it's always a delicate dance at festivals, a wiser scheduling move may have seen the celebrated songwriter playing the Main Stage in the early evening slot, shifting Duchess and their Andrews Sisters-style torch songs to the tent.

As it was, the Laurier tent was already swelling to the seams by the time Cockburn emerged.

And so cherished is Cockburn, especially around his old stomping grounds, simply striding onstage earned his first of several standing ovations from the lucky 500 fans who crammed in to the standing room-only show.

Dressed head-to-toe in black, capped by a grey tuft and trademark round-rim glasses, Cockburn dug into his acoustic guitar on the instrumental opener Comets of Kandahar, his gruff and wonderfully strained vocals making their first appearance on The Iris of the World, both drawn from his latest studio offering, 2011's Small Source of Comfort.

But as Cockburn acknowledged, the songs are "from my most recent album, which is not very recent."

"I got involved in writing a memoir, and it took up all my creative energy, so we're not here promoting an album, we're just here to play some music," he said to more applause.

He did just that, delighting his long-serving faithful with songbook staples like If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Rumours of Glory and Lovers in a Dangerous Time, with its unmistakable opening chords ringing, setting things in motion for one of the all-time great lyrical entries into the Canadian canon.

Accompanied by the excellent Roberto Occhipinti, who has won Junos of his own as a renowned bassist, and drummer Gary Craig, Cockburn shone as an instrumentalist as well as a gifted wordsmith, with his acid-laced, politically-charged lyrics propelled by some absolutely menacing guitar work.

And, this being Jazzfest, he left plenty of room for Occhipinti to explore, which he did expertly, walking the length of the upright bass or breaking out the bow for the uncharted waters.

And while Duchess were delightful, with their Andrews Sisters-inspired torch song harmonies -- which they saucily trademarked as girl-on-girl harmony -- they may have been better suited to the cozy confines of the tent, if only to allow Cockburn and company to truly stretch out on the Main Stage.

 

ArtsMania
June 18, 2015

Interview With Bruce Cockburn
by Anita Malhotra

In is 45-year career as a guitarist and singer-songwriter, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has produced 31 albums of passionate, evocative songs based on his personal experiences and his observations while travelling, often in war-torn countries and in a humanitarian role.

With more than seven million records sold, he has been honoured with 13 Juno Awards, 21 gold and platinum certifications, membership in 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 in 2002 was promoted to Officer.

Last year, Cockburn published the extensive, very personal memoir Rumours of Glory, which details his childhood, travels, humanitarian work, personal relationships and spiritual search as well as the stories behind many of his songs. 

Anita Malhotra spoke to Bruce Cockburn, who now lives in San Francisco, by telephone about his life and music on June 12, 2015.


AM
: You turned 70 a few weeks ago. Was turning 70 any particular cause for reflection?

BC: It’s cause for alarm more than reflection! I put so much reflection into writing the book that it wasn’t, really. It’s like, “Okay I’m 70 now,” and I wrote this book and the book has all this stuff in it, but I think that that kind of superseded any information to be overly reflective of on my birthday. A bunch of us were gathered in a little resort town in Delaware at the end of the northeastern U.S. tour that I was doing through the month of May, and there was a lot of eating, drinking and merriment, and that’s what I was thinking about.

AM: Your autobiography Rumours of Glory is very personal, very honest. Was the process of writing the book cathartic for you?

BC: Not exactly. It was instructive in certain ways and it was an interesting process, by turns gratifying and kind of exciting, and horrible. The horrible part had to do with deadlines, mostly, and with a couple of points where I got stuck and didn’t know how to proceed. But the chief one of those was remedied by engaging Greg King to be a co-writer on it. I’m not really given to a lot of rehashing the past. I’ve never been much for going back and sentimentalizing things, or being perturbed by things other than the things that have gone into my make-up that have to be exorcized either by time or by psychological or spiritual effort.

I think it came out to be an interesting story – in certain ways representative of the second half of the twentieth century. In some ways I think my life’s pretty representative of everybody’s life during that period. But because I’ve gotten to travel and be engaged with certain manifestations of the big political strokes – the Cold War and the proxy wars that were associated with that, for example, and post-colonial upheavals – I got to see them up a little closer than a lot of people did.

BC: I learned how to have fun in troubled places. It’s a slightly glib answer, but one of the things that really jumped out, especially in the trips to Latin America, is how ready people were to enjoy what they could of their lives. It put the kind of morbidity of a lot of politically involved people in Canada that I was acquainted with into perspective.

I learned what it is to be physically afraid – living or travelling in a place where really bad stuff can and does happen. That can happen at home too, but the likelihood is different in a war zone and the atmosphere is so different. It’s one of precariousness that everybody seems to feel. And for that reason there’s a greater degree of warmth and openness among the people that you’re thrown together with.

And then I learned a lot about global politics through travel in places where the political maneuverings were made manifest in very hands-on, immediate ways.

AM: Your songs and performances are very passionate. What are some of the emotions behind this passion?

BC: Like every other artist I have the temerity to think that people will be interested in what I have to say, and so  I’m standing up and going, “Look at me. Listen to me. I’ve got something to tell you.” But it’s really down to the song. Songs – from an emotional point of view for me – are like a scrapbook. Whenever I sing a song like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” I go exactly right where I was when I wrote it. It’s not a good feeling at all, but it’s part of the process of performing that song that came from the heart. And the same is true of the more cheerful songs, of love songs, and so on. They all represent a place and time and set of events that the songs don’t necessarily record exactly, but they’re snapshots of.

AM: You’ve spoken and written about your spirituality. What has been the role of the higher power in your life?

BC: I feel like I’ve been pushed and prodded and led and steered by hook or by crook through a course that led early on to an interest in a relationship with God. I’ve taken a conscious hand in that to some extent, but I really feel every now and then something happens and I know that that big finger’s stirring the pot. I speak very metaphorically here because I don’t think God has fingers, although I guess he could if he wanted to. I’m still working on it and I’ll be working on it till I’m prevented by death or whatever. Maybe it continues after that – it might well. However much I don’t pay attention to it from moment to moment, it’s still at the centre of everything and it shows up in a lot of songs and it shows up in a lot of elements in my life.

AM: What musical accomplishment are you most proud of?

BC: I don’t really think about that stuff too much. I suppose gaining the skill that I have with guitar would be something I’m pleased about. What there is that’s better than pride is a sense of actively doing something meaningful when I’m performing the songs or when I’m sitting around practicing, for that matter. I am grateful for that, but I felt pretty proud to have a stamp. I don’t think it’s a musical accomplishment – it’s related, but I didn’t do anything musical to get a stamp. And I didn’t do anything musical to get to be an Officer of the Order of Canada, but I’m kind of proud of that because I feel like a Canadian and I feel touched by an expression of a membership in the collective consciousness of Canada.

I don’t relate it to politics. When Mulroney got made a Companion of the Order, I almost sent my membership in the Order back. I thought, “I don’t want to be in the same organization as that jerk.” But then I thought better of it. It’s bigger than that. So I stuck with it, and I eventually got promoted to Officer. But unless I get to be Prime Minister or something, I’m not likely to be a Companion.

AM: What is your daily routine like if you’re not touring?

BC: I get up about six o’clock, I get dressed, I take my daughter to daycare. Then I get done for the next few hours whatever it is I have to do that day. It may or may not include some practicing – hopefully it does. It includes things like laundry – I’m sitting in front of the laundromat right now. So I just get stuff done, and then around five o’clock I go get her again and then we have dinner and then I go to bed. That’s my routine.

AM: How old is your daughter now?

BC: Three. I have an older daughter who has four kids of her own, but the young one is three.

AM: You’ve donated your notebooks and other archives to McMaster University. What can be found in these archives, and why did you do that?

BC: They extended the invitation to do that and I thought, you know, I’ve saved a lot of junk over the years and I  might as well give it to them. I say junk, but most of it isn’t junk – most of it is stuff that is part of the story. We made liberal use of the archives in writing the book. My old notebooks are part of that collection – that’s probably the most significant part of it. There’s posters from travels, from touring, some European posters, stuff like that. There’s a couple of guitars that have been in videos or that were part of my stage performance for a while. There’s quite a lot of stuff, actually. A lot of demos and rough mixes of albums and stuff like that too.

AM: What are some of your upcoming projects? Do you have album in the works?

BC: I’d like to have but I wasn’t a songwriter for the three years I was writing the book. I was an author. Now I’m  a songwriter again. I’ve got a few new songs, but not enough to think about doing an album. And I’m not sure anymore whether albums are appropriate even. I still think in terms of albums, but most of the rest of the world doesn’t. But I do have the intention of eventually coming out with new stuff. Beyond that, I’ve got a bunch of touring that’s going to keep me busy. Between being at home with my family and kind of balancing that with being on the road, I’m booked up until December.

AM: What material are you featuring in your upcoming tour and what will you be performing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival?

BC: I’ve got some rehearsals coming up next week in Toronto with Gary Craig, who plays drums, and Roberto Occhipinti, the bass player. It’s interesting because we’re doing the Montreal Folk Festival and the Ottawa Jazz Festival back-to-back. I think it will be an interesting mix of older and newer and the familiar and the obscure. I want to try to allow as much jazz into the performance that I can. Roberto comes from that world and is a very fine musician, so I’m hoping that there’ll be some interesting interplay between all three of us. Gary and I worked together a lot before, so he’s more of a known quantity. But it should be pretty energetic and it should be a cross-section of stuff. I’ll be playing a couple of different guitars and trying to remember the words.

PHOTOS: Cockburn in the recording studio in 2010 for the album “Small Source of Comfort” (photos by Daniel Keebler)

Bruce Cockburn performs at the Théâtre Paradoxe in Montreal on June 19, 2015 and at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 20, 2015 followed by dates throughout the summer in Canada and the United States. For more information on Bruce Cockburn and his music, visit brucecockburn.com.

 

June 16, 2015
The Ottawa Citizen

Bruce Cockburn: Back to his musical basics
by Lynn Saxberg

After spending the better part of the last three years writing a memoir, Bruce Cockburn has little desire to continue working to the kind of schedule required by a publisher.

“I’ll be happy if there are no deadlines at all,” declared the Canadian Music Hall of Famer by phone from his home in San Francisco.

“The actual writing, the sitting down and coming up with language was fun, as much fun as writing songs. I always feel like Sherlock Holmes on the trail of something: I’m tracking down the next line. That was true of the book, but the presence of deadlines made it very stressful.”

The memoir, Rumours of Glory, was published last year (accompanied by a nine-CD box set), freeing Cockburn up to get back to his first love, writing songs. He has three new tunes in the works, none of which are ready to perform, and no deadline to finish them. As is his preference.

“I went through a brief phase early on where I thought real writers write every day so I thought I should try that,” explains the 70-year-old Ottawa-born singer-songwriter-guitarist. “After about a year doing that, I ended up with about the same amount of usable stuff as if I had just waited for the good ideas so I opted for waiting for the good ideas, and it’s been that way ever since.”

It’s been four years since his last studio album, Small Source of Comfort, long enough to see further changes in the ever-shifting music landscape. Even a legend like Cockburn, known for hard-hitting topical songs like If I Had a Rocket Launcher and Lovers in a Dangerous Time, has to wonder where he fits in.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to approach coming back to being a songwriter,” he says. “I did gigs through that period so I was not completely away from the scene, but I didn’t write anything. It’s different now than it was even five years ago, and it’s moving fast. By the time I feel like I’m ready to make a CD, will I make one or will I sprinkle out a bunch of tracks online?”

In the next breath, he answers his own question: “I still think in terms of making CDs, and I know lots of other artists do, too, and not just old guys. I don’t think the medium is dead. I think that there is a place for a collection of songs, and I don’t really sympathize with the trend, which is to just put out these things one-off without any kind of background or connections.

“An album is kind of like a book, a collection of poetry, and so where that will fit in in the current scene, I don’t know if it does at all. But I’m not worried about it until I have enough songs to worry about it.”

In the meantime, there are plenty of gigs, including a hometown show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. He’ll be playing with longtime drummer Gary Craig and a new sideman, Toronto bassist Roberto Occhipinti, who’s known for his jazz chops. “I’m hoping there will be some jamming and stuff in the set, but I won’t really know ’til we do some rehearsing,” Cockburn says, describing the jazzier configuration as a new adventure.

Another factor influencing his life these days is his three-year-old daughter, Iona, who frequently travels with her parents when Dad is on tour. Needless to say, there are no journeys planned to war zones.

“It makes for a slightly more complicated balancing act with respect to touring,” Cockburn says. “That’s the biggest single effect. It’s also harder to get time. I’m living the life of a young family man and I’m not a young family man. I’m an old family man. There are energy requirements that I manage to meet but it’s hard work sometimes.”

Except for lack of sleep, Cockburn says he’s in good health. Retirement is a long way off.

“I’ll retire when I have to. If my hands stop working or my brain stops working and I recognize it, then I’ll retire, I guess, but I don’t have any expectations of quitting voluntarily.”

 

June 1, 2015
United Church Observer

Interview with Bruce Cockburn
by Mardi Tindal

Q You gave your memoir the same title as one of your songs, Rumours of Glory. What does that title say about your religious journey?

A I’ve certainly gone through different perspectives on the whole issue of God and Jesus and what it is to be a seeker. I think what that song is attempting to portray is the hint of God — “rumours.”

The hints are around us all the time, yet we tend not to see evidence of God’s presence as readily as it’s presented. At least I don’t. But once in a while it hits you, and this song was triggered by what’s described in the first verse. I was in New York, looking up between the buildings at the part of the sky that was visible, at dusk in winter. It was crossed by two vapour trails, and they were lit by the setting sun, which wasn’t visible because it was behind the buildings.

The streets were darkening and filling with people coming out of their jobs. It was that — the contrast between the relatively grumpy-looking crowd of people leaving work and trying to get on the subway, the grit of New York streets, and then this glorious image in the sky. It seemed like one of those hints.

As a title for the book, it’s ironic more than anything. My career has been pretty good, but is it glorious? I’m not glorious enough to be featured in the tabloids.

Q You write that the Catholic mystic Thomas Merton has influenced you. Merton embodied a spirituality of paradox, as do you. You say you’re living your life as best you can in line with the word of Christ, and yet you’re not necessarily taking that word as gospel. You say that praying in the company of others can be nurturing, and yet question the value of religious worship or affiliation.

A I see a pattern full of that contrast. It’s full of ambiguity and dichotomy and slipperiness. Just look at people in any context — it could be at a cocktail party or a worship service or a war. You’ll see all this stuff going on. There’s beauty and grace, and there’s spite and ugliness. What I see is that God’s there in that relationship. It’s for me to be open to him and receptive. That’s what I work at. A long time ago, when I was new to the game so to speak, the forms [of religion] were valuable. I still like ritual, but the ritual has to be about that relationship to God.

Q Much of this seems beyond words at all.

A I think there’s a trap inherent in taking words at face value. Sometimes that’s what you have to do, and it’s appropriate, but other times you have to read the heart of the person speaking and look past the actual words. If I hear a minister preaching, I have to try to hear past the literal words if I’m going to take him seriously. I’m not saying that the words don’t matter, because they do. But if you want to know whether or not to admit those words into yourself, you need to feel the heart of the person delivering them. It’s about the relationship with God.

Q You describe your early days in The United Church of Canada in your book, and tuning in to a sermon when you were 10 or 11 and noticing that the minister was talking about “real stuff” — “he was nailing something.”

A I was sitting there with my parents and had my pad of paper and my pencil, getting ready to occupy myself during the sermon. For some reason, that day I listened to [the minister] speak, and it really made sense to me. In this case, I don’t think I was looking past the words. I was looking at the words for the first time, and grasping that it wasn’t just a guy up there telling you to wash your hands and pray or whatever. 

Another powerful experience was my acquaintance with Peter Hall, the organist at Westboro United [in Ottawa], who taught me theory and piano. He was a real mentor, helping me appreciate music and get deeper into it.

Then in the 1980s and ’90s, through my travels and connections with charitable work in various parts of the world, I was aware that the United Church was very active and very outspoken on some issues I thought were really important. The United Church has stood out as an agent for positive social change. 

Q You’ve said that people who maintain a relationship with the Divine bear a special burden of healing. How do you see that call of Christ today?

A There are some obvious worldly examples. How do you exercise compassion and forgiveness to ISIS, for example? I have trouble with that. I want to kill them all, but I don’t think that’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s probably the most extreme example.

I feel like the world’s getting screwier and screwier and there’s a kind of entropy taking hold. The challenge is to respond to that increasing madness from a godly base.

It’s tricky. That one-to-one relationship with God becomes really important, although it can get off balance too. People do all kinds of horrible things thinking that God told them to do it. So you need some community around you to bounce off, to keep you moving in the right direction.

Q How do you maintain that relationship with the Divine?

A I struggle with a lack of trust, which I didn’t know back in the day. When I was a more active churchgoer, I felt like I had a pretty solid faith. But I had a conversation with a Presbyterian minister friend of mine who said, “Do you believe in an all-powerful, all-seeing God?”

I said, “Yeah, I do, but I don’t trust him. I don’t want to be available to him, because he’s going to ask me to do [things] I don’t want to do.” This is a totally wrong-headed way to think about it, but this is my default position, and I struggle with that. I’m winning, little by little — or God’s winning. It’s getting better. The period of doubt I’ve gone through has been an exercise in going deeper.

I’ve been doing Jungian-based dream work for a long time, and through it I’ve come to find myself; I’m able to feel love from God and receive it.

MJ [my wife] recently started going to a Pentecostal church, but it doesn’t conform to my previously held stereotype of a Pentecostal church. It’s full of spirit and brains and fun, a real sense of joy. I was shocked to discover this and finally let MJ persuade me to go with her. Then I got invited to play with the band. So I go now and sit in the church band as a guitar player. It’s an unfolding process.

Q You’ve had a lot of labels in your day — including psalmist and prophet.

A And some less complimentary ones!

Q Which seem to fit now?

A You know, I’m just a guy trying to live. I don’t have a convenient label for myself, but I can look with hindsight and see prophetic bits in the songs. I’ve written three songs since the book came out, and the most recent is a gospel song. So where is that going? I don’t know. Part of the job of being human is just to try to spread light, at whatever level you can do it. Songs are one level, and it’s not simple. You can spread light with dark songs, because they invite people to notice and respond to what’s around them. They are invitations to look.  

This interview has been condensed and edited.

 

May 13, 2015
GazetteNet

Music review: A life in music and words: Bruce Cockburn explores range of human emotion at Iron Horse show


When you’ve been writing and playing songs for 45-plus years, you have a lot of material to work with. In fact, you might have so much that you’d need to write a memoir to put it all in context.

That’s just what Bruce Cockburn, the venerable Canadian songwriter and guitarist, has done. “Rumours of Glory,” which was published late last year, recounts his long career as a musician, human rights activist, and spiritual explorer. With 31 albums and a raft of musical and humanitarian awards to his credit, Cockburn — who turns 70 May 27 — has a lot of ground to cover.

He brought copies of his book, as well as a new boxed set of CDs, to Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall last Friday, the first of two nights he would perform there before a sold-out house. He also brought four guitars — two six-string acoustics, a resonator guitar and a 12-string acoustic — to showcase his inventive finger-style work and the jazz, world music, blues and folk sounds he incorporates in his songs.

Cockburn is by his own admission a pretty shy, introverted person — though he’s become somewhat less so over the years — and he joked that he’d felt a little self-conscious when he’d visited Northampton’s “local bookstores” to see if they had copies of his memoir.

“My manager, Bernie, always used to tell me to visit local record stores when I was on tour and check out what they had of mine,” he said. “I never liked to do that.” He added that he’d looked as unobtrusively as possible for his book in Northampton’s stores “but I didn’t see any. But maybe they bought 100 copies and sold them all.”

Not to worry. As one woman at the packed Iron Horse called out, “We have it, and we love it!”

The crowd also loved Cockburn’s songs, which he plucked from throughout his long career: 1973’s “All the Diamonds in the World,” “Hills of Morning” from 1979, “Understanding Nothing” from 1987, and 1995’s “Pacing the Cage.” There was also the beautiful guitar piece “The End of All Rivers,” one of the tracks from his 2005 instrumental album, “Speechless.” 

As good a guitarist as he is — Cockburn often lays down a thumping rhythm with his thumb and plays melodic leads with his first three fingers — he’s won much of his acclaim as a lyricist, and his songs have been covered by a wealth of artists, from Barenaked Ladies to Jimmy Buffett. Whether writing about his own spiritual explorations or the injustice he’s witnessed around the world, he brings a poetic intensity and sense of the mystical to many of his songs. He’s a Christian, he says, who has moved away from organized religion but still stresses the importance of what he calls “the divine” in his life.

Case in point: For the second song of his set, he played “Strange Waters,” which is built around slow, chiming chords and observational lyrics about a journey that could be both literal and metaphorical: “I’ve stood in airports guarded glass and chrome / Walked rifled roads and landmined loam / Seen a forest in flames right down to the road / Burned in love till I’ve seen my heart explode.”

At the Iron Horse, Cockburn’s voice sometimes strained when he approached the top of his range. Yet that lent a sense of urgency to songs like “Call It Democracy,” a full-throttle attack on the International Monetary Fund and its role in bracketing poor countries in debt: “Padded with power here they come / International loan sharks backed by the guns / Of market hungry military profiteers / Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared / With the blood of the poor.”

It was one of Cockburn’s more impassioned moments during an otherwise fairly low-key set; he played the song on his 12-string guitar, giving it some added drive and volume and bringing the crowd to its feet at the end.

“I guess not a lot has changed since I wrote this,” he said about the 1985 song. “I’m not sure when the revolution is going to come.”

Then, when someone called out, “Let’s start it now,” he paused for a moment, then quipped, “I’m in danger of making a speech.”

In search of humanity

Cockburn, born and raised primarily in Canada’s capital of Ottawa, took up the guitar in his late teens and studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the mid-1960s, though he left without a degree. He later played with a number of rock bands in Canada before concentrating on songwriting, releasing a series of folk-oriented albums beginning in the early 1970s.

In the 1980s, though, his music began to embrace wider influences, and he also developed a reputation as a “political” songwriter, in part from songs like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” That 1983 tune was inspired by his visit to a camp of Guatemalan refugees on Mexico’s border, people who had fled the attacks of Guatemala’s military — many of whose leaders had been trained by the United States — during the country’s 30-year civil war. Furious about the refugees’ plight, Cockburn imagined shooting down Guatemalan helicopters that buzzed the area.

Over the years, he’s traveled to countries such as Nicaragua, Mozambique and Iraq as part of his activism, playing benefit concerts and jamming with musicians in other nations. He’s also worked with organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Friends of the Earth. 

Yet in his memoir, Cockburn, who now lives in San Francisco with his second wife, says his songs “tend to be triggered by whatever is in front of me, filtered through feeling and imagination. I went looking for humanity in all its guises ... the love, the meanness, the artists, the farmers, the juntas ... the conflicts, the peace, the music. That’s why I don’t think of the things I write as ‘protest’ songs.”

Indeed, although the crowd at the Iron Horse applauded all his tunes, the ones that seemed to bring out the warmest feelings were the ones exploring the range of human emotion, from regret and sadness to wonder and faith. He had the audience singing along with the chorus of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” a lilting folk tune about a sudden feeling of optimism that he introduced by saying, “Here’s one that came back into the repertoire recently after being out of it for a long time.” The tune, from 1979, was Cockburn’s only Top 40 U.S. single.

Though he played solo, Cockburn added unusual textures to some of his songs by activating, through a foot pedal, a pair of heavy steel chimes positioned on either side of the stage. The chimes lent a particular resonance to “The End of All Rivers,” the instrumental track, which Cockburn played with reverb, echo and digital delay on his guitar, allowing the song’s hypnotic central riff to repeat as he added a long solo over the top.

He also closed the show with two songs, “Mystery” and “Put It In Your Heart,” that speak to the power of love and beauty to offset the worst the world and humankind can show — or the problems that can bedevil a single person. On the gentle “Mystery,” which included a pretty solo, he sang “Come all you stumblers who believe love rules / Stand up and let it shine.”

As the song ended and applause rang out, one woman seemed to speak for many when she called, “I don’t want the show to end!”

 

May 2, 2015
D. Keebler

Bruce and The Hellbender Salamander

I recently contacted Mark Pagano of the St. Louis-based band, Fire Dog, which also includes Celia on bass guitar and Mike Schurk on drums. Bruce contributed a few lines via telephone for the song, Hellbender. It first appeared on the CD, May These Changes, in 2012. Bruce later phoned in to particpate in a revamp of the same song, which appears on the CD, For the Kids, to be released in May 2015. Also of note, Fire Dog covers Bruce's song, For The Birds, on the latter CD. The following is from Mark Pagano.

As for Bruce's part on "Hellbender"... It was indeed a phone call to Sawhorse Studios. He delivered the lines that I had researched and written: "It's true that since the 1980's the Hellbender population has been devastated due to rising temperatures, water pollution, and the mysterious chytrid fungus. The Hellbender is now an endangered species." He said them a couple of times and we just cut them in.

We recorded the song in 2011 after a friend brought me to the Hellbender Breeding Center at the St. Louis Zoo earlier that year. Shortly after recording the track, the St. Louis Zoo announced that after ten years of work they finally had fertilized eggs.

In 013, I began using the song in St. Louis Public Schools as a teaching tool in my songwriting residencies. I also began using another line that is a direct quote from Jeff Briggler of Missouri Department of Conservation: "What happens to the Hellbender, happens to us." Kids really connected with this line so when we revamped "Hellbender" on the "For the Kids" album, I asked Bruce to call it in again, which he did this past November [2014].

It was really a great moment for me to have Bruce in studio even if it was via phone. I love his delivery of the lines... it's so Bruce Cockburn!

One detail...  The friend who brought me to the breeding center, Mikal Shapiro (Kansas City, MO), was working on a project called Go-Go Global Girls. The song "Hellbender" was originally produced for this project.

Visit the Firedog website

 

May 1, 2015
Relix

Parting Shots: Bruce Cockburn
by Dean Budnick

In his new memoir, Rumours Of Glory, Bruce Cockburn shares stories from a career that began in the mid-1960s, following a stint at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The Canadian troubadour also offers accounts of his world travels, social activism and spiritual life. There are plenty of musical memories as well, which are reinforced by a 9-CD box set of the same name, with tracks selected by Cockburn from his 31 albums to offer

In your book, you describe your rather unique reaction to hearing yourself on the radio for the first time back in 1970.

I had been writing songs for a few years in a bunch of different bands. So I had these bodies of songs and I felt choked up on them. I felt that having to carry all these songs in my head was getting in the way of writing new ones. So I wanted to make a record, and in my imagination, that record would allow me to forget about those songs because they would have been there and accounted for, so I could get on to writing new ones. Of course, what I didn’t realize was that it doesn’t work like that—when you record those songs, then everyone wants you to play those songs. 

On the day my album came out, I was in the Yorkville area, which was the Toronto equivalent of Haight-Asbury or the Village in New York, and was the center of the counterculture scene. This was at a time when free-form FM radio was really just taking off and all the stores in that area would listen to this particular radio station called CHUM. So I’m in a store and they were playing my music. No one knew me but I felt like I had a big finger pointing at me. It was terrifying. 

So I left the store and went into a different store that had the same radio station on and they were playing the whole album. You could do that kind of thing back in those days. I felt like I would never have a sense of privacy again. It was a very excruciating experience and I felt I had to duck and hide. 

While we are on the subject of hearing yourself, Bono references your song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” in U2’s “God Part II” [“Heard a singer on the radio late last night/ Says he’s gonna kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight”]. Do you recall the context in which you first heard that? Was it obvious that he was referencing you?

I think the album was out for a year or two before I actually heard it, but it was obvious when I heard the song. I had met Bono in the late ‘80s or very early ‘90s at a Christian festival in England. We had a chat and he expressed his approval of that song at that time, but nobody ever called me to tell me that they had done it. I kind of heard it through the grapevine and eventually I did hear the album, and there it was. 

Did you have any exchanges with Jerry Garcia over the years, and what was your response to hearing him perform a song of yours [“Waiting for a Miracle,” which became a Jerry Garcia Band staple in 1989 and appears on the group’s selftitled 1991 live album]? 

I heard from audience members that his band was doing the song live. Then his record company applied for the mechanical licenses that are part of the process. I was very excited, so I got the album and I put it on. It was a beautiful version, musically, and it had great energy, but the lyrics were unrecognizable in places. Right after that, a Bob Dylan song came on [“Simple Twist of Fate”] and the lyrics were quite altered in Garcia’s version as well, so I felt better. I told myself: “Well, if he is doing it to everybody, then I am in good company.” [Laughs.] 

Sometime that same year, the Dead were doing one of their week-long extravaganzas at Madison Square Garden. I happened to be in New York, and somebody said, “Let’s go put you together with Jerry.” So I was ushered up onto the stage behind the amps where his tent was, and Jerry came out. He was very gracious and a lovely guy. We shook hands, and he said, “Man, it’s great to meet you! That’s a beautiful song, I hope I didn’t screw up the lyrics too much!” And then I said, “Well, I was going to wait till the second time I met you to bring that up, but it’s OK you did it your own way, and I’m glad you did…” 

Speaking of iconic rock guitarists, you once shared a bill with Jimi Hendrix and you nearly shared a stage with him. 

I was in a band that was originally called The Flying Circus but, because of competition from another band, we changed it to Olivus. We thought the name was terribly clever and we got a job opening shows, including some big ones like Wilson Pickett, Cream and Jimi Hendrix. 

The Hendrix one was in Montreal in an arena and, after the show, there was a party in which all the participants were invited to a studio downtown. Hendrix had done an amazing show and, after a while, Mitch Mitchell came in and I got to talk to him. Then Hendrix came in and there was a stage with instruments and equipment but no one was using them. So he looked around at the people in the shadows and he said: “I don’t know what they are staring at. I want to play some music.” 

Then he got up onstage and there were open jam sessions. I could have played, but I felt that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute to this jam session, so I would be better off not to reveal that to anyone present. I listened to a little bit, then I left. It was very interesting. He had a natural vibe about him. He just seemed like a regular guy and he seemed to expect other people to act like him, too. 

What is the most inspiring live performance that you have ever witnessed as an audience member?

It would be a toss-up between the first time I saw Ani DiFranco and the only time I have ever seen Laurie Anderson, for very different reasons. I saw Laurie Anderson when she was touring the Mister Heartbreak album, and that was an incredible union of art, technology, humor and thoughtfulness. Then years later, the first time I met Ani, we were both playing at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival [in 1995]. At the time, I had never listened to her music, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 

I chose to answer in terms of pop performances, but nothing could top hearing John Coltrane on a Saturday afternoon at The Jazz Workshop in Boston in ‘64. 


April 21, 2015
Canada Newswire

Term extension benefits Canadian artists, music companies and the economy: Music Canada

OTTAWA and TORONTO, /CNW/ - Music Canada applauds the Government of Canada's 2015 Budget for announcing the intention to amend the term of copyright for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. 

"By proposing to extend the term of copyright in recorded music, Prime Minister Harper and the Government of Canada have demonstrated a real understanding of music's importance to the Canadian economy. Thank you. We look forward to seeing the full details when the Budget Implementation Act is tabled," says Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada. 

"With each passing day, Canadian treasures like Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie are lost to the public domain.  This is not in the public interest.  It does not benefit the creator or their investors and it will have an adverse impact on the Canadian economy," adds Henderson. 

Leonard Cohen reinforces the urgency of the problem, "In just a few short years, songs we recorded in the late 1960s will no longer have copyright protection in Canada.  Many of us in our 70's and 80's depend on income from these songs for our livelihood.  We would deeply appreciate any adjustment that would avert a financial disaster in our lives."  

This change will rectify the long-standing competitive disadvantage that Canadian artists and Canadian music has had by not being aligned with our international trading partners.  A 70 year term of copyright has become the norm internationally.  More than 60 countries worldwide protect copyright in sound recordings for a term of 70 years or longer, including all of Europe, the U.S., and Australia.  Across Europe, Canadian artists are denied to the full 70 year term of protection due to Canada's shorter term of protection. 

"The world has changed since our original copyright laws were drafted," says Bruce Cockburn.  "Every piece of music is, at least theoretically, with us forever. Extending the copyright term is an eminently sensible response to this new situation, and a welcome one!" 

"I support extending the length of copyright for sound recordings in Canada to 70+ years," adds Jim Cuddy.  "The copyright of a creative work should not expire in the lifetime of an author."  

Term extension fosters increased investment in new artists.  With a significant average annual investment by music companies of over 28% of revenues in developing talent, the next generation of performing artists will benefit from this copyright amendment now and well into the future.

"I'm glad that Canada has extended our copyright term, so we can continue to use the proceeds from classic Canadian recordings to invest in great Canadian talent," said Kardinal Offishall.        

Music Canada is a non-profit trade organization that represents the major record companies in Canada, namely Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Universal Music Canada and Warner Music Canada.  Music Canada also works with some of the leading independent record labels and distributors, recording studios, live music venues, concert promoters, managers and artists in the promotion and development of the music cluster. 

 

April 10, 2015
Excerpt from the 
Tallahassee Democrat

Words & music: Welcome to the very first Word of South
by Mark Hinson

“When Mark Mustian told me of the concept of Word of the South, I leapt at the chance to invite Bruce (Cockburn) down to Tallahassee,” Robert Olen Butler said.

The novelist is teaming up with Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn (“Wondering Where The Lions Are”) on Sunday afternoon. Cockburn will play guitar while Butler reads a short story. The two first worked together in 1997 during the SummerStage Festival in New York City’s Central Park. Butler admits he is a longtime fan of Cockburn.

“I had loved Bruce Cockburn’s music since the very early 70s, a decade before I began to publish,” Butler said in an email. “I loved his music so much that when I published my first novel, ‘The Alleys of Eden,’ in 1981, I immediately sent a signed, adulatory copy to him through his management. I never heard back from him, though I certainly didn’t expect to. Sixteen years later it turned out he’d read and loved ‘The Alleys of Eden’ and he’d been following me since.”

 

April 8, 2015

Released in October 2014, this book contains a contribution from Bruce. More on the project here. You can preview some of the book, including Bruce's part in it, at Amazon.

Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet 
by Todd McLean


Gloal Chorus is a groundbreaking collection of over 365 perspectives on our environmental future. As a global roundtable for our times, in the format of a daily reader, this book is a trove of insight, guidance, passion and wisdom that has poured in from all over the Earth. Its message is enormously inspiring, and ominous in its warnings. And yet, united in a thread of hope, its contents are capable of helping even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our world. Places at this roundtable are occupied by writers, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, politicians, professors, doctors, athletes, businesspeople, farmers, chefs, yogis, painters, actors, architects, musicians, TV personalities, humanitarians, adventurers, concerned youth, concerned senior citizens, civil servants, carpenters, bus drivers, activists, CEO’s, scientists, and essentially those who have something thoughtful and visionary to say about humanity’s place upon Earth. Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.

February 11, 2015
Belfast Telegraph

Sounds of Nashville are coming to Belfast with Jim Lauderdale, James House and Max T Barnes, and Bruce Cockburn joining festival line-up
by Rebecca Black


There is a treat in store for country music fans as some of the world's most renowned artists prepare to perform in Belfast.

US performers Jim Lauderdale, James House and Max T Barnes, Canadian Bruce Cockburn along with local talent Foy Vance, Cara Dillon and Peter McVeigh are among the names already confirmed among the highlights at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival.

The event was officially launched yesterday ahead of the first chords being played on Wednesday March 4.

"Belnash" gigs will be taking place at the Holiday Inn and the Empire Music Hall in Belfast until Sunday, March 8.

With more than 40 events and showcases and the Song Writing Convention, the annual event has become a well-established part of the Belfast music scene.

The festival also hosts two new international shows from Nashville, The Bluebird Café Live @BelNash and The Music City Roots Show that will be broadcast into 60 million homes across America.

This will be the 11th year of the event which attracted visitors to Belfast from across Ireland last year.

Organisers have said the event has "just kept growing and growing each year".

Belfast and Nashville, Tennessee, have links that go right back to the founding of the US city in 1780 by two Co Antrim families, the Robertsons and the Donelsons.

By the time Nashville was settled, 250,000 people had left these shores for the New World, with many making Tennessee their home.

The two cities officially became sister cities in 1994. The music festival has helped these historical links to grow into modern times.

Tickets are available from www.belfastnashville.com and Visit Belfast Welcome Centre on 028 9024 6609.


January 26, 2015
Converge Magazine

An Interview With Bruce Cockburn - Discussing his spiritual memoir, Rumours of Glory
by 
Craig Ketchum

At four p.m., Canadian singer-songwriter legend Bruce Cockburn strides into the hotel lobby in his signature black Doc Martens and shakes my hand warmly. At age 70, he is slighter than he appears in his old music videos. He’s here to talk with me about his spiritual memoir Rumours of Glory. The book narrates his journey of faith and activism, explaining the stories behind his songs and his choices.

We take the elevator to a business lounge, a cozy gold-tinted room outfitted with two computers and nearly-trendy transparent plastic chairs. Despite his big name and stack of music awards, the setting seems luxurious, since Cockburn’s international activism has been far from first-class; he’s been to war zones in Mozambique, Guatemala, Honduras, and Iraq, where set up camp amongst refugees and in decrepit hostels. 

“Writing the book was like writing a song,” Cockburn says as we each take a seat in our respective plastic chairs. “I feel like a bloodhound sniffing out a trail and sensing that there’s something there to discover.” 

And in essence, Rumours of Glory is just that: its pages mirror Cockburn’s songwriting. Part personal narrative, part social commentary, part didactic, the memoir allows the audience to learn by posing questions. 

When I read the book, I tell him, I was so fascinated by the history of the issues and places he unearths; the logical next step was to explore them for myself. 

As I say this, he chuckles. “I’m certainly not the only one who’s mentioned those things, but the invitation is out there,” Cockburn says. Wryly, he smirks. “I guess it’s proof it’s the same guy writing.”

Originally, Cockburn says he was going to arrange the book in vignettes, with various scenes that add up to a whole. It was his co-writer Greg King’s idea to arrange it chronologically; Cockburn says King urged him to put in a lot more of the political background that drives the book. When HarperCollins asked for a spiritual memoir, Cockburn says he hadn’t considered pairing it with so much of the political tensions that have driven his travels. But it makes sense that the two twine together, just as they do in his songs.

In high school, Cockburn discovered his grandmother’s guitar in his attic. He was then inspired to become a musician, and was eventually initiated into the Ottawa music scene in the mid-1960s. Cockburn played with a number of outfits, even opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968, until he decided to pursue a solo career. 

In the 1980s he started to pursue international activism; his songwriting became infused with deep concerns for human rights, the environment, and faith. During this time he spent a good deal of his shows explaining his songs to the audience. “Specifically, it was the song ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher,’” he interjects as I mention the time period. “When I first came up with the song I felt it could be so easily misconstrued; I didn’t want people to take it wrong and think I was telling them to go down and kill Guatemalan soldiers. I wanted to make sure people got it right.” 

I ask him whether he still finds himself needing to explain those stories. “Not very often, and not very much,” he says. “I think I’ve said enough in print about it, and now there’s the definitive version in the book,” he says. “So I’ll tell people to read that!” 

One of the strongest themes in Rumours of Glory is his dismay at social elites who ignore alarming truths about systemic violence. He uses the example of The Washington Wives’ self-appointed censorship that prevented Cockburn’s songs about poverty and injustice from being aired. All because of a single profanity in “Call It Democracy.” Ironically, this line accused social elites for being calloused towards the marginalized.

Though he weaves stories from all areas of life into both his book and his song lyrics, Cockburn has been adept at keeping his personal life out of the spotlight of the press. “The memoir ends before my second daughter was born,” he says. “And that’s a start of a whole new story, which would have taken another 200 pages and taken us past the publisher’s deadline!”

He pauses. “If anything, it’s a set-up for volume two, just in case I ever forget how bad it was writing one book, or, more to the point, if my wife ever forgets; she thought the book was ruining my life.” 

The memoir closes with a recognizably spiritual afterword on the responsibility of all people to nurture a relationship with the divine, and to practice healing of our world. From the language Cockburn uses, some readers may come away with a sense that he has undermined the singularity of the Christian faith by preaching universalism.

When I ask him about it, he is pleased to elaborate. “I’ve flirted with so many tribes over the years. A lot of people’s lives have converged with mine for a time,” he says. “You can get picky about other religions — take Shinto, for example — and call them all superstition. Or you can honour the profound things that are expressed through that belief system. And you can walk away thinking, ‘I could learn something from these people,’” says Cockburn. 

“I don’t claim to be an authority on anything, and I really don’t think anyone should be claiming to be an authority on anything.” 

Cockburn says he is grieved by the deep scars that have been inflicted upon humanity when people dig their heels into exclusive claims to truth. We witness it, he says, in the inability of “a significant portion of the right-wing Christian community” to see that they are of the same persuasion as those they call radical in the Middle East. 

“Above all, you can’t go around killing people because they don’t agree with you. We need to pull the plank out of our own eye and our own psyche before we try to fix someone else’s wiring,” he says. 

“When I look around at the mystical traditions, filled with people who have been reticent to share their knowledge, nowadays they are just throwing it out there. Maybe it’s an impulse from God encouraging us to get together, to love each other, to love the planet, and see miracles happen,” says Cockburn. 

He speaks with the experience of age, where little is shocking, and yet he does so without much cynicism. I see  the hope instilled in him by good gifts that cause him to wonder: his daughter, his friends, and his faith. 

I can’t help but think that the world needs a few more Bruce Cockburns, keeping us wide-eyed enough to stop destroying the world, one another, and ourselves. Around us is a world filled with violence because we refuse to really see and hear people who are different.

Because, like Cockburn, we need to be lovers in a dangerous time.

Photos courtesy of brucecockburn.com.



It is 10 years since Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when his one-time support act Bruce Springsteen described him as "simply one of the best songwriters of all time . . . each song is like a diamond." 

Many of his most memorable compositions from the Seventies were deeply personal love songs, about pain and death and desire, but since the Eighties Browne has been one of America's most vibrant political songwriters. 

He talks with passion about his frustrations with the present state of affairs. "America is not really a democracy at the moment and things that don't serve big business are thrown under the bus," he says. "It's not surprising that political issues find their way into songs. I think that is true of every singer and every band, because everyone has got something that they feel that strongly about. Bruce Cockburn, who is one of my favourite singers, is able to condense ideas and get to the heart of a political question in a song, but it is not easy. There is a limited audience for that compared to more universal or general subjects such as love. And I try to write about everything that goes on in life." 

Browne has just released his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach, which captures some of the pure emotional tone that has been his hallmark over more than 40 years of making music. Yet politics has given him a fresh way of writing songs. "I don't think I was able to get what I wanted to say politically into a song until I was about 30 or 35," Browne says, "and it is not an easy thing to do. It's daunting given that the audience is not clamouring for political songs. The first time I wrote a political song, I woke up the next day and looked at what I had been writing and thought, 'Oh no, I can't be singing about politics, this is what I read about and what I am interested in but how can I expect it to come out in songs?" 

November 20, 2014
The Telegraph

Jackson Browne interview: 'Music lets you escape'
by Martin Chilton

Jackson Browne talks about politics and the need to recapture your desire as a songwriter as he tours the UK with his new album Standing in the Breach 

It is 10 years since Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when his one-time support act Bruce Springsteen described him as "simply one of the best songwriters of all time . . . each song is like a diamond." 

Many of his most memorable compositions from the Seventies were deeply personal love songs, about pain and death and desire, but since the Eighties Browne has been one of America's most vibrant political songwriters. 

He talks with passion about his frustrations with the present state of affairs. "America is not really a democracy at the moment and things that don't serve big business are thrown under the bus," he says. "It's not surprising that political issues find their way into songs. I think that is true of every singer and every band, because everyone has got something that they feel that strongly about. Bruce Cockburn, who is one of my favourite singers, is able to condense ideas and get to the heart of a political question in a song, but it is not easy. There is a limited audience for that compared to more universal or general subjects such as love. And I try to write about everything that goes on in life." 

Browne has just released his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach, which captures some of the pure emotional tone that has been his hallmark over more than 40 years of making music. Yet politics has given him a fresh way of writing songs. "I don't think I was able to get what I wanted to say politically into a song until I was about 30 or 35," Browne says, "and it is not an easy thing to do. It's daunting given that the audience is not clamouring for political songs. The first time I wrote a political song, I woke up the next day and looked at what I had been writing and thought, 'Oh no, I can't be singing about politics, this is what I read about and what I am interested in but how can I expect it to come out in songs?" 

The album contains one song, The Birds of St Marks, which was written when he was a teenager. The 66-year-old, who has sold out the Royal Albert Hall as part of a UK tour, laughs when I say that John Prine told me that songwriting, which came once as easily as tying his shoelaces, was now like performing brain surgery. Does it get tougher to keep writing good songs as you get older? 

"Yes, it is harder to do it," Browne says, "although you learn tricks as you get older, you also have to unlearn everything so you can recapture the mind of the beginner, and the desire, and the feeling of what it was like when you wrote a song and it came out easily. With Sam Stone, Donald and Lydia and Hello in There, for example, John Prine wrote these colossal songs and they take on a significance in your life and work. It is hard to repeat anything you have done so freely and naturally. I think the only way you can hope to convince yourself is to do something entirely new and write about something that you would never have imagined as a young man that you would want to write about. 

"Maybe an example of that on my new record is the title song, Standing in the Breach, which I would use as a measure of my prowess as as songwriter, because I am invested in that song." 

The song, which deals with poverty and the quest for a fairer society, is the key track on the album. The photograph on the album cover was personally selected by Browne. "I went looking for photographs of Haiti after the earthquake," says Browne, "and that was taken two days after the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince." 

Browne was doing a fundraising gig for Artists for Peace and Justice, which is headed by film director Paul Haggis, when he decided to get more involved. "People were pledging all this money and I didn't have any. I had just bought a house – for me quite an expensive house – and it came home to me that these people had no house at all. I thought, 'well, I can add a sum on that I am spending on my very beautiful home' and I contributed a sum towards the school being rebuilt. Their plans were forward-thinking and eventually they built a classroom that has my name. I went and visited this school last year and there are 2,500 kids from the poorest of the poor going to this school and that's what the song is about, building something in the place of something that was knocked down. Do you build something or build something better?" 

Although his songs are full of anger about the state of the world, he is optimistic about the future. "My kids drive electric guitars and the one I least expected to say anything like this called me the other day and said he was giving up fish. Now I know why I would give up fish, because the oceans are 90 per cent fished out and the ocean is a living thing that we depend on for every second breath of oxygen we take. If it doesn't produce life any more, we won't be able to survive. To have my son, who is a such lover of Sushi, call and say that was amazing. He said he had seen a Ted talk on the internet, with some amazing oceanographer, a sort of Jane Goodall-looking woman. He meant Sylvia Earle and that was exactly who inspired me to write the song If I Could be Anywhere on the new album. My son had somehow come to the same conclusions, and he said to me: 'Look, I figure humans are good at adapting and we can change.' For this particular kid to have that kind of positivity is a great thing to encounter. He didn't seem to be getting it from my activism." 

As well as all the political talk, it's best not to overlook what a committed musician Browne is. We talk about the great Lowell George and when I ask him about guitarist, singer and fiddle player David Lindley, Browne's eyes radiate warmth. 

"I go and see David more often than the chances we actually get to play together. It's astounding the growth and development of this particularly gifted musician. He is so influential. He was the first musician anyone heard play a Weissenborn guitar, his lap steel playing was groundbreaking. David will tell you about guys like Freddy Roulette from the Thirties but David is immense. I've got a recording of us playing Mercury Blues at the Beacon Theatre and it's hair-raising. He is so bad ass on the slide. He's this gnome-like character hunched over the slide ripping it up, like a bull pawing the ground and kicking up great clods of earth with steam coming from his ears. 

"I have a project in mind. I am going to make a film about David Lindley because I have got a lot of footage of him at various stages. I might even film his upcoming shows in Los Angeles to add to it. David is also spitting-up funny, the things that he says under his breath on the shows are not to be believed. The passion that comes from him playing all these different instruments is incredible and he was always a tremendous complement to my songs. I think I would be the right person to make the film and I would get interviews with Ben Harper and Ry Cooder and Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt." 

Country music, without Lindley's participation, is a feature of the new album, especially on a fun song called Leaving Winslow. "That was an assignment to write something for an art installation that was happening in Winslow, Arizona," explains Browne. "Lots of people were involved, including the conceptual artist Doug Aitken, and I wrote about my late mother's husband, who used to go dancing with an oxygen tank on his back. He loved western swing and Zen and it fitted a country song." 

As he said, Browne tries to write about everything that goes on in life. He adds: "Music can immerse you in a subject or it can, like the blues, provide a form of expressing resilience. And music is also a good way to escape, even if it's just a way of escaping a world in which corporations constantly defile the environment." 

 

November 12, 2014
The Hamilton Spectator

Burlington record label flourishes amid music industry slump -True North Records flourishing with 45 years of success 
by Graham Rockingham


The headquarters of Canada's oldest and arguably most successful independent record label resides in an industrial strip mall on Burlington's Harvester Road, squeezed between a military memorabilia dealer and an auto leasing outlet. The green and white sign above the storefront office is a simple one, "True North Records." 

It's nondescript appearance belies 45 years of success. In this YouTube age of free music, when most record labels are folding or floundering, True North appears to be flourishing. 

Less than a dozen people work in the open-concept groundfloor space, marketers, publicists, graphic designers, number crunchers. In a backroom, with loading dock access, rows and rows of industrial strength racks contain thousands of CDs, some first recorded decades ago, others so new they're still awaiting release. 

Together the CDs represent hundreds of artists and a fair chunk of Canadian musical history — Chilliwack, the Canadian Brass, Gordon Lightfoot, Downchild, 54-40, Ashley MacIsaac, Big Sugar, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Peter Appleyard, Rough Trade, Ron Sexsmith, Jackie Washington, the Guess Who, The Tea Party, Stan Rogers, Fred Penner, The Nylons and many, many more. 

At the front of the office, positioned like a receptionist's station, is the desk of the current president and co-owner Geoff Kulawick, a veteran of the music industry who purchased True North from legendary folk-rock impresario Bernie Finkelstein in 2008. 

"We're running out of space," says Kulawick, who moved the label to Burlington five years ago to be closer to the Carlisle home he shares with his wife, Brooke, 16-year-old daughter Karina and 14-year-old son Matthew. "We're actually shopping for a new location somewhere in Waterdown." 

True North is a very different record label than when it sprang up in the middle of Toronto's Yorkville hippie scene. The year was 1969, and Finkelstein started up the label to house his favourite musicians — Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and the pioneering psychedelic band Kensington Market. 

Forty-five years later, Finkelstein is no longer part of the company, although he does continue to manage Cockburn, who remains the label's flagship artist. 

As a matter of fact, this month, True North launched one of its most ambitious projects — "Rumours of Glory," a beautifully packaged 117-song, nine-disc box set chronicling the history of one of Canada's most respected singer-songwriters. 

Each set is autographed, sequentially numbered and contains a 90-page book featuring rare photos, culled from the Cockburn collection of the McMaster University Archives, and extensive liner notes. The ambitious release has been compiled as a companion to Cockburn's newly released 544-page memoir, also titled "Rumours of Glory," published by HarperCollins. 

"It's a good book," Kulawick says. "It contains a lot of things about Bruce I would never have known, like he likes to shoot guns, he goes to target practice. I would never have guessed that in a million years." 

Other recent releases include "The Great Wall of China," a collection of Chinese songs performed by the classical quintet Canadian Brass; "Signal," an electro-jazz album by Toronto singer Elizabeth Shepherd; "A Multi-media Life," a documentary DVD by Buffy Sainte-Marie; "Where in the World," by children's entertainer Fred Penner; and "LA Bootleg 1984," a rare concert performance by the late Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, produced by Randy Bachman, who is scheduled to release a much-anticipated solo rock album on the label next March. 

It's an eclectic mix of releases, none of which will likely achieve "gold record" status (sales of 40,000 units), but most will reach niche markets and turn a profit for both the artists and the label. Kulawick avoids pop artists, preferring folk, jazz, roots, bluegrass and classical performers. 

"It's far better for us to sign artists that tour and have some kind of base that is not tied to commercial radio," Kulawick says. "Even if there's no hit on the record, there is a community around the artist that will tune into it." 

Kulawick, a 50-year-old native of Ottawa, studied music production at London's Fanshawe College in the early '80s before moving to Toronto to start a career in the music industry, first with indie rock label Solid Gold Records, then A & M Records as a tour manager, then Anthem Records (home to Rush) and Warner-Chappell Publishing and Virgin EMI. 

After taking some accounting courses, Kulawick formed his own label, Linus Entertainment, in 2001, based out of Toronto and then his home in Mississauga. Some of his early signings were Lightfoot, Ron Sexsmith, Hamilton singer-songwriter Ray Materick and Toronto jazz singer Sophie Millman. 

A few years later, when he heard Finkelstein was considering selling True North and its large catalogue, he recruited two financial backers — Harvey Glatt, founder of Ottawa radio station CHEZ-FM and private investor Mike Pilon — and scooped up the label. 

"Each of us own a third of True North, but I manage the business," Kulawick says. "And I still own all of Linus." 

Since taking over True North, Kulawick has continued to expand taking over the Mushroom Records catalogue last year, adding '70s Canadian acts like Chilliwack and Doucette to the True North/Linus brand. He has also purchased The Children's Group with its catalogue of artists like Penner and Robert Munsch. 

"We're a multi-million business and we're continuing to grow," Kulawick says. "We want to break new artists like Elizabeth Shepherd and Matt Andersen, but we also want to by more catalogues and labels." 

Kulawick admits much of the company's catalogue skews heavily toward the plus-40 demographic. 

"Those are the people who buy CDs. One of the reasons we've been successful is because we have been targeting adults on the CD side," he says. "At this point, most of our repertoire does target an older demographic. But it's more than that, it is music of substance." 

Photo: Gary Yokoyama. Geoff Kulawick and True North Records staff.


November 3, 2014
The Star

Bruce Cockburn: Faithful Troubadour of a Dangerous Time
by

Stephen Bede Scharper

Bruce Cockburn’s journey is both deeply human and inspiring, revealing how one rocker has attempted to “keep the faith” in a world tempted by despair.

What do faith, music, and politics have to do with one another?

Since his self-named debut album in 1970, Cockburn has woven Christian faith, political activism and vibrant guitar playing into a dynamic musical swirl, a journey chronicled in Rumours of Glory, a memoir which lands with guitar riff and cymbal crash in bookstores tomorrow.

Born in Ottawa the year the Second World War ended, Cockburn was among the original baby boomers. He was in many ways a typical suburban Canadian kid of the 1950s, a somewhat shy boy fascinated by space travel, science fiction, and TV. Also, like many boys of his generation and since, he saw school as a less than warm and intellectually stimulating environment. For him, “school consisted of feeling centred out and humiliated,” and by the time high school rolled around, had assumed a “prison-like” aroma.

As a result, he became skilled at creating alternate realities, imaginative scenarios that helped him deal with the spirit-deadening world of school and ultimately, provide a seedbed for his creative lyrical music.

Like U.S. rocker Bruce Springsteen, who also blends faith with political poignancy, and who once declared that “rock and roll saved my life,” Cockburn describes finding a beat-up guitar in an attic as a type of epiphany, in which “history and family and experience and hormones collided in a singular molten moment.” 

By his teens, he could begin to see the underside of rapid population growth and suburban sprawl, the anti-democratic thrust of the anti-Communist witch hunts, and the slow erosion of the church in light of rising state and corporate power.

Intrigued by the troublemakers of his school, and fascinated by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other paladins of the Beat Generation, the young Cockburn found in rock and roll and jazz a countercultural vibe, a disruptive chord in a monocultural, buttoned-down, postwar world view.

The Beat Generation, which helped sire the hippie revolution, opened up myriad avenues of exploring authority and the nature of power.

Unlike other musicians inspired by the Beats, however, such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (who would later cover Cockburn’s music), Cockburn did not overly indulge in mind-altering drugs and a lifestyle of “checking out.” Instead — and here his Christian faith may play a crucial role — he melded his music with social justice concerns. Personal fulfilment never trumped the common good in Cockburn’s catalogue.

Just as liberation theology, first articulated by Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez in the early 1970s, proclaimed that to “know God was to do justice,” and that the church must speak out against “institutionalized violence” of poverty and oppression, Cockburn also took on institutional power.

Such a stance has led him to trouble spots around the globe, including Guatemala, Mozambique and Afghanistan, performing and speaking out on crushing Third World debt, native rights, landmines and the environment.

As theologian Brian Walsh observes in his Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination, songs such as “People See Through You,” “Nicaragua,” and “Rocket Launcher” all speak to this commingling of faith, concern for human dignity, and musical energy. The amalgam of Cockburn’s activism, Christian belief and musical virtuosity led him to work with many international human rights and eco-groups such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth and Doctors without Borders. 

In many ways, Cockburn’s professional unfolding, in a quiet, steady way, has reflected the embrace of Christian churches to take on the tough issues of global poverty, apartheid in South Africa, U.S. support for Latin American dictatorships and, more recently, ecological concerns.

That road, however, is not without its hazards. A failed marriage, times of uncertain faith, and a public spotlight for a “seeker of privacy” are part of the price Cockburn has paid as he has criss-crossed “this dangerous and beautiful planet.”

Reflecting the old Protestant dictum that the purpose of the gospel is not only “to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable,” Cockburn’s journey is both deeply human and inspiring, revealing how one rocker has attempted to “keep the faith” in a world deeply tempted by despair.

Gavin's Woodpile

The Bruce Cockburn Newsletter Online

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MEDIA 2014

 

November 20, 2014
The Telegraph

Jackson Browne interview: 'Music lets you escape'
by Martin Chilton

Jackson Browne talks about politics and the need to recapture your desire as a songwriter as he tours the UK with his new album Standing in the Breach 

It is 10 years since Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when his one-time support act Bruce Springsteen described him as "simply one of the best songwriters of all time . . . each song is like a diamond." 

Many of his most memorable compositions from the Seventies were deeply personal love songs, about pain and death and desire, but since the Eighties Browne has been one of America's most vibrant political songwriters. 

He talks with passion about his frustrations with the present state of affairs. "America is not really a democracy at the moment and things that don't serve big business are thrown under the bus," he says. "It's not surprising that political issues find their way into songs. I think that is true of every singer and every band, because everyone has got something that they feel that strongly about. Bruce Cockburn, who is one of my favourite singers, is able to condense ideas and get to the heart of a political question in a song, but it is not easy. There is a limited audience for that compared to more universal or general subjects such as love. And I try to write about everything that goes on in life." 

Browne has just released his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach, which captures some of the pure emotional tone that has been his hallmark over more than 40 years of making music. Yet politics has given him a fresh way of writing songs. "I don't think I was able to get what I wanted to say politically into a song until I was about 30 or 35," Browne says, "and it is not an easy thing to do. It's daunting given that the audience is not clamouring for political songs. The first time I wrote a political song, I woke up the next day and looked at what I had been writing and thought, 'Oh no, I can't be singing about politics, this is what I read about and what I am interested in but how can I expect it to come out in songs?" 

The album contains one song, The Birds of St Marks, which was written when he was a teenager. The 66-year-old, who has sold out the Royal Albert Hall as part of a UK tour, laughs when I say that John Prine told me that songwriting, which came once as easily as tying his shoelaces, was now like performing brain surgery. Does it get tougher to keep writing good songs as you get older? 

"Yes, it is harder to do it," Browne says, "although you learn tricks as you get older, you also have to unlearn everything so you can recapture the mind of the beginner, and the desire, and the feeling of what it was like when you wrote a song and it came out easily. With Sam Stone, Donald and Lydia and Hello in There, for example, John Prine wrote these colossal songs and they take on a significance in your life and work. It is hard to repeat anything you have done so freely and naturally. I think the only way you can hope to convince yourself is to do something entirely new and write about something that you would never have imagined as a young man that you would want to write about. 

"Maybe an example of that on my new record is the title song, Standing in the Breach, which I would use as a measure of my prowess as as songwriter, because I am invested in that song." 

The song, which deals with poverty and the quest for a fairer society, is the key track on the album. The photograph on the album cover was personally selected by Browne. "I went looking for photographs of Haiti after the earthquake," says Browne, "and that was taken two days after the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince." 

Browne was doing a fundraising gig for Artists for Peace and Justice, which is headed by film director Paul Haggis, when he decided to get more involved. "People were pledging all this money and I didn't have any. I had just bought a house – for me quite an expensive house – and it came home to me that these people had no house at all. I thought, 'well, I can add a sum on that I am spending on my very beautiful home' and I contributed a sum towards the school being rebuilt. Their plans were forward-thinking and eventually they built a classroom that has my name. I went and visited this school last year and there are 2,500 kids from the poorest of the poor going to this school and that's what the song is about, building something in the place of something that was knocked down. Do you build something or build something better?" 

Although his songs are full of anger about the state of the world, he is optimistic about the future. "My kids drive electric guitars and the one I least expected to say anything like this called me the other day and said he was giving up fish. Now I know why I would give up fish, because the oceans are 90 per cent fished out and the ocean is a living thing that we depend on for every second breath of oxygen we take. If it doesn't produce life any more, we won't be able to survive. To have my son, who is a such lover of Sushi, call and say that was amazing. He said he had seen a Ted talk on the internet, with some amazing oceanographer, a sort of Jane Goodall-looking woman. He meant Sylvia Earle and that was exactly who inspired me to write the song If I Could be Anywhere on the new album. My son had somehow come to the same conclusions, and he said to me: 'Look, I figure humans are good at adapting and we can change.' For this particular kid to have that kind of positivity is a great thing to encounter. He didn't seem to be getting it from my activism." 

As well as all the political talk, it's best not to overlook what a committed musician Browne is. We talk about the great Lowell George and when I ask him about guitarist, singer and fiddle player David Lindley, Browne's eyes radiate warmth. 

"I go and see David more often than the chances we actually get to play together. It's astounding the growth and development of this particularly gifted musician. He is so influential. He was the first musician anyone heard play a Weissenborn guitar, his lap steel playing was groundbreaking. David will tell you about guys like Freddy Roulette from the Thirties but David is immense. I've got a recording of us playing Mercury Blues at the Beacon Theatre and it's hair-raising. He is so bad ass on the slide. He's this gnome-like character hunched over the slide ripping it up, like a bull pawing the ground and kicking up great clods of earth with steam coming from his ears. 

"I have a project in mind. I am going to make a film about David Lindley because I have got a lot of footage of him at various stages. I might even film his upcoming shows in Los Angeles to add to it. David is also spitting-up funny, the things that he says under his breath on the shows are not to be believed. The passion that comes from him playing all these different instruments is incredible and he was always a tremendous complement to my songs. I think I would be the right person to make the film and I would get interviews with Ben Harper and Ry Cooder and Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt." 

Country music, without Lindley's participation, is a feature of the new album, especially on a fun song called Leaving Winslow. "That was an assignment to write something for an art installation that was happening in Winslow, Arizona," explains Browne. "Lots of people were involved, including the conceptual artist Doug Aitken, and I wrote about my late mother's husband, who used to go dancing with an oxygen tank on his back. He loved western swing and Zen and it fitted a country song." 

As he said, Browne tries to write about everything that goes on in life. He adds: "Music can immerse you in a subject or it can, like the blues, provide a form of expressing resilience. And music is also a good way to escape, even if it's just a way of escaping a world in which corporations constantly defile the environment." 

 

November 12, 2014
The Hamilton Spectator

Burlington record label flourishes amid music industry slump -True North Records flourishing with 45 years of success 
by Graham Rockingham


The headquarters of Canada's oldest and arguably most successful independent record label resides in an industrial strip mall on Burlington's Harvester Road, squeezed between a military memorabilia dealer and an auto leasing outlet. The green and white sign above the storefront office is a simple one, "True North Records." 

It's nondescript appearance belies 45 years of success. In this YouTube age of free music, when most record labels are folding or floundering, True North appears to be flourishing. 

Less than a dozen people work in the open-concept groundfloor space, marketers, publicists, graphic designers, number crunchers. In a backroom, with loading dock access, rows and rows of industrial strength racks contain thousands of CDs, some first recorded decades ago, others so new they're still awaiting release. 

Together the CDs represent hundreds of artists and a fair chunk of Canadian musical history — Chilliwack, the Canadian Brass, Gordon Lightfoot, Downchild, 54-40, Ashley MacIsaac, Big Sugar, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Peter Appleyard, Rough Trade, Ron Sexsmith, Jackie Washington, the Guess Who, The Tea Party, Stan Rogers, Fred Penner, The Nylons and many, many more. 

At the front of the office, positioned like a receptionist's station, is the desk of the current president and co-owner Geoff Kulawick, a veteran of the music industry who purchased True North from legendary folk-rock impresario Bernie Finkelstein in 2008. 

"We're running out of space," says Kulawick, who moved the label to Burlington five years ago to be closer to the Carlisle home he shares with his wife, Brooke, 16-year-old daughter Karina and 14-year-old son Matthew. "We're actually shopping for a new location somewhere in Waterdown." 

True North is a very different record label than when it sprang up in the middle of Toronto's Yorkville hippie scene. The year was 1969, and Finkelstein started up the label to house his favourite musicians — Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and the pioneering psychedelic band Kensington Market. 

Forty-five years later, Finkelstein is no longer part of the company, although he does continue to manage Cockburn, who remains the label's flagship artist. 

As a matter of fact, this month, True North launched one of its most ambitious projects — "Rumours of Glory," a beautifully packaged 117-song, nine-disc box set chronicling the history of one of Canada's most respected singer-songwriters. 

Each set is autographed, sequentially numbered and contains a 90-page book featuring rare photos, culled from the Cockburn collection of the McMaster University Archives, and extensive liner notes. The ambitious release has been compiled as a companion to Cockburn's newly released 544-page memoir, also titled "Rumours of Glory," published by HarperCollins. 

"It's a good book," Kulawick says. "It contains a lot of things about Bruce I would never have known, like he likes to shoot guns, he goes to target practice. I would never have guessed that in a million years." 

Other recent releases include "The Great Wall of China," a collection of Chinese songs performed by the classical quintet Canadian Brass; "Signal," an electro-jazz album by Toronto singer Elizabeth Shepherd; "A Multi-media Life," a documentary DVD by Buffy Sainte-Marie; "Where in the World," by children's entertainer Fred Penner; and "LA Bootleg 1984," a rare concert performance by the late Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, produced by Randy Bachman, who is scheduled to release a much-anticipated solo rock album on the label next March. 

It's an eclectic mix of releases, none of which will likely achieve "gold record" status (sales of 40,000 units), but most will reach niche markets and turn a profit for both the artists and the label. Kulawick avoids pop artists, preferring folk, jazz, roots, bluegrass and classical performers. 

"It's far better for us to sign artists that tour and have some kind of base that is not tied to commercial radio," Kulawick says. "Even if there's no hit on the record, there is a community around the artist that will tune into it." 

Kulawick, a 50-year-old native of Ottawa, studied music production at London's Fanshawe College in the early '80s before moving to Toronto to start a career in the music industry, first with indie rock label Solid Gold Records, then A & M Records as a tour manager, then Anthem Records (home to Rush) and Warner-Chappell Publishing and Virgin EMI. 

After taking some accounting courses, Kulawick formed his own label, Linus Entertainment, in 2001, based out of Toronto and then his home in Mississauga. Some of his early signings were Lightfoot, Ron Sexsmith, Hamilton singer-songwriter Ray Materick and Toronto jazz singer Sophie Millman. 

A few years later, when he heard Finkelstein was considering selling True North and its large catalogue, he recruited two financial backers — Harvey Glatt, founder of Ottawa radio station CHEZ-FM and private investor Mike Pilon — and scooped up the label. 

"Each of us own a third of True North, but I manage the business," Kulawick says. "And I still own all of Linus." 

Since taking over True North, Kulawick has continued to expand taking over the Mushroom Records catalogue last year, adding '70s Canadian acts like Chilliwack and Doucette to the True North/Linus brand. He has also purchased The Children's Group with its catalogue of artists like Penner and Robert Munsch. 

"We're a multi-million business and we're continuing to grow," Kulawick says. "We want to break new artists like Elizabeth Shepherd and Matt Andersen, but we also want to by more catalogues and labels." 

Kulawick admits much of the company's catalogue skews heavily toward the plus-40 demographic. 

"Those are the people who buy CDs. One of the reasons we've been successful is because we have been targeting adults on the CD side," he says. "At this point, most of our repertoire does target an older demographic. But it's more than that, it is music of substance." 

Photo: Gary Yokoyama. Geoff Kulawick and True North Records staff.


November 3, 2014
The Star

Bruce Cockburn: Faithful Troubadour of a Dangerous Time
by

Stephen Bede Scharper

Bruce Cockburn’s journey is both deeply human and inspiring, revealing how one rocker has attempted to “keep the faith” in a world tempted by despair.

What do faith, music, and politics have to do with one another?

Everything, according to celebrated Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn.

Since his self-named debut album in 1970, Cockburn has woven Christian faith, political activism and vibrant guitar playing into a dynamic musical swirl, a journey chronicled in Rumours of Glory, a memoir which lands with guitar riff and cymbal crash in bookstores tomorrow.

Born in Ottawa the year the Second World War ended, Cockburn was among the original baby boomers. He was in many ways a typical suburban Canadian kid of the 1950s, a somewhat shy boy fascinated by space travel, science fiction, and TV. Also, like many boys of his generation and since, he saw school as a less than warm and intellectually stimulating environment. For him, “school consisted of feeling centred out and humiliated,” and by the time high school rolled around, had assumed a “prison-like” aroma.

As a result, he became skilled at creating alternate realities, imaginative scenarios that helped him deal with the spirit-deadening world of school and ultimately, provide a seedbed for his creative lyrical music.

Like U.S. rocker Bruce Springsteen, who also blends faith with political poignancy, and who once declared that “rock and roll saved my life,” Cockburn describes finding a beat-up guitar in an attic as a type of epiphany, in which “history and family and experience and hormones collided in a singular molten moment.” 

That guitar became Cockburn’s musical hot rod out of a life of “quiet desperation.” 

By his teens, he could begin to see the underside of rapid population growth and suburban sprawl, the anti-democratic thrust of the anti-Communist witch hunts, and the slow erosion of the church in light of rising state and corporate power.

Intrigued by the troublemakers of his school, and fascinated by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other paladins of the Beat Generation, the young Cockburn found in rock and roll and jazz a countercultural vibe, a disruptive chord in a monocultural, buttoned-down, postwar world view.

The Beat Generation, which helped sire the hippie revolution, opened up myriad avenues of exploring authority and the nature of power.

Unlike other musicians inspired by the Beats, however, such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (who would later cover Cockburn’s music), Cockburn did not overly indulge in mind-altering drugs and a lifestyle of “checking out.” Instead — and here his Christian faith may play a crucial role — he melded his music with social justice concerns. Personal fulfilment never trumped the common good in Cockburn’s catalogue.

Just as liberation theology, first articulated by Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez in the early 1970s, proclaimed that to “know God was to do justice,” and that the church must speak out against “institutionalized violence” of poverty and oppression, Cockburn also took on institutional power.

Such a stance has led him to trouble spots around the globe, including Guatemala, Mozambique and Afghanistan, performing and speaking out on crushing Third World debt, native rights, landmines and the environment.

As theologian Brian Walsh observes in his Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination, songs such as “People See Through You,” “Nicaragua,” and “Rocket Launcher” all speak to this commingling of faith, concern for human dignity, and musical energy. The amalgam of Cockburn’s activism, Christian belief and musical virtuosity led him to work with many international human rights and eco-groups such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth and Doctors without Borders. 

In many ways, Cockburn’s professional unfolding, in a quiet, steady way, has reflected the embrace of Christian churches to take on the tough issues of global poverty, apartheid in South Africa, U.S. support for Latin American dictatorships and, more recently, ecological concerns.

That road, however, is not without its hazards. A failed marriage, times of uncertain faith, and a public spotlight for a “seeker of privacy” are part of the price Cockburn has paid as he has criss-crossed “this dangerous and beautiful planet.”

Reflecting the old Protestant dictum that the purpose of the gospel is not only “to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable,” Cockburn’s journey is both deeply human and inspiring, revealing how one rocker has attempted to “keep the faith” in a world deeply tempted by despair.

Stephen Bede Scharper is associate professor of environment and religion at the University of Toronto. His column appears monthly. stephen.scharper@utoronto.ca 

 

October 19, 2014

The Christian Century magazine reviews Bruce's coming memoir in their October 29 issue. Read it here.

 

September 7, 2014
True North Records Press Release

Details of Bruce Cockburn Memoirs and Box Set Announced

Bruce Cockburn delivers his long-awaited memoir, Rumours of Glory - a chronicle of faith, fear and activism, on Novemner 4, 2014.

Rumours of Glory, the nine disc companion box set to release on True North Records on 28, 2014.

Pre-order the box set and view the full track listing HERE.

Order the book and the box set in a specially priced bundle HERE.

Listen to a preview of the rare and unreleased tracks HERE.

Watch a clip from the DVD HERE.



The long-awaited memoir from legendary singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, Rumours of Glory, will be published by Harper One in the U.S. and HarperCollins Canada on November 4, 2014. Best known for his memorable songs including "Pacing the Cage" (1995), "If a Tree Fall" (1988), "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" (1984), "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (1984) and Wondering Where the Lions Are" (1979), the award -winning songwriter and pioneering guitarist, whose life and music has been shaped by politics, protest, romance, and spiritual discovery, has released 31 albums spanning five decades.

Cockburn has produced an acclaimed body of work: his albums have sold over seven million copies worldwide. He is revered by fans and fellow musicians alike as one of the most importnat songwriters of his generation.

In Rumours of Glory, Cockburn invites readers into his private world, providing an intimate commentary on his life and work, focused on the roots of his songwriting and the stories behind his best known songs.

As a long-time activist, Cockburn has spoken out on a range of issues: native rights, land mines, human rights atrocities in war-torn countries, Third World debt, ecological devestation, and corporate crime. As he outlines in Rumours of Glory, he belives that we can, and should, be dedicated to our shared humanity, to saving ourselves, each other and this earth - we just need to find the will.

Rumours of Glory is also the title of a box set collection curated by Cockburn himself as a companion piece to his memoir; the songs are presented in the same order they appear in the book. The limited edition 117-song, nice disc set includes 16 rare and previously unreleased songs and a live concert DVD - the artist's only full-length concert video. Each box set is autographed, sequentially numbered and includes a 90 page book featuring rare photos, extensive track information, and liner notes written by Nicholas Jennings.

 

September 1, 2014
KPFA Press Release

KPFA Radio 94.1FM presents:
BRUCE COCKBURN
Rumours of Glory, a Memoir
Hosted by Luis Medina

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA


Legendary singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn delivers his long-awaited memoir—a fascinating chronicle of faith, fear, and activism that is a vivid political and musical tour through the late twentieth century.

In Rumours of Glory the pioneering guitarist and award-winning songwriter invites us into his personal world, providing an intimate commentary on his life and work, focused on the roots of his songwriting and the stories behind his best-known songs  (referencing over 104 songs and lyrics throughout). From his birth in Ottawa in 1945 to Baghdad in 2004, Cockburn shares his family life, personal relationships, Christian convictions and the powerful social and political activism that has defined the man and his music. His lyrics have been covered by Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, Judy Collins, Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffett, k.d.Laing and others. 

“Bruce Cockburn’s journey, both as musician and thinker, draws us with him into spiritual and political realms...Rumours of Glory is a highly personal account by one whose quest for expression engages the most important social questions of our time.”—Jackson Browne

Music has always been Cockburn’s way to explore culture, the nature of the spirit, and politics, as he embraced folk, jazz, blues, rock and world beat styles, visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Iraq and Afghanistan – not only performing his music, but also witnessing the plight of people throughout these countries. A longtime activist, he has spoken out on native rights, the devastation caused by landmines, human rights’ atrocities in war-torn lands, Third World debt and all the ecological devastation caused by corporate crime. 
He believes we can and should be dedicated to our shared humanity, to saving each other and this earth. He insists we simply need to find the will. For him, that comes out of maintaining a relationship with the Divine, and following the way of love.

Luis Medina is Music Director/Producer/Host at KPFA Radio, the first listener-supported, non-commerical radio station in the world.

 

August 15, 2014
D. Keebler

A Box Set is on the Way

I spoke with Bernie Finkelstein today. He told me that a box set called Rumours of Glory is in the works, due for release in November, 2014. It will included one-off recordings that are scattrered about on various artists collection CDs, and previously unrleased songs such as "Waterwalker" and "Going Down the Road." The package will include a DVD with concert footage from the Slice O Life tour.

Bernie: "It is one CD of rarities and 6 or 7 CD's of the songs mentioned or quoted in the book [Bruce's memoir].  Included on those CDs there will be a couple of quite old  and previously never released demos of early, early songs including "Bird Without Wings." The box set is curated by the book Rumours Of Glory, with the addition of a single of CD of rarities and previously unreleased material. Additionally there will be a DVD of concert footage from the Slice O Life tour. We think this will be 7 or 8 CD's including the DVD in total, but we're still working on that."

 

August 15, 2014
The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Writers Fest: This year, it’s writing writ large
b
y Tracy Sherlock


The largest ever Vancouver Writers Fest is happening this fall with authors ranging from the international — including Norway’s Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ireland’s Eimear McBride and Iceland’s Sjon — to the hyper local — such as Steven Galloway, Caroline Adderson and Ian Weir.

“For me, this is a very international festival,” said Hal Wake, festival artistic director. “This national and international lineup reaffirms our role at the Writers Fest to introduce some of the most significant writers in the world to readers who may only have had a passing knowledge of them. We love to present authors who have achieved success alongside brilliant new writers who are about to become the buzz of the literary world.”

More than 100 authors will be in Vancouver participating in about 86 events Oct. 21 to 26, including panel discussions, readings, a literary cabaret and other events. Other notable authors include Colm Toibin, who will appear in conversation in the event’s finale with author Jane Smiley.

“When you look at their work and their emphasis on family and history, they’re actually well aligned,” Wake said. “We’re also excited about Emma Donaghue and Sarah Waters in conversation. They’re both lesbian writers who have not been shy about identifying themselves that way and they’ve both written historical novels.”

Waking from the American Dream is an event featuring authors Joshua Ferris, Cristina Henriquez and Matthew Thomas, who have all written about the reality of life in America versus the ideal.

My Way is an event that brings together Charles Foran, Knausgaard, and Eimear McBride, who recently won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing. These authors will discuss the challenge of writing and getting published in an innovative style or voice.

Knausgaard, who also appears in a solo event, has taken Europe by storm with his six-volume series of books that are a kind of fictionalized memoir in which his ordinary life serves as a background for meditations on culture and larger issues.

Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald will appear in the opening night event and in a solo event to discuss her new novel Adult Onset, her first since The Way the Crow Flies, which came out in 2003. Former Vancouverite Tom Rachman will appear, as will Justin Trudeau, Kate Pullinger, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas, Miriam Toews, Thomas King, Aislinn Hunter, Rebecca Mead and many, many others.

Harbour Publishing will celebrate its 40th anniversary at the festival, in an event featuring Robert Lucky Budd and Katherine Palmer Gordon, hosted by Harbour publisher Howard White.

Canadian poet Phyllis Webb will be honoured at an event including George Bowering, John Hulcoop, Eve Joseph, Daphne Marlatt and Sharon Thesen, hosted by Brian Brett.

The Al Purdy show is a fundraising event supporting author residencies at Purdy’s former home, an A-frame cottage where he did most of his writing. Funds will also go toward the ongoing renovation of the hand-built A-frame cottage.

Scottish author Louise Welsh, whose five novels have won several awards, appears in the festival’s opening night as well as in Crime without Borders, an event with Michael Robotham, whose first novel, The Suspect, has been translated into 22 languages and sold more than one million copies.

Although many festival events are geared toward students and teachers, festival organizers have not changed their program at all due to the teachers’ job action. Wake says they are in a situation where they can only carry on as planned, but that if the job action continues, students can attend with their parents, as many home-schooled children do, or teenagers could attend on their own.

Six special events will bookend the festival, including appearances by mystery writer Louise Penny, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell, spoken word artist Shane Koyczan, singer songwriter Bruce Cockburn, Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, and journalist and author Conrad Black, who will speak about his new book on the history of Canada.

Tickets for all six special events are on sale now through VancouverTix.com, and details are on the Festival website at writersfest.bc.ca. Tickets for events during the festival itself go on sale Sept. 8 and will also be available in person at the Writers Fest box office, 1398 Cartwright St.



August 14, 2014
The Hamilton Spectator


Los Lobos and Lanois? Let’s see it
by Graham Rockingham

It's hard to imagine a band like Los Lobos feeling a kinship with a Canadian industrial city like Hamilton. 

Los Lobos' roots reside in the gritty Mexican-American barrios of East Los Angeles. It's where Los Lobos formed, the place where old-school rock 'n' roll melded with tequila-fuelled mariachi to give new life to Richie Valens' La Bamba. 

It's a world away from Canada's Steeltown. 

But to Steve Berlin, who has served as Los Lobos' producer, sax player and keyboardist for more than 30 years, Hamilton is a special place. 

He's looking forward to re-acquainting himself with the city when Los Lobos performs at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic on Saturday, with Ray Lamontagne, Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Harmer, Gord Downie and The Sadies, and Rita Chiarelli with Boris Brott and the National Academy Orchestra. 

Hamilton is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to Berlin, it's the home of Grant Avenue Studios, an old Victorian house in the city's core where he produced one of his first albums. 

"It was the debut album from Prairie Oyster," Berlin, 58, says on the phone from his home in Portland, Ore. "The early '80s. I think it was the first one I did after the first Los Lobos album. 

"Yes, I know the ins and outs of Hamilton," adds Berlin who returned to Grant Avenue with Los Lobos a few years later to record a film soundtrack. 

More importantly for Berlin, Hamilton is the place where superstar producer Daniel Lanois was raised. Lanois, born in Quebec but raised in Ancaster, is the man who built Grant Avenue before going on to produce some of the biggest names in music — U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris. 

Berlin has only met Lanois once, backstage at a festival in Montreal, but he has carefully studied his recording techniques. Berlin owns a copy of Lanois' autobiography Soul Mining and a DVD of his documentary Here Is What Is. 

"I like his ethos quite a bit, and I like what he does to the rooms he works in," Berlin says. "I'm looking forward to getting to know him." 

Berlin hopes to do that at the Harvest Picnic. Lanois is the de-facto host of the annual music and food festival that takes place in the scenic Christie Lake Conservation area in rural Dundas. 

Lanois is in line to perform, as he is every year, with his solo band. You can also count on him to get up and perform with several of the other acts. Lanois has worked with many of them, both in the studio and on stage. 

This year offers the tantalizing possibility of Lanois, a widely respected electric guitarist, jamming with Los Lobos. 

"Absolutely, he can stay on stage with us as long as he likes," Berlin says. 

The admiration is mutual. When reached at his Toronto studio, Lanois was as excited about Los Lobos playing the Picnic as Berlin.

"I'm really looking forward to it this year," Lanois says without prompting. "We've got Los Lobos. How great is that?" 

When told about Berlin's offer to jam, Lanois responded: "You tell him that I'd be happy to. Tell them, consider it done."

Such spontaneous collaborations are not new to Los Lobos. The band is best known for its cover of Richie Valens' La Bamba for the 1987 film of the same name, but also has a huge following in jam-band circles due to its close relationship with the Grateful Dead. 

Los Lobos covered the Dead's West L.A. Fadeaway on its last studio album, 2012's Tin Can Trust, and has been known to close its live shows with a rousing version of the Dead's Bertha. 

Always expect the unexpected from Los Lobos. The band doesn't even write up a set list for its live shows. 

"I was the set-list guy for the band, but lately we stopped drawing them up," Berlin says. "We just do it on stage. It got to a point where we were going off the set list so much, usually 50 per cent of the time. So for now we just sort of call it out." 

If Berlin doesn't get his chance to jam with Lanois, there's always another possibility. Berlin is an old friend of Gord Downie, having produced the Tragically Hip's 1998 classic album Phantom Power. Downie will also be at the Harvest Picnic, backed by The Sadies. 

"Canada has an extremely high standard of musicianship, attention to song craft and detail," says Berlin who has also produced Matt Andersen, Great Big Sea and the Crash Test Dummies. "And nobody pays more attention to song craft than Gord Downie, at least not anyone that I've ever worked with." 

There are also a long of opportunities for Lanois to re-acquaint himself with some other A-list musicians in the Harvest Picnic line up. In 1997, produced Ron Sexsmith's song There's a Rhythm and this year he recorded a duet with Hamilton singer Laura Cole, who is also on the Harvest Picnic line up. 

Then there's Bruce Cockburn. 

"Bruce Cockburn and I go way back," Lanois says. "I worked with Bruce in the early '70s in my mother's basement (in Ancaster) — egg cartons on the wall, me a greenhorn and him producing a record for Eric and Martha Negler, two really great folksingers of that time … 

"Bruce is one of the great guitarists to come out of Canada. I'm jealous because he's a better finger picker than me, and I'm pretty good." 

 

August 8, 2014
Parry Sound North Star

Bruce Cockburn Performance to Benefit Health Centre


There are still tickets available to see Bruce Cockburn at the Charles W. Stockey Centre this month. 

Bruce Cockburn is coming to Parry Sound on August 18 to perform in a benefit concert for the West Parry Sound Health Centre. 

The veteran Canadian artist will perform from his latest record, Small Source of Comfort. 

Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about  the human experience. 

The performance is presented by Haljoe Coach Get Off the Bus Concerts, with all concerts raising money to benefit the health centre.

 

August 7, 2014
Litquake press release

In keeping with Litquake’s affinity for music and musicians, Bruce Cockburn joins a rich and varied list that includes PattiSmith, Tom Waits, Dan the Automator, Mark Eitzel, Steve Earle, Ray Manzarek, JohnDoe, Exene Cervenka and Lars Ullrich, when he previews his soon to be published memoir. Originally from Canada, Cockburn who began his career in the 60s—and first came to the attention of the American public with "If I Had a Rocket Launcher"
—now calls the Bay Area home. Cockburn will appear at The Make-Out Room on Friday, October 17.

 

August 1, 2014
The Windsor Star

Bruce Cockburn itching to get back to writing songs 
by Ted Shaw


For the first time in his career, Bruce Cockburn has taken a break from songwriting while working on his memoirs.

“I’ve been writing a book the last two years or more,” he said from his home in San Francisco. “I look forward to actually being a songwriter again, starting any time now.”

Rumours of Glory: A Memoir has gone into final editing and is scheduled for release Nov. 4. In the meantime, he’s back touring again and will bring his trio that includes violinist Jenny Scheinman and drummer Gary Craig to the inaugural Kingsville Folk Festival, Aug. 8.

Having recorded 31 albums in 40 years, Cockburn said it has been a strange experience not to have new product to promote. His last studio album was Small Source of Comfort in 2011.

But then his life has changed dramatically in the last four or five years.

He married longtime companion M.J. Hannett, a lawyer, just after the birth of his second daughter, Iona, in 2011. The family moved to San Francisco where Hannett works for the U.S. government.

Iona is two-and-a-half and keeps the 69-year-old Cockburn on his toes.

“Between the baby and the book, I’ve had no time at all to work on music,” he said.

That’s going to change soon, however. “I won’t promise but I may have something new to play when I get to Kingsville.”

Cockburn said he spurned previous offers to have his life story told. “The timing just didn’t seem right.”

But when his new publisher, Harper Collins, approached him with the idea of doing a book of memoirs with a spiritual focus, he agreed.

“They had this idea for a spiritual memoir but didn’t offer any thoughts on what they meant by that. So I sort of came up with the concept with the help of a journalist friend of mine, Greg King.”

Cockburn said he “knocked off” about 100 pages about his childhood in short order, but then got bogged down.

“The kinds of memories you have of your childhood life are different from the kinds of memories of your adult life. In many ways adult memories are intertwined with what’s going on in your life right now.”

He dug through notebooks of his many trips around the world which are archived at Hamilton’s McMaster University. But he decided not to simply publish a compendium of old notes.

“I include some stuff that comes from my trips to Central America and Chile,” he said. “But mostly there are a lot of song lyrics because much of the book is about how the songs were born.”

Rumours of Glory, the title of course scooped from one of his best-known songs, takes readers from his birth in Ottawa in 1945 to his visit to Baghdad in 2004.

“I felt that was the right place to end it. So many things have changed in my life since 2004. My life had headed in many different directions, and where it ends is unknown as yet.”

He documented some of his thoughts about Iraq and the political situation at the time in the album, Life Short Call Now. The song This is Baghdad is a monumental, strings-laden portrait of the war-torn city, not a polemic as some of his songs can be.

Since that time, his music has taken on a mellower, almost playful, quality.

He’s not tipping his hand about what’s next musically, but he is enjoying not having to pump the songs of his latest album on the current tour.

“It’s kind of nice to be free of the need to emphasize a particular album,” he said, although admitting he usually prefers to play his newer songs.

Part of that urge has been satisfied by rearranging some of the older stuff.

“The curious thing is that after a while the songs are old enough that they could almost be somebody else’s songs. If I were to play an Elvis Presley song, I wouldn’t just do it like Elvis Presley. I’d have to think of how to do it in my style.

“How would I do Rumours of Glory or World of Wonders now? It’s a mental process you go through.”

 

July 24, 2014
Winnipeg Free Press

RightsFest to mark opening of human rights museum
by Adam Wazny


A free, two-hour outdoor concert tops the list of activities when the Canadian Museum for Human Rights open its doors in September.

The national museum, which is scheduled to open to the public on Sept. 20, announced its plans for the long-awaited grand opening at a press conference this morning.

A two-day event dubbed RightsFest will mark the occasion and will see a two-hour concert at The Forks outdoor stage Saturday evening.

Performers booked for the Canadian Concert for Human Rights include Canadian folk legend Bruce Cockburn, renowned First Nations electronic group A Tribe Called Red, award-winning artists Marie-Pierre Arthur and Shad, along with East Coast fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and internationally recognized singer-songwriter/social activist Buffy Sainte-Marie.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival, an organization that is no stranger to putting on events of similar magnitude, booked the performers for the CMHR show.

The concert will be broadcast live on Rogers stations (OMNI and CITY) and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). The networks will also broadcast the 90-minute CMHR opening ceremony on Sept. 19 at 10:30 a.m.

Twenty-five performances and activities around The Forks and museum will also take place during Sept. 20 and 21. The museum will offer free "sneak peek" guided tours of the CMHR during the weekend, as well.

"RightsFest will have something for everyone," CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray said Thursday. "From skateboarding to dance, from daytime children’s programming to an open-air evening concert, RightsFest will appeal to people of every background and every age."

More announcements on RightsFest programming are expected later this summer.

 

July 24, 2014
Calgary Herald

David Suzuki launches speaking tour, with help from Feist, Neil Young 


VANCOUVER - Beloved environmentalist David Suzuki has announced plans to tour Canada — with support from high-profile pals including author Margaret Atwood, painter Robert Bateman and musicians Bruce Cockburn, Feist, Jim Cuddy and Neil Young. 

Organizers say The Blue Dot Tour could "possibly" by Suzuki's final national speaking tour.

It's set to visit 20 communities from St. John's to Vancouver between Sept. 24 and Nov. 9.

The tour is expected to combine concerts with community events.

As the longtime host of CBC's "The Nature of Things," Suzuki has developed a rabid following, along with a knack for explaining complex scientific concepts to Canadians in plainspoken language.

Trained as a geneticist, the Vancouver-based scientists has written 52 books and holds 25 honorary degress.

"This is the most important thing I've ever done," Suzuki said of the tour. "I am so honoured that these incredible Canadians are joining me to celebrate the simple yet powerful idea that all Canadians should have the right to drink clean water, breathe fresh air and eat healthy food."

Others expected to take the stage during The Blue Dot Tour include Emily Haines from Metric, Jenn Grant, Chantal Kreviazuk, Joel Plaskett and children's performer Raffi.

"All of these incredible Canadian performers, leaders and icons are joining David Suzuki because they share his commitment to protecting the people and places we love," said Michiah Prull of the David Suzuki Foundation.

 

July 16, 2014
Vancouver Sun

Folk legends Cockburn, Baez share ethos and passion, but not the stage in Vancouver


Fusion Festival: July 19-20 | Holland Park (Surrey)

Vancouver Folk Music Festival: July 18-20 | Jericho Beach Park (Vancouver)

There is a somewhat delicious irony in the fact that Canadian folk-rock veteran Bruce Cockburn and folk legend Joan Baez will be in the Vancouver area on the same day July 19, yet they will perform on two very different — and distant — stages.

Cockburn will be in Surrey performing a headlining set at Surrey’s Fusion Festival, while Baez will be at Jericho Beach Park serenading the Vancouver Folk Music Festival crowd.

The two could have easily been paired, especially considering Baez is also performing an afternoon workshop in honour of late folk troubadour Pete Seeger, a man both Baez and Cockburn celebrated at a huge 90th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden in 2009.

“I didn’t pay much attention to her back in the day,” Cockburn said in a recent phone interview. “She was a famous person with a good voice and she had good taste in songs, but I was more interested in the songwriter people than the performers. I wasn’t very well versed in the lore of Joan Baez when I first met her.”

Cockburn’s first encounter with Baez happened somewhere in the mid ’80s at a protest concert of some sort in Santa Barbara, California, as he recalled.

“It might have been a pro-choice rally, or something about South America,” Cockburn said.

At the time, Cockburn was making waves with his album Stealing Fire, his 1984 cornerstone that included two of his most famous songs: Lovers In A Dangerous Time, and If I Had A Rocket Launcher, Cockburn’s heavily political song which he penned after visiting Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico set up after the counter-insurgency campaign by then Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

In the song, which Cockburn has stated is not meant to be a violent call to arms but a cry for help, he sings, “If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die.”

“The song had been around for a bit, but it was still relatively new,” Cockburn explained. “Her audience disapproved of it exceedingly because they thought it was some kind of war song. People had been with me until that point and then you could just feel — nobody booed it, but there was a real kind of tension in the audience.”

Baez’s pedigree as an antiwar protester is well-known.

A fixture of the ’60s counterculture scene, Baez was deeply involved in the American Civil Rights movement. Now 73, she helped found the U.S. chapter of Amnesty International in the 1970s. In recent years she has been involved in environmental causes, the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians, and in protesting the war in Iraq.

 

July 16, 2014
ParrySound.com

Bruce Cockburn visits Stockey Centre next month-
Parry Sound concert series raises money for local hospital 


Bruce Cockburn is coming to the Charles W. Stockey Centre on August 18

The veteran Canadian artist will perform from his latest record, Small Source of Comfort. 

Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. 

The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience. 

One of Canada’s finest artists, Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. 

His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and world beat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. 

“My job,” he explains, “is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal.”

That scratching and pulling has earned Cockburn high praise as an exceptional songwriter and a revered guitarist. His songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery are among the best to have emerged from Canada over the last 40 years. 

His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. 

Throughout his career, Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song. 

Whether singing about retreating to the country or going up against chaos, tackling imperialist lies or embracing ecclesiastical truths, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight. “We can’t settle for things as they are,” he once warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.” 

But he never rests on his laurels. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” says Cockburn. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.” 

His commitment to growth has made Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come. 

The performance is presented by Haljoe Coach Get Off the Bus Concerts, with all concerts raising money to benefit the West Parry Sound Health Centre. 

 

June 12, 2014
Carleton Newsroom


Bruce Cockburn Receives Honorary Degree from Carleton University

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.”

Cockburn first began playing guitar in the late 1950s as teenager, although he never studied music when he attended Ottawa’s Nepean High School. After high school, he completed three semesters at the Boston-based Berklee School of Music in the mid-1960s. He played with several bands in the ‘60s before launching his solo career in 1970 with the release of a self-titled album. More than 31 albums followed.

“Bruce Cockburn is a Ottawa native and a Canadian singing and songwriting icon whose work has become synonymous with giving voice to human rights issues and environmental causes,” said Ian Tamblyn, Carleton’s artist-in-residence.

Known for hits like Wondering Where the Lions Are, Lovers in a Dangerous Time and If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Cockburn’s fans are worldwide. As of 2013, 22 of his albums have received Canadian gold or platinum certification. He has sold nearly one million albums in Canada alone.

Cockburn has helped raise funds for food distribution programs and highlighted First Nations’ efforts to preserve the rain forests of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Cockburn’s work has been recognized with numerous awards and honours. He became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002. The winner of 12 Juno awards, he also received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. He has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

 

June 7, 2014
The Sudbury Star

Rapping with Bruce Cockburn in Sudbury
by Carol Mulligan


The intent wasn't to talk with Bruce Cockburn about Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Richard Nixon on Friday, hours before he received an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University.

The interview was to be about his 50-year career, his latest album, Small Source of Comfort, his memoir, Rumours of Glory, to be published in November, and the words of wisdom he intended to impart to graduates that afternoon.

But carefully crafted questions left at the office and an admission that encounters with heroes like Trudeau haven't always gone well prompted Cockburn, 69, to recall his own dealings with PET.

The first was in Cockburn's hometown Ottawa shortly after Trudeau was elected prime minister in 1968. The young singer-songwriter met him at a party thrown by mutual friends.

Cockburn asked Trudeau, whose Quebec lieutenant died shortly after he was elected, if the job was less exciting than he thought. Trudeau looked at him as if he were from another planet. When Cockburn's girlfriend, Kitty, whom he later married, spilled beer on Trudeau, he was gracious, though.

He next encountered Trudeau at a Winnipeg hotel where they were both staying and where the PM was being picketed by disgruntled farmers.

"I liked him. I mean he had his problems, things I disliked about his policies, but in general, I thought he was a great presence on the Canadian political scene and an interesting guy, so I sent a bottle of cognac to his room. The next thing I know, I'm in the Order of Canada."

Cockburn laughs after that anecdote, as he does frequently during a 30-minute interview in the dining room at the Holiday Inn.

Cockburn met Jean Chretien once and he said he was impressed. "He had a really great vibe in person." He liked the fact Chretien "took on that protester," referring to the incident in 1996 in which Chretien applied what became known as the "Shawinigan handshake" to a protester who got too close to him, grabbing him by the neck and shoving him down.

Cockburn admits if the protest had been about an issue he cares about deeply, such as the environment, he might feel differently.

In his speech to graduates, Cockburn intended to touch on a few issues.

"They've just spent years in a collective atmosphere and they're going to go off and ... probably are hungry to get away from that, (but) there's a lot of dark stuff looming on the horizon."

The way to respond to looming crises is with community, not with the individual, "not with every person for themselves."

He planned to make a passing reference to another theme: "The less virtual things are, the better they are ...

"You're going to get out there and get into relationships and have kids and try to have a career ... and it may not go the way you want it to and, even if it does, it's going to be tricky at times.

"We're not trained for that these days. We're trained to be doing everything with our earphones on."

It is quite a different world today's graduates are facing than when Cockburn was singing "Going to the Country" in 1970.

"It wasn't globalized, and even though there was news from everywhere and there was a war on, it didn't come home to us the way it does now."

With social media, people can say they're got a Facebook friend in Tehran, and that has a good side and bad side. While you might get to know what's going on in their part of the world, they're not really a friend.

"You're not going to be there for them when the cops come to the door, and they're not going to be there for you when you lose your job."

First, last and always, Cockburn is a singer-songwriter. He lives in San Francisco now and tours mostly in the U.S. at theatres and clubs.

He will play Northern Lights Festival Boreal this year, where he last performed in 1998.

You can't resist asking about the song "Call Me Rose" on his latest album; about Richard Nixon reincarnated as a single mother of two children living in a housing project. "I have no good answer for that ... I woke up one morning with that song in my head."

It begins: "My name was Richard Nixon only now I'm a girl. You wouldn't know it but I used to be the king of the world. Compared to last time I looked like I've hit the skids,  living in the project with my two little kids. It's not what I would of chose. Now you have to call me Rose."

When he wrote it, there was an American campaign to rehabilitate Nixon's image. Cockburn recalls one pundit saying: "Richard was vastly misunderstood. In fact, he was the greatest president of the 20th century and possibly ever."

Cockburn, a Christian, says it's a song of redemption, "the idea that redemption is there, no matter who you are. You might have to pay for it ... so the price of his redemption is having to live this life of poverty and femaleness. Even then, he says at the end, 'Maybe the memoir will sell,' so he's still Tricky Dick.' "

His memoir is cowritten with journalist and friend Greg King, whom Cockburn enlisted when he got stuck around the 100-page mark when he was finding it difficult to address the complex issues of adulthood.

"It involves other people, which was a really big stumbling block for me. How do I write about other people without causing them pain, but still tell the truth?"

He admits there are people he doesn't worry about that with.

When asked if it was difficult opening up for the memoir, Cockburn says no.

"There's not very much in my life I would worry about anybody knowing. It's not like I've ever shot anybody. There's not very many secrets."

carol.mulligan@sunmedia.ca

 

May 13, 2014
Billboard


Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards Honor Quincy Jones, Arts & Crafts, HMV Canada, More

The Canadian music industry gathered at Toronto’s soon-to-close Kool Haus over Canadian Music Week to honor more than 40 businesses and individuals at the 2014 Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards, covering labels, agencies, management, promoters, radio, venues and retail (see full list below).  Those were all announced on a screen via voiceover, while onstage time was dedicated to proper tributes for six honorees with a legacy and an impact.

Joining the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame were Attic Records founder Al Mair, musician Tom Cochrane, and Astral founder, CEO, and president Ian Greenberg, while folk music icon Bruce Cockburn received the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award and Rogers Media’s Paul Ski was given the Allan Waters Broadcast Lifetime Achievement Award. Liz Janik was selected for the Rosalie Trombley Award, celebrating women trailblazers in radio.

The evening began with a special video tribute to 81-year-old music legend Quincy Jones -- one of CMW’s celebrity interviews at the conference -- who took the stage after a rousing standing ovation to introduce his artist, 20-year-old Montrealer Nikki Yanofsky.

“The next performer is a young lady who I believe represents the next generation of female vocalists,” Jones said. “She is an accomplished singer-songwriter, performer that has shared the stage with heavyweights such as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Celine Dion and many others, so you know that she is no joke.” He also mentioned he’s the executive producer of her just released album, "Little Secret."

Slaight Music’s Gary Slaight and artist manager Bernie Finkelstein gave out Cockburn’s humanitarian award, named after Gary’s father, Allan, who built the media empire Standard Broadcasting. The family is made up of noted philanthropists.

“I’m greatly honored to be the recipient of this year’s Humanitarian Spirit Award,” said Cockburn. “I think it’s wonderful that there is an award honoring the spirit of our concern for each other’s well being. That spirit is easily eclipsed by the last kindly thing we do and get up to. The more we nurture it the better.”

Later, he added, “I don’t know if I’ve done anything special to merit this. I think each of us has a moral responsibility to share what we can of our material and personal resources, especially those of us for whom life is less precarious than it is for many of our sisters and brothers. The world is full of pain and anything we can do to lessen the amount of it, let’s do it.”

Comedian Tom Green joined the evening in progress as the host, asking, “Is everybody drunk yet? Is everybody having fun? . . . They asked me to host this because I’ve been in the broadcast industry and the music industry. I was nominated for a Juno in 1992 [with his hip hop group Organized Rhyme]. I lost to Devon for his song ‘Keep it Slammin’.' My song was ‘Check The OR’ -- ‘You like it so far?’.” 

Astral (dissolved in 2013) co-founder Ian Greenberg called his induction “a priceless honor that I accept with humility because none of my achievements over the past five decades would have been possible without the [help] of so many people. I’m proud to say that Astral was forged in the spirit of family My brothers and I started he company because we needed a way to support our family and keep our siblings together after the death of our parents. But beyond the family aspect of it, Astral became a 50-year long love affair that now goes on with Bell Media.” 

Al Mair was called “one of Canada’s original tastemakers” by Six Shooter Records’ Shauna de Cartier (who inducted him), noting how he ran school dances, was a DJ, and drove a red 1964 Pontiac Acadian convertible with a 45rpm player under the dash. Mair has a career-spanning five decades in the music business, most notably as the founder in 1974 of the since-defunct Attic Records, which went on to accrue 114 gold, platinum and multi-platinum records in Canada, the U.S., Japan, the UK, and Holland.

“I wanted to thank all the staff and the artists that we worked with Attic over the 27 years of fun,” Mair said. “I also want to recognize the people who helped us get established and get rolling.” He mentioned his first partner Tom Williams, who was in attendance at the awards, and some that were not, such as Les Weinstein and the Irish Rovers, who “were shareholders from Day One” and Allan Slaight, who “put us in touch with the venture capital company that came up with the money for us to do it.” 

He also took the time to thank the Music Managers Forum for naming their annual award The Brian Chater Award, after the late music executive and tireless lobbyist. “No one deserves to be honored more than Brian did for what he did for the Canadian industry,” he added.

Mair also name-checked fellow honoree Paul Ski, with whom he went to New York’s 1967 Expo.  Ski is now CEO of radio, responsible for overseeing Rogers Media’s 55 radio stations across Canada. 
 Ski had said, “It’s an incredible honour to be recognized by my industry peers. Over the past 30 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best in this business and am truly humbled to receive this prestigious award.”

Tom Cochrane -- inducted by his good friend and fellow Hall of Famer Gil Moore, of the rock trio Triumph, who called him “a celebrated musical icon” -- performed a few songs and got the industry crowd on its feet.  During his acceptance speech, the singer gave special thanks to his longtime friend Deane Cameron, with whom he was in a high school band and went on to become president of EMI Music Canada and signed him; his current label president Randy Lennox of Universal Music Canada; plus Bruce Cockburn, bandmates in Red Rider, The Feldman Agency’s Vinny Cinquemani, SOCAN “for collecting,” and others. He even rattled off the old and current broadcasters, including Corus, Newcap, Rogers, CBC, Slaight Communications, Bell Media, Sirius, American broadcasters and mom & pops.

“Our passion for music is the one thing that we have in common among a lot other things, being a proud Canadians in a lot of cases. I know we have some America brothers and sisters here tonight as well . . . Without music, it would be a pretty boring world . . . No man’s an island . . . We can’t do it by ourselves as writers and singers and we all love music so much, and we want to keep it alive. We have that in common, right?’

Among the winners of the basic 2014 Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards were Universal Music Canada for Major Label of the Year; Dine Alone Records for Canadian Independent Label; Eone Music Canada for Independent Distributor; Universal Music Publishing for Music Publisher; Arts & Crafts for Management Company; The Agency Group or Booking Agency; Live Nation Entertainment for Promoter.  

Toronto’s Massey Hall won Performing Arts Centre (Over 1,500 Capacity), Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre was awarded Performing Arts Centre (Under 1,500 Capacity), Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre took home Major Facility Of The Year (Over 8,000 Capacity) and there was a tie for Major Facility (Under 8,000 Capacity) between two Ontario venues, Oshawa’s GM Centre and Kingston’s K-Rock Centre.

Montreal’s Osheaga was named Festival Of The Year; Orillia’s Casino Rama Casino/Specialty Venue and Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom the Club Venue Of The Year. In the retail category, Toronto’s Rotate This won Independent Record Store Of The Year; HMV was called Mass Merchant/Retail Chain of the Year; iTunes was awarded Digital Music Retail Service and Soundcloud nabbed best Digital Music Streaming Service.

 

May 7, 2014
The Ottawa Citizen


Bruce Cockburn is living in Frisco

In Town: Cockburn is appearing in Ottawa on Saturday night as part of the Spur festival (spurfestival.ca) and on behalf of the Al Purdy A-Frame Restoration Campaign. 8 p.m., National Archives; tickets, $20. For more info on Spur click here.

These days Bruce Cockburn has settled in San Francisco. For a long-wandering troubadour, it’s a good place to land.

The climate is pretty nice and his wife and child live there too.

That doesn’t mean he’s not touring these days. In fact, the Ottawa-raised singer-songwriter is headed to his hometown in support of a poet.

There is a move afoot to restore the Ontario home of the late poet Al Purdy as a writers’ retreat. The home is in Prince Edward County.

So, Saturday night at Library and Archives Canada, Cockburn will perform in an event that is part of the Spur festival of art, culture and ideas.

“Al Purdy was a fantastic poet,” said Cockburn. “It’s just nice to be able to be part of anything that has something to do with him.”

Cockburn has a large playbook from which he can draw.

“I have more fun playing whatever is newest usually. Sometimes I have fun discovering a new way of doing an old song that’s more enjoyable. It is the case that people want to hear certain songs. They need to get some of what they want.

But you couldn’t do a show that would offer ony the oldies. You have to mix it up.”

For the Purdy benefit he is just doing a few songs, he says. “I may chose wordier ones because it’s a poetry thing.”

When he thinks of the Purdy project, Cockburn is a bit envious.

“I’d love to have a retreat, but I don’t have any time to retreat anywhere.”

One reason for that is Cockburn, who turns 69 later this month, is the father of a two-year-old girl. And “she is lively.”

Cockburn remarried a few years ago and his wife is American. For a while they lived in New York, but his spouse got a job in San Francisco and the move happened. But he did spend some time commuting from the east to the west by car, no less.

“I liked the drive. I did so much driving across Canada in the ‘80s, I kind of missed it.” But eventually he made the move.

Musically Cockburn’s last album was released in 2011.

Since then he has spent most of his time touring and working on a memoir that will be released in November. He says he is doing the book now because he got an offer from a publisher that he couldn’t refuse.

“It was the right time. I’ve been approached over the years by various people who wanted to write my story and publishers who wanted me to do it but it always seemed to soon.

“Plus it seemed like my story and I didn’t want to hand it over to somebody else. It was my story to tell.”

Still it has ended up as a joint effort because he got bogged down after about 100 pages.

“I just didn’t know where to go.” So he enlisted a trusted journalist friend named Greg King.

“It was easy to write about childhood. It’s the distant past and it was simple. the memories are fewer and more concrete. But once you get into the mechanics of adulthood it gets complicated. I found it hard to sift all the information and put it in some kind of coherent fashion.

“It’s definitely my voice that you will read,” he insists.

Cockburn’s father died last year, but before that he would run things by him. “His memory was totally sharp. There are other witnesses that I can consult with. And I have my own vivid memories and this is my story.”

The memoir stops in 2004, after he returned from a trip to Baghdad.

There is a sequel, in theory, but he’s not anxious to write it.

Cockburn has been performing music but he is not writing it. The memoir has occupied that part of his creative self.

One of the things the Al Purdy folks want to do is an album of songs and Cockburn is considering taking part.

“I haven’t been writing. But I look forward to being in a position to seriously wonder if I’m going to write a song now.”

It’s not so much that his muse left, “I slammed the door. All the ideas and the space in my brain that gets those ideas is about the book.”

“My style of writing is very different from what is required for a book. You write a song, you are dealing with 30 lines. It’s finite and not very great number. The time frame it gets written in can be anything from a couple of hours to a few days. Sometimes that few days stretches over a long period. A book is concentrated over a long period.

“As it sits in my computer it is 478 pages and it’s taken time and energy to get to that.”

Memoirs prompt memories and Cockburn has been thinking about his Ottawa days.

“I dropped out of Berklee (College of Music in Boston, Mass.) at the end of 1965 and the next couple of years were with the band The Children learning to write with Bill Hawkins, which was the big benefit. I learned a lot about guitar from Sneezy Waters and Sandy Crawley and various other people but I learned about writing from Bill. That’s what got me started.”

He spends more time in the book on The Children than with the next group 3′s A Crowd.

“When I joined 3′s a Crowd it was not the original group with which I was acquainted. It was with David Wiffen and Richard Patterson who were left after original band broke up.

“David and Richard approached various of us to put a band together for a TV show (The band included Colleen Peterson, Sandy Crawley and Dennis Pendrith).

“I was looking for a way to go solo and this was an opportunity for a bunch of gigs that made sense to me. I took it. It lasted about six months with me in it.”

Cockburn’s family is still here, but he doesn’t get to come back and explore the changing city.

But it was that city with a smalltown feel that made him, he says.

“I think one of the things that was really notable about Ottawa when I was growing up there was how easy it was to get out of. The exposure to nature that we got as a matter of course. The family had a cottage a little west of the Gatineau on Grand Lake. And my grandfather had a farm up near Old Chelsea.”

Cockburn lived on Highland Avenue three blocks from Nepean High School, his alma mater.

“I think it was a good place to grow up for people in my situation. It was a middle-class kind of atmosphere with an emphasis on education.

The Cockburns would ski at Camp Fortune and Bruce was a competent skier, he says. After many years he picked up skiing again in the 1990s. But recently because of his daughter, he says, he hasn’t been able to go.

His father was in the Canadian military after the Second World War and was part of the occupying force in Europe.

“I’ve always been interested in history and in military aspects of history.”

As a performer, he has been in war zones including Afghanistan, on a mission to visit the Canadian troops.

“That was the first time I’ve been in a war zone with people that I could understand, who were my people. It was great to be in an atmosphere like that from that perspective it was educational.

“Our stuff was being run well and our people were doing a good job. It wasn’t a surprise to find that was the case. It was a surprise to find how much that was the case and how professional and together and informed the Canadian soldiers I talked to were.

“They knew what they were there for, unlike the American troops that I have also met in other war zones.

“They gave you the impression that they were there because somebody made them go, they had no choice. They were cynical.

“I have had a difficult time convincing my lefty friends that this was important. This was to right a wrong … that can’t be ignored.

“I sort of agree that you can’t have a country in the world these days where people go around throwing acid in women’s faces simply because they want to learn to read. There are some cultures that don’t deserve to persist.

“There are aspects of the Afghan culture — here I am Mr. white man talking about it — the admirable traits deserve promotion and the opposite ones deserve suppression or removal.

“That’s true of us, too.

“When the correction comes for us, I’m sorry I won’t be there to help my little daughter through it.”

 

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 spiritual themes.

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 with:

“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 one.”

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 say goodnight.”

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 hesitate.”

“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.

 

April 2014
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 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.”

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 peoples.

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
The Spokesman-Review
Spokane, Washington

Singer-songwriter Cockburn finds inspiration across musical spectrum
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 the albums.”

But Cockburn’s music isn’t merely defined by its sources of inspiration. His work is distinctively his, 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 pastoral ballads. 

“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
Ottawa Start


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. 

Cast your ballot daily (from April 7 to May 5, 2014) for Glashan Public School’s Outdoor Classroom atmajestatreesofknowledge.ca.

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 classroom structure.” 

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 12 noon.

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
Brant News

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 Ottawa band.

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 Christianity.

“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 about that.”

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 2002.

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.”

michelle.ruby@sunmedia.ca

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 519-758-8090 or at www.sandersoncentre.ca.

 

February 5, 20014
Two Row Times

Two Row Times talks with Bruce Cockburn
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 says.

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 ground.

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 before.

“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
Our Windsor.ca

In conversation with Bruce Cockburn-
Famed Canadian performer, songwriter set to headline Kindness Project benefit concert
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 International Airport.

“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 from flights.”

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 of winter.”

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 right.”

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 I have.”

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 Fame.

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
The Record

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.

Cockburn returns to the familiar digs of the Humanities Theatre to perform a solo concert Feb. 13. A small number of tickets remain unsold.

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 title).

"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 laugh.

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 progress. 



January 29, 2014
Rollingstone

M.I.A., Tegan and Sara, Neko Case to Headline Canadian Music Week-
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 17, 2014
The Intelligencer

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 November release.

“Then I'll just have to go around justifying it,” he says, chuckling.

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, me talking.”

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 well.”

He compared it to hearing your recorded voice for the first time.

“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 gene.

“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 hierarchy.”

Yet now, he joked, “if somebody doesn't do it, you're offended.

“There's a sort of insidious element to it in that way.”

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 done.”

And in the meantime, he says, all the attention feels pretty good.

“Hey, man. It's my 15 minutes of fame,” he laughs. “It's great!”

Tickets: $57.82 at the theatre, 321 Front St., 613-969-0099 ext. 1 or theempiretheatre.com


January 12, 2014
D. Keebler

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.



MEDIA 2013

 

December 13, 2013
Personal email from Bernie Finkelstein

Hi, Daniel,


McMaster University asked us for permission to take a few pages from one of Bruce's donated journals and make a Christmas Card to be sent to their own Christmas list.

Bruce wrote a song aptly called Christmas Song in 1973, which was released on his 1974 album, Salt, Sun and Time.

You can see where they show the original two pages from the Journal on the card.

We might give them permission to sell it next year for a charity, but for now it's for the University's use only.

 

 

 

November 13, 2013

Bruce Cockburn
Bush Hall
London, England
November 13, 2013 

Reviewed by Richard Hoare

This was the only UK show and last date of a solo tour of Europe that had taken in gigs in Spain, Finland and Germany. The sold out Bush Hall concert was buzzing with a large crowd. Although the seats were in place, a large number of the audience were left standing. 

Bruce came on in fine humour saying “It was good to be back in the home of the language,” and pointing at the two six and twelve string Linda Manzer guitars on the stage, proffered that “He was going to play from his vast array of instruments”. 

Cockburn kicked off with the welcome return of Grim Travellers, substituting “Islamist Underground” in place of “Red Army Underground” and “The Prophet” for “Karl Marx”. Our man settled in with The Iris of The World and When You give It Away before blowing us all away with the dextrous and rhythmic guitar work of the instrumental Bohemian Three Step. Strange Waters was played in the hypnotic arrangement created for the 2011 trio tour of North America and After The Rain glistened and sparkled. 

Bruce graced us with another guitar instrumental, The End of All Rivers, played with delays, harmonics and beautiful sedate runs and closed the first set with “A song that seems just as relevant today” and an old favourite, Lovers In A Dangerous Time. 

The second set eased back in with the claustrophobic Pacing The Cage before the invitation to sing on Wondering Where The Lions Are. Cockburn took the pace up a gear for a wonderfully strident Stolen Land, another vehicle for some inspiring guitar work and continued with a brilliant loping gait for Five Fifty-One. Call It Democracy kept up the fire and pace which then cooled down for the meditative God Bless The Children, written in 1972. Cockburn ended the set with an explosive rendition of Put It In Your Heart.

For encores Bruce came back and played a beautiful All The Diamonds with the capo high on the guitar neck, followed by a raucous and physical Tie Me At The Crossroads with Bruce jumping around slashing chords from his guitar. He left the stage again but we wouldn’t let him go and he came back for a luminous and lilting Look How Far to finish. 

When I asked my wife, Mary, and 24 year old son, David, whether they wanted tickets for this show back in March this year they said “Why not?” As the date drew nearer and the logistics of getting to the venue after day jobs started to bite, Mary and David were wondering whether it was going to be worth the effort. I wasn’t much help with encouragement because I was going anyway. The last CD came out in 2011 and I wasn’t expecting any new material to be aired. 

I am pleased to report that all three of us were delighted with what a dynamic and satisfying show we experienced. We saw a world class performer who still has the technical ability to re-arrange and deliver his material in a way that brings a refreshing vibrancy and still retain the soul of the work. Bruce’s voice and his vocal range are in fine form unlike many of his contemporaries.

On a long weekend in Sweden in September this year, Mary and I took a steam ferry out into The Stockholm Archipelago on a sunny day to see where All The Diamonds was written in 1973. All the lyrics are there among the different and beautiful array of islands. We were so lucky to hear the song again tonight. 

As we left the venue our son David said to Bruce, “Thank you being so inspirational and keeping my Dad happy!!” Bruce grinned and said “That’s a noble comment; I never say that about my Dad!!”

 

October 22, 2013
Brantford Expositor

Bruce Cockburn comig to the Sanderson Centre
by Brian Thompson
Canadian folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn is performing a concert in Brantford to benefit the Freedom House Kindness Project.

The announcement was made this morning and the concert will be at the Sanderson Centre on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale today through the Sanderson box office. Prices are $55 (orchestra) and $45 (balcony).

Cockburn is known for songs such as If A Tree Falls and Lovers In A Dangerous Time. He has won 13 Juno Awards and is known around the world both for his music and humanitarian efforts.

Last year's Kindness Project benefit was performed by Lighthouse and raised $12,000. Organizers are aiming to top that amount this year.

 

October 3, 2013
Saultstar.com

No Second-Guessing For Cockburn
by Brian Kelly


Bruce Cockburn doesn't pack his bags planning to write songs about what he'll encounter on his travels.

But there are times he'll see something that spurs him to put pen to paper.

That's what happened when the veteran Canadian folksinger wrote If I Had a Rocket Launcher for his 1984 album, Stealing Fire.

The song, a minor hit in the United States, was based on Cockburn's experience visiting a refugee camp for Guatemalans in Mexico.

“I didn't go to Central America looking for material to come up with a song,” said Cockburn in a recent telephone interview from San Francisco.

“I've never gone anywhere with that intention.”

He was surprised when his record label wanted to release the five-minute track as a single.

“It shows you how much I know about audience reaction,” said Cockburn.

“The business people could see the potential in this song. Radio people were coming back to (my manager) Bernie (Finklestein) saying, 'Yeah, we'd play that.' I'm going, 'How could they possibly play that song?' But they did.”

A song from Cockburn's most recent album, Small Source of Comfort, saw a similar start.

He lobbied the federal government to travel to Afghanistan to meet with Canadian troops including his brother, a doctor. Hockey legend Guy Lafleur and rock band Finger Eleven were part of the delegation that visited Canadian troops in 2009.

During a rest stop en route to Afghanistan, Cockburn participated in a ramp ceremony for two Canadian soldiers being returned home.

“ It was a very, very moving experience which is what I tried to capture in that song (Each One Lost),” he said.

“That's not an angry song. It's topical in its way because those ramp ceremonies were a feature in Canadian life for a number of years and hopefully it won't be again for awhile. It was actually a very touching thing to be part of, and an honour, to be part of it.”

Two Sault Ste. Marie natives, Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli and Sgt. John Faught, were killed in action in Afghanistan.

Cockburn took notes during his time with Canadian troops and wrote Each One Lost the day after he returned to North America.

“I just had such a vivid memory of that experience that it wanted to be a song,” he said.

“When I sing that song those feelings still come back. The scene is still very present.”

Cockburn has recorded numerous songs with a social message – from concerns about First Nations (Stolen Land, Indian Wars) to taking a jab at the International Monetary Fund (Call It Democracy).

His 1988 album, Big Circumstance, featured If a Tree Falls in the Forest about the razing of rainforests, Where the Death Squad Lives and Radium Rain.

Cockburn doesn't spend time debating if he has too many songs with a message that may weigh down listeners.

“The songs are a product of whatever I was experiencing during the time they were being written,” he said.

“Everybody's got their own idea of what they want to listen to. You can't really second guess, at least I can't anyway ... If I were trying to write something more stereotypical (as a pop song) then I would try to second guess how much they're going to like it. But that's not really my goal. I write the songs the way they seem to want to be written. I have to take my chances with how people receive them.”

Cockburn is a rare songwriter who notes the city, and year, where each of his tracks are penned on album sleeves and, now, booklets. It's record-keeping he started after noting some of his favourite poets, possibly T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas or Allen Ginsberg, making similar efforts.

“After awhile it started seeming like it mattered in some way,” said Cockburn.

“It's not critical to an understanding of the song in most cases. Once and awhile it is. I think there was some songs that come from  situations that it's helpful to know that I was in that situation when I wrote that song ... It does leave a kind of trail for anybody who's interested enough to want to try to track the comings and goings of the creative force.”

Cockburn's setlists can potentially be drawn from the more than 30 albums he's released since his self-titled debut in 1970.

But his choice “automatically gets narrowed down” because he can only keep 50 to 60 songs “in a playable condition.”

“There's a lot to choose from,” said Cockburn.

“That's not such a bad thing really.”

He plans to draw largely from his last three to four albums (Small Source of Comfort, Life Short Call Now, Speechless, You've Never Seen Everything). But there'll also be material from throughout his career including God Bless the Children – the closing track from his 1973 album Night Vision.

He'll switch up one to five songs a night. If there's an encore, his song selection “can open right up.”

Cockburn still has a house near Kingston, Ont., but primarily calls San Francisco home now. He's married and has a daughter, Iona, who turns two in November.

He's eased back on touring since her birth. His appearance at Kiwanis Community Theatre Centre as part of Algoma Fall Festival is the last of a short tour of Northwestern Ontario.

“I tend to spend as much time as I can here at this point,” said Cockburn.

Tickets, $50 for adults and $30 for children plus tax and surcharge, are on sale at Community Theatre Box Office in Station Mall.

On the web: www.brucecockburn.com

 

August 28, 2013
Broadway World

Canadian Music Week Honors Iconic Musician & Composer Bruce Cockburn

by BWW News Desk

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 - 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. Bruce has long been deserving of such an award and recognition, and we're thrilled to see his efforts honoured this year.

"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.

 

August 14, 2013
The Times Colonist

Bruce Cockburn a rare treat at Butchart Gardens
by Mike Devlin


Rain better suited to October than August threatened to complicate Bruce Cockburn’s outdoor concert before it even began Wednesday.

But thanks to that old showbiz motto, the Butchart Gardens show — which had no choice but to go on — did so in spite of the grey clouds overhead, beating them back every step of the way.

To use a bit of Cockburn-speak, nothing worth having comes without a fight, so this gig kicked at the darkness until it bled daylight.

Many in the audience appeared to care little about the spittle. Their reward was a spectacular outdoor show that not only looked but also sounded great, from Cockburn’s opening number, Grim Travellers, to his final encore 90 minutes later.

Credit is due to the environment that the Ontario native, now based in San Francisco, was performing in on this night.

The beds of flowers added to the visage, no doubt.

But even those couldn’t compete with the sounds emanating from the small amphitheatre, nestled among towering trees, that sent  his songs outward over a grassy knoll to an audience of about 3,000 fans.

The concert — a special event added to the nightly summer programming at the national historic site — was a rare treat for fans. It put a premium on intimacy (one longtime fan even presented Cockburn with flowers at the end of Give It).

Cockburn displayed a sly sense of humour. When one fan yelled “Bruce Almighty!” the singer offered a sarcastic retort: “That movie was terrible.”

There was a sense of occasion, indeed.

Cockburn didn’t play it safe — the four-letter word in Call it Democracy stayed — but Cockburn, 68, joked often with the diehard fans up front.a1-0815-bruce-clr.jpg

“I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to hear you yell out all those song titles,” he said, drawing more cheers. “But I can’t think of the one we are going to play.”***

He played plenty, but also let his all-star violinist, Jenny Scheinman, sing lead on one of her own songs during his set.

Scheinman and percussionist Gary Craig (the other member of the duo that backed Cockburn) opened the night with 30 minutes of fine folk, but it was hard to beat the master on Wednesday.

The rain returned during Wondering Where the Lions Are, his 1979 hit, but Cockburn’s finger-picking was so strong at this point it barely registered. He continued his fretboard frenzy with a reverb-heavy Stolen Land, which resonated across the 55-acre site with a political punch.

Some rain-weary fans at the rear were making their exit well before the show was over, but that wasn’t for lack of effort on the part of Cockburn and his bandmates.

Or for lack of talent.

This was one for the books.

Photos: Bruce Stotesbury

***A fan at the show reports that Bruce actually said: Bruce replied to the audience's song requests by saying "none of the songs that were called out are on the setlist" in so many words, not that he couldn't think of the next song.

 

August 12, 2013
The Province

Veteran Cockburn continues to wander
On the road: Singer-songwriter still going strong, enjoying solo performances and interacting with crowd
by Richard Wagamese


The troubadour wanders. He's a solitary sort and his eye is always on the horizon. There's a lot of world to see and a lot of stories  to be told in song about its vistas, its nooks and crannies, its recesses and splays of light. The troubadour is drawn to all of them. He inhabits them. They come to inhabit him and the world through song is defined and articulated in the grace of his poetry.

Bruce Cockburn is a modern day troubadour. He has been for 43 years and 37 albums. At 67, he released a DVD featuring documentary and solo performance called Pacing The Cage. The songs are culled from performances off 2009's Slice of Life and he likens the DVD to a conversation.

"It's me, a microphone and several guitars," he said.

"The solo thing allows for a greater rapport with the audience. Between takes there's nothing but me and them and I tend to talk more. I like the solo performance for that - that ability to talk with audience with no one to hide behind."

The DVD includes the documentary of the same name done for Vision TV in 2012 along with musical performances. A second DVD, which is entirely a concert film, will feature the performances on the Vision TV version of Pacing The Cage plus many not in the film or on the live album, Slice of Life.

"Those who like the solo thing will love this and those who prefer a band might not enjoy it as much. But the good news is that we can still come back and do a band DVD sometime in the future."

Not surprising. In his career he's moved from the boho acoustic thing of his beginnings, to full band albums, back to philosophical/spiritual musing, to angry rants, only to return to pacific, spiritual wonder again. Those who have followed him through the length and breadth of his recorded career, "some of whom are still alive," will find much to savour. The performances on Pacing the Cage hit signposts all along that journey.

See, he's wandered through Europe, Central America, Japan, Africa and

across the U.S. and Canada. These days he's found hunkered down in San Francisco with a new wife and a 14-month-old daughter named Iona. He's been there for varying chunks of time over the last three years. He sounds peaceful, rested and optimistic.

"The city fits me really well in a limited way," he said. "When we were in New York, I really liked it there with its feeling of impending chaos. It had a really dark, almost post-Apocalyptic feel that was inspiring.

"The city of San Francisco though, is an anomaly. It's this beautiful kind of

yuppie enclave surrounded by miles and miles of redneckery. But you don't feel that in the city."

When it comes to songwriting he doesn't know how the new atmosphere will inspire him. He hasn't written any songs. Instead, he's in the process of a first draft of a memoir, a kind of writing that's new to him and presents its own degree of difficulty. He calls it a spiritual memoir and fans of songs like Mystery from 2004's Life Short Call Now will be drawn to it.

"The book's turned into a much bigger project than I thought it would be.
When you write a song it's a short-term phenomenon. The flash comes or it doesn't come and if there's no flash there's no song.

"But with a book you have to sustain the energy and the focus. The thought process is carried over for a much extended period. It's challenging for me but as time goes on it becomes a little less so. It's moving along well now and my deadline for the first draft is the end of July."

While there's no word on a publication date, beyond a best guess of somewhere over a year, he's confident as you'd expect a prolific songwriter

to be. A look back at significant albums in his oeuvre always shows a superb craftsman able to wring telling nuance, truth or vitriolic upset out of a lyric.

"It's not like I'm writing songs all the time. I write when I get an idea or an inspiration and when I have enough songs to put an album together we go into the studio and create an album.

"But if I write songs over a period of time they're going to reflect what's going on in that period of time. They acquire a kind of dramatic consistency because of that."

In concert:
Bruce Cockburn
When: Monday, 8 p.m. Where: Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville St.
Tickets: $74.50 at ticketmaster.ca

 

August 7, 2013
The Times Colonist

Film sheds light on songwriting legend Bruce Cockburn
by Mike Delvin

Bruce Cockburn isn’t the type of artist who speaks to hear the sound of his own voice. He’ll shout from a mountaintop when it involves an issue he is passionate about, or a cause he supports.

But when it comes to his own music, he is content to let things happen.

That shouldn’t suggest he is closed to the idea of press and publicity. Ask him a question, and Cockburn will always give you an answer. Almost always, it’s an incredibly thoughtful one.

At this point, longtime fans of the singer-songwriter (whose career as a recording artist got underway in 1970) likely know where he stands on most matters.

But that doesn’t make Pacing the Cage, a documentary on the singer-songwriter released in June, any less enthralling.

The film unfolds like a long-form discussion on the topic of his art and influence, touching on everything from Cockburn’s politics to his religious beliefs.

Even though it was produced by his manager, Bernie Finkelstein, with Cockburn’s participation, the film doesn’t spoon-feed viewers or attempt to pull back the curtain on the complex native of Ottawa.

It simply examines him as an artist, writer and guitar player, and lets the music do the rest.

The film unfolds somewhat languidly. There is a linear narrative, to be sure, but even when Cockburn is speaking, he seems to present information about himself as a conversation starter, as opposed to a definitive answer to a specific question.

Though he is a public person who values his privacy, Cockburn said he eventually got used to the constant cameras during filming.

He was caught off-guard after seeing the final product, however.

“I don’t think there is anything in the film that I wasn’t aware of previously. But it does give you a different perspective seeing it unfolding on a screen,” he said. “It’s a little weird, actually.”

In the documentary, Cockburn, 68, says he feels as comfortable on the road as he does at home, which makes sense.

He has been performing since the mid ’60s, in various bands at first, before going solo for good in 1969. “It’s more about having a nomadic nature than anything else, I think,” he said of his endless tours.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. I do what I do because it allows me to do what I do. But I would have the same affinity for travel if I had to find some other means of getting it done.”

It has been a remarkable run for Cockburn. Among his many awards and achievements are 11 Juno Awards since 1971, including his most recent one in 2012.

He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and one of the country’s most revered humanitarians, with numerous honorary doctorates and degrees, including one from the University of Victoria.

He will be back on local soil next week for a performance at Butchart Gardens, only the second in the area since his Oct. 4, 2008, appearance at the school’s Farquhar Auditorium, during which he shared the stage with retired Gen. Romeo Dallaire.

The fundraising event was for a program, developed by UVic researchers, aimed at reintegrating child soldiers into their communities.

It is one of the many causes that Cockburn (who currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and young daughter) publicly supports.

He will forever be considered a political person, in part because of the material he performs in concert. It can be exhausting carrying such a weight all the time, so Cockburn lets as much light shine into his life as possible.

“You have to laugh. It would be hard to get through life without a dark sense of humour. The crap is out there, and the crap is genuinely crappy. There’s no getting around that. I may have paid attention to that more than some people do, and it gets to me at times how bad people can be, and how thoughtless.

“But at the same time, there’s that capacity we have for laughter and joy and beauty and love, which is also just as real. It’s important to not get hung up looking at just one side of it.”

He is known for covering tough territory in his music, but there is a side to Cockburn that the public does not often see, or chooses  not to recognize.

Among the talking heads feting Cockburn in Pacing the Cage — Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson, Bono and Michael Ondaatje, to name a few — is his friend guitarist and producer Colin Linden, who describes Cockburn near-perfectly at one point.

“He takes the music very, very seriously, and he takes the causes that he is involved in very seriously,” Linden said. “He doesn’t take himself that seriously.”

Cockburn is front and centre throughout the film, and in his typically thoughtful way, talks playfully about things that make him tick.

Often during the film, he has a wry smile on his lips, as if to suggest he is letting viewers in on a little secret.

In the end, he feels the film gives an accurate portrayal of him as a person and artist, even though he blushes at the sight of his famous friends offering accolades.

“More disturbing in a way than what might be revealed about me was the legion of interesting people saying nice things about me,” Cockburn said with a laugh.

“These people were going on and on, and it’s like, ‘Come on, guys. This is embarrassing.’ ”

 

August 7, 2013
The Edmonton Journal

Festival preview: A conversation with activist Bruce Cockburn

Legendary musician headlines Folk Fest Saturday, Aug. 10
by Fish Griwkowsky

EDMONTON - An ideal Folk Fest headliner: Bruce Cockburn.


Writer of a handful of the great Canadian songs, advocate and adventurer to war-torn horizons worldwide, and truly one of the most intuitive guitar players still picking, 68-year-old Cockburn was eased into the recent retrospective film Pacing the Cage with testimonies and on the-spot-covers by famous figures including Sarah Harmer, Jackson Browne and Bono. As we’ve seen here live from the slope many times, the onscreen performances of standards like Wondering Where the Lions Are, If I Had a Rocket Launcher and Lovers in a Dangerous Time tensely shine with a sort of stolen hope, ephemeral little moths of songs resounding for decades due to simple, echoing beauty.

We talked to him about the cinematic portrait earlier in the year, but with Cockburn you never stay in one place for long.

Journal: “There are a lot of fantastic quotes from the movie — ‘I think we’re f---ed’ is one that really rings.”

Cockburn: “Good headline, eh?”

Journal: “I’ll pitch that one to my editor. What do you think of it?”

Cockburn: “They did a great job of capturing as much of me as I’m willing to make public, and certainly the flavour of being on the road.”

Journal: “You looked back and considered your life. At 68, did you make more of a difference than you thought you might?”

Cockburn: “I never thought about it at all. When I dropped out of music school at the end of ’65, I had no idea what I was going to be doing, whether I would be able to survive off music or not. I dove in. I just tried to follow the same kind of urges that got me started in the first place. Over time, involvement with one thing or another, songs came out that had an effect on people, and the involvement certainly had an effect on me.”

Journal: “You have people from David Suzuki to Sylvia Tyson lauding you. Bono can rattle off your lyrics from memory. It must be gratifying.”

Cockburn: “It is. It’s particularly nice people thought about it. It’s nice to be taken seriously.”

Journal: “I love the imagery of ‘the magnetic strip’s run thin’ on Pacing the Cage. It reminds me of Bilbo Baggins saying he feels like a piece of toast thinly buttered. Is your mortality in your head a bit?”

Cockburn: “It’s always kind of been there. I was never a fan, but the best thing Jim Morrison said was no one gets out of life alive. There’s the sense of the inevitable ticking closer, but I look at my dad who’s 95 and he feels the same way.”

Journal: “Did you have a relationship with your grandparents?”

Cockburn: “My grandfather on my mom’s side had been a forester, and in the days when he was a forester there was no such thing as ‘the environment.’ He had a clear conscience about what he did and no one could argue with that. He taught me a lot about appreciating the bush out on his farm outside of Ottawa, how to tell a jack pine from a white pine. He cultivated in me a love of the forest at a very young age, the relationship between us and that. By modern standards he would be considered an exploiter of the forest, but in his era it seemed unlimited. He did have a sense of responsibility. For awhile he ran what amounted to forestry policing itself, which consisted mainly of not setting accidental forest fires. (Laughs.) But between that and doing a lot of canoe tripping in Algonquin Park, I got this love of the wilderness.”
Journal: “Pierre Trudeau wrote that every Canadian should take a canoe trip.”

Cockburn: “I really think so. When I was in Mozambique at one point, we’d flown into this camp for internally displaced people, but  from the air you could see the Zambezi River and I asked, ‘Do people use the river for transportation?’ ‘No. No,’ he says, and I asked why not. ‘Hippos and crocodiles.’ This is something Canada is free of — we have bears, which you’re very unlikely to run into, and mosquitoes, which you’re extremely likely to run into. Other than that …”

Journal: “There’s a central irony in If I Had a Rocket Launcher I’ve always wanted to ask you about. You’re so angry about violence you’re brought to fantasizing about blowing someone up, which is of course where war comes from in the first place. It’s a very shocking protest song.”

Cockburn: “It came out of a sense of outrage, bigger than anger. There was no appropriateness about any of it. You’re in a war (in  Guatemala), you have a counter-insurgency going — but that doesn’t mean you go and strafe the refugee camps. It was subhuman behaviour and as such, warranted being stopped by any means. The people in the helicopters seemed to have forfeited their claim to humanity. I don’t believe this is true (now), but this is what it felt like: righteous anger. Once it was written, I had to wrestle with, ‘Do I sing this for anybody or not?’ I never worried about hypocrisy, I never claimed to be a peacemaker. I just think peace is better than war.”

Journal: “Do you think there’s something about humankind that just doesn’t work when there’s too many of us? We seem to be escalating the scale of a number of economic, environmental and political problems lately.”

Cockburn: “The issue of peace isn’t only about numbers, though that’s a big factor. Tribal societies have been fighting each other since Day 1. In Mozambique I came to the sense that war is the default condition of mankind. Every now and then we get these waves of calm where we can flourish as a species, make art and do well. But inevitably we descend into this chaos again. I’m not smart enough to figure out the whys and wherefores of that. (Laughs.)

Journal: “Have you ever fired a real rocket launcher?”

Cockburn: “I narrowly missed an opportunity to do that. The closest I’ve come is a machine-gun, once with an Ontario Provincial Police group that was training, and once with Canadian troops in Kandahar — not at anyone, just at paper. I was in Cambodia and only found out afterwards you can rent stuff like that and play with it, even rocket launchers. They’ll take your money, take you out to the range and show you what to do. Which I probably would have gone along with.”

 

August 1, 2013
Medicine Hat News

Spiritual memoir next on the artistic agenda for singer-songwriter Cockburn
by Bruce Penton

Bruce Cockburn, the legendary Canadian singer/songwriter is busy writing his first book, with the deadline for the first draft of his long-awaited spiritual memoir due near the end of last month. Cockburn was approached by a publisher a few years ago to tell the tale of his life’s work and since spirituality is a part of his everyday life, it was a natural fit.

Being a first-time author aside, Cockburn is presently on tour in support of his latest DVD documentary release “Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage,” with a live performance at the Esplanade Aug. 8 with his band.

“The record business, you know back in the day, when we first starting making records we would make an album and it would come out a month later,” said Cockburn, adding there is no release date for his forthcoming book hopefully soon to be hot off the press. Quite honestly, Cockburn noted he doesn’t know how it works, as he hasn’t published a book before, so it’s all new to the seasoned veteran performer.

“Nowadays, you make a record and it takes six months to a year before they get around to putting it out the major labels,” added Cockburn. “I would expect the publishing industry to be somewhat similar.”

With writing poetry everything’s compressed, according to Cockburn, but with a book containing decades of personal reflections and anecdotes he said one must go in the opposite direction. “It’s very filled in and it’s got a lot of detail.”

Song-wise, for more than 35 years and just about as many albums, Cockburn has been no stranger to a string of hits including “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “If a Tree Falls” and “Wondering Where the Lions Are.” Cockburn has been involved in numerous charitable, activist and humanitarian efforts, is a winner of 13 Juno Awards, has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Recently, Cockburn donated personal archives including notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings and three guitars to McMaster University, where he was the recipient of an honourary doctorate in 2009.

In 2009, Cockburn also released a live solo album entitled “Slice of Life” the footage from the recently released documentary is from the same tour of the live album. “Of course the film has a lot more in it than the music. There are complete performances of some songs but there’s also a lot of talking. I’m quite happy with it. I think it’s an accurate portrait of a part of me that I wanted to show,” said Cockburn.

“I’m 68. I guess it’s time for a retrospect. I’ve been approached many times over the years by people that wanted to do a book on me but it always seemed like it was premature for one thing. In your forties and even in your fifties, it’s too soon for something like that,” said Cockburn.

 

August 1, 2013
The Cochrane Eagle

Canadian music legend to visit Cochrane August 9
by Lindsay Seewalt
There are few Canadian songmen who have embodied the very essence of troubadour to the degree that Bruce Cockburn has.

More than a household name, his concerts find their way on the bucket lists of any given Canadian folkie.

The heavily decorated, 13-time Juno Award winning, Canadian Music Hall of Famer and international humanitarian will be opening up the 14th season for the Cochrane Valley Folk Club (CVFC) on Aug. 9 at the Alliance Church at 7:30 p.m. The show is sold out and is just one of the many North American tour dates for the folk icon this summer.

Accompanied by violinist and jazz composer, Jenny Sheinman (best known for her work with the likes of Norah Jones, Bill Frisell and Lucinda Williams) and drummer, Gary Craig, the trio will be celebrating more than four decades of Cockburn’s music at the foothills church, including famous hits such as “Wondering Where the Lions Are” (which earned him status south of the border in 1979) and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” (which became a number one hit for The Barenaked Ladies later on).

“I imagined I would become a composer for a large ensemble – that’s what I was studying to do…but then I found Bob Dylan. And then we all got excited about the music…the Stones, Jimi Hendrix…” reminisces Cockburn on his mid-sixties stint at Berklee School of Music in Boston and the early years of trying on different hats with various bands in a time when festivals were more than an overpriced weekend spent listening to the latest YouTube nominee.

Touting his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort (2011), Cockburn is still filling rooms with his artistic, rhythmic guitar, soulful blending of folk, jazz, a hint of blues and an assortment of world music garnered from years of globetrotting and playing for humanitarian aid the world over – be it brought on by his trip to a Guatemalan refugee camp in 1984 – inspiring the anthem “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”; his 1998 travels to Mali, West Africa alongside filmmaker Robert Lang; or his 2009 voyage to Afghanistan to visit his brother, Capt. John Cockburn, and play music for the troops.

This sense of humanity developed in the late seventies. Cockburn blames it on a decision to simply love thy neighbour more, following his own low point after his first marriage ended.

“I took advantage of the opportunities that were offered – spiritually and physically – doors kept opening. I ended up becoming more tuned in to people…and that ties in with the basic premise to love my neighbour,” said the Ontario native and devout Christian, adding that the era he grew up in contributed to his social conscience.

“There was a consciousness of what was happening in the world and a real sense of right and wrong (instilled during childhood).”

But it was long before the world traveller began boarding planes and playing for the less fortunate that his love for world music began injecting its way into his songs.

“(In the early days) I made a point of not listening to pop music, but to allow other cultures in…I didn’t want to sound like other singer/songwriters…I’m very critical of what comes out at this point. Even though we change as people when we get older, we’re still the same…I’ll write something down and realize I said that 20 years ago.”

Viewing himself as “sort of a guitar-playing songwriter” Cockburn, who is currently entrenched in writing his memoirs, has left the bulk of the production side of his career to be handled by long-running partner, Bernie Finkelstein; the two have worked through all stages and phases of Cockburn’s musical history since 1970.

The politically-minded songwriter recognizes the challenges modern musicians face. His advice is for aspiring musicians to aside pre-conceived notions of grandeur and to play from the heart.

“It’s so fashionable to be famous now and I think that’s a mistaken premise…if you’re not prepared to stick it out and not be successful than don’t even bother,” said Cockburn, stressing the importance of integrity in music.

While the Cockburn show is sold out, visit cochranefolkclub.com to purchase tickets to future season shows.

 

July 26, 2013
Oshawa This Week


New Bruce Cockburn DVD
We see Cockburn ‘as a man still seeking’
Thank your god for Bruce Cockburn, Canada’s singer/songwriter grounded in grace. He stands in the mid-period pantheon between the past of Mitchell, Cohen, Lightfoot and the present of Plaskett, Hayden and Collett. He pairs elegance with eloquence.

Cockburn has added fire, force and vitality to the Canadian songbook. He is alone in this wide land as all the greats are. He is singular in song and singular in statement.

Cockburn travels and on his journey through life and landscape he sees, hears, documents his thoughts, emotions, reactions into the lightest of touch and the heaviest of subject. He is corporeal, weighty, profound both as a player and as a lyricist. He paces this cage wondering where the other lions are.

Spend a night with his songs, his more than 30 full-length albums and listen carefully -- to a skilled guitarist who draws from blues, jazz, folk, country and from everyone he has ever met from his world tours -- both personally and professionally. Bruce Cockburn is human, oh so human.

Pacing The Cage is a new DVD which combines a solo tour document with insights on his crafts and appearances from fans -- ordinary and celebrated. Jackson Browne, Bono and Michael Ondaatje are among those fans of the man from the nation’s capital.

Mixing Super8 footage and video technology, filmmaker Joel Goldberg has created a work worthy of Bruce Cockburn’s long history as activist and artist. The old meets new may be a tip of the chapeau to the famous album cover for Night Vision, which uses the late Alex Colville’s painting Horse and Train.

The film presents Cockburn as a man still seeking, a man unfinished. He demands perfection from himself but is forgiving of the errors of others. He still kicks at the darkness, still curses those inflicting injustice upon the earth’s indigenous peoples, still spits vitriol in spite of his spirituality. But the music he makes creates a calm in the eye of this storm we are born into.

His guitar is more powerful than any rocket launcher. His songs are as soothing as a dark ride on a night train as shadows of places yet to be explored recede into the distance. Bruce Cockburn’s music is rooted in the poignancy of those moments.

Pacing The Cage is as much a document of where Cockburn has not been as it is a document of where he has. It, as he does, stands unfinished. Pacing The Cage is just another beginning for this man of many beginnings. It is available through True North Records.

 

July 23, 2013
CBC New Brunswick

Bruce Cockburn DVD Offers Insights, Live Songs
by Bob Mersereau

Bruce Cockburn is certainly one of the most loved musicians to perform on the East Coast over the past few decades. Never growing too big, or fading, his career has always been just right for fans, filling the soft-seat theatres, giving us intimate and friendly shows, marvelling us with his intricate guitar style, passionate lyrics and command of several musical styles. Over the years, we've come to feel we know Cockburn, and this 105-minute documentary lets us further into his world, as it examines several of the key areas in his life. We get discussions on his social concern and activism, his Christian spirituality, lyric writing, guitar playing, his relationship with life on the road, and a few insights into his personal life. All this is framed with solo concert performances of several of his iconic songs, including Wondering Where The Lions Are, If I Had A Rocket Launcher, Lovers In A Dangerous Time and more.

It's an inside job, to be sure. Long-time manager Bernie Finkelstein is the major interview subject here, aside from Cockburn, and serves as a co-producer, but there's not really an attempt at a white-wash. This is for folks who know what he's about, and presents an opportunity to get some answers to major career questions. Where does his songwriting inspiration come from? Why does he mix politics and music? What is his take on Christianity? Cockburn's never shied away from any of these questions in his career, but the film does give us a concise collection of answers, and comments from friends and experts, including Bono, Jackson Browne, Michael Ondaatje, Sylvia Tyson, Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire and David Suzuki. You won't find many people in any field that cover so many bases in their lives.

The documentary isn't a career retrospective, which would be welcome as well, and includes no archival footage or analysis of various albums or life periods. Instead, it's a snapshot of where Cockburn is at these days. The music comes from a recent solo tour, acoustic songs recorded live on stage, so we don't get Cockburn the rocker fronting electric bands. Of course, that means we do get a lot more acoustic playing, which he seems more comfortable with of late, and says as much here. All the interview clips from him come from one long session, aside from some tour bus and backstage comments, so again it's very much his modern view. Some Super-8 linking shots are including, your basic grainy black-and-white fields flying by, not the most interesting stuff, and I did find myself wishing for a more comprehensive bio. There was a Life And Times done for TV back in 2001, but that's long out-of-print, so hopefully one day we'll get some sort of mega-doc/boxed set, but in the meantime, Cockburn fans can find out he's as genuine as we always believed with this DVD.

 

July 16, 2013: Alex Colville dies at age 92. His painting, Horse and Train, was used on the cover of Night Vision.



Mid-1970s: Taken at a gold record presentation (for Night Vision) to Alex at the Windsor Arms in Toronto.

 

May 9, 2013
Cashbox

Canadian Singer/Songwriter Bruce Cockburn Donates Archives to McMaster University



Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s best loved musicians and composers, has donated his archives to McMaster, including his notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings, and even three guitars.

“These are my tools, my rough drafts, my mementoes and my trophies. Together, they form the roadmap of my working life,” says Cockburn. “I’m pleased they will have a safe and permanent home in a place where they may be useful to others.”

The collection includes 32 of Cockburn’s notebooks from 1969 to 2002. Through their pages, one can trace the development of individual songs, sometimes from single thoughts to finished lyrics, all set randomly among pages of sketches, observations, budgets, set lists and other notes. The notebooks offer a real window into the artist and activist’s imagination, creative process and his life as a working musician rising to international prominence.

Cockburn talks of the three guitars he has donated:

A Guild 12-string, model F212-NT, serial 51968, 1971
“That is on a couple of albums, You’ve Never Seen Everything (2003), for sure, and I think it’s on Breakfast at New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999) … We had trouble amplifying that one for live shows. It didn’t come with a built-in pickup. I replaced it with a 12-string Manzer.”

A Manzer, serial 10228
“This one is a Linda Manzer guitar. I hold her in great esteem as a luthier, and I’ve been very much associated with her for decades. I thought it would be good to have something of hers in there and I had enough of them that I could spare one.”

A Martin & Co., Little Martin LX1E, serial MG 18964
“A Little Martin travel guitar that I took to Nepal with me. That guitar is in a documentary we made about that trip to Nepal (the film is also part of the collection) so I thought it would be nice to be able to see it on film and have it there.”

“Bruce Cockburn is an iconic and respected figure in Canadian and international culture,” says McMaster Provost and vice-president (academic) David Wilkinson. “For him to choose McMaster as the recipient of this collection, while he is still contributing to our culture, is a true honour. We are grateful for his gift, which will impact generations of students and other researchers across multiple disciplines, including those involved with McMaster’s highly regarded music program.”

Among the papers Cockburn has donated is correspondence from notable figures such as Adrienne Clarkson, Lloyd Axworthy, David Suzuki, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Murray and John Crosbie. There are fan letters, photos and more in a collection that requires 64 pages just to list all the items that will be available to researchers at McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.

“We are delighted to receive such a rich resource that will benefit students, faculty members and other researchers studying not only music and poetry, but social activism, politics and the creative process itself,” says McMaster’s acting University Librarian Vivian Lewis.

Cockburn was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from McMaster in 2009.Cockburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002. In 2001, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 30th Annual Juno Awards, in 2002 The Canadian Association of Broadcasters inducted him into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame at the 76th Annual Gold Ribbon Awards Gala, In 2007 he received three honorary doctorates, the fourth, fifth and sixth of his career. In early May he received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and later in the month he received an Honorary Doctor of Letters at the convocation of Memorial University of Newfoundland for his lifelong contributions to Canadian music, culture and social activism. He was then awarded an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia. Cockburn previously received honorary doctorates from York University in Toronto, Berklee College of Music, and St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.

Cockburn was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from McMaster University in 2009. Cockburn received the Queen Elizabeth II  Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

The University’s archives also include personal collections from such notable thinkers and artists as philosopher Bertrand Russell, authors Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence and Farley Mowat.

 

May 7, 2013
Hamilton Spectator

Cockburn thanks Mac for taking his ‘mongrel assortment’

by Graham Rockingham


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.

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.

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.

Photos: Scott Gardner, The Hamilton Spectator

 

May 4, 2013
Inside Halton.com

Bruce Cockburn flies solo in Burlington, Ontario
by Dennis Smith - Special to Burlington Post

Bruce Cockburn definitely enjoys working with a band, but he’ll fly solo in Burlington this summer.

“If I’m the only one on stage, the songs become more front and centre,” he said. “That’s as opposed to playing with a band, where you could be distracted by some real cool thing the drummer does. This is sort of a more direct relationship with the audience.”

The renowned folk singer/guitarist, creator of songs like Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Wondering Where The Lions Are and Waiting For A Miracle performs here on Aug. 29.

His concert will take place at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust St. It starts at 8 p.m.

The show will feature all acoustic material, said Cockburn in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he now lives.

“In general, there’s always an emphasis on the newer stuff,” he said. “That’s always more interesting to me.”

Older material occasionally gets mixed back in, added Cockburn.

“Of the 300 songs I’ve recorded, I can only perform 50 or so at a time,” said the Ottawa native. “Which 50, depends on the timing.”

Cockburn previously played here in a benefit concert at a north Burlington farm.

He enjoyed it, although he recalled “a train wreck moment.”

Cockburn was singing one of Sarah Harmer’s tunes with the Burlington performer.

“The lyrics were on a big piece of cardboard at my feet,” he said. “But I was wearing bifocals and couldn’t read them. I felt bad for Sarah that I messed up one of her songs.”

The show, which also featured Feist, was a fundraiser for Protecting Escarpment Rural Lands (PERL).

The citizen group opposed allowing a new quarry proposal on Mount Nemo.

Nelson Aggregate’s application was later denied by a Joint Board.

“That was good news,” said Cockburn.

He and Harmer are shown rehearsing and performing together in the Pacing the Cage DVD, to be released on June 18.

The documentary examines the life, spirituality and songs of Cockburn, whose musical career started in 1966.

It includes concert clips, plus appearances by his manager Bernie Finkelstein, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson, Colin Linden and others.

“Director Joel Goldberg and the camera man were terrific company to have on the road,” said Cockburn. “But you have to make sure you’re not doing something you shouldn’t.”

The DVD opens with U2 singer Bono quoting from Cockburn’s hit, If I Had a Rocket Launcher.

He wrote it in a hotel room after visiting a refugee camp whose inhabitants were threatened with violence from Guatemala.

“I remember drinking whiskey and writing the song and crying,” Cockburn recalled on the DVD.

He’s also shown with Lieut.-Gen. (Ret’d) Romeo Dallaire, now a senator. They have raised the issue of child soldiers.

The singer/activist is an Officer of the Order of Canada and is even featured on a Canadian postage stamp.

He follows the issues of North Korea, Syria, the United States and other places.

“There’s a lot of nasty stuff going on all over the planet,” said Cockburn. “It seems at least at the top levels, that there’s an absence of leadership for solving problems.”

His passionate vocals and nimble guitar playing have won him 13 Juno awards.

Cockburn’s latest was for Small Source of Comfort, a blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock.

Two of the songs came from a trip to Afghanistan.

Each One Lost was written after Cockburn witnessed a ceremony for two Canadian soldiers who’d been killed.

“It was very poignant on all levels,” he said. “Nobody was thinking about being somewhere else. Everyone right there knew it could’ve been them.”

He wrote Comets of Kandahar after watching jets taking off with their tailpipes burning flames in the pitch darkness.

Call Me Rose is about disgraced former U.S. president Richard Nixon being reincarnated as a single mom in a housing project.

“I woke up one day and that song was in my head, it was almost complete,” he said.

Lyric writing is especially important to Cockburn, while arrangements for his songs are a team effort.

He encourages other musicians’ ideas, but holds the veto.

“I don’t necessarily have a definite idea, but I know it when I hear it,” he said. “And I know what I don’t want.”

There are more than 400 cover versions of his songs, by everyone from Barenaked Ladies to Jimmy Buffett to Anne Murray.

Cockburn said he likes the idea of other artists performing his music, although he doesn’t always like what they do.

“It’s important that people notice the songs and perform them,” he said. “In general, it’s a nice thing that people want to do it.”

Instead of songs nowadays, he’s writing a memoir after signing with a publisher.

Cockburn moved to San Francisco recently after his wife M.J. Hannett got a job there.

They have a baby daughter, Iona. (Cockburn also has a grownup daughter, Jenny).

He has made 31 albums for True North Records, now located in Burlington.

Cockburn said he’s not sure about recording for that label again, since his manager Finkelstein no longer owns it.

After his Burlington concert, Cockburn will do a solo show at Niagara-On-The-Lake (Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre) on Aug. 30.

For more information about his local appearance, call 905-681-6000 or visit www.burlingtonpac.ca

 

May 2, 2013
CBC.ca

Bruce Cockburn donates archives to McMaster University



Hamilton is about to inherit decades worth of Canadian music history.

McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. announced Wednesday that Canadian songwriting legend Bruce Cockburn has donated his  archives to McMaster — notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings and even three guitars.

The archive is there for students to pore over — and on Tuesday, Cockburn, 67, will be at McMaster to formally unveil the collection during a small, invite-only ceremony.

“It's nice to think there's some vestige of what I did in there that's preserved,” Cockburn told CBC Hamilton. “That said, I worry about inflicting it on some people. Some poor kid is going to have to study that stuff to get his PhD.”

All three guitars in the collection have been played live and popped up on various albums over the course of the Ottawa-born musician's decades-long career. The Guild 12-string was a gift from a former girlfriend, and it's the first 12-string guitar he ever owned.

The Martin is a travel guitar, and can be seen in the 2007 documentary Return to Nepal. And the Manzer is a custom build, constructed by Toronto-based luthier Linda Manzer.

But the jewels of the collection are Cockburn's handwritten notebooks. Inside are drafts of some of his biggest songs — like Lovers in a Dangerous Time from 1984's Stealing Fire.

“There's always a notebook,” Cockburn said. “I learned very early on that if you don't write those things down, they're gone.”

Lyrics are scrawled on now-faded pages in those notebooks — some lines crossed out, some changed as tunes evolved and took  shape. There are sketches, notes from travel and first drafts of speeches.

In most cases, the lyrics almost always come before the music, Cockburn says. “Then I remember the music by playing it over and over.” But that doesn't mean the songs come easy.

“Getting images into a poetic form that can be put to music sometimes takes some doing,” Cockburn said. “Sometimes the words are just sitting there waiting for the right music.”

There are also thousands of photos from countless performances in the collection, as well as tour memorabilia from over the years. One show poster is clearly from very early on — the cover price is $1.50.

Cockburn says he's not usually one to give in to great waves of nostalgia. But it still means something to know people are this interested in his work — and committed to preserving it. It might not seem clear to everyone who reads it, he says, but years of work are summed up in those pages and have been played on those strings.

“There's a definite personal history there.”

Photos: Adam Carter/CBC


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April 30, 2013 
McMaster University

Media advisory 
McMaster to celebrate gift of Bruce Cockburn archives May 7, 2013

Hamilton, Ont. April 30, 2013—Bruce Cockburn, one of Canada’s best loved musicians and composers, has donated his archives to McMaster, including notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, nearly 1,000 recordings, and even three guitars. 

He is to speak to invited guests and journalists at a celebration of his gift at McMaster Tuesday May 7, where other musicians, including Tom Wilson, Colin Linden, McMaster-based Of Gentlemen and Cowards and a string quartet will play selections from his repertoire.

A Celebration of the Bruce Cockburn Archives at McMaster
Tuesday May 7, 2013 - 7 to 9 p.m.
Convocation Hall (located in University Hall, Room 213). For more information, to arrange coverage of the event, or to see the archives, please contact:

Wade Hemsworth
Public Relations Manager
McMaster University
905-525-9140, ext. 27988
hemswor@mcmaster.ca

Michelle Donovan
Public Relations Manager
McMaster University
905-525-9140 ext. 22869
donovam@mcmaster.ca

 

April 17, 2013
SamaritanMag

Juno Awards Enlist Bruce Cockburn To Spotlight Green Initiative

by Kim Hughes|


Folks can quibble until they’re blue over who wins what at the 42nd annual Juno Awards this weekend in Regina. But one area virtually impervious to criticism — yet largely invisible to the public — is the show’s concerted behind-the-scenes environmental efforts.

Indeed, since 2008 the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), which operates the Junos, has been working with innovative Vancouver-based green consultancy Strategin Solutions to implement and execute a widespread sustainability initiative covering everything from toilet tissue to catering choices to renewable electricity.

This year, in an effort to raise public awareness about the initiative, the Junos and CARAS have dubbed Canuck folk legend Bruce Cockburn their 2013 Sustainability Ambassador, a ceremonial but prestigious role held last year by Sam Roberts.

If anyone can drive home the point that the Juno brain-trust is working hard to reduce their show’s carbon footprint, it’s Cockburn, a noted environmentalist with a sterling and career-long track record of supporting agencies including Friends of the Earth, USC Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation plus Oxfam and Amnesty International.

“It’s obviously important for them to have a name that’s recognizable,” Cockburn, who won't be attending the Junos, tells Samaritanmag from his San Francisco home. “And it’s nice to be asked and to be thought of that way — as someone whose opinion matters.

“But the real point is to get everybody who is interested in the Juno Awards onside. And that’s a very broad demographic, a national TV audience. The more they can promote this [sustainable] model for holding events, the better off everybody is. 

“Hopefully,” Cockburn adds, “other businesses that hold big events will make use of this [strategy] themselves. That would be the real benefit that could come out of it. Plus, encouraging young people to take a stand on environmental issues is important too.”

The sheer breadth of CARAS’s sustainability initiative surrounding the Junos is impressive and it’s based on something called the CSA Z2010, a rather clunkily named set of standards set down by solutions organization CSA Group and “published as a practical standard for a wide variety of cultural, business and sporting events and festivals,” goes the official literature provided by the Junos.

“This Standard specifies requirements for organizing and executing sustainable events, and provides guidance on how to continually improve the performance of events contributing to sustainable development.”

In practical terms, that means making big, corporate events like the Junos greener. And that’s where Ginny Stratton — founder and principal of Strategin Solutions, CARAS’s sustainability partner — comes in.

“CSA Z2010 informs the design and delivery of our sustainability initiative,” Stratton tells Samaritanmag from Regina. “There are certain requirements within the standard and we put in place a strategy that meets those requirements.

“And it’s integrated into our entire operation, so we look at everything from office operations to marketing and communications, the  type of materials we’re printing our posters, flyers and banners on. The Sustainability Ambassador is part of our communications strategy to engage people in this initiative and to let them know what we’re doing. 

“Another example is an interactive exhibit happening at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum called The Power of Music: Sustainability and the JUNOS, which is dedicated to different sustainability themes and features exhibits by Bruce Cockburn as well as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Young, and Sarah Harmer. And of course we use social media and the JUNOs website to engage people.”

Stratton, who holds a Masters in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University in Victoria and worked “in the not-for-profit and the for-profit sector of the sustainability realm” before launching Strategin Solutions in 2007, continues.

“Purchasing is a huge part of what we do, so that’s everything from venues to suppliers and caterers. We look to integrate sustainability considerations in all our dealings, so for example we deal with the venues on issues of waste, water, energy issues and their own internal purchasing practices, like what sort of tissue they’re keeping in the bathrooms. We really get down to the nitty-gritty.

“With our caterers, we have minimum objectives and targets in terms of what we’re looking for - for locally produced or organic foods, using the Ocean Wise guidelines for sustainable seafood, that kind of thing.”

CARAS and the Juno Awards also work with two other partner organizations, Carbonzero and Bullfrog Power, to support their sustainability efforts. Bullfrog Power provides CARAS with clean, renewable electricity (and has for the past six years) while Carbonzero — now in its fourth year of partnership — guides the offset of greenhouse gas emissions generated by energy consumption and travel of organizers and attendees.

Cockburn, meanwhile, is featured in a PSA (“An exhortation really,” he laughs) that CARAS and the Juno Awards will disseminate via their social media networks and that will air inside Regina’s Brandt Centre prior to the Juno broadcast April 21. The PSA is also included in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum exhibit, on now until July 31.

He is a bit vague about what his role will entail going forward.

“Nobody’s mentioned anything, but I’d be happy to participate in anything they come up with. And if I were at the Juno awards I don’t know that it would be much different. I guess I could get up and make a speech about this stuff which would be an interesting thing to do in that context though a hard audience to play to (laughs).

“The Junos are doing as much as anybody could do,” Cockburn offers. “They’re trying. Wherever possible they are using sustainable materials and they’re trying to promote the idea of sustainability among those coming to the Junos and those involved in various ways. There aren’t many examples of businesses taking advantage of a public situation like that to promote these ideas. So it’s very encouraging.”

Adds Strategin’s Stratton: “Sustainability isn’t a trend. It’s the way of the future of doing business. It’s sort of becoming part of the DNA of CARAS and the Juno Awards which is ultimately one of our end goals with the sustainability initiative.” 

 

March 28, 2013
Canada NewsWire

Bruce Cockburn announced as 2013 JUNO Awards Sustainability Ambassador


- Artist also profiled in exhibit, The Power of Music: Sustainability and the JUNOS, at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum -

TORONTO, March 28, 2013 /CNW/ - The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) is thrilled to announce that Bruce Cockburn is the 2013 JUNO Awards Sustainability Ambassador. In this role, Cockburn will help CARAS and the JUNO Awards raise awareness about actions being taken to reduce their carbon footprint. Bruce Cockburn has focused on a wide range of issues over the course of his career. He has raised awareness, and continues to speak out, about unsustainable logging, pollution, native rights, land mines, and Third World debt, though organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, USC Canada, and The David Suzuki Foundation.

"The JUNO Awards are a living example of how the power of music connects us and drives positive change. Each year, they demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through engaging stakeholders, managing resource consumption and waste, mitigating climate change impacts, and integrating sustainability into purchasing decisions," said Bruce Cockburn.

Cockburn is featured in a PSA that launches today via CARAS and JUNO Awards social media networks and that will air in the venue prior to the 2013 JUNO Awards Broadcast on April 21st. In addition, Bruce is one of the JUNO Award Canadian artists profiled in The Power of Music: Sustainability and the JUNOS, an exhibit also launching today at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM).

The interactive exhibit, developed in partnership by CARAS and the RSM, highlights the connection between music and sustainability by featuring the music and personal causes of Cockburn, Sarah Harmer, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Neil Young. Also featured in the exhibit are songs and the sustainable causes of more than 20 other Canadian musicians including Arcade Fire, Billy Talent, Gord Downie, Justin Bieber, and Nelly Furtado, among others.

For the third consecutive year, CARAS and the JUNO Awards are using CSA Z2010, a national event sustainability management standard, to guide integration of sustainability considerations into decision making and event related activities. Use of the standard means engaging all involved with the JUNO Week events in contributing to overarching sustainability objectives.

For more information about the 2013 JUNO Awards and upcoming JUNO Awards events, visit www.junoawards.ca.

SOURCE: 2013 JUNO Awards

 

March 4, 2013
The Independent Media Group

Bruce Cockburn: Written in Fire
by Sam Broussard

A few years back, local men’s clothier and music lover Frank Camalo realized that he was traveling farther than he wanted to hear the music he loved. So he made the decision with his friend, fellow music lover Tony Morrow, to do what he had to do in order to hear what he had to hear: bring the music to Lafayette. They got their feet wet in the dicey promoting game with a few house concerts, then dove into the deep end and underwrote the Lucinda Williams concert at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. There followed shows featuring Alejandro Escovedo with Chuck Prophet, Graham Parker and Paul Thorn.

Different artists all, but what unites them are unique visions carved into highly individual songs that only they could have written. And on Wednesday, March 6 at Vermilionville, serious music lovers will have the opportunity to fall into the vision of one of the best songwriters in the English language, Ottawa native Bruce Cockburn.

You may be unfamiliar with his work or have never heard of him, but our neighbors to the north have chosen to honor him with his own postage stamp. That alone is no reason to hear anyone, but as a little measuring tool to help you decide how to spend an upcoming Wednesday evening, you might ponder that.

With a career that spans 31 albums, 11 Juno awards and decades of activism towards a better world and against the Madness, Cockburn has never let up an inch in offering us songs of stunning power built with melodies that engage on all levels. And the songs are thrust upward by some of the most happily ferocious guitar playing you and I will ever hear.

In New Orleans in the mid-80s, my college friend Shadrach Weathersby pulled out a record and told me to sit down and listen to a  song. “No, really,” he said seriously. “Sit down.” The album was Stealing Fire and the song was called "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." I sat stunned. Whoever the singer was, he wasn’t just rearranging the elements of drama for the sake of a good song. I was hearing the son of Dylan’s Masters of War, and the son was going further. Dylan’s song had teeth; the son had sharpened his to points. The last line was “If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die.”

Shad lifted the needle from the vinyl and stared at me. I was staring at the wall. This isn’t done, I thought. Where am I?

“The rest of the album’s pretty good, too,” my friend said.

It was.

The song “Dust and Diesel” comes to mind, and “Nicaragua” and “Peggy’s Kitchen Wall,” as in who put the bullet hole in it? There was some dangerous music back in the 80s, punk and anarchy, but not much — and this was different, it wasn’t wild emotion. It was controlled.

The songwriter also knew what he was talking about; he hadn’t just made up songs about Guatemalan refugee camps from the newspapers, he had been there and seen the devastation up close. So it wasn’t a flailing about and screaming into a microphone kind of rage, rather a contained, purposeful, directed fury like an arrow sprung from lives ended flying toward the end of another life. That kind of rage.

Not all of the songs were like that. Cockburn can write about anything and writes about everything, and occasionally does it in French. And if, like most people, you ignore what’s being said, there’s still this fascinating music that ranges far, soaring through our Western sensibilities and on into other cultures. It’s folk music, yeah, but I’m afraid it’s not the kind that that the average folk can do. It’s a massive body of work fired up by massive ambition and dedication. But not every album was Stealing Fire, and nothing with that much rage has come through him since. Instead his talent grew and his vision became even more clear. It’s been decades since he’s written a series of songs with as much overt aggression, but a life full of that stuff isn’t possible or desirable for an artist unless burning out young is an option. He has said that the rage may be less but the outrage remains, and he’s written many, many songs as powerful as those on Stealing Fire.

Case in point: Cockburn’s latest album is Small Source of Comfort, one of his best albums in a long string of best albums. It includes the song “Each One Lost,” written after a trip to Kandahar, Afghanistan to visit with the Canadian soldiers and his brother, an ER doctor who joined the military later in life. The song was a direct response to the death of two Canadian soldiers as Cockburn stood on the tarmac for the solemn procession when the two coffins were flown home to their final resting place. It’s an aggressively loving song.

A collection of songs from a thoughtful and on on-the-scene observer will have such moments, yet it’s hardly a bleak album. "Call Me Rose" concerns the writer’s dream of Nixon awakening as a poor single mother in the projects. It’s a party, a really smart one. The song Radiance, a short, sharp portrait of a woman, is probably about a soldier, probably a helicopter pilot. The music is Eastern in nature and sounds very, very old. And there are other songs that I hope you hear soon.

A supporter of Canadian troops, he expresses “skepticism” about the war itself, a word he probably chose carefully, yet he also carefully examines, from a Christian perspective, that perhaps it’s beholden on the strong to prevent the weak from being bullied and preyed upon — or, as he says, how best to love one’s neighbor. This ability to examine the darkest ethical conundrums of the human condition and express it in song is why he is so popular in his native Canada — a gentle, advanced country and not, on the whole, rabidly concerned with the fear inspired by the animal parts of our nature.

The traveling to troubled parts of the world continues.

Another thing to know is that Bruce Cockburn is a very spiritual man, and has spent most of his adult life seeking in both traditional and unorthodox ways. In published interviews he speaks about the matter with an elegant concision burnished with humility.

For many of us, when the Rodgers and Hart era gave way to Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Cohen, Joni, Waits and Newman, good songs that could change your world view were always piled up in many American living rooms. Bruce Cockburn is one of those people, and they seldom come to Lafayette.

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you’ve lived too long
Days drip slowly on the page
And you catch yourself
Pacing the cage

Bruce spoke to me from his room in Orlando, where he was lodged on this current tour. He had his wife and young daughter with him, and happy squealing could be heard in the background.

SB: Since you write your own songs, your body of work is now so large that I view it as a philosophy, questions from an earthling and sometimes even answers, even if they’re not presented as such. Given that you’ve traveled hard and seen the best and the worst of us, and given that you’ve got an album called Humans, I think it’s fair to ask your opinion: what’s wrong with us?

BC: (laughter) That’s a complicated question. I think we have genetic problems we have to deal with. (I laugh) Our DNA has been affected by our origins. The Bible sort of colors it in certain ways in the myth of the Garden of Eden, and I don’t think there was a state of perfection like that, that we fell from. If there is such a thing as that former state of perfection, it’s the animal infancy that we grew out of. And as animals, before we evolved into the complicated creatures that we are, we were able to navigate our way through life with a simpler view of things. But we’re this weird combination of prey and predator, and we’re almost the only species like that, that I can think of. I think that affects our psychology in a huge way in that we’re consciously going back and forth between the peace-loving, grass-eating side of us and the carnivorous, aggressive side, and most of us have trouble reconciling those things. At the very bottom of it all, I think that’s the issue, and not one that we’re going to solve satisfactorily, so we’ve developed all these other ways of getting through and around the effects of it; they work sometimes and sometimes they don’t.

SB: The fear that comes from being the prey — that’s allowed me to get over my thing about ideology and just look at us as animals. That’s a deep down place to go to look for an answer to my question. I don’t think you can go any further than that.

BC: I can’t, anyway. You can ascribe various attributes that we have to demonic or divine influences but I think that’s after the fact, I think that’s part of the attempt to rationalize the complexity that we’ve inherited. I do think those things exist, I think there is evil in the world and I think there’s a God, and that the evil is largely a product of our own pathology, and the divine has to work through us in the state we are (in). The divine manifests in the electrochemical processes in our brains; just as much as any other experience, we can have those. The materialist in us and the spiritually inclined are both right. The people who deny the existence of God and say it’s all chemistry are correct, as far as they’re going, and the people who say there is a God are also right. To me it’s a simple equation; it shouldn’t be as hard to get along but it is. But as I said, basically the only way the divine can touch us is through who we are. When we experience a flash of inspiration, or a flash of insight into the workings of the cosmos, that flash happens in your brain, it happens to the chemical, electrical firings in your brain. It’s all the same thing. You can’t separate it out.

SB: You grew up in a religiously shaped environment but you mentioned about having a flash of experiencing the divine. Were you overcome with some sensation like that?

BC: I’ve had encounters like that more than once in my life. It’s not a regular occurrence; it would be nice if it were. But the most dramatic example perhaps, was in the end of 1969 when I got married for the first time. We got married in the Church because my wife thought that was a good idea and I liked the idea because I was fascinated with medieval things and I liked the idea of a stone church and stained glass and all that stuff, and I was interested in spiritual matters but I didn’t consider myself a Christian particularly. We got married in an Anglican church, or what here would be an Episcopal church, and I liked the ritual, all the exterior stuff of it. But right at the moment when we were exchanging rings … we’re standing at the altar and there were very few people there: my immediate family and her immediate family and that was it, and the priest of course, and as we were exchanging  rings I became aware that there was somebody else there that I couldn’t see but I was absolutely convinced there was a presence on the altar with us, that was as palpable as if they were visible. And I figured, well, we’re in a Christian church, it’s gotta be Jesus. Who else would it be? It was really stunning – I mean it didn’t knock me down; I wasn’t unable to complete the ceremony and that sort of stuff, but it was very deeply affecting. And it gave me pause for thought. I had to say, okay, if there’s somebody who’s that real to me, who shows up like that, then it’s really someone I had better begin paying attention to.

SB: That would get my attention.

BC: Before then, I hadn’t, because my interest was much more intellectual before that. I felt the reality — I don’t know when it started, I think it was in my teens that I got the idea that there was a lot more to the universe than meets the eye. Then it became a question of speculating and studying up on what that might be. I read a lot of philosophers and a lot of religious stuff – not so much Christian stuff because I’d grown up in, not in a religious household particularly, but churchgoing, like a normal American upbringing for the time. 

SB: You paid attention to it on Sundays.

BC: Basically that’s right. And to some extent at other times. We had teachers who would talk about it a little bit, and we said the Lord’s Prayer in the morning at the school … 

SB: Was that a Catholic school?

BC: No, it was a public school.

SB: And you said the Lord’s Prayer every morning?

BC: Yeah, this in Canada, right? Where we don’t have a constitution that says you can’t do that. That’s probably changed by now. Don’t forget, this was 50 years ago or more I started going to school, so things were somewhat different. But we said the Lord’s Prayer; we did not pledge allegiance to the flag (laughter). It was quite a different atmosphere than my peers in the US might have experienced, but other than that it was probably the same, kids are kids. So there was enough of that to bring familiarity with the language and trappings of Christianity but it didn’t really go deeper than that, so when I got interested in spiritual things I got into the occult, and Buddhism, the alternative stuff that was floating around, that was beginning to be widely visible in that era, in the sixties, from 1950 on. But when this thing happened at the wedding, I had been kind of leaning closer to Christianity anyway, and it brought me closer still. I didn’t become a Christian then officially to myself on that date – that came later with another encounter — but it really reinforced that and nudged it along in a big way. And now, I don’t know if I think of myself as a Christian at this point — there’s too much about organized Christianity that is political and all the rest of it – but there’s no question in my mind that there was a divine presence.

SB: I have a problem with the things that humans have added on to Christianity.

BC: That’s another thing you can’t separate out, I mean the only records we have of it — other than what appears in your own heart — are records that were written down by people long after the fact, and people have fought and killed each other over what was going to be in those records. And it’s not coincidental to me that three thousand years before the Christian story is set, there was a guy in Egypt who was born of a virgin and had twelve disciples and was killed and rose from the dead.

SB: Oh my God. Who was that?

BC: That was Horus, the Egyptian god Horus. It’s the same story. Three thousand years earlier. So it keeps coming back, or it’s another story using the same death. And I don’t know what the answer to that one is, I don’t think there’s enough to have any sense of competence around that. But that knowledge has, among other things, made it difficult for me to categorically say that I’m a Christian, but I have tremendous respect for it and I leave open the possibility that I may be coming back around to that.

SB: Maybe it’s a passion play that continually repeats through human history.

BC: It might be, or it might be something that we have to make up for ourselves, that appeals to us in a way that makes it something we perpetuate. I mean, I don’t know how these things work; there’s a lot of mystery in the world, especially when you start dealing with the issue of God and the interface between God and people. Things get very mysterious indeed.

SB: I thought that when I got to be this age that I would actually understand a few things, but instead, mysteries get wider. 

BC: Yeah, we start to understand — at least in my case; I can’t speak for anybody else — the understanding that comes with age has more to do with human behavior (laughter). I know a lot more about what I can take at face value and what I can’t in terms of what to expect from people.

SB: You’ve been really forthcoming when people pose these kinds of questions for you, you’ve been very honest about it. What about down here on the ground?

BC: The most pressing issues to me are environmental ones. Water is the thing that’s in the most jeopardy. People in the southeastern US, it’s hard to imagine the shortage of water. In the Midwest, in Canada there’s been a drought for years now. The big snowfalls they’re having right now in that area are not enough to offset that drought. There might be more that could happen of course. But the environmental changes that we’ve brought on ourselves … to me the vast weight of scientific opinion counts. It says that we’re a major contributing factor to the climatic change that we’re experiencing. And we’re not doing anything about that. We’re arguing about it instead of fixing it.

SB: Nobody can figure out how to make any money from it.

BC: It comes down to greed again, then, doesn’t it? Self-interest, the same thing. I worry for us because of that. I think that the world’s not going to get any better anytime soon because we aren’t doing enough. People are trying, but so far no one in a position of power, decision-making power, seems to be in that group.

SB: Have you heard that the CEO of Exxon admitted that global warming is real?

BC: Wow. I had not heard that, but maybe there’s a small ray of hope.

SB: Well, he said “it’s an engineering problem with an engineering solution.” At least you can say to skeptics that the CEO of Exxon said it’s real. That should put an end to the argument right there.

BC: You’d think.

What then followed was a fun discussion about why aren’t oil companies investing in the solution so they can profit from it? And on futures speculation and the economic gambling done by “really smart people.” Much of my recording is marred by a passing train. That happens a lot. 

SB: You’re a hell of a guitar player and you were when you were quite young. You’re capable of some rarified harmonic richness, yet you remain accessible enough to maintain a huge fan base. Are you doing exactly what you like to do, or have you ever felt constrained at times by this accessibility factor?

BC: No, not really. To some extent I think the way I’m attached to the way I use them (harmonies) is out of habit as much as anything. But no, I’ve never felt that I had to tone something down for the sake of making sense to people. In the context of a given song, yeah, because the song has to work as a whole. Like writing a song like Pacing the Cage and throwing in an atonal bridge might be … wrong. (laughter) But I don’t feel constrained, it’s based on the choice of style I’m working with.

SB: The great American songwriters – several of whom are Canadians – Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young – don’t seem to sell that well once they age. Joni Mitchell would rather paint. You’ve been supported in every decade of your career by the Canadian fan base. Is there something about Canadians in that they’re more willing to follow a songwriter down into some demanding territory? Do they really not care how old an artist gets? What I’m trying to ask, is the Canadian audience less dumbed down than here?

BC: (laughter) I’m not sure. It’s tempting, to want to say yes to that, but I don’t know if I can justify it with fact. They would not show my videos if I had them – and we do; over the years I’ve made quite a few, but not lately, because nobody’s going to show them.

SB: Oh my God.

BC: It is an issue in Canada too. But I think you’re mistaken about Leonard Cohen, he’s as big as he ever was; he’s in the middle of an arena tour. But if you measure his record sales, it’s probably not what it once was.

SB: Where is he doing those arena shows? In the States?

BC: All over the world. He had a tour that lasted three years. His monitor guy, who used to work for me, I was out on one of the shows, and it was terrific. I saw it in Oakland, California, in a big theater, a three thousand seater, and it was jammed to the rafters. He put on a fantastic show. That was one stop – that was almost the last stop of a three-year tour that he’d been on. So he got finished with that then he decided he wanted to do the same thing only he wanted to do it in arenas, so that’s what he’s doing now. I don’t know how well it’s going for him. But that theater tour was very successful.

It’s not an across the board observation you can make about that, but certainly Joni’s less active, Neil appears to be less active. It’s hard to generalize, because you never know when they’re going to surprise you with something.

SB: It’s just gratifying to know that people are still buying records from artists who have had long careers. I’m thinking you’ll have a good show here in Lafayette. They’ll get what you do.

BC: I look forward to being understood.

Lafayette-based guitarist/songwriter Sam Broussard performs internationally as a solo artist, accompanist and with the popular Cajun band Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys.

 

Posted: March 2, 2013
Canada.com

Bruce Cockburn: The Troubador at 67

by Richard Wagamese

The troubadour wanders. He’s a solitary sort and his eye is always on the horizon. There’s a lot of world to see and a lot of stories  to be told in song about its vistas, its nooks and crannies, its recesses and splays of light. The troubadour is drawn to all of them. He inhabits them. They come to inhabit him and the world through song is defined and articulated in the grace of his poetry.

Bruce Cockburn is a modern day troubadour. He has been for 43 years and 37 albums. Now, at 67, he’s about to release a DVD featuring documentary and solo performance called Pacing The Cage. The songs are culled from performances off 2009’s Slice of Life CD and he likens the forthcoming DVD to a conversation.

“It’s me, a microphone and several guitars,” he said. “The solo thing allows for a greater rapport with the audience. Between takes  there’s nothing but me and them and I tend to talk more. I like the solo performance for that – that ability to talk with audience with no one to hide behind.”

The DVD includes the documentary of the same name done for Vision TV in 2012 along with musical performances. A second DVD, which is entirely a concert film, will feature the performances on the Vision TV version of Pacing The Cage plus many not in the film or on the live album, Slice of Life.

“Those who like the solo thing will love this and those who prefer a band might not enjoy it as much. But the good news is that we can still come back and do a band DVD sometime in the future.”

Not surprising. In his career he’s moved from the boho acoustic thing of his beginnings, to full band albums, back to philosophical/spiritual musing, to angry rants, only to return to pacific, spiritual wonder again. Those who have followed him through the length and breadth of his recorded career, “some of whom are still alive,” will find much to savor. The performances on Pacing the Cage hit signposts all along that journey.

See, he’s wandered through Europe, Central America, Japan, Africa and across the U.S and Canada. These days he’s found hunkered down in San Francisco with a new wife and a 14-month-old daughter named Iona. He’s been there for varying chunks of time over the last three years. He sounds peaceful, rested and optimistic.

“The city fits me really well in a limited way,” he said. “When we were in New York, I really liked it there with its feeling of impending chaos. It had a really dark, almost post-Apocalyptic feel that was inspiring.”

“The city of San Francisco though, is an anomaly. It’s this beautiful kind of yuppie enclave surrounded by miles and miles of redneckery. But you don’t feel that in the city. It’s just so liberal here and beautiful and I’m sure there is that same aura of impending chaos, but you have to search for it.”

When it comes to songwriting he doesn’t know how the new atmosphere will inspire him. He hasn’t written any songs. Instead, he’s in the process of a first draft of a memoir, a kind of writing that’s new to him and presents its own degree of difficulty. He calls it a ‘spiritual’ memoir and fans of songs like Mystery from 2004’s Life Short Call Now will be drawn to it.

“The book’s turned into a much bigger project than I thought it would be. When you write a song it’s a short-term phenomenon. The flash comes or it doesn’t come and if there’s no flash there’s no song.”

“But with a book you have to sustain the energy and the focus. The thought process is carried over for a much extended period. It’s challenging for me but as time goes on it becomes a little less so. It’s moving along well now and my deadline for the first draft is the end of July.”

While there’s no word on a publication date, beyond a best guess of somewhere over a year, he’s confident as you’d expect a prolific songwriter to be. A look back at significant albums in his oeuvre always shows a superb craftsman able to wring telling nuance, truth or vitriolic upset out of a lyric.

“It’s not like I’m writing songs all the time. I write when I get an idea or an inspiration and when I have enough songs to put an album together we go into the studio and create an album.”

“But if I write songs over a period of time they’re going to reflect what’s going on in that period of time. They acquire a kind of dramatic consistency because of that.”

Indeed. One need only look back to 1980’s Humans say, or 2003’s You’ve Never Seen Everything to understand the truth of that. While critics have not always been enamored of his caustic, plain spoken, ‘journalistic’ or ‘documentary’ style of songwriting, his fans always have been.

Humans has been referred to as his masterpiece with You’ve Never Seen Everything mere steps behind that. The former was typified by gut level honesty about the end of a relationship while the latter was more politically driven. In both cases the songwriting was what provided the impetus for both albums.

What About the Bond from Humans and Trickle Down from You’ve Never Seen Everything are prototypical examples of a probing intellect driving a questing social conscience that’s tempered by a genuine moral and spiritual frankness. It’s what’s taken him on remarkable journeys and what’s brought the troubadour forward in his work.

“I feel as though I’ve actually lived several lifetimes in this one. There’s a line of continuity through everything and even though I feel I’m essentially the same person as I was when I started, I’ve learned an awful lot about a lot of stuff.”

“Our failing as human beings is not being able to see the divine energy that’s everywhere all around us. We need to remind ourselves of that. Remind each other.”

Spoken like a genuine troubadour. The DVD, Pacing The Cage arrives in early May.

Photo by Pam Doyle. Bruce Cockburn plays in an afternoon workshop at the Canmore Folk Music [no date provided]. 

 

Posted: February 27, 2013
Vue Weekly

Pacing the stage

Bruce Cockburn on watching himself onscreen
by Paul Blinov

Though its title suggests a figure feeling encircled by the world at large, Pacing the Cage actually seems to find Bruce Cockburn at a state of general peace, or at the very least, grounded in his element.

The film, showcasing as part of the Global Visions Film Festival, follows his 2009 Slice of Life tour (the same chunk of roadtime that yielded a concert album of the same name). We see Cockburn perform, share stages with Roméo Dallaire, jam with Sarah Harmer, watch rehearsals for a tribute concert to himself and ruminate on his writing and career. Director Joel Goldberg keeps the cameras fairly unobtrusive, capturing some behind-the-scenes footage, performance cuts and compiling a swath of interviews to craft a rounded sketch of the man.

Pacing the Cage would benefit from a longer runtime to flesh itself beyond sketch into a fuller, deeper portrait. I don't mean that it would have to be more critical to be effective (though it's clearly coming from a place of appreciation, co-produced by Cockburn's manager), but there isn't a whole lot of plumbing of depths of a person going on here. Still, even in its wide-angle approach, it does offers a compelling image of one of Canadian folk's elder statesman, content with his status while still trying to use it for good and for honest artistic exploration. Plus there are some stunning concert cuts that highlight why anyone might want to emphasize the guy anyway.

Actually, Cockburn himself comes off as one of the most compelling voices about himself, level-headed with just a hint of self-deprecation and snark (on the environment: "We're fucked"). That was also certainly the case when he took a call from Vue one Friday afternoon to discuss the film, watching himself with an audience, and how realizing belief altered (and didn't alter) his approach to songwriting.

VUE WEEKLY: I'm assuming you've seen Pacing The Cage at this point. What were your first impressions of the film?

BRUCE COCKBURN: The first time I saw it, it was still a rough cut. Well, it was almost finished—the last rough cut before you call it a fine cut. So I was looking at it for how it worked as a film as well as what it was. But the second time I saw it was in a theatre for a film festival, with an audience present. They were quite different experiences; the film works for me very well. I thought that Joel Goldberg did a really good job putting it together. When you watch yourself on film like that, there's always a degree of embarrassment, and a degree of "Aww jeez, if I had just done that, said this, whatever." I found that to be minimal in this case—I've had much worse experiences with that than with this film. And it's very subjective, too: If I would pull out stuff that caused that reaction, other people would go, 'What are you talking about?' So that's inescapable, especially the first time through, watching yourself.

Watching it with an audience held up a different kind of mirror to it, in a way. It's less about what I think of it [than] what they're going to think about it. That's a whole other, y'know, kind of concern. But people responded very well.

VW: Did you find, for those moments you found embarrassing, they felt different with the audience present?

BC: Yeah, although it was hard to separate that fact from the fact that it was the second time I'd seen it. Things that make you wince the first time don't make you do the same way because you're already hardened to it. ... But in the audience, I'm thinking: 'I came off OK in the film. If there had been real red flags—"I look like an idiot there"—we would've cut that out, or I would've agitated strongly to have Joel cut it out, anyway, because of the nature of the film. It's a film about me; we're not trying to be journalists with this film, and so we can afford to be a little pickier about how I'm presented in it. People said all these nice things that ended up in the film; I had nothing to do with that. The only involvement I had in the making of the film up until looking at the rough cut was my presence in the interviews and in the performances. So I didn't exercise any influence whatever on the choice of materials that went into it or the selection of people to talk about me.

VW: In the film, one thing that comes out is the discussion of All of Diamonds being the moment you decided you were Christian, or maybe realized that for yourself. Do you think that having that realization, and being conscious of that, changed your approach to songwriting at all?

BC: It affected the content initially, for a few years maybe, because it was very much on my mind, which would be the case with anything you discover. It's a cliché about people who discover a new cult, or join alcoholics anonymous and suddenly get dry, that they'll go and tell everybody all about it. And I guess I did the same thing. But in terms of the process of songwriting, it didn't affect that. It's always been a question of waiting around for a good idea, for that little flash of inspiration that will trigger something. That was true then, too.

Sat, Mar 2 (7:15 pm)
Pacing the Cage
Directed by Joel Goldberg
Metro Cinema at the Garneau

 

Posted February 22, 2013
Almanac Weekly

Bruce Cockburn plays Bethel Woods this Saturday
by Crispin Kott

Legendary Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn makes his lone stop in our region on a brief solo tour this Saturday, February 23 when he visits the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Cockburn will perform an expanded take on the solo segments of his recent full-band tour in support of his album Small Source of Comfort.

“From the point of view of the actual performance, it’s a much more intimate shared experience with the audience when it’s just me on the stage,” said Cockburn in a telephone interview.

Cockburn, who suffered terrible stage fright early in his career, still feels anxious before a performance, but he has learned to adapt. “I’m not one of those people that loves to get out in front of people and show off,” he said. “There’s an aspect of performing that’s terrifying. It’s still there, even though it’s faint in the background. When I started, that really was an issue, and my motivation was that I wanted people to hear the songs, and if I didn’t play them, nobody would hear them. But in most circumstances, there’s a real warmth in performing that I appreciate.”

Fans should expect to hear songs from the span of Cockburn’s long career – a philosophy that he used at least in part on Small Source of Comfort, his 31st album. The final song on the record, “Gifts,” is a longtime concert-closer, stretching all the way back to 1968. Asked what it will mean to play on the same hallowed ground as the famous festival, Cockburn replied coyly.

“I wasn’t at Woodstock; I was busy that weekend,” he said. “But I saw the movie. It is a piece of history, and it was kind of the good part of the end of the ‘60s – Altamont, of course, being the other part.”

Back then, Cockburn had already charted his own course. “If I’d have kept up with the course of studies I was on, I’d have had a Bachelor’s degree and I’d have been qualified to teach in high school,” he said. “My parents were anxious for me to have something to fall back on, but I intuitively knew that if you’re going to be a real artist, you’d better not have anything to fall back on, because it’s counterproductive.”

Cockburn is spending his downtime these days not writing new music, but instead putting his memories to paper for a forthcoming  autobiography. “I have a contract with a publisher to write a memoir,” he said. “The first draft is overdue by more than two years, so all of the creative energy is going into the book.”

Cockburn said that he was contacted by HarperCollins following the worldwide success of the controversial Christian novel The Shack, in which God makes frequent mentions of his music. (“I don’t know if it’s a great piece of literature,” Cockburn said of William P. Young’s bestseller, “but it’s good enough.”) “When they approached me, they said they were looking for a spiritual memoir,” he explained. “It has presented a challenge. To put things in a spiritual context: I don’t even know what that means. I guess by the end of the book I’ll know what that means.”

An Evening with Bruce Cockburn, Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m., $49/reserved, $54/day of show, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ Event Gallery, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; www.bethelwoodscenter.orgwww.brucecockburn.com

 

Posted: February 22, 2013
Stereo Subversion

Bruce Cockburn discusses his spirituality and his forthcoming memoirs

by Dan MacIntosh

Anyone who has spent any time exploring Bruce Cockburn’s music knows what a complex artist he is. He is as spiritual as he is political, and as much a master musician as a lyrical poet. Cockburn will soon release his written memoirs, which he promises will take a deeper look at his continuing spiritual journey. In addition, a Cockburn documentary is also on the way.

Although these two projects aren’t as exciting as news of an upcoming musical release, they nevertheless give his many devoted fans the prospect of more insight into one of modern music’s consistently intriguing figures.

Stereo Subversion: I notice you don’t have a new album to promote these days, so what’s in the works?

Bruce Cockburn: What’s in the works is a book. That’s kind of taking up all the energy that probably would have come up with an album by now. I got a deal to write a memoir, like everybody’s doing, a couple of years ago. The first draft is quite overdue, so there’s kind of a rush on to get this done. I’m about four chapters into it. I can’t tell you much about how it’s going to end up yet because it’s very much a first draft. That’s what’ going on.

There’s also, in terms of stuff that people could look for, if not available commercially yet, a DVD of a concert – well, actually, it’s a documentary that was done on me for Canadian TV with some performance footage in it. It came out pretty well. It was on TV in a slightly abbreviated version. The longer version has been shown at a couple of film festivals. Eventually, we’ll have DVDs for people. As far as an album, that’s probably going to have to wait until all this other stuff is out of the way.

SSv: How comfortable are you with writing a book? Is that a type of writing that comes naturally to you?

Bruce: No, it’s not. [Laughs] It’s interesting. It’s different and somewhat challenging because you have to sustain a focus for such an extended period. Songwriting is a real short time event, you know. Even songs that take a long time relatively speaking, only happen in bursts. It’s not like you sit down for six weeks and work on a song, day in, day out.

It may take me that long to write a song, but I’ll write one verse and a couple weeks will go by and I’ll think of another idea and add to it, and that kind of thing. Now this is not common. Usually I’ll write in much more compressed time than that, but it has happened. But that’s totally different from what a book calls for, which is sustained energy and focus over a year or two. There’s a bit of a learning curve for me in terms of that.

My songs are generally based in life, but they’re frequently slightly fictionalized. I may change a detail here or there because it makes it a better song or because the rhyme scheme needs it. It’s not literally autobiographical, whereas the book is.

SSv: I’ve noticed over the years, when you’ve written songs you’ve also put in the album notes where they were written and the time period when they were written. Is the book going to be a little bit like a journal in the way that you organize the book?

Bruce: I don’t know how it will end up. I don’t see it being like that, exactly, although it could end up more that way than I’m picturing right now. There’ll be a lot of steps between finishing the first draft, and actually getting it out. My original thought was to have it be not chronological, but just to be made up of a lot of vignettes; when you add them all up, you get a picture of a life. And it may still turn out to be that, although the way I’m working on it now, it is chronological, starting with childhood and moving forward. The organization of it may change between now and publication, I don’t know.

It’s supposed to be a spiritual memoir, so whatever that means. I’m not even sure what that really means, but that’s what the publisher’s asked for.

SSv: Really?

Bruce: There’s going to be a certain emphasis on that side of life, I think. Because it is a memoir and because the people who buy it are going to be interested in personal details too, we think, there’s a lot of stuff about me in there.

SSv: If it’s a spiritual journey, where would you say you’re at on your spiritual journey now?

Bruce: It’s an ongoing quest. I don’t think it will stop when I die, either. I believe that my relationship with God is central to my life. It is the most important thing in my life. That being said, I don’t spend as much time thinking about that as I probably should. I currently work with a guy that does dream analysis that helps me pursue that relationship with God and kind of understand where I’m at with it.

Beyond that, it’s hard for me to characterize my beliefs in a simple way because I don’t subscribe to a namable faith or religion. I’ve moved through an acquaintanceship with a few different things and a deep involvement with Christianity and I’m pretty close to that still, but I just have too many questions to feel comfortable calling myself a Christian at this point. But I’m still very close to that.

SSv: You’re working on this book, but that doesn’t stop you from writing songs. You’re still writing songs I would hope.

Bruce: Not at the moment because all the creative energy is going into the book. Any ideas that I have time for…I’ve also got a 14-month old baby at home, so I’m pretty busy. So, between the baby and the book, there’s not too much room for anything else right now. There’s barely enough time for me to practice the songs I currently have. There is enough, but just. I always have to keep practicing to maintain the songs that I have. I wouldn’t rule it out. Never say never. So far, it’s taking the case with where writing’s taking the backseat.

SSv: How are you as a father, at this stage in your life?

Bruce: Better than I was the first time around. I mean, I don’t think I was a terrible father the first time, but I was much more concerned, as young men tend to be, about things other than family. I was worried about my art more than I am now. I take my art very seriously. I don’t want to let it down or have it let me down, but at the same time, I don’t worry about it as much as I did when I was young. I just worried a lot more about everything. That made my relationship with my first daughter a little more distant when she was young. We have a good relationship now, but I wasn’t there for her as much as I am for the new one.

SSv: Tell me more about this DVD that’s coming out. You said it was a documentary?

Bruce: Yes.

SSv: How did this all come about? Did they approach you and say they wanted to explore your work?

Bruce: Bernie [Finkelstein] was really instrumental in getting it going, and I don’t know whether he had the original idea, or the filmmaker Joel Goldberg had the idea. But we started talking about it quite a while back. And, in fact, it’s the same tour that the live album came out couple years ago is based on or is drawn from. So it’s the same music as is on that live album. There might be one or two different songs, but it’s not a concert film.

There’s a lot of talking. It’s more of a portrait of me on tour. It’s got several performances of songs in it and, like I said, I don’t really remember what got it started. We were working on it at the same time as the live album. We had the intention of doing both. It took a lot longer, I suppose, to find the financing to get the film done than it did to do the album.

Ideally, in a perfect world, they would have both come out at the same time. Which I would have preferred because they belong together in a way, but that’s not how it works.

 

February 1, 2013
Canada Newswire


Lieutenant Governor hosts closing Diamond Jubilee Gala at Roy Thomson Hall


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.

Event Overview

In keeping with the tradition of honouring Her Majesty's milestone years of service, a commemorative medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the Throne. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal also serves to honour the contributions and achievements made by Canadians from all sectors of society. Approximately 60,000 medals were struck for distribution to deserving citizens across Canada. This commemorative medal is part of the Canadian Honours System.

In order to ensure that medals are presented with appropriate dignity and respect, The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario invited all living members of the Order of Canada in Ontario, the Order of Ontario and other deserving individuals, to receive their medals at a gala celebration at Roy Thomson Hall (RTH). The first gala took place on June 18, 2012, where more than 600 medals were presented. This closing celebration will include those who were not able to attend in June.

A number of prominent Canadians have been enlisted as distinguished ambassadors to join Their Honours in the rotunda at Roy Thomson Hall to present Diamond Jubilee Medals to their peers. Each will present medals to no more than 20 recipients, to ensure a personal experience. After receiving the medal, guests will find their seats in the theatre where they will enjoy one hour of entertainment by some of Canada's best known artists, including Tafelmusik and Michael Burgess, Liona Boyd, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Cochrane, themselves members of the Order of Canada.

Photo: February 6, 2013 by LGOntario

 

January 31, 2013
The Church of England Newspaper


Bruce Cockburn talks about Bono, Corporate Greed and Church
by Derek Walker

Many communities have people whose lives encapsulate the values that they hold most dearly. The Greenbelt Festival has had a few and the most recent to visit is Canadian singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn.

His integrity is what most endears him to the festival’s faithful, both artistically and spiritually. Driven by faith, he knows how to write about justice in a way that connects, rather than sounding preachy.

He has visited occasionally since the early ‘80s. I was stewarding at the time and remember his set, particularly for his intricate guitar work. Behind the scenes, we heard that Bono wanted to watch him and would be disguised as a steward.

“He came backstage,” Cockburn recalled, as we spoke at this year’s event. “He came in a baseball cap and a parking monitor’s badge. It was fun. They snuck him in and were all excited, ‘We snuck bono into the tent without anybody knowing!’”

That Bono should be so keen to see the Canadian says something of Cockburn’s influence and Bono remains a fan today. This year, Canadian TV showed a film made during his Slice o’Life tour. As the film opens, Bono looks at the camera, talking the words to Cockburn’s visceral “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”. He ends with the jealous line, “If I had a rocket launcher, he wouldn’t have written those songs!”

The timing of that backstage meeting intrigued me. Cockburn had been playing songs from his Stealing Fire album, largely inspired by visiting Central America when the Sandinista movement was trying to rebuild El Salvador. Ideologically unhappy with their efforts, the American government accused them of being communist and attacked them with military power.

“Rocket Launcher” was a direct response to what Cockburn saw of such bullying. The Sandinistas were encouraging education for the poor and supporting real development. To have that crushed by fighter planes attacking innocent villages enraged Cockburn to the extent that the song exclaims how, had he the firepower, “I’d make somebody pay!”

A couple of years later, when U2 released The Joshua Tree, inspired by visiting America, their song “Bullet the Blue Sky” shared that territory. Speaking of corruption, military deals and “fighter planes across the mud huts as children sleep,” the song ends with the line, “See the sky ripped open / See the rain coming through the gaping wound / Howlin’ the women and children who run into the arms of America.”

What arms – welcoming or military? The latter is the only way I can read that song and I had to wonder whether that Greenbelt night was the root of one of U2’s most iconic tracks.

Cockburn does not know. “We talked about stuff that we were thinking about – which included that – but I wouldn’t know whether I had influenced the song or not.”

Central America was just one of many tours around the globe, visiting ordinary people, often in rural communities. The songs written on those travels are highly personal and act as a window into the lives of those affected by the world’s richer nations and corporations.

Corporate greed is a regular target, but Cockburn is no blind dogmatist on the issue. “As corporatism has expanded, everybody gets caught in the idea that if somebody over there has this x, y or z, then I should be able to have it too.

“To me the picture is very large and complex, but it really comes down to two faces of a similar issue, which is: how we treat each other and how we treat the planet. If we exploit each other, there’s a good chance that at the same time, we’re also exploiting the planet in a way that’s not healthy. So very often you find the same bad guys related to every issue.”

The same mix of support and wariness marks his views on the Occupy movement.

“I have the same reservations about the effectiveness of that movement as I have about my own mouthing off,” he commented wryly. “But I think it’s really worthwhile to get out there and try. It’s like the Hippocratic Oath: first, don’t hurt anybody, then fix them if you can. We should have the same attitude: don’t hurt anybody, but fix it if you can. The Occupy movement is a flawed, but important attempt to do that.”

The “mouthing off” that he so self-deprecatingly speaks of is the ethical side of his songwriting.

“I think you have to suspend any expectation of an outcome, when you get involved in issues of any kind,” he observed. “My own experience has taught me this over the years: if you go into it thinking you’re going to see the difference you make, you’re going to burn out fast. It’s better to just trust, because eventually, if there is enough popular will around a certain issue, it will change – but you may not live to see it. It’s important to do the work anyway, because if you don’t keep plugging away at it, everything gets worse.

“So for people in the public eye, one of the things we can do is mouth off and be heard. Where people take that is not really in our control.”

He does occasionally get response from listeners. Speaking of the “great blessing” of “touching testimonies” when people tell him of the effect songs have had on them as they grew up, he added dryly, “It always baffles me when I hear young people say they grew up with my music, because growing up with my parents’ music didn’t inspire me want to go out and buy a Rex Harrison record!”

A bigger delight in his life at the moment is his year-old daughter. Often, as people get older, they get more easy-going about the state of the world. Does he feel that way, or has fresh fatherhood given him a renewed concern for where we are headed?

“I look around at the things that are going on and think, all you can do is pray and trust, because there is so much crap headed for the fan. Much of it has already hit, but there’s more coming. What she grows up into, if I want to go there, can be quite terrifying. What can I do about that? Well, I can keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing all along, but not much more, because that’s all I know how to do.”

Mouthing off aside, his current release, Small Source of Comfort, probably has more instrumentals than any new album he has made. I wondered if this was a shift in his music-making…

“Unless I think of really good words!” he replied. “It’s too soon to know if it’s a pattern to look forward to in the future, but the older I get, the more songs I’ve written, the more I’ve said what I’ve had to say in words and the more appealing it becomes to just play notes that aren’t attached to a specific idea.”

Despite the quantity of music he has already put out, Small Source of Comfort must be among his best collections since that Stealing Fire release. Has he learned to perfect his trade or is it coincidence?

Naming another of his albums, he called it “Big circumstance, which is what I think of when I think of coincidence. It just is what it is, but I’m glad I got the songs I got. I don’t take it for granted – I never have. Any album I’ve made could have been the last one. So I’m just happy if I’m able to keep going.”

In his recent music, he seems to have placed less emphasis on his faith, which may have something to do with the churches he has met across the years.

“I don’t feel the same need for a church that I once did,” he admitted. ”When I first started thinking of myself as a Christian, I started going to an Anglican church, because it was the church I got married in, and I liked the priest. That became my church in Ottawa.

“But when I left Ottawa at the end of the ‘70s, I never found another place where I felt as in touch with the Spirit. It began to feel to me like if I was going to be in touch with the Spirit, it didn’t require a particular place; it was something that’s supposed to have happened all the time and I’m still in pursuit of that. So I kind of drifted away from church – although I miss communion.”

Unwelcoming churches, making him feel like he did not belong, were much of the problem. They were particularly insensitive to the needs of a travelling musician. “I would go down on a Sunday morning to the service. I’d get people looking at me like, ‘What are you doing here, you son of a bitch?’ Seriously, it was that bad sometimes!

“Other times, it was more welcoming, but I never felt that there was a community there for me, compared to what I’d experienced in Ottawa. Partly, that’s just familiarity, but when you’re a traveller, you don’t get to be very familiar with any given place. For most of my life, home has been base camp, so the idea of being part of a community at home is not viable.”

What keeps him going is the sense of his relationship with God, something in which he feels no different to any other human.

“The real calling that we all have as human beings is to make ourselves available to that relationship with God and do whatever that steers us toward.”

Then ending with a chuckle, he said, “That’s a recipe for anarchy, but so be it!”



MEDIA 2012

 

December 15, 2012
RollingStone


Jackson Browne and Common Unite to Bring Leonard Peltier Home
by Patrick Flanary

During a phone call from a Florida prison minutes before Friday’s concert for Leonard Peltier, the activist jailed for the last 37 years pushed organizers at New York's Beacon Theatre to refuse money pledged in his honor. 

"I hope this evening is not about raising funds, but raising consciousness," Peltier told event co-host Harry Belafonte, who with actor Peter Coyote introduced a lineup of Oglala Sioux Nation tribal leaders, human rights activists and musicians calling on President Obama to free the ailing American Indian prisoner before Christmas.

Throughout the event, titled Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012, grainy clips of news footage showcased the sprawling years of Peltier’s trial, conviction and doomed appeal. Jailed since 1976 on a conviction of murdering two FBI officers during an Indian Reservation shootout, Peltier, who is nearing 70, will serve time through 2040 unless the president commutes his sentence.

Folk tunes and Native American spirituals stretched over four hours, beginning with several never-performed verses of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" that 93-year-old Pete Seeger said he recently found in a batch of lyrics he’d written 60 years ago: "A time for dirt, a time for soap/A time for hurt, a time for hope," he gently wavered while strumming his acoustic.

Fresh off a flight, Mohican guitarist Bill Miller tuned his guitar onstage before attacking it with lightning-fast picking through Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower." Fellow First Nations musicians, including Jennifer Kreisberg and Geronimo and Buddy Powless, stripped things down and used only their voices to fill the venue with traditional and contemporary songs.

Bruce Cockburn and Jackson Browne later shared the stage for "Indian Wars," a song they recorded together in 1991. Browne followed with a tribute to his Native American friend, the late Floyd Westerman, with covers of "Boarding School Blues" and "Custer Died For Your Sins," and ended with Steven Van Zandt’s singalong, "I Am A Patriot."

Halfway through the evening, Common, the only performer backed by a band and DJ, injected 20 minutes of throbbing hip-hop into the event’s mostly acoustic setlist. Racing across the stage with his hand raised, he thundered through hits including "The People" and "The Light," and stunned the audience with an unannounced appearance from Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def, who emerged from the dark for "Umi Says." "If you want peace, work for justice," he said before departing as suddenly as he had arrived.

One man who dedicated his life to such justice was Rubin Carter, the former boxer whose story Bob Dylan memorialized in his song "Hurricane." After serving almost 20 years in prison, Carter was eventually released after it was determined he had not committed murders at a New Jersey bar in 1966. "Our freedom account is being looted," he said during the event, holding a worn piece of paper – a writ of habeas corpus –in his right hand. "I consider it to be absolutely sacred, and I never leave home without it."

Global figures like Nelson Mandela and the late Mother Teresa have long lauded Peltier as a humanitarian and called for his release, based on judicial misconduct and lack of evidence proving that he killed the federal agents. From his prison cell during the 2004 presidential election, Peltier ran as the Peace and Freedom candidate in states that allowed the party on the ballot. In California, more than 27,000 voters favored him over George W. Bush and John Kerry.

Six presidents have held office since Peltier’s conviction.

"If not you, President Obama, who?" activist filmmaker Michael Moore asked as he addressed the crowd. "All the wrong people are in prison in this country. As an American, this is not how I want to be remembered. And so I think that we have a much larger job: We have to get Leonard out of prison immediately."

Seeger returned to the stage and was joined by the night’s performers for the show closer, "Bring Him Home," which Seeger adapted from his Vietnam War protest song, "Bring ’Em Home."

Photo: Bobby Bank

 

Posted: December 5, 2012

2012 Whistler Film Festival Screens Cockburn Documentary

The documentary, Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, was screened at the Whistler Film Festival on December 1, 2012. Director, Joel Goldberg, told me:
"The evening was incredible. The screening was oversold, so the festival organizers had to scramble to set up extra seating before the screening. I gave up my seat as I was already at the press screening. I sat in the projection booth. Bernie and Bruce sat in the back row. Bruce, Bernie and I were welcomed by a singer/drummer from the Squamish tribe, as the screening was at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre. She did a great job and expressed her tribe's honour at having Bruce at the Centre. The packed house gave a standing ovation after the film ended. They even cheered after some of the song performances contained in the film! There was a Q&A afterwards and Paul Gratton, the programmer for the festival, said it was the first Q&A in which the entire audience stayed to participate."

You can follow Joel's work at his website, Joel Goldberg Productions.

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Welcomed in song by a Squamish tribal member

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Joel Goldberg (Director), Bruce Cockburn, Bernie Finkelstein

 

December 4, 2012
Examiner.com

Bring Leonard Peltier Home 2012 Concert
by Shirley Pena


On Friday, December 14, 2012, The Beacon Theatre will host a diverse, devoted and distinguished line up of North American musicians to sing for freedom for LEONARD PELTIER.Hosted by Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger. Featuring Performances by Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, Jennifer Kreisberg, Bill Miller, Margo Thunderbird. Guest speakers include Author Peter Matthiesson, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Actor Peter Coyote and Former Amnesty International President Jack Healey.

On Friday, December 14, 2012, The Beacon Theatre will host a diverse, devoted and distinguished line up of North American musicians to sing for freedom for LEONARD PELTIER, a celebrated Native American activist and humanitarian imprisoned since the mid Seventies for his involvement with controversial incidents at Wounded Knee and Oglala, South Dakota, including the shooting deaths of two FBI agents. Robert Redford's 1992 documentary Incident at Oglala tells Peltier’s story.

This all-star concert is a multi-cultural event intended to raise awareness to Peltier’s 37-year ordeal and plea for clemency. Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte will join Pete Seeger to co-host performances by Jackson Browne,