Bruce Douglas Cockburn, OC (pronounced ; born , 1945) is a Canadian folk/rock guitarist and singer-songwriter. His 29th album was released in summer 2006, and he has written songs in styles ranging from folk to jazz-influenced rock to rock and roll.
Cockburn was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and spent some of his early years on a farm outside Pembroke, Ontario. He has stated in interviews that his first guitar was one he found in his grandmother's attic, which he then adorned with golden stars and used to play along to radio hits; another source places this momentous event as happening in 1959. Cockburn was a student (but did not study music) at Nepean High School, where his 1964 yearbook photo states his desire simply: "hopes to become a musician." He then attended Berklee School of Music in Boston for three semesters in the mid-1960s: "I got a lot out of it, but it didn't feel right to continue there." In 1966 he was asked to join an Ottawa band called The Children, which lasted for about a year. In the spring of 1967, he joined the final lineup of the Esquires before moving to Toronto in the summer to form The Flying Circus with former Bobby Kris & The Imperials members Marty Fisher and Gordon MacBain and ex-Tripp member Neil Lillie. The group recorded some material in late 1967 (which remains unreleased) before changing its name to Olivus in the spring of 1968, by which point Lillie (who changed his name to Neil Merryweather) had been replaced by Dennis Pendrith from Livingstone's Journey. Olivus opened for The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream in April 1968. That summer Cockburn broke up Olivus, intending to go solo but ending up in the band 3's a Crowd. with David Wiffen, Colleen Peterson and Richard Patterson, who had played with him in The Children. Cockburn left this band in the spring of 1969 to pursue a solo career.
He had made his first solo appearance at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967, and was the headliner when Beldin Arechavala cancelled in order to appear at Woodstock in 1969. In 1970 he released his first, self-titled, solo album. Cockburn's phenomenal guitar work and songwriting skills won him an enthusiastic following. His early work sparkles with rural and nautical imagery, Biblical metaphors, and a sense of delight in the belief that whatever happens here on earth, heaven is not far away. Raised as an agnostic, early in his career he became a devout Christian. Many of his albums from the 1970s refer to his Christian belief, which in turn informs the concerns for human rights and environmentalism expressed on his 1980s albums. His references to Christianity in his music include the Grail imagery of 20th-century Christian poet Charles Williams and the ideas of theologian Harvey Cox, but they are so subtle and musical that they do not exclude nonbelievers.
While Cockburn had been popular in Canada for years, he did not make a splash in the United States until 1979, with the release of the album Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws, still a landmark of acoustic-based pop featuring intricate lyrics, great sonics, and startling guitar work. "Wondering Where the Lions Are", the first single from that album, reached #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US in June 1980, and earned Cockburn an appearance on NBC's hit TV show Saturday Night Live.
Cockburn was married from 1969 to 1980 to Kitty Cockburn, and has a daughter Jenny (born in July 1976) from that marriage. He wrote the song "Little Seahorse" in late 1975 about the time when his daughter was in utero. It appears on his album In the Falling Dark.
Through the 1980s Cockburn's songwriting became first more urban, later more global, and then, ultimately and most famously, more politicized: he became heavily involved with progressive causes. His growing political concerns were first hinted at in three astonishing but little-known discs, Humans, Inner City Front and The Trouble with Normal. As far as casual radio listeners were concerned, however, these concerns only became evident in 1984, with Cockburn's second US radio hit, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" (#88 US) from the Stealing Fire album. He had written the song a year earlier, after visiting Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico that were attacked before and after his visit by Guatemalan military helicopters. His political activism continues to the present. Cockburn has travelled to many countries (such as Mozambique and Iraq), played countless benefits, and written many songs on a variety of political subjects ranging from the International Monetary Fund to land mines. His internationalist bent is reflected in the many world music influences (reggae, Latin, etc.) found in his music.
In 1991, Intrepid Records released Kick at the Darkness, a tribute album to Cockburn whose title comes from a phrase in his song "Lovers in a Dangerous Time". It features the Barenaked Ladies cover of that song, which became their first Top 40 hit and proved to be an important element in their early success. This lyric was also referenced by U2 in their song "God Part II" from their album Rattle and Hum.
In the early 1990s Cockburn teamed up with good friend T-Bone Burnett for two albums, Nothing but a Burning Light and Dart to the Heart. The latter included a song, "Closer to the Light", inspired by the death of songwriter Mark Heard, who was a close friend of Burnett as well. Cockburn frequently refers to Heard as his favorite songwriter and was one of many artists who paid tribute to Heard on an album and video titled Strong Hand of Love. On the album Cockburn performs the title song.
In 1998, he travelled with filmmaker Robert Lang to Mali, West Africa, where he jammed with Grammy Award-winning blues musician Ali Farka Toure and kora master Toumani Diabate. The one-month journey was documented in the award-winning one-hour film, River of Sand.
In 2002 Cockburn released his first official greatest hits collection, Anything Anytime Anywhere: Singles 1979-2002 (although his previously published material had been collected in several albums: Resume, Mummy Dust, and Waiting for a Miracle).
In January 2003 Cockburn finished recording his 27th album, You've Never Seen Everything, which features contributions from Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Sam Phillips, Sarah Harmer, Hugh Marsh, Jonell Mosser, Larry Taylor and Steven Hodges. (Taylor and Hodges, formerly of Canned Heat which performed at Monterey and Woodstock back in the day, probably are best known for their work with Tom Waits).
Cockburn performed a powerful set at the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario, on , 2005. An instrumental compilation of both new and previously released material, titled Speechless, was released on , 2005. His 22nd album, Life Short Call Now, was released on , 2006.
Another humanitarian, Canadian Senator/retired General Rom?o Dallaire, who is active in humanitarian fundraising and promoting awareness, was on stage at the University of Victoria with Bruce Cockburn. The October 4, 2008 concert was held to aid child soldiers (Victoria Times Colonist, April 17, 2008).
Cockburn wrote and performed the theme song for the children's television series Franklin. He composed and performed, with Hugh Marsh, the music for the National Film Board of Canada documentary feature Waterwalker (1984), directed by Bill Mason. He also composed two songs for the classic English Canadian film Goin' Down the Road (1970), directed by Donald Shebib.
In 2007, Cockburn's music was featured in the movie adaption of Irvine Welsh's best-selling novel Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.
Covers and tributes
As a result of his highly successful solo career, Cockburn has had his songs covered by artists as diverse as Barenaked Ladies ("Lovers in a Dangerous Time"), Judy Collins ("Pacing The Cage"), Jimmy Buffett ("Pacing the Cage", "Anything Anytime Anywhere", "All the Ways I Want You", "Wondering Where the Lions Are" -- in the movie Hoot), Michael Hedges ("Wondering Where the Lions Are"), Lori Cullen ("Fall"), Anne Murray ("One Day I Walk", "Musical Friends"), Dianne Heatherington and Ani DiFranco ("Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long"), Dan Fogelberg ("Lovers in a Dangerous Time"), Donavon Frankenreiter ("Wondering Where the Lions Are"), Tom Rush ("One Day I Walk'), George Hamilton IV ("Together Alone"), the Jerry Garcia Band ("Waiting for a Miracle"), and k.d. lang ("One Day I Walk"). In addition, fellow Canadian singer songwriter Steve Bell recorded an entire album of Bruce Cockburn songs titled My Dinner With Bruce, and jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti released an album containing jazz arrangements of Cockburn's songs.
Awards and honours
Cockburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002.
On , 2001, during the 30th Annual Juno Awards ceremony, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The Cockburn tribute during the awards telecast from Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, included taped testimonials from U2's Bono, Jackson Browne, Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins, and Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett. The Barenaked Ladies performed their version of Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time". Best Female Artist nominees Jann Arden and Terri Clark performed "Wondering Where the Lions Are", and Sarah Harmer performed "Waiting for a Miracle".
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) honoured Cockburn by inducting him into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony was held on , 2002, in Vancouver as part of the Gold Ribbon Awards Gala at the organization's 76th annual convention.
On , 2002, the CBC's Life and Times series aired a special feature on Cockburn titled The Life and Times of Bruce Cockburn produced by Robert Lang of Kensington Communications in Toronto.
The cover artwork for his 1999 album Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu, which is dominated by bold text in the Helvetica font, was included in the exhibition "50 Years of Helvetica" which ran from April 2007 to March 2008 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In May, 2007 he received two honorary doctorates, the fourth and fifth 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. Cockburn previously received honorary doctorates from York University in Toronto, Berklee College of Music, and St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.
The discussion group "Humans" is one of the oldest e-mail lists devoted to a specific artist. The liner notes for Cockburn's album The Charity of Night mentions the group.
Cockburn has played guitars manufactured by a number of companies and luthiers over the years. Many early photos show him playing guitars made by the Canadian instrument maker Larriv?e. His request for an acoustic with greater access to higher frets led directly to Jean Larriv?e's "C" series of guitars. These innovative acoustics incorporated a cutaway, a previously rare feature on flattop acoustics. As a result, Cockburn's input was essential to Larriv?e's rise as an innovative, high-quality acoustic company.
In recent years, Cockburn has been performing on guitars custom made by Linda Manzer, a Canadian luthier and one of Jean Larriv?e's greatest prot?g?s. Cockburn also plays a Resolectric guitar model from the National Guitar Company, and a steel-bodied Dobro resonator guitar.
All Bruce Cockburn lyrics
- A Dream Like Mine
- A Life Story
- A Montreal Song
- Actions Speak Louder
- After The Rain
- All Our Dark Tomorrows
- All The Diamonds In The World
- All The Ways I Want You
- All's Quiet On The Inner City Front
- And We Dance
- Anything Anytime Anywhere
- Anything Can Happen
- Arrows Of Light
- Badlands Flashback
- Berlin Tonight
- Birmingham Shadows
- Blueberry Hill
- Bone In My Ear
- Bright Sky
- Broken Wheel
- Call It Democracy
- Can I Go With You
- Candy Man's Gone
- Celestial Horses
- Change Your Mind
- Christmas Song
- Civilization And Its Discontents
- Closer To The Light
- Creation Dream
- Cry Of A Tiny Babe
- Dancing In Paradise
- Dialogue With The Devil
- D�j� Vu
- Don't Feel Your Touch
- Don't Forget About Delight
- Don't Have To Tell You Why
- Down Here Tonight
- Down In Yon Forest
- Dust And Diesel
- Dweller By A Dark Stream
- Early On One Christmas Morn
- Embers Of Eden, The
- Everywhere Dance
- Facist Architecture
- Feast Of Fools
- Feet Fall On The Road
- Festival Of Friends
- For The Birds
All lyrics are property of their respective owners and are strictly for non-commercial use only.