Charity of Bruce Cockburn

Bruce CockburnThe great singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn is 69 today. I actually know him because he and my wife were once a thing. I think she was with him during at least part of the Stealing Fire tour, which is interesting because I actually saw him on that tour. That was a hugely influential album to me. I still think “Nicaragua” is one of the great songs. At this point, I have seen Cockburn far more than any sane man should have to. He’s an excellent live performer, but I’m not that fond of live performances. Mostly, it is the crowds. When there was a backstage where we could watch, that was much better.

But by far the worst thing about the concerts were the fans. It is such a group of pasty white upper-middle class liberals who I just want to slap. And after the concerts, it was almost impossible to get away. Because Cockburn backs just about every cause in the world, people see him a lot the way that they see Noam Chomsky. So whereas other musicians had to sign autographs and hear about how great they were, Cockburn had to listen to much wringing of hands about this or that. And it would go on for an hour or more.

For his part Cockburn was great. He has the patience of a saint. And in my experience, he was a very nice guy. Although you can tell, he’s kind of lost in his own head. He is certainly a shy guy. At this point, I’m really curious about his position regarding Christianity. He was always at least nominally a Christian. That’s what his song “Wondering Where the Lions Are” is all about. But unfortunately, talking to him would require that I get back in touch with my wife. And that isn’t going to happen.

Here’s two songs of Stealing Fire:

And here’s “Each One Lost” off his newest album, Small Source of Comfort:

Happy birthday Bruce Cockburn!

4 thoughts on “Charity of Bruce Cockburn

  1. So happy to see this post about Bruce Cockburn! He was/is a local boy, I believe (Ottawa, Canada) and my all-girls Catholic high school got together money to book him for a full concert for us students in the early 70s. With my friends, I’d dash out of school occasionally to take the bus downtown and hear him play at ‘Le Hibou’, a non-licensed coffee house where we could get in because we were underage for anyplace that served alcohol. We’d sit there and listen to him, still dressed in our plaid skirts and green blazers. Regarding religion, he was a vocal supporter of the Unitarian Service Committee which was established after the war and was run in Canada by a woman named Lotta Hichmenova (sp?) whose fundraising commercials were a constant part of my childhood TV viewing.
    Anyways, Cockburn’s work in Central America was also an inspiration to us as we picketed the US embassy in Ottawa in the 80s, often accompanied by several of those nuns who had taught us a decade before.
    This is an artist millions of Canadians take great pride in claiming as their own.

  2. @R. Ward – Yes, he is the kind of Christian that the Glenn Becks of the world rant about. What I would like to discuss with him, however, is Terry Eagleton and his idea of Jesus as a revolutionary profit who wanted to create heaven on earth.

    I still have a hard time calling him Bruce, in fact, a song I wrote about him is titled, "Hey, Mr Cockburn." But anyway, Cockburn has been really big in landmine removal too. He does seem to have gotten a bit sadder over the years. Haven’t we all?

    There are two Canadian musicians who I really like: Cockburn and Jane Siberry. And strangely, Canadians always seem more surprised about Cockburn, even though he had a huge hit here. Speaking of which:


    It speaks well of Canada that both artists have grown greatly throughout their careers.

  3. Of course, the funniest response to a local artist/musician here in Canada happened to KD Lang. In a phone call with a friend studying at Johns Hopkins (again in the 80s) I mentioned in passing that her songs were currently being boycotted by radio stations in Calgary Alberta (which is our ‘Texas’ – oil and cattle and horses and the hats, boots etc.)She said:"’Cause she came out as a lesbian, right?" And I answered: "No, ’cause she came out as a vegetarian."
    True story.

  4. @R. Ward – That’s brilliant! But it makes sense. Other than sex workers, who should care what your sexual desires are? But vegetarianism is bad for the cattle industry. No doubt about that! That’s rational anger.

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