Proudly Canadian Bruce Cockburn

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Bruce Cockburn has always been a restless spirit. Over the course of four decades, the celebrated Canadian artist has traveled to the corners of the earth out of humanitarian concerns—often to trouble spots experiencing events that have led to some of his most memorable songs. Going up against chaos, even if it involves grave risks, can be necessary to get closer to the truth.

Bruce Cockburn was born in 1945 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 around 1959 in his grandmother's attic, which he adorned with golden stars and used to play along to radio hits.[2] Cockburn was a student (but did not study music) at Nepean High School, where his 1964 yearbook photo states his desire "to become a musician". He attended Berklee School of Music in Boston for three semesters in the mid-1960s. In 1966 he joined 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. He moved to Toronto that 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changing its name to Olivus in the spring of 1968, by which time Lillie (who changed his name to Neil Merryweather) had been replaced by Dennis Pendrith from Livingstone's Journey.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 the band with the intention of going solo, but he ended 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.

Cockburn's first solo appearance was at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967, and in 1969 he was a headliner. In 1970 he released his self-titled, first solo album. Cockburn's guitar work and songwriting skills won him an enthusiastic following. His early work featured rural and nautical imagery and Biblical metaphors. Raised as an agnostic, early in his career he became a 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.

In 1970 Cockburn became partners with Bernie Finkelstein in the music publishing firm Golden Mountain Music. While Cockburn had been popular in Canada for years, he did not have a big impact in the United States until 1979, with the release of the album Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws. "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 and has a daughter from that marriage. He wrote the song "Little Seahorse", released on In the Falling Dark, in late 1975 about the time when his wife was pregnant with her.

Through the 1980s Cockburn's songwriting became first more urban, more global and then more political; he became heavily involved with progressive causes. His growing political concerns were first hinted at on three albumsL: Humans, Inner City Front and The Trouble with Normal. These concerns became more evident in 1984, with Cockburn's second US radio hit, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" (No. 88 in the US) from the Stealing Fire album. He had written the song a year earlier, following a visit to 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 many benefit concerts, 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 in his music, including reggae and Latin music.

Bruce Cockburn 1st album on True NorthBruce Cockburn 1st album on True NorthIn 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 was an element in their early success. This lyric was also referenced byU2 in their song "God Part II" from their album Rattle and Hum.
In the early 1990s, Cockburn teamed with 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 Cockburn and Burnett. Cockburn frequently refers to Heard as his favourite 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 Cockburn travelled with filmmaker Robert Lang to Mali, West Africa, where he jammed with Grammy Award-winning blues musician Ali Farka Toure and koramaster Toumani Diabate. The month-long journey was documented in the one-hour film River of Sand, which won the Regard Canadien award for best documentary at the Vues d'Afrique Film Festival in Montreal. It was also invited for competition at the International Festival of Environmental Films in Paris.

Some of Cockburn's previously published material had been collected in several albums: Resume, Mummy Dust, and Waiting for a Miracle. His first greatest hits collection was Anything Anytime Anywhere: Singles 1979–2002, released in 2002.

In January 2003 Cockburn finished recording his 21st 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 who performed atMonterey and Woodstock in the 1960s, may be known best for their work with Tom Waits).

Cockburn performed a set at the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario, on July 2, 2005. Speechless, an instrumental compilation of both new and previously released material, was released on October 24, 2005. His 22nd album, Life Short Call Now, was released on July 18, 2006.

Canadian senator and retired general Roméo Dallaire, who is active in humanitarian fundraising and promoting awareness, appeared on stage at the University of Victoria with Cockburn. The October 4, 2008, concert was held to aid child soldiers.

In 2009 Cockburn travelled to Afghanistan to visit his brother, Capt. John Cockburn, and to play a concert for Canadian troops. He performed his 1984 song "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" and was temporarily awarded an actual rocket launcher by the military. Cockburn has stated that, while unsure of the original Invasion of Afghanistan, he supported Canada's role there.    
Cockburn released his studio album Small Source of Comfort in 2011. "Lois on the Autobahn", a cheerful and experiential instrumental recalling "Rouler sa bosse" from Salt, Sun and Time is a tribute to Cockburn's mother, Lois, who succumbed to cancer in 2010.

Cockburn married his longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett shortly after the birth of his second daughter, Iona (b. November 2011) in 2011. As of 2014, the family lives in the San Francisco area, where Cockburn is writing his memoirs up to 2004.

A documentary film, Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, was released in 2013 on television and a brief theatrical showing; directed by Joel Goldberg, gave a rare look into Cockburn's music, life and politics.

Never content to rest on his laurels, Cockburn keeps looking ahead. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” he once said. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stopped working till they dropped, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.” Small Source of Comfort, a reflection of Cockburn’s ever-expanding world of wonders, is the latest step in his creative evolution.

Cockburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002. In 1998, Cockburn received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts.[16]

On March 5, 2001, during the 30th Annual Juno Awards ceremony, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The Cockburn tribute during the awards 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 honoured Cockburn by inducting him into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony was held on October 22, 2002, in Vancouver as part of the Gold Ribbon Awards Gala at the organization's 76th annual convention.

On November 27, 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 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,[18] 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 Honorary 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.[19] His most recent Honorary Doctorate was awarded by McMaster University in 2009.Cockburn received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

With over four decades in the music industry, sixteen Bruce Cockburn albums have received a Canadian gold certification. Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws, Stealing Fire and Waiting for a Miracle have also received a Canadian platinum certification. He has sold nearly one million albums in Canada alone.

Wondering Where the Lions Are
Bruce Cockburn
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