In October 2016, famed rocker Bruce Springsteen’s aptly-titled autobiography, “Born to Run,” was published. I look forward to reading this book someday, but permit me to draw your attention to another veteran rock musician, a guy I call “the ‘other’ Bruce,” Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn (CO-burn).
Cockburn is no neophyte: born in 1945, since 1970 he has released an astonishing total of 33 studio albums, live albums and compilations. The songs on these albums are the work of an artist who always has his ear to the rails, one whose observations of our ever-changing world yield lyrics that reveal their author’s deep interest in such varied topics as spirituality, war, social justice, politics and ecology.
Unlike a heck of a lot of people in his genre, Bruce Cockburn doesn’t rest on his laurels. Rather, he brings out new albums on a regular basis. I’ve found a different perspective communicated in each one, and I own most of them. In addition, since 1989 I’ve attended several of Bruce’s concerts, and would tell you that he gives good value for the money. (The photo above on the right displays my ticket stubs.) In the main, his performances consist of nothing more than him and a collection of guitars, chimes and other solo instruments. For Cockburn, a “big backup band” consists of two or three other people. Call me biased, but I believe he’s a more versatile guitarist than Eric Clapton!
Bruce Cockburn embraced Christianity early in his career. To be sure, his affiliation with that tradition has waxed and waned through the decades, but he still claims it. One needn’t be “religious” to pick up on the influence that continues to infuse so many of his tunes, though.
Cockburn’s source material for his songs are the notebooks in which he scribbles down thoughts, quotations and the like. It is the review of these volumes that inspires him to piece together ideas that address a particular matter of interest to him. Once I heard Bruce talk about the process, which is fascinating. Things recorded about different topics, often over the course of years, are drawn upon as he develops a new song.
In conclusion, I believe the following quotation from Bruce Cockburn’s book is relevant as we come to the end of a year crammed with conflict, hatred and all manner of instability:
“People who maintain a relationship to the Divine – no matter the religion or sect or specified belief system – will bear a special burden. It’s the burden of healing that is so needed after our poor stewardship of this blessed earth and of each other.” (“rumours of glory. a memoir,” page 524)
I encourage all my blog readers to check out Bruce Cockburn. I think you’ll be glad you did!