Bruce Cockburn performing at the City Stages festival in Birmingham, Alabama, United States
|Born||(1945-05-27) May 27, 1945 (age 67)|
|Origin||Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
Bruce Douglas Cockburn OC ( /ˈkoʊbərn/ KOH-bərn; born May 27, 1945) is a Canadian folk/rock guitarist and singer-songwriter. His most recent album was released in March 2011. He has written songs in styles ranging from folk to jazz-influenced rock to rock and roll.
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. 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changing its name to Olivus in the spring of 1968, by which time Lillie (who changed his name to Neil Merryweather) had been replaced by Dennis Pendrith from Livingstone's Journey.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 the headliner. In 1970 he released his first, self-titled, solo album. Cockburn's guitar work and songwriting skills won him an enthusiastic following. His early work featured rural and nautical imagery, Biblical metaphors, and the conviction that heaven is close despite hardship. 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.
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 No. 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, more global and then more political; he became heavily involved with progressive causes. His growing political concerns were first hinted at in three discs: 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.
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 was an 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 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 kora master 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 at Monterey 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. A cheerful and experiential instrumental recalling Rouler sa Bosse from "Salt, Sun and Time" and entitled Lois on the Autobahn is a tribute to Cockburn's mother, Lois, who succumbed to cancer in 2010.
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 1998 Cockburn's song "Lord of the Starfields" was featured in the Italian movie Radiofreccia, directed by Italian singer/songwriter Luciano Ligabue.
In 2007 Cockburn's music was featured in the movie adaptation of Irvine Welsh's best-selling novel Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.
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"), The Rankin Family ("One Day I Walk"), Dan Fogelberg ("Lovers in a Dangerous Time"), Donavon Frankenreiter ("Wondering Where the Lions Are"), Vigilantes of Love ("Wondering Where the Lions Are"), Tom Rush ("One Day I Walk'), George Hamilton IV ("Together Alone"), the Jerry Garcia Band ("Waiting for a Miracle"), Holly Near ("To Raise The Morning Star"), 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.
Cockburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002.
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, 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. His most recent Honourary Doctorate was awarded by McMaster University in 2009.
Cockburn received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
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 Larrivée. His request for an acoustic with greater access to higher frets directly led to Jean Larrivée's "C" series of guitars. These innovative acoustics incorporated a cutaway, a previously rare feature on flat-top acoustics. Cockburn has owned at least two guitars made by Toronto luthier David Wren, a student of Larrivée, but these guitars were lost in a fire.
In recent years, Cockburn has been performing on guitars custom-made by Linda Manzer, a Canadian luthier and another of Larrivée's protégés. Cockburn also plays a Resolectric guitar model from the National Guitar Company, and a steel-bodied Dobro resonator guitar. Cockburn has also begun playing a Baritone guitar made by Ontario-based luthier Tony Karol.
* = Reissued with additional tracks 2002–2003
+ = Reissued by Rounder Records, but no additional tracks
* = Reissued with additional tracks 2002–2003
* = These releases compile previously released material, but also include one or more newly recorded tracks
Bruce Cockburn has 36 upcoming shows:
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