November 20, 2014
Jackson Browne interview: 'Music lets you escape'
by Martin Chilton
Jackson Browne talks about politics and the need to recapture your desire as a songwriter as he tours the UK with his new album Standing in the Breach
It is 10 years since Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when his one-time support act Bruce Springsteen described him as "simply one of the best songwriters of all time . . . each song is like a diamond."
Many of his most memorable compositions from the Seventies were deeply personal love songs, about pain and death and desire, but since the Eighties Browne has been one of America's most vibrant political songwriters.
He talks with passion about his frustrations with the present state of affairs. "America is not really a democracy at the moment and things that don't serve big business are thrown under the bus," he says. "It's not surprising that political issues find their way into songs. I think that is true of every singer and every band, because everyone has got something that they feel that strongly about. Bruce Cockburn, who is one of my favourite singers, is able to condense ideas and get to the heart of a political question in a song, but it is not easy. There is a limited audience for that compared to more universal or general subjects such as love. And I try to write about everything that goes on in life."
Browne has just released his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach, which captures some of the pure emotional tone that has been his hallmark over more than 40 years of making music. Yet politics has given him a fresh way of writing songs. "I don't think I was able to get what I wanted to say politically into a song until I was about 30 or 35," Browne says, "and it is not an easy thing to do. It's daunting given that the audience is not clamouring for political songs. The first time I wrote a political song, I woke up the next day and looked at what I had been writing and thought, 'Oh no, I can't be singing about politics, this is what I read about and what I am interested in but how can I expect it to come out in songs?"
The album contains one song, The Birds of St Marks, which was written when he was a teenager. The 66-year-old, who has sold out the Royal Albert Hall as part of a UK tour, laughs when I say that John Prine told me that songwriting, which came once as easily as tying his shoelaces, was now like performing brain surgery. Does it get tougher to keep writing good songs as you get older?
"Yes, it is harder to do it," Browne says, "although you learn tricks as you get older, you also have to unlearn everything so you can recapture the mind of the beginner, and the desire, and the feeling of what it was like when you wrote a song and it came out easily. With Sam Stone, Donald and Lydia and Hello in There, for example, John Prine wrote these colossal songs and they take on a significance in your life and work. It is hard to repeat anything you have done so freely and naturally. I think the only way you can hope to convince yourself is to do something entirely new and write about something that you would never have imagined as a young man that you would want to write about.
"Maybe an example of that on my new record is the title song, Standing in the Breach, which I would use as a measure of my prowess as as songwriter, because I am invested in that song."
The song, which deals with poverty and the quest for a fairer society, is the key track on the album. The photograph on the album cover was personally selected by Browne. "I went looking for photographs of Haiti after the earthquake," says Browne, "and that was taken two days after the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince."
Browne was doing a fundraising gig for Artists for Peace and Justice, which is headed by film director Paul Haggis, when he decided to get more involved. "People were pledging all this money and I didn't have any. I had just bought a house – for me quite an expensive house – and it came home to me that these people had no house at all. I thought, 'well, I can add a sum on that I am spending on my very beautiful home' and I contributed a sum towards the school being rebuilt. Their plans were forward-thinking and eventually they built a classroom that has my name. I went and visited this school last year and there are 2,500 kids from the poorest of the poor going to this school and that's what the song is about, building something in the place of something that was knocked down. Do you build something or build something better?"
Although his songs are full of anger about the state of the world, he is optimistic about the future. "My kids drive electric guitars and the one I least expected to say anything like this called me the other day and said he was giving up fish. Now I know why I would give up fish, because the oceans are 90 per cent fished out and the ocean is a living thing that we depend on for every second breath of oxygen we take. If it doesn't produce life any more, we won't be able to survive. To have my son, who is a such lover of Sushi, call and say that was amazing. He said he had seen a Ted talk on the internet, with some amazing oceanographer, a sort of Jane Goodall-looking woman. He meant Sylvia Earle and that was exactly who inspired me to write the song If I Could be Anywhere on the new album. My son had somehow come to the same conclusions, and he said to me: 'Look, I figure humans are good at adapting and we can change.' For this particular kid to have that kind of positivity is a great thing to encounter. He didn't seem to be getting it from my activism."
As well as all the political talk, it's best not to overlook what a committed musician Browne is. We talk about the great Lowell George and when I ask him about guitarist, singer and fiddle player David Lindley, Browne's eyes radiate warmth.
"I go and see David more often than the chances we actually get to play together. It's astounding the growth and development of this particularly gifted musician. He is so influential. He was the first musician anyone heard play a Weissenborn guitar, his lap steel playing was groundbreaking. David will tell you about guys like Freddy Roulette from the Thirties but David is immense. I've got a recording of us playing Mercury Blues at the Beacon Theatre and it's hair-raising. He is so bad ass on the slide. He's this gnome-like character hunched over the slide ripping it up, like a bull pawing the ground and kicking up great clods of earth with steam coming from his ears.
"I have a project in mind. I am going to make a film about David Lindley because I have got a lot of footage of him at various stages. I might even film his upcoming shows in Los Angeles to add to it. David is also spitting-up funny, the things that he says under his breath on the shows are not to be believed. The passion that comes from him playing all these different instruments is incredible and he was always a tremendous complement to my songs. I think I would be the right person to make the film and I would get interviews with Ben Harper and Ry Cooder and Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt."
Country music, without Lindley's participation, is a feature of the new album, especially on a fun song called Leaving Winslow. "That was an assignment to write something for an art installation that was happening in Winslow, Arizona," explains Browne. "Lots of people were involved, including the conceptual artist Doug Aitken, and I wrote about my late mother's husband, who used to go dancing with an oxygen tank on his back. He loved western swing and Zen and it fitted a country song."
As he said, Browne tries to write about everything that goes on in life. He adds: "Music can immerse you in a subject or it can, like the blues, provide a form of expressing resilience. And music is also a good way to escape, even if it's just a way of escaping a world in which corporations constantly defile the environment."
November 12, 2014
The Hamilton Spectator
Burlington record label flourishes amid music industry slump -True North Records flourishing with 45 years of success
by Graham Rockingham
The headquarters of Canada's oldest and arguably most successful independent record label resides in an industrial strip mall on Burlington's Harvester Road, squeezed between a military memorabilia dealer and an auto leasing outlet. The green and white sign above the storefront office is a simple one, "True North Records."
It's nondescript appearance belies 45 years of success. In this YouTube age of free music, when most record labels are folding or floundering, True North appears to be flourishing.
Less than a dozen people work in the open-concept groundfloor space, marketers, publicists, graphic designers, number crunchers. In a backroom, with loading dock access, rows and rows of industrial strength racks contain thousands of CDs, some first recorded decades ago, others so new they're still awaiting release.
Together the CDs represent hundreds of artists and a fair chunk of Canadian musical history — Chilliwack, the Canadian Brass, Gordon Lightfoot, Downchild, 54-40, Ashley MacIsaac, Big Sugar, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Peter Appleyard, Rough Trade, Ron Sexsmith, Jackie Washington, the Guess Who, The Tea Party, Stan Rogers, Fred Penner, The Nylons and many, many more.
At the front of the office, positioned like a receptionist's station, is the desk of the current president and co-owner Geoff Kulawick, a veteran of the music industry who purchased True North from legendary folk-rock impresario Bernie Finkelstein in 2008.
"We're running out of space," says Kulawick, who moved the label to Burlington five years ago to be closer to the Carlisle home he shares with his wife, Brooke, 16-year-old daughter Karina and 14-year-old son Matthew. "We're actually shopping for a new location somewhere in Waterdown."
True North is a very different record label than when it sprang up in the middle of Toronto's Yorkville hippie scene. The year was 1969, and Finkelstein started up the label to house his favourite musicians — Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and the pioneering psychedelic band Kensington Market.
Forty-five years later, Finkelstein is no longer part of the company, although he does continue to manage Cockburn, who remains the label's flagship artist.
As a matter of fact, this month, True North launched one of its most ambitious projects — "Rumours of Glory," a beautifully packaged 117-song, nine-disc box set chronicling the history of one of Canada's most respected singer-songwriters.
Each set is autographed, sequentially numbered and contains a 90-page book featuring rare photos, culled from the Cockburn collection of the McMaster University Archives, and extensive liner notes. The ambitious release has been compiled as a companion to Cockburn's newly released 544-page memoir, also titled "Rumours of Glory," published by HarperCollins.
"It's a good book," Kulawick says. "It contains a lot of things about Bruce I would never have known, like he likes to shoot guns, he goes to target practice. I would never have guessed that in a million years."
Other recent releases include "The Great Wall of China," a collection of Chinese songs performed by the classical quintet Canadian Brass; "Signal," an electro-jazz album by Toronto singer Elizabeth Shepherd; "A Multi-media Life," a documentary DVD by Buffy Sainte-Marie; "Where in the World," by children's entertainer Fred Penner; and "LA Bootleg 1984," a rare concert performance by the late Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, produced by Randy Bachman, who is scheduled to release a much-anticipated solo rock album on the label next March.
It's an eclectic mix of releases, none of which will likely achieve "gold record" status (sales of 40,000 units), but most will reach niche markets and turn a profit for both the artists and the label. Kulawick avoids pop artists, preferring folk, jazz, roots, bluegrass and classical performers.
"It's far better for us to sign artists that tour and have some kind of base that is not tied to commercial radio," Kulawick says. "Even if there's no hit on the record, there is a community around the artist that will tune into it."
Kulawick, a 50-year-old native of Ottawa, studied music production at London's Fanshawe College in the early '80s before moving to Toronto to start a career in the music industry, first with indie rock label Solid Gold Records, then A & M Records as a tour manager, then Anthem Records (home to Rush) and Warner-Chappell Publishing and Virgin EMI.
After taking some accounting courses, Kulawick formed his own label, Linus Entertainment, in 2001, based out of Toronto and then his home in Mississauga. Some of his early signings were Lightfoot, Ron Sexsmith, Hamilton singer-songwriter Ray Materick and Toronto jazz singer Sophie Millman.
A few years later, when he heard Finkelstein was considering selling True North and its large catalogue, he recruited two financial backers — Harvey Glatt, founder of Ottawa radio station CHEZ-FM and private investor Mike Pilon — and scooped up the label.
"Each of us own a third of True North, but I manage the business," Kulawick says. "And I still own all of Linus."
Since taking over True North, Kulawick has continued to expand taking over the Mushroom Records catalogue last year, adding '70s Canadian acts like Chilliwack and Doucette to the True North/Linus brand. He has also purchased The Children's Group with its catalogue of artists like Penner and Robert Munsch.
"We're a multi-million business and we're continuing to grow," Kulawick says. "We want to break new artists like Elizabeth Shepherd and Matt Andersen, but we also want to by more catalogues and labels."
Kulawick admits much of the company's catalogue skews heavily toward the plus-40 demographic.
"Those are the people who buy CDs. One of the reasons we've been successful is because we have been targeting adults on the CD side," he says. "At this point, most of our repertoire does target an older demographic. But it's more than that, it is music of substance."
Photo: Gary Yokoyama. Geoff Kulawick and True North Records staff.
November 3, 2014
Bruce Cockburn: Faithful Troubadour of a Dangerous Time
Stephen Bede Scharper
Bruce Cockburn’s journey is both deeply human and inspiring, revealing how one rocker has attempted to “keep the faith” in a world tempted by despair.
What do faith, music, and politics have to do with one another?
Everything, according to celebrated Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn.
Since his self-named debut album in 1970, Cockburn has woven Christian faith, political activism and vibrant guitar playing into a dynamic musical swirl, a journey chronicled in Rumours of Glory, a memoir which lands with guitar riff and cymbal crash in bookstores tomorrow.
Born in Ottawa the year the Second World War ended, Cockburn was among the original baby boomers. He was in many ways a typical suburban Canadian kid of the 1950s, a somewhat shy boy fascinated by space travel, science fiction, and TV. Also, like many boys of his generation and since, he saw school as a less than warm and intellectually stimulating environment. For him, “school consisted of feeling centred out and humiliated,” and by the time high school rolled around, had assumed a “prison-like” aroma.
As a result, he became skilled at creating alternate realities, imaginative scenarios that helped him deal with the spirit-deadening world of school and ultimately, provide a seedbed for his creative lyrical music.
Like U.S. rocker Bruce Springsteen, who also blends faith with political poignancy, and who once declared that “rock and roll saved my life,” Cockburn describes finding a beat-up guitar in an attic as a type of epiphany, in which “history and family and experience and hormones collided in a singular molten moment.”
That guitar became Cockburn’s musical hot rod out of a life of “quiet desperation.”
By his teens, he could begin to see the underside of rapid population growth and suburban sprawl, the anti-democratic thrust of the anti-Communist witch hunts, and the slow erosion of the church in light of rising state and corporate power.
Intrigued by the troublemakers of his school, and fascinated by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other paladins of the Beat Generation, the young Cockburn found in rock and roll and jazz a countercultural vibe, a disruptive chord in a monocultural, buttoned-down, postwar world view.
The Beat Generation, which helped sire the hippie revolution, opened up myriad avenues of exploring authority and the nature of power.
Unlike other musicians inspired by the Beats, however, such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (who would later cover Cockburn’s music), Cockburn did not overly indulge in mind-altering drugs and a lifestyle of “checking out.” Instead — and here his Christian faith may play a crucial role — he melded his music with social justice concerns. Personal fulfilment never trumped the common good in Cockburn’s catalogue.
Just as liberation theology, first articulated by Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez in the early 1970s, proclaimed that to “know God was to do justice,” and that the church must speak out against “institutionalized violence” of poverty and oppression, Cockburn also took on institutional power.
Such a stance has led him to trouble spots around the globe, including Guatemala, Mozambique and Afghanistan, performing and speaking out on crushing Third World debt, native rights, landmines and the environment.
As theologian Brian Walsh observes in his Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination, songs such as “People See Through You,” “Nicaragua,” and “Rocket Launcher” all speak to this commingling of faith, concern for human dignity, and musical energy. The amalgam of Cockburn’s activism, Christian belief and musical virtuosity led him to work with many international human rights and eco-groups such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth and Doctors without Borders.
In many ways, Cockburn’s professional unfolding, in a quiet, steady way, has reflected the embrace of Christian churches to take on the tough issues of global poverty, apartheid in South Africa, U.S. support for Latin American dictatorships and, more recently, ecological concerns.
That road, however, is not without its hazards. A failed marriage, times of uncertain faith, and a public spotlight for a “seeker of privacy” are part of the price Cockburn has paid as he has criss-crossed “this dangerous and beautiful planet.”
Reflecting the old Protestant dictum that the purpose of the gospel is not only “to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable,” Cockburn’s journey is both deeply human and inspiring, revealing how one rocker has attempted to “keep the faith” in a world deeply tempted by despair.
Stephen Bede Scharper is associate professor of environment and religion at the University of Toronto. His column appears monthly. firstname.lastname@example.org
October 19, 2014
September 7, 2014
True North Records Press Release
Details of Bruce Cockburn Memoirs and Box Set Announced
Bruce Cockburn delivers his long-awaited memoir, Rumours of Glory - a chronicle of faith, fear and activism, on Novemner 4, 2014.
Rumours of Glory, the nine disc companion box set to release on True North Records on 28, 2014.
Pre-order the box set and view the full track listing HERE.
Order the book and the box set in a specially priced bundle HERE.
Listen to a preview of the rare and unreleased tracks HERE.
Watch a clip from the DVD HERE.
The long-awaited memoir from legendary singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, Rumours of Glory, will be published by Harper One in the U.S. and HarperCollins Canada on November 4, 2014. Best known for his memorable songs including "Pacing the Cage" (1995), "If a Tree Fall" (1988), "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" (1984), "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (1984) and Wondering Where the Lions Are" (1979), the award -winning songwriter and pioneering guitarist, whose life and music has been shaped by politics, protest, romance, and spiritual discovery, has released 31 albums spanning five decades.
Cockburn has produced an acclaimed body of work: his albums have sold over seven million copies worldwide. He is revered by fans and fellow musicians alike as one of the most importnat songwriters of his generation.
In Rumours of Glory, Cockburn invites readers into his private world, providing an intimate commentary on his life and work, focused on the roots of his songwriting and the stories behind his best known songs.
As a long-time activist, Cockburn has spoken out on a range of issues: native rights, land mines, human rights atrocities in war-torn countries, Third World debt, ecological devestation, and corporate crime. As he outlines in Rumours of Glory, he belives that we can, and should, be dedicated to our shared humanity, to saving ourselves, each other and this earth - we just need to find the will.
Rumours of Glory is also the title of a box set collection curated by Cockburn himself as a companion piece to his memoir; the songs are presented in the same order they appear in the book. The limited edition 117-song, nice disc set includes 16 rare and previously unreleased songs and a live concert DVD - the artist's only full-length concert video. Each box set is autographed, sequentially numbered and includes a 90 page book featuring rare photos, extensive track information, and liner notes written by Nicholas Jennings.
September 1, 2014
KPFA Press Release
KPFA Radio 94.1FM presents:
Rumours of Glory, a Memoir
Hosted by Luis Medina
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA
Legendary singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn delivers his long-awaited memoir—a fascinating chronicle of faith, fear, and activism that is a vivid political and musical tour through the late twentieth century.
In Rumours of Glory the pioneering guitarist and award-winning songwriter invites us into his personal world, providing an intimate commentary on his life and work, focused on the roots of his songwriting and the stories behind his best-known songs (referencing over 104 songs and lyrics throughout). From his birth in Ottawa in 1945 to Baghdad in 2004, Cockburn shares his family life, personal relationships, Christian convictions and the powerful social and political activism that has defined the man and his music. His lyrics have been covered by Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, Judy Collins, Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffett, k.d.Laing and others.
“Bruce Cockburn’s journey, both as musician and thinker, draws us with him into spiritual and political realms...Rumours of Glory is a highly personal account by one whose quest for expression engages the most important social questions of our time.”—Jackson Browne
Music has always been Cockburn’s way to explore culture, the nature of the spirit, and politics, as he embraced folk, jazz, blues, rock and world beat styles, visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Iraq and Afghanistan – not only performing his music, but also witnessing the plight of people throughout these countries. A longtime activist, he has spoken out on native rights, the devastation caused by landmines, human rights’ atrocities in war-torn lands, Third World debt and all the ecological devastation caused by corporate crime.
He believes we can and should be dedicated to our shared humanity, to saving each other and this earth. He insists we simply need to find the will. For him, that comes out of maintaining a relationship with the Divine, and following the way of love.
Luis Medina is Music Director/Producer/Host at KPFA Radio, the first listener-supported, non-commerical radio station in the world.
August 15, 2014
A Box Set is on the Way
I spoke with Bernie Finkelstein today. He told me that a box set called Rumours of Glory is in the works, due for release in November, 2014. It will included one-off recordings that are scattrered about on various artists collection CDs, and previously unrleased songs such as "Waterwalker" and "Going Down the Road." The package will include a DVD with concert footage from the Slice O Life tour.
Bernie: "It is one CD of rarities and 6 or 7 CD's of the songs mentioned or quoted in the book [Bruce's memoir]. Included on those CDs there will be a couple of quite old and previously never released demos of early, early songs including "Bird Without Wings." The box set is curated by the book Rumours Of Glory, with the addition of a single of CD of rarities and previously unreleased material. Additionally there will be a DVD of concert footage from the Slice O Life tour. We think this will be 7 or 8 CD's including the DVD in total, but we're still working on that."
August 15, 2014
The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver Writers Fest: This year, it’s writing writ large
by Tracy Sherlock
The largest ever Vancouver Writers Fest is happening this fall with authors ranging from the international — including Norway’s Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ireland’s Eimear McBride and Iceland’s Sjon — to the hyper local — such as Steven Galloway, Caroline Adderson and Ian Weir.
“For me, this is a very international festival,” said Hal Wake, festival artistic director. “This national and international lineup reaffirms our role at the Writers Fest to introduce some of the most significant writers in the world to readers who may only have had a passing knowledge of them. We love to present authors who have achieved success alongside brilliant new writers who are about to become the buzz of the literary world.”
More than 100 authors will be in Vancouver participating in about 86 events Oct. 21 to 26, including panel discussions, readings, a literary cabaret and other events. Other notable authors include Colm Toibin, who will appear in conversation in the event’s finale with author Jane Smiley.
“When you look at their work and their emphasis on family and history, they’re actually well aligned,” Wake said. “We’re also excited about Emma Donaghue and Sarah Waters in conversation. They’re both lesbian writers who have not been shy about identifying themselves that way and they’ve both written historical novels.”
Waking from the American Dream is an event featuring authors Joshua Ferris, Cristina Henriquez and Matthew Thomas, who have all written about the reality of life in America versus the ideal.
My Way is an event that brings together Charles Foran, Knausgaard, and Eimear McBride, who recently won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing. These authors will discuss the challenge of writing and getting published in an innovative style or voice.
Knausgaard, who also appears in a solo event, has taken Europe by storm with his six-volume series of books that are a kind of fictionalized memoir in which his ordinary life serves as a background for meditations on culture and larger issues.
Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald will appear in the opening night event and in a solo event to discuss her new novel Adult Onset, her first since The Way the Crow Flies, which came out in 2003. Former Vancouverite Tom Rachman will appear, as will Justin Trudeau, Kate Pullinger, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas, Miriam Toews, Thomas King, Aislinn Hunter, Rebecca Mead and many, many others.
Harbour Publishing will celebrate its 40th anniversary at the festival, in an event featuring Robert Lucky Budd and Katherine Palmer Gordon, hosted by Harbour publisher Howard White.
Canadian poet Phyllis Webb will be honoured at an event including George Bowering, John Hulcoop, Eve Joseph, Daphne Marlatt and Sharon Thesen, hosted by Brian Brett.
The Al Purdy show is a fundraising event supporting author residencies at Purdy’s former home, an A-frame cottage where he did most of his writing. Funds will also go toward the ongoing renovation of the hand-built A-frame cottage.
Scottish author Louise Welsh, whose five novels have won several awards, appears in the festival’s opening night as well as in Crime without Borders, an event with Michael Robotham, whose first novel, The Suspect, has been translated into 22 languages and sold more than one million copies.
Although many festival events are geared toward students and teachers, festival organizers have not changed their program at all due to the teachers’ job action. Wake says they are in a situation where they can only carry on as planned, but that if the job action continues, students can attend with their parents, as many home-schooled children do, or teenagers could attend on their own.
Six special events will bookend the festival, including appearances by mystery writer Louise Penny, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell, spoken word artist Shane Koyczan, singer songwriter Bruce Cockburn, Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, and journalist and author Conrad Black, who will speak about his new book on the history of Canada.
Tickets for all six special events are on sale now through VancouverTix.com, and details are on the Festival website at writersfest.bc.ca. Tickets for events during the festival itself go on sale Sept. 8 and will also be available in person at the Writers Fest box office, 1398 Cartwright St.
August 14, 2014
The Hamilton Spectator
Los Lobos and Lanois? Let’s see it
by Graham Rockingham
It's hard to imagine a band like Los Lobos feeling a kinship with a Canadian industrial city like Hamilton.
Los Lobos' roots reside in the gritty Mexican-American barrios of East Los Angeles. It's where Los Lobos formed, the place where old-school rock 'n' roll melded with tequila-fuelled mariachi to give new life to Richie Valens' La Bamba.
It's a world away from Canada's Steeltown.
But to Steve Berlin, who has served as Los Lobos' producer, sax player and keyboardist for more than 30 years, Hamilton is a special place.
He's looking forward to re-acquainting himself with the city when Los Lobos performs at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic on Saturday, with Ray Lamontagne, Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Harmer, Gord Downie and The Sadies, and Rita Chiarelli with Boris Brott and the National Academy Orchestra.
Hamilton is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to Berlin, it's the home of Grant Avenue Studios, an old Victorian house in the city's core where he produced one of his first albums.
"It was the debut album from Prairie Oyster," Berlin, 58, says on the phone from his home in Portland, Ore. "The early '80s. I think it was the first one I did after the first Los Lobos album.
"Yes, I know the ins and outs of Hamilton," adds Berlin who returned to Grant Avenue with Los Lobos a few years later to record a film soundtrack.
More importantly for Berlin, Hamilton is the place where superstar producer Daniel Lanois was raised. Lanois, born in Quebec but raised in Ancaster, is the man who built Grant Avenue before going on to produce some of the biggest names in music — U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.
Berlin has only met Lanois once, backstage at a festival in Montreal, but he has carefully studied his recording techniques. Berlin owns a copy of Lanois' autobiography Soul Mining and a DVD of his documentary Here Is What Is.
"I like his ethos quite a bit, and I like what he does to the rooms he works in," Berlin says. "I'm looking forward to getting to know him."
Berlin hopes to do that at the Harvest Picnic. Lanois is the de-facto host of the annual music and food festival that takes place in the scenic Christie Lake Conservation area in rural Dundas.
Lanois is in line to perform, as he is every year, with his solo band. You can also count on him to get up and perform with several of the other acts. Lanois has worked with many of them, both in the studio and on stage.
This year offers the tantalizing possibility of Lanois, a widely respected electric guitarist, jamming with Los Lobos.
"Absolutely, he can stay on stage with us as long as he likes," Berlin says.
The admiration is mutual. When reached at his Toronto studio, Lanois was as excited about Los Lobos playing the Picnic as Berlin.
"I'm really looking forward to it this year," Lanois says without prompting. "We've got Los Lobos. How great is that?"
When told about Berlin's offer to jam, Lanois responded: "You tell him that I'd be happy to. Tell them, consider it done."
Such spontaneous collaborations are not new to Los Lobos. The band is best known for its cover of Richie Valens' La Bamba for the 1987 film of the same name, but also has a huge following in jam-band circles due to its close relationship with the Grateful Dead.
Los Lobos covered the Dead's West L.A. Fadeaway on its last studio album, 2012's Tin Can Trust, and has been known to close its live shows with a rousing version of the Dead's Bertha.
Always expect the unexpected from Los Lobos. The band doesn't even write up a set list for its live shows.
"I was the set-list guy for the band, but lately we stopped drawing them up," Berlin says. "We just do it on stage. It got to a point where we were going off the set list so much, usually 50 per cent of the time. So for now we just sort of call it out."
If Berlin doesn't get his chance to jam with Lanois, there's always another possibility. Berlin is an old friend of Gord Downie, having produced the Tragically Hip's 1998 classic album Phantom Power. Downie will also be at the Harvest Picnic, backed by The Sadies.
"Canada has an extremely high standard of musicianship, attention to song craft and detail," says Berlin who has also produced Matt Andersen, Great Big Sea and the Crash Test Dummies. "And nobody pays more attention to song craft than Gord Downie, at least not anyone that I've ever worked with."
There are also a long of opportunities for Lanois to re-acquaint himself with some other A-list musicians in the Harvest Picnic line up. In 1997, produced Ron Sexsmith's song There's a Rhythm and this year he recorded a duet with Hamilton singer Laura Cole, who is also on the Harvest Picnic line up.
Then there's Bruce Cockburn.
"Bruce Cockburn and I go way back," Lanois says. "I worked with Bruce in the early '70s in my mother's basement (in Ancaster) — egg cartons on the wall, me a greenhorn and him producing a record for Eric and Martha Negler, two really great folksingers of that time …
"Bruce is one of the great guitarists to come out of Canada. I'm jealous because he's a better finger picker than me, and I'm pretty good."
August 8, 2014
Parry Sound North Star
Bruce Cockburn Performance to Benefit Health Centre
There are still tickets available to see Bruce Cockburn at the Charles W. Stockey Centre this month.
Bruce Cockburn is coming to Parry Sound on August 18 to perform in a benefit concert for the West Parry Sound Health Centre.
The veteran Canadian artist will perform from his latest record, Small Source of Comfort.
Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience.
The performance is presented by Haljoe Coach Get Off the Bus Concerts, with all concerts raising money to benefit the health centre.
August 7, 2014
Litquake press release
In keeping with Litquake’s affinity for music and musicians, Bruce Cockburn joins a rich and varied list that includes PattiSmith, Tom Waits, Dan the Automator, Mark Eitzel, Steve Earle, Ray Manzarek, JohnDoe, Exene Cervenka and Lars Ullrich, when he previews his soon to be published memoir. Originally from Canada, Cockburn who began his career in the 60s—and first came to the attention of the American public with "If I Had a Rocket Launcher"
—now calls the Bay Area home. Cockburn will appear at The Make-Out Room on Friday, October 17.
August 1, 2014
The Windsor Star
Bruce Cockburn itching to get back to writing songs
by Ted Shaw
For the first time in his career, Bruce Cockburn has taken a break from songwriting while working on his memoirs.
“I’ve been writing a book the last two years or more,” he said from his home in San Francisco. “I look forward to actually being a songwriter again, starting any time now.”
Rumours of Glory: A Memoir has gone into final editing and is scheduled for release Nov. 4. In the meantime, he’s back touring again and will bring his trio that includes violinist Jenny Scheinman and drummer Gary Craig to the inaugural Kingsville Folk Festival, Aug. 8.
Having recorded 31 albums in 40 years, Cockburn said it has been a strange experience not to have new product to promote. His last studio album was Small Source of Comfort in 2011.
But then his life has changed dramatically in the last four or five years.
He married longtime companion M.J. Hannett, a lawyer, just after the birth of his second daughter, Iona, in 2011. The family moved to San Francisco where Hannett works for the U.S. government.
Iona is two-and-a-half and keeps the 69-year-old Cockburn on his toes.
“Between the baby and the book, I’ve had no time at all to work on music,” he said.
That’s going to change soon, however. “I won’t promise but I may have something new to play when I get to Kingsville.”
Cockburn said he spurned previous offers to have his life story told. “The timing just didn’t seem right.”
But when his new publisher, Harper Collins, approached him with the idea of doing a book of memoirs with a spiritual focus, he agreed.
“They had this idea for a spiritual memoir but didn’t offer any thoughts on what they meant by that. So I sort of came up with the concept with the help of a journalist friend of mine, Greg King.”
Cockburn said he “knocked off” about 100 pages about his childhood in short order, but then got bogged down.
“The kinds of memories you have of your childhood life are different from the kinds of memories of your adult life. In many ways adult memories are intertwined with what’s going on in your life right now.”
He dug through notebooks of his many trips around the world which are archived at Hamilton’s McMaster University. But he decided not to simply publish a compendium of old notes.
“I include some stuff that comes from my trips to Central America and Chile,” he said. “But mostly there are a lot of song lyrics because much of the book is about how the songs were born.”
Rumours of Glory, the title of course scooped from one of his best-known songs, takes readers from his birth in Ottawa in 1945 to his visit to Baghdad in 2004.
“I felt that was the right place to end it. So many things have changed in my life since 2004. My life had headed in many different directions, and where it ends is unknown as yet.”
He documented some of his thoughts about Iraq and the political situation at the time in the album, Life Short Call Now. The song This is Baghdad is a monumental, strings-laden portrait of the war-torn city, not a polemic as some of his songs can be.
Since that time, his music has taken on a mellower, almost playful, quality.
He’s not tipping his hand about what’s next musically, but he is enjoying not having to pump the songs of his latest album on the current tour.
“It’s kind of nice to be free of the need to emphasize a particular album,” he said, although admitting he usually prefers to play his newer songs.
Part of that urge has been satisfied by rearranging some of the older stuff.
“The curious thing is that after a while the songs are old enough that they could almost be somebody else’s songs. If I were to play an Elvis Presley song, I wouldn’t just do it like Elvis Presley. I’d have to think of how to do it in my style.
“How would I do Rumours of Glory or World of Wonders now? It’s a mental process you go through.”
July 24, 2014
Winnipeg Free Press
RightsFest to mark opening of human rights museum
by Adam Wazny
A free, two-hour outdoor concert tops the list of activities when the Canadian Museum for Human Rights open its doors in September.
The national museum, which is scheduled to open to the public on Sept. 20, announced its plans for the long-awaited grand opening at a press conference this morning.
A two-day event dubbed RightsFest will mark the occasion and will see a two-hour concert at The Forks outdoor stage Saturday evening.
Performers booked for the Canadian Concert for Human Rights include Canadian folk legend Bruce Cockburn, renowned First Nations electronic group A Tribe Called Red, award-winning artists Marie-Pierre Arthur and Shad, along with East Coast fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and internationally recognized singer-songwriter/social activist Buffy Sainte-Marie.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival, an organization that is no stranger to putting on events of similar magnitude, booked the performers for the CMHR show.
The concert will be broadcast live on Rogers stations (OMNI and CITY) and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). The networks will also broadcast the 90-minute CMHR opening ceremony on Sept. 19 at 10:30 a.m.
Twenty-five performances and activities around The Forks and museum will also take place during Sept. 20 and 21. The museum will offer free "sneak peek" guided tours of the CMHR during the weekend, as well.
"RightsFest will have something for everyone," CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray said Thursday. "From skateboarding to dance, from daytime children’s programming to an open-air evening concert, RightsFest will appeal to people of every background and every age."
More announcements on RightsFest programming are expected later this summer.
July 24, 2014
David Suzuki launches speaking tour, with help from Feist, Neil Young
VANCOUVER - Beloved environmentalist David Suzuki has announced plans to tour Canada — with support from high-profile pals including author Margaret Atwood, painter Robert Bateman and musicians Bruce Cockburn, Feist, Jim Cuddy and Neil Young.
Organizers say The Blue Dot Tour could "possibly" by Suzuki's final national speaking tour.
It's set to visit 20 communities from St. John's to Vancouver between Sept. 24 and Nov. 9.
The tour is expected to combine concerts with community events.
As the longtime host of CBC's "The Nature of Things," Suzuki has developed a rabid following, along with a knack for explaining complex scientific concepts to Canadians in plainspoken language.
Trained as a geneticist, the Vancouver-based scientists has written 52 books and holds 25 honorary degress.
"This is the most important thing I've ever done," Suzuki said of the tour. "I am so honoured that these incredible Canadians are joining me to celebrate the simple yet powerful idea that all Canadians should have the right to drink clean water, breathe fresh air and eat healthy food."
Others expected to take the stage during The Blue Dot Tour include Emily Haines from Metric, Jenn Grant, Chantal Kreviazuk, Joel Plaskett and children's performer Raffi.
"All of these incredible Canadian performers, leaders and icons are joining David Suzuki because they share his commitment to protecting the people and places we love," said Michiah Prull of the David Suzuki Foundation.
July 16, 2014
Folk legends Cockburn, Baez share ethos and passion, but not the stage in Vancouver
Fusion Festival: July 19-20 | Holland Park (Surrey)
Vancouver Folk Music Festival: July 18-20 | Jericho Beach Park (Vancouver)
There is a somewhat delicious irony in the fact that Canadian folk-rock veteran Bruce Cockburn and folk legend Joan Baez will be in the Vancouver area on the same day July 19, yet they will perform on two very different — and distant — stages.
Cockburn will be in Surrey performing a headlining set at Surrey’s Fusion Festival, while Baez will be at Jericho Beach Park serenading the Vancouver Folk Music Festival crowd.
The two could have easily been paired, especially considering Baez is also performing an afternoon workshop in honour of late folk troubadour Pete Seeger, a man both Baez and Cockburn celebrated at a huge 90th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden in 2009.
“I didn’t pay much attention to her back in the day,” Cockburn said in a recent phone interview. “She was a famous person with a good voice and she had good taste in songs, but I was more interested in the songwriter people than the performers. I wasn’t very well versed in the lore of Joan Baez when I first met her.”
Cockburn’s first encounter with Baez happened somewhere in the mid ’80s at a protest concert of some sort in Santa Barbara, California, as he recalled.
“It might have been a pro-choice rally, or something about South America,” Cockburn said.
At the time, Cockburn was making waves with his album Stealing Fire, his 1984 cornerstone that included two of his most famous songs: Lovers In A Dangerous Time, and If I Had A Rocket Launcher, Cockburn’s heavily political song which he penned after visiting Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico set up after the counter-insurgency campaign by then Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
In the song, which Cockburn has stated is not meant to be a violent call to arms but a cry for help, he sings, “If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die.”
“The song had been around for a bit, but it was still relatively new,” Cockburn explained. “Her audience disapproved of it exceedingly because they thought it was some kind of war song. People had been with me until that point and then you could just feel — nobody booed it, but there was a real kind of tension in the audience.”
Baez’s pedigree as an antiwar protester is well-known.
A fixture of the ’60s counterculture scene, Baez was deeply involved in the American Civil Rights movement. Now 73, she helped found the U.S. chapter of Amnesty International in the 1970s. In recent years she has been involved in environmental causes, the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians, and in protesting the war in Iraq.
July 16, 2014
Bruce Cockburn visits Stockey Centre next month-
Parry Sound concert series raises money for local hospital
Bruce Cockburn is coming to the Charles W. Stockey Centre on August 18
The veteran Canadian artist will perform from his latest record, Small Source of Comfort.
Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery.
The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience.
One of Canada’s finest artists, Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity.
His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and world beat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders.
“My job,” he explains, “is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal.”
That scratching and pulling has earned Cockburn high praise as an exceptional songwriter and a revered guitarist. His songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery are among the best to have emerged from Canada over the last 40 years.
His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists.
Throughout his career, Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song.
Whether singing about retreating to the country or going up against chaos, tackling imperialist lies or embracing ecclesiastical truths, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight. “We can’t settle for things as they are,” he once warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”
But he never rests on his laurels. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” says Cockburn. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.”
His commitment to growth has made Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come.
The performance is presented by Haljoe Coach Get Off the Bus Concerts, with all concerts raising money to benefit the West Parry Sound Health Centre.
June 12, 2014
Bruce Cockburn Receives Honorary Degree from Carleton University
Carleton University today conferred a Doctor of Music, honoris causa, on Bruce Cockburn in recognition of an outstanding career in music, along with a commitment to voicing environmental, First Nations and social causes.
“Communication must become everybody’s thing,” said Cockburn. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a scientist, a journalist, a painter, a nurse, a cop or an accordion player–we have to be able to hear and see each other’s reality.”
Cockburn was honoured during Convocation for the Faculty of Engineering and Design, some of the 3,359 undergraduates and 782 graduate students receiving their degrees over four days of ceremonies.
“Being prepared has to include the notion of teamwork, of community and of mutual support,” said Cockburn. “And as valuable as this support may be in the event of a disaster, it is also vital in the day-to-day we currently move through.”
Cockburn first began playing guitar in the late 1950s as teenager, although he never studied music when he attended Ottawa’s Nepean High School. After high school, he completed three semesters at the Boston-based Berklee School of Music in the mid-1960s. He played with several bands in the ‘60s before launching his solo career in 1970 with the release of a self-titled album. More than 31 albums followed.
“Bruce Cockburn is a Ottawa native and a Canadian singing and songwriting icon whose work has become synonymous with giving voice to human rights issues and environmental causes,” said Ian Tamblyn, Carleton’s artist-in-residence.
Known for hits like Wondering Where the Lions Are, Lovers in a Dangerous Time and If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Cockburn’s fans are worldwide. As of 2013, 22 of his albums have received Canadian gold or platinum certification. He has sold nearly one million albums in Canada alone.
Cockburn has helped raise funds for food distribution programs and highlighted First Nations’ efforts to preserve the rain forests of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Cockburn’s work has been recognized with numerous awards and honours. He became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002. The winner of 12 Juno awards, he also received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. He has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
June 7, 2014
The Sudbury Star
Rapping with Bruce Cockburn in Sudbury
by Carol Mulligan
The intent wasn't to talk with Bruce Cockburn about Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Richard Nixon on Friday, hours before he received an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University.
The interview was to be about his 50-year career, his latest album, Small Source of Comfort, his memoir, Rumours of Glory, to be published in November, and the words of wisdom he intended to impart to graduates that afternoon.
But carefully crafted questions left at the office and an admission that encounters with heroes like Trudeau haven't always gone well prompted Cockburn, 69, to recall his own dealings with PET.
The first was in Cockburn's hometown Ottawa shortly after Trudeau was elected prime minister in 1968. The young singer-songwriter met him at a party thrown by mutual friends.
Cockburn asked Trudeau, whose Quebec lieutenant died shortly after he was elected, if the job was less exciting than he thought. Trudeau looked at him as if he were from another planet. When Cockburn's girlfriend, Kitty, whom he later married, spilled beer on Trudeau, he was gracious, though.
He next encountered Trudeau at a Winnipeg hotel where they were both staying and where the PM was being picketed by disgruntled farmers.
"I liked him. I mean he had his problems, things I disliked about his policies, but in general, I thought he was a great presence on the Canadian political scene and an interesting guy, so I sent a bottle of cognac to his room. The next thing I know, I'm in the Order of Canada."
Cockburn laughs after that anecdote, as he does frequently during a 30-minute interview in the dining room at the Holiday Inn.
Cockburn met Jean Chretien once and he said he was impressed. "He had a really great vibe in person." He liked the fact Chretien "took on that protester," referring to the incident in 1996 in which Chretien applied what became known as the "Shawinigan handshake" to a protester who got too close to him, grabbing him by the neck and shoving him down.
Cockburn admits if the protest had been about an issue he cares about deeply, such as the environment, he might feel differently.
In his speech to graduates, Cockburn intended to touch on a few issues.
"They've just spent years in a collective atmosphere and they're going to go off and ... probably are hungry to get away from that, (but) there's a lot of dark stuff looming on the horizon."
The way to respond to looming crises is with community, not with the individual, "not with every person for themselves."
He planned to make a passing reference to another theme: "The less virtual things are, the better they are ...
"You're going to get out there and get into relationships and have kids and try to have a career ... and it may not go the way you want it to and, even if it does, it's going to be tricky at times.
"We're not trained for that these days. We're trained to be doing everything with our earphones on."
It is quite a different world today's graduates are facing than when Cockburn was singing "Going to the Country" in 1970.
"It wasn't globalized, and even though there was news from everywhere and there was a war on, it didn't come home to us the way it does now."
With social media, people can say they're got a Facebook friend in Tehran, and that has a good side and bad side. While you might get to know what's going on in their part of the world, they're not really a friend.
"You're not going to be there for them when the cops come to the door, and they're not going to be there for you when you lose your job."
First, last and always, Cockburn is a singer-songwriter. He lives in San Francisco now and tours mostly in the U.S. at theatres and clubs.
He will play Northern Lights Festival Boreal this year, where he last performed in 1998.
You can't resist asking about the song "Call Me Rose" on his latest album; about Richard Nixon reincarnated as a single mother of two children living in a housing project. "I have no good answer for that ... I woke up one morning with that song in my head."
It begins: "My name was Richard Nixon only now I'm a girl. You wouldn't know it but I used to be the king of the world. Compared to last time I looked like I've hit the skids, living in the project with my two little kids. It's not what I would of chose. Now you have to call me Rose."
When he wrote it, there was an American campaign to rehabilitate Nixon's image. Cockburn recalls one pundit saying: "Richard was vastly misunderstood. In fact, he was the greatest president of the 20th century and possibly ever."
Cockburn, a Christian, says it's a song of redemption, "the idea that redemption is there, no matter who you are. You might have to pay for it ... so the price of his redemption is having to live this life of poverty and femaleness. Even then, he says at the end, 'Maybe the memoir will sell,' so he's still Tricky Dick.' "
His memoir is cowritten with journalist and friend Greg King, whom Cockburn enlisted when he got stuck around the 100-page mark when he was finding it difficult to address the complex issues of adulthood.
"It involves other people, which was a really big stumbling block for me. How do I write about other people without causing them pain, but still tell the truth?"
He admits there are people he doesn't worry about that with.
When asked if it was difficult opening up for the memoir, Cockburn says no.
"There's not very much in my life I would worry about anybody knowing. It's not like I've ever shot anybody. There's not very many secrets."
May 13, 2014
Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards Honor Quincy Jones, Arts & Crafts, HMV Canada, More
The Canadian music industry gathered at Toronto’s soon-to-close Kool Haus over Canadian Music Week to honor more than 40 businesses and individuals at the 2014 Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards, covering labels, agencies, management, promoters, radio, venues and retail (see full list below). Those were all announced on a screen via voiceover, while onstage time was dedicated to proper tributes for six honorees with a legacy and an impact.
Joining the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame were Attic Records founder Al Mair, musician Tom Cochrane, and Astral founder, CEO, and president Ian Greenberg, while folk music icon Bruce Cockburn received the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award and Rogers Media’s Paul Ski was given the Allan Waters Broadcast Lifetime Achievement Award. Liz Janik was selected for the Rosalie Trombley Award, celebrating women trailblazers in radio.
The evening began with a special video tribute to 81-year-old music legend Quincy Jones -- one of CMW’s celebrity interviews at the conference -- who took the stage after a rousing standing ovation to introduce his artist, 20-year-old Montrealer Nikki Yanofsky.
“The next performer is a young lady who I believe represents the next generation of female vocalists,” Jones said. “She is an accomplished singer-songwriter, performer that has shared the stage with heavyweights such as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Celine Dion and many others, so you know that she is no joke.” He also mentioned he’s the executive producer of her just released album, "Little Secret."
Slaight Music’s Gary Slaight and artist manager Bernie Finkelstein gave out Cockburn’s humanitarian award, named after Gary’s father, Allan, who built the media empire Standard Broadcasting. The family is made up of noted philanthropists.
“I’m greatly honored to be the recipient of this year’s Humanitarian Spirit Award,” said Cockburn. “I think it’s wonderful that there is an award honoring the spirit of our concern for each other’s well being. That spirit is easily eclipsed by the last kindly thing we do and get up to. The more we nurture it the better.”
Later, he added, “I don’t know if I’ve done anything special to merit this. I think each of us has a moral responsibility to share what we can of our material and personal resources, especially those of us for whom life is less precarious than it is for many of our sisters and brothers. The world is full of pain and anything we can do to lessen the amount of it, let’s do it.”
Comedian Tom Green joined the evening in progress as the host, asking, “Is everybody drunk yet? Is everybody having fun? . . . They asked me to host this because I’ve been in the broadcast industry and the music industry. I was nominated for a Juno in 1992 [with his hip hop group Organized Rhyme]. I lost to Devon for his song ‘Keep it Slammin’.' My song was ‘Check The OR’ -- ‘You like it so far?’.”
Astral (dissolved in 2013) co-founder Ian Greenberg called his induction “a priceless honor that I accept with humility because none of my achievements over the past five decades would have been possible without the [help] of so many people. I’m proud to say that Astral was forged in the spirit of family My brothers and I started he company because we needed a way to support our family and keep our siblings together after the death of our parents. But beyond the family aspect of it, Astral became a 50-year long love affair that now goes on with Bell Media.”
Al Mair was called “one of Canada’s original tastemakers” by Six Shooter Records’ Shauna de Cartier (who inducted him), noting how he ran school dances, was a DJ, and drove a red 1964 Pontiac Acadian convertible with a 45rpm player under the dash. Mair has a career-spanning five decades in the music business, most notably as the founder in 1974 of the since-defunct Attic Records, which went on to accrue 114 gold, platinum and multi-platinum records in Canada, the U.S., Japan, the UK, and Holland.
“I wanted to thank all the staff and the artists that we worked with Attic over the 27 years of fun,” Mair said. “I also want to recognize the people who helped us get established and get rolling.” He mentioned his first partner Tom Williams, who was in attendance at the awards, and some that were not, such as Les Weinstein and the Irish Rovers, who “were shareholders from Day One” and Allan Slaight, who “put us in touch with the venture capital company that came up with the money for us to do it.”
He also took the time to thank the Music Managers Forum for naming their annual award The Brian Chater Award, after the late music executive and tireless lobbyist. “No one deserves to be honored more than Brian did for what he did for the Canadian industry,” he added.
Mair also name-checked fellow honoree Paul Ski, with whom he went to New York’s 1967 Expo. Ski is now CEO of radio, responsible for overseeing Rogers Media’s 55 radio stations across Canada. Ski had said, “It’s an incredible honour to be recognized by my industry peers. Over the past 30 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best in this business and am truly humbled to receive this prestigious award.”
Tom Cochrane -- inducted by his good friend and fellow Hall of Famer Gil Moore, of the rock trio Triumph, who called him “a celebrated musical icon” -- performed a few songs and got the industry crowd on its feet. During his acceptance speech, the singer gave special thanks to his longtime friend Deane Cameron, with whom he was in a high school band and went on to become president of EMI Music Canada and signed him; his current label president Randy Lennox of Universal Music Canada; plus Bruce Cockburn, bandmates in Red Rider, The Feldman Agency’s Vinny Cinquemani, SOCAN “for collecting,” and others. He even rattled off the old and current broadcasters, including Corus, Newcap, Rogers, CBC, Slaight Communications, Bell Media, Sirius, American broadcasters and mom & pops.
“Our passion for music is the one thing that we have in common among a lot other things, being a proud Canadians in a lot of cases. I know we have some America brothers and sisters here tonight as well . . . Without music, it would be a pretty boring world . . . No man’s an island . . . We can’t do it by ourselves as writers and singers and we all love music so much, and we want to keep it alive. We have that in common, right?’
Among the winners of the basic 2014 Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards were Universal Music Canada for Major Label of the Year; Dine Alone Records for Canadian Independent Label; Eone Music Canada for Independent Distributor; Universal Music Publishing for Music Publisher; Arts & Crafts for Management Company; The Agency Group or Booking Agency; Live Nation Entertainment for Promoter.
Toronto’s Massey Hall won Performing Arts Centre (Over 1,500 Capacity), Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre was awarded Performing Arts Centre (Under 1,500 Capacity), Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre took home Major Facility Of The Year (Over 8,000 Capacity) and there was a tie for Major Facility (Under 8,000 Capacity) between two Ontario venues, Oshawa’s GM Centre and Kingston’s K-Rock Centre.
Montreal’s Osheaga was named Festival Of The Year; Orillia’s Casino Rama Casino/Specialty Venue and Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom the Club Venue Of The Year. In the retail category, Toronto’s Rotate This won Independent Record Store Of The Year; HMV was called Mass Merchant/Retail Chain of the Year; iTunes was awarded Digital Music Retail Service and Soundcloud nabbed best Digital Music Streaming Service.
May 7, 2014
The Ottawa Citizen
Bruce Cockburn is living in Frisco
In Town: Cockburn is appearing in Ottawa on Saturday night as part of the Spur festival (spurfestival.ca) and on behalf of the Al Purdy A-Frame Restoration Campaign. 8 p.m., National Archives; tickets, $20. For more info on Spur click here.
These days Bruce Cockburn has settled in San Francisco. For a long-wandering troubadour, it’s a good place to land.
The climate is pretty nice and his wife and child live there too.
That doesn’t mean he’s not touring these days. In fact, the Ottawa-raised singer-songwriter is headed to his hometown in support of a poet.
There is a move afoot to restore the Ontario home of the late poet Al Purdy as a writers’ retreat. The home is in Prince Edward County.
So, Saturday night at Library and Archives Canada, Cockburn will perform in an event that is part of the Spur festival of art, culture and ideas.
“Al Purdy was a fantastic poet,” said Cockburn. “It’s just nice to be able to be part of anything that has something to do with him.”
Cockburn has a large playbook from which he can draw.
“I have more fun playing whatever is newest usually. Sometimes I have fun discovering a new way of doing an old song that’s more enjoyable. It is the case that people want to hear certain songs. They need to get some of what they want.
But you couldn’t do a show that would offer ony the oldies. You have to mix it up.”
For the Purdy benefit he is just doing a few songs, he says. “I may chose wordier ones because it’s a poetry thing.”
When he thinks of the Purdy project, Cockburn is a bit envious.
“I’d love to have a retreat, but I don’t have any time to retreat anywhere.”
One reason for that is Cockburn, who turns 69 later this month, is the father of a two-year-old girl. And “she is lively.”
Cockburn remarried a few years ago and his wife is American. For a while they lived in New York, but his spouse got a job in San Francisco and the move happened. But he did spend some time commuting from the east to the west by car, no less.
“I liked the drive. I did so much driving across Canada in the ‘80s, I kind of missed it.” But eventually he made the move.
Musically Cockburn’s last album was released in 2011.
Since then he has spent most of his time touring and working on a memoir that will be released in November. He says he is doing the book now because he got an offer from a publisher that he couldn’t refuse.
“It was the right time. I’ve been approached over the years by various people who wanted to write my story and publishers who wanted me to do it but it always seemed to soon.
“Plus it seemed like my story and I didn’t want to hand it over to somebody else. It was my story to tell.”
Still it has ended up as a joint effort because he got bogged down after about 100 pages.
“I just didn’t know where to go.” So he enlisted a trusted journalist friend named Greg King.
“It was easy to write about childhood. It’s the distant past and it was simple. the memories are fewer and more concrete. But once you get into the mechanics of adulthood it gets complicated. I found it hard to sift all the information and put it in some kind of coherent fashion.
“It’s definitely my voice that you will read,” he insists.
Cockburn’s father died last year, but before that he would run things by him. “His memory was totally sharp. There are other witnesses that I can consult with. And I have my own vivid memories and this is my story.”
The memoir stops in 2004, after he returned from a trip to Baghdad.
There is a sequel, in theory, but he’s not anxious to write it.
Cockburn has been performing music but he is not writing it. The memoir has occupied that part of his creative self.
One of the things the Al Purdy folks want to do is an album of songs and Cockburn is considering taking part.
“I haven’t been writing. But I look forward to being in a position to seriously wonder if I’m going to write a song now.”
It’s not so much that his muse left, “I slammed the door. All the ideas and the space in my brain that gets those ideas is about the book.”
“My style of writing is very different from what is required for a book. You write a song, you are dealing with 30 lines. It’s finite and not very great number. The time frame it gets written in can be anything from a couple of hours to a few days. Sometimes that few days stretches over a long period. A book is concentrated over a long period.
“As it sits in my computer it is 478 pages and it’s taken time and energy to get to that.”
Memoirs prompt memories and Cockburn has been thinking about his Ottawa days.
“I dropped out of Berklee (College of Music in Boston, Mass.) at the end of 1965 and the next couple of years were with the band The Children learning to write with Bill Hawkins, which was the big benefit. I learned a lot about guitar from Sneezy Waters and Sandy Crawley and various other people but I learned about writing from Bill. That’s what got me started.”
He spends more time in the book on The Children than with the next group 3′s A Crowd.
“When I joined 3′s a Crowd it was not the original group with which I was acquainted. It was with David Wiffen and Richard Patterson who were left after original band broke up.
“David and Richard approached various of us to put a band together for a TV show (The band included Colleen Peterson, Sandy Crawley and Dennis Pendrith).
“I was looking for a way to go solo and this was an opportunity for a bunch of gigs that made sense to me. I took it. It lasted about six months with me in it.”
Cockburn’s family is still here, but he doesn’t get to come back and explore the changing city.
But it was that city with a smalltown feel that made him, he says.
“I think one of the things that was really notable about Ottawa when I was growing up there was how easy it was to get out of. The exposure to nature that we got as a matter of course. The family had a cottage a little west of the Gatineau on Grand Lake. And my grandfather had a farm up near Old Chelsea.”
Cockburn lived on Highland Avenue three blocks from Nepean High School, his alma mater.
“I think it was a good place to grow up for people in my situation. It was a middle-class kind of atmosphere with an emphasis on education.
The Cockburns would ski at Camp Fortune and Bruce was a competent skier, he says. After many years he picked up skiing again in the 1990s. But recently because of his daughter, he says, he hasn’t been able to go.
His father was in the Canadian military after the Second World War and was part of the occupying force in Europe.
“I’ve always been interested in history and in military aspects of history.”
As a performer, he has been in war zones including Afghanistan, on a mission to visit the Canadian troops.
“That was the first time I’ve been in a war zone with people that I could understand, who were my people. It was great to be in an atmosphere like that from that perspective it was educational.
“Our stuff was being run well and our people were doing a good job. It wasn’t a surprise to find that was the case. It was a surprise to find how much that was the case and how professional and together and informed the Canadian soldiers I talked to were.
“They knew what they were there for, unlike the American troops that I have also met in other war zones.
“They gave you the impression that they were there because somebody made them go, they had no choice. They were cynical.
“I have had a difficult time convincing my lefty friends that this was important. This was to right a wrong … that can’t be ignored.
“I sort of agree that you can’t have a country in the world these days where people go around throwing acid in women’s faces simply because they want to learn to read. There are some cultures that don’t deserve to persist.
“There are aspects of the Afghan culture — here I am Mr. white man talking about it — the admirable traits deserve promotion and the opposite ones deserve suppression or removal.
“That’s true of us, too.
“When the correction comes for us, I’m sorry I won’t be there to help my little daughter through it.”
April 11, 2014
Napa Valley Register
Bruce Cockburn dazzles opening night audience at City Winery- Folk legend covers four decades of songwriting
by David Kerns
A Bruce Cockburn concert is two hours of lyrical and instrumental mastery. To an enthusiastic packed house, the 68-year-old Canadian folk legend graced opening night at City Winery Napa on Thursday with 20 original songs from 13 albums spanning four decades of celebrated work.
He was an ironic vision as he strolled out to begin, the outspoken pacifist dressed black-on-black, his trousers tucked into high combat boots, looking about as military as civilian clothes will allow. This may be a simple fashion choice, but his artistic interest in the play of opposites, which runs through his entire body of work, makes me wonder.
Cockburn combines lyrical imagery and complexity with stunning guitar work both as a very percussive rhythm player and as a soloist. For those unfamiliar with his repertoire, the songs can satisfy without interpretation on the sheer pleasure of the melodies and the performance. On repeated listening, he is drilling deeply into personal, political and spiritual themes.
A few lines from one of his most popular songs, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” itself a title loaded with tension, exemplify the kind of polarity that Cockburn is intrigued with:
“One day you're waiting for the sky to fall, the next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all.”
“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight, got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.”
Onstage, Cockburn is surrounded by instruments, some expected and some surprising. He moves between four guitars — two six-strings, a 12-string, and a steel National. To his right a standing mountain dulcimer waited almost the entire evening until he stepped up to it to close the main body of the show with the prayerful “Arrows of Light.”
Most surprising were four sets of towering vertical chimes, two on each side of him, which he ignited with foot pedals while performing the six-string instrumental, “The End of All Rivers,” and an intense solo on “Stolen Land.” In the latter, a song raging against injustice, the chimes were church bells juxtaposed with the explosive guitar work. Opposites again.
There were light moments. No Cockburn show goes without a sing-along on “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” his biggest commercial hit, with a call and response chorus likely to leave many an attendee with an earworm for a while.
Two of his three encores were distinctly unserious. The first, “The Blues Got the World,” is completed in all three choruses with “by the balls.” Several years after writing it, Cockburn said, “I remember sitting in the back of my camper, feet dangling off the tailgate, being highly amused at myself over this one.”
The second encore was “Anything Can Happen,” a hilarious meditation on all of the improbable things that could kill you at any moment, from botulism to the neutron melt to being drilled through the head by a shooting star. “Anything can happen,” he sings, “to put out the light. Is it any wonder I don't want to say goodnight.”
But those moments aside, Cockburn is a serious artist passionately addressing serious matters. His intensity during performance is palpable. Eyes typically closed, he immerses himself in the content. As he puts it, singing many of these songs “requires the necessary amount of commitment.”
In one of his most admired songs, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,“ the peacenik folk singer rages “Cry for Guatemala, with a corpse in every gate. If I had a rocket launcher, I would not hesitate.”
“Some songs, like 'Rocket Launcher,'” he said, “are hard for me to do, because I have to go emotionally where I was when I wrote them.”
Cockburn is into his art, absorbed in re-creation. He is quietly appreciative of the audience's responses, dignified without being aloof, but seemingly with a healthy detachment from approval.
My single quibble about the show was what was left out. Two fan favorites, “Pacing The Cage” and “Tie Me at The Crossroads,” didn't make the setlist.
After a bit of muddiness at the start of the opening song, the new Meyer sound system performed beautifully, putting to rest concerns that the new configuration and flooring of the hall might be an acoustic problem
This concert was a big experience, immensely enjoyable musically, and challenging to the heart and intellect. City Winery is off and running.
Canadian Music Week
Bruce Cockburn | Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award
Canadian Music Week is pleased to announce acclaimed Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn as the 2014 recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. The award – bestowed to the singer/songwriter in recognition of his social activism and benevolent support of humanitarian interests and causes – will be presented in Toronto on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards gala held during Canadian Music Week 2014.
“My Father Allan and I have both respected Bruce Cockburn as an artist and humanist since his early coffeehouse days,” said Gary Slaight. ”His philanthropy and compassion for charitable issues is commendable and something all of us should strive to emulate – even if on a personal level. Bruce has long been deserving of such an award and recognition, and we are thrilled to see his efforts honoured this year.as the recipient of the Allan Slaight humanitarian award.”
“It seems to me that if we accept that it’s appropriate to love our neighbour, whether as people of faith or as people just trying to live well, then we all need to do whatever we can to look out for that neighbour’s welfare,” said Bruce Cockburn. ”I’m very honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. I hope the existence of the award will help to inspire ever greater numbers of people in the music community to throw their support behind the many ongoing efforts to make this world better.”
For more than 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been revered as one of Canada’s most prolific singer/songwriters and advocates for human rights. His politically and socially charged lyrics have continuously brought Canada’s attention to causes around the world while his travels to such countries as Mali, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Iraq have underscored his commitment to humanitarian and environmental relief.
A social activist since the early-eighties, Cockburn has worked throughout his career alongside such groups as the USC (Unitarian Service Committee), OXFAM, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, The David Suzuki Foundation and numerous other advocate groups speaking out and raising awareness about landmines, famine, Third World debt, native rights, unsustainable logging, climate change and air pollution. He has been at the forefront of efforts to ban landmines, which met a resolve with the signing of a United Nations treaty banning their use in 1997, and to obtain justice for North America’s Aboriginal peoples.
Cockburn’s progressive causes and political concerns permeate his repertoire, including such tracks as “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” (inspired by a visit to Central American refugee camps on behalf of OXFAM), “Call It Democracy” (a social commentary on the devastating effects of the International Monetary Fund’s policies in Third World countries), “The Trouble With Normal” (citing labour strikes, tenant struggles and Third World subjugation), “If A Tree Falls” (calling for an end to destruction of the world’s rainforests), “Mines of Mozambique”, and “Postcards from Cambodia” (both documenting the deadly impact of anti-personnel mines). A more recent example is the powerful “Each One Lost” (stemming from a trip to war-torn Afghanistan in 2009), a mournful ode to lost soldiers that can be found on his latest album, Small Source of Comfort.
Cockburn’s activism is equally notable in his live performances, touring internationally in support of his causes. He performed at a UNICEF concert in Kosovo, the UN Summit for Climate Control in Montreal, Live 8 in Barrie, Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 in New York, Child Soldiers No More in support of ending the use of child soldiers in Victoria, the 100th Anniversary of Wounded Knee in South Dakota and Music Without Borders for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal in Toronto to name a few.
His music, along with his humanitarian work, have brought Cockburn a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, several international awards as well as seven honourary Doctorates. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year, the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn’s extensive songbook with a tribute concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti, folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin’ Jennys.
Earlier this year, Cockburn was named the Sustainability Ambassador for the 2013 JUNO Awards in an effort to raise public awareness about the organization’s environmental efforts in reducing their carbon footprint. An interactive exhibit dedicated to different sustainability themes featuring exhibits by Cockburn as well as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Young and Sarah Harmer complemented the campaign.
Most recently, Cockburn donated a large share of his archives – including three guitars, scrapbooks, notebooks, recordings, and original song lyrics – to Hamilton’s McMaster University to be used as resource material for students and fans. Personal observations, schedules, correspondence and other meaningful memorabilia are included, offering a window into Cockburn’s imagination and creative process.
Bruce Cockburn continues to actively write and record music as well as support his humanitarian interests and causes. He will be releasing his memoir in May of 2014.
April 3, 2014
Singer-songwriter Cockburn finds inspiration across musical spectrum
by Nathan Weinbender
Bruce Cockburn has been writing and recording music for more than 40 years, and yet he’s never been comfortable doing the same thing twice. Listening through his 34 studio albums, it’s immediately apparent that Cockburn is a difficult artist to peg down and that his musical influences are all over the map.
“What got me excited about music in the first place was the early rock and roll,” Cockburn said from his home in San Francisco. “There was ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ and ‘Hound Dog’ and all the Buddy Holly stuff, and that just got me all fired up.”
Cockburn, a native of Ontario, started taking guitar lessons as a teenager, where he was exposed to jazz and swing and the music of Les Paul and Chet Atkins.
“And then before I was out of high school I got introduced to country blues and folk music, and all of that kind of melded together,” he said.
Cockburn later attended Boston’s Berklee School of Music, where he studied composition with the intention of becoming a composer for jazz ensembles. “But at the same time I was listening to John Lennon and Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot, all the songwriters of that generation,” he said, “and I thought, ‘Maybe I should try that, too.’
“By the end of the ’60s, I’d figured out what I wanted to do, and I had a body of material that was on the first couple albums,” he added.
Following stints in several psychedelic rock bands, Cockburn released his self-titled solo debut in 1970. It’s a collection of evocative, stripped-down acoustic ballads – think Nick Drake or Leonard Cohen – but more diverse styles creep in with each consecutive record. There’s a country flavor to 1973’s “Night Vision,” hints of Cockburn’s jazz background on 1976’s “In the Falling Dark” and 1980’s “Humans” flirts with new wave and reggae.
Cockburn will be playing tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater (it’s the first stop on his current tour), and he’ll be performing alone without a backing band. Not only is that approach a sort of throwback to his earliest albums, but Cockburn said it stylistically unifies his deep catalogue. “If you strip it down, the stylistic differences are softened a little bit, because it’s just a guy with a guitar singing,” he said. “There’s more homogeneity in the material than you might hear on the albums.”
But Cockburn’s music isn’t merely defined by its sources of inspiration. His work is distinctively his, and the complex musical arrangements and socially conscious lyrics (songs like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Call It Democracy” are pointed sociopolitical commentaries) of his songs elevate them beyond sleepy pastoral ballads.
“Every time I hear anything I like, I end up incorporating it in some way into what I do,” Cockburn said, “and if I’m profoundly affected emotionally by something I encounter, that’s very likely to end up in a song. I don’t feel like I’m in need of being propped up by somebody else’s style.”
March 21, 2014
Bruce Cockburn Supports Glashan Public School In National Contest
Glashan Public School National Finalists
$20,000 Outdoor Classroom Contest
Glashan Public School could soon have an outdoor classroom valued at $20,000. The central Ottawa public school is one of just ten national finalists in the Majesta Outdoor Classroom Contest.
However, Glashan Public School students need your help to make the outdoor classroom a reality! The $20,000 will be awarded to the school that collects the most on-line votes. School Principal, Jim Tayler says we need all of Ottawa to vote daily for Glashan to ensure victory! There is also a personal incentive to cast your ballot – you could win $10,000 just for voting.
Cast your ballot daily (from April 7 to May 5, 2014) for Glashan Public School’s Outdoor Classroom atmajestatreesofknowledge.ca.
Throwing his support behind the Glashan Outdoor Classroom project is Ottawa native and world renowned musician, Bruce Cockburn. Mr. Cockburn says, “I am pleased to offer whatever support I can to a plan that will surely bring a needed and healthy component to the school's teaching program.” Mr. Cockburn added, “It seems like the closing of an odd sort of life circle that I should be invited to support Glashan Public School's efforts to acquire an outdoor classroom. I'm pretty sure my mother attended Glashan in her public school years. Even without that little bit of synchronicity, I'm very pleased to be able to offer whatever support I can. Good luck in the contest!"
Principal Tayler says, “We know there is an abundance of research that supports the use of outdoor learning environments and we feel that Glashan students deserve to have an outdoor space on their schoolyard that supports their learning and provides alternatives to our existing classroom structure.”
The Trees of Knowledge competition was launched in 2011 by MAJESTA, in partnership with Tree Canada and Focus on Forests, to help teachers and students experience the benefits of being outdoors. Each year through Trees of Knowledge one Canadian school is awarded a complete, customized outdoor classroom, valued at $20,000. Additional prizes are also awarded to the schools that finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th and a $3000 prize for the school that has the most creative idea for rallying support. The school will host a contest kick-off event on Monday, April 7that 9:45 am. Voting starts at 12 noon.
Glashan’s Outdoor Classroom project is part of a larger-scale initiative organized by the Parent Council to refurbish and reinvigorate the school yard that is used by the diverse student population of 400 students.
The concept of an outdoor classroom fits philosophically with Glashan staff’s desire to explore and expand the possibilities of what they can do for their students. Staff is excited about using an outdoor classroom to enhance their own teaching practices and the ability to meet the needs of students in a non-traditional setting.
March 7, 2014
Bruce Cockburn concert raises $21,000 for Kindness Project
by Lauren Baron
The Bruce Cockburn concert, held February 15 at the Sanderson Centre in Brantford, Ontario, raised $21,000 for Freedom House Church’s Kidness Project. The downtown church hopes to use the money to provide additional resources for its new Kindness Centre located in Market Square Mall and toward drafting a kindness curriculum for schools. Pictured from Freedom House are pastor Dave Carrol, left, and Kindness Project chair, Phil Gillies.
February 12, 2014
The Brantford Expositor
Bruce Cockburn in concert Saturday night in Brantford
by Michelle Ruby
Bruce Cockburn may be the only person in southern Ontario happy about the weather.
The iconic Ottawa folksinger who has been living in California for the past four years and is embarking on a short “tour-ette” of the province, said he welcomes the mid-February freeze.
“It's the major beef I have about San Francisco,” Cockburn said from Toronto. “It doesn't have any winter.”
The condensed tours -- this time with eight dates, including a Saturday night performance at the Sanderson Centre -- fit into Cockburn's changed lifestyle. At age 66, he became a father for the second time to daughter Iona, who is now two. His eldest daughter, Jenny, is 36 and mother to four children.
The composer and virtuoso guitarist whose music is often rooted in his humanitarian concerns has spent the past year reflecting on his life in order to write his memoir -- tentatively titled Pacing the Cage, also the name of a documentary film released last year.
“It was both agonizing and fun,” he said of the writing process. “I have been approached a number of time since the early 1980s by people who wanted to write my biography. But I felt it was my story to tell and I didn't want someone else to do it. And, until now, I didn't feel there was enough life to write about.”
After 40 years in the music business, 31 albums, and a load of politically- and spiritually-charged hits to his credit, Cockburn said it has been an interesting ride.
He was about 14 when he found his first guitar in his grandmother's attic and used it to play along to radio hits. He attended Berklee School of Music in Boston for three semesters in the mid-1960s before joining an Ottawa band.
Cockburn's first solo appearance was at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967 and, in 1969, he was a headliner. The following year he released his self-titled, first solo album.
Through the 1980s, Cockburn's songwriting became first more urban, more global and then more political as he became heavily involved with progressive causes.
If I Had A Rocket Launcher, Call It Democracy, Stolen Land, and If A Tree Falls, some of Cockburn's most successful songs, are also the most politically charged.
He says it was his travels that inspired him to write lyrics that reveal his passion for human rights, political issues and Christianity.
“My personal motivation was travelling and meeting people and seeing the crap people have to deal with,” said Cockburn. “We live the way we do because other people don't live that way. It became important to mouth off about that.”
Saturday's concert at the Sanderson will support the Kindness Project of Freedom House, a non-denominational downtown church. The concept behind the project is simple: to change cities with kindness.
The first fundraising concert for the Kindness Project was held last year when Canadian rock band Lighthouse performed, raising $12,000 for the charity.
“I think it's great,” said Cockburn of the cause. “I'm glad to be able to help. A sense of community increasingly is all we've got. If we can further and foster a sense of community that's really good.”
Cockburn's music and his humanitarian work have brought him a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer n 2002.
Cockburn, who says he is itching to get back to songwriting after focussing on his book writing for the past year, said his love of performing has grown as he ages.
“I was afraid of it in the beginning. I hated the thought of getting up in front of people. I had to get over it. Now it's a privilege to share myself and my life with people who are interested.”
AT A GLANCE
What: Bruce Cockburn concert in support of the Kindness Project of Freedom House.
Where: Sanderson Centre
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $45. Limited availability at the box office, 88 Dalhousie St., by calling 519-758-8090 or at www.sandersoncentre.ca.
February 5, 20014
Two Row Times
Two Row Times talks with Bruce Cockburn
by Jim Windle
The Two Row Times was fortunate enough to have an exclusive telephone interview with Bruce Cockburn from his home in San Francisco. Cockburn just got back from an extended tour of dates to rest up and visit with his family before heading out on the road again on a new string of dates including a stop at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford, February 15th.
The Canadian troubadour was born May 27th, 1945, in Ottawa, Ontario. At age 14, he picked up a guitar and began his life’s journey of mastering both his instrument and his craft as one of the most important songwriters of our age.
Since those early formative years, he has amassed an astounding 32 Juno Nominations of which he has won 11. Cockburn has also earned a list of awards too long to mention and has appeared on Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration among many other high profile events.
But, Cockburn is not just a very successful singer songwriter. He is also one of the world’s more outspoken celebrity humanitarians, environmental and Native Rights activists today.
Cockburn grew up in the hippy movement of the 1960’s and cut his musical teeth, and his social and political awareness on the so-called, “protest” bands and singer/songwriters of the era, which still seems to drive his creativity today, albeit in a deeper and at times more intense way.
TRT asked him if he feels any different from those days when racial equality and the Vietnam War were the topics of the new radical youth movement known as the ‘New Left’.
“I hope I have changed some,” he said about those early days. “In some ways we are always changing. In other ways we don’t change because we carry so much baggage with us when we go into anything. We hope that with life experience, and people we meet, we manage to change our perspective on what people are dealing with. I think it certainly happens to me and happens to everybody, unless they need some help or are impaired in some way. When we start out in life we feel like we are the centre of everything and we gradually have to unlearn our centrality. To some extent, time has softened me too,” he admits. “I’m more capable in recognizing other points of view than I was.”
But his social and environmental awareness actually began some years earlier.
“My parents, especially my father – although he wasn’t inclined to be what we call an activist today – was very aware of the world around him. I guess I was encouraged by example to be aware of what’s going on around me which gave me a bent towards social justice.”
He also points to one in particular, Elsie Beachant, his Grade 3 teacher, as being important to his own political curiosity and appreciation and openness to other points of view.
“She used the classroom at least once a week to read clippings from the newspaper and talk about them,” he recalls.
“One day, somebody brought in a clipping that talked about demonstrations by student ‘radicals’ in Turkey,” he remembers. “Somebody asked, what’s a radical, and nobody knew the answer. She said a radical is someone who thinks things need to be changed and is willing to get out on the street and make a public statement about that.”
He recalls his class reading about the U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy trials during the Communist witch-hunt of the late 1950’s.
“She was talking about Pete Seeger and what a hero he was,” Cockburn recalls.
He has since had the opportunity to meet and play on the same venue as Seeger more than a few times, the latest time being the “Free Leonard Peltier” concert in New York a couple of years ago when Seeger was still performing into his 90’s.
Seeger died in New York City, January 27th, only days before we spoke with Cockburn.
“He was a powerful force for good in this world,” he says.
Cockburn says he can’t really point to anything in particular that started him singing about and speaking out on issues of concern and against the unfairness of racism and corporatism, but rather, he says all of those seeds cast throughout his life, even at a very young age, fell on fertile ground.
Cockburn has had his finger on the pulse of the world for a very long time, and that includes Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights for North, Central and South American Indigenous peoples.
“I started to become aware of Native issues when I started touring out west,” says Cockburn. “Growing up in Ottawa, if I knew any Native people, I didn’t know they were Natives.”
Like most non-Native kids in Canada, he grew up recognizing both the positive imagery of Native life, like campfires and an affinity for nature, as well as the negative Hollywood stereotypes.
“Out west, I started to meet some Aboriginal people and got pretty friendly with a couple of them,” he says.
They started telling the singer about things that were foreign to most Canadian’s image of a Native’s place in society.
Through these relationships, Cockburn also began to learn about the real history of Canada, which he and his generation had not heard of before.
“I was getting acquainted with individuals who had lived the experience that opened up my eyes about that,” Cockburn says. “And once you got your eyes opened, you start seeing it everywhere.”
As one might expect, Cockburn is very supportive of Neil Young’s recent “Honour the Treaties Tour,” which focused on both the ecological disaster of the Alberta tar sands, and the protection of the Native people living downstream from the site whose rights have been bulldozed away for the love of money.
“I think, good on him,” says Cockburn about Young. “It’s good that he is drawing people’s attention to that issue, and in particular, to the whole question of Aboriginal people in North American society. I think the urgent stuff is all around the treaties and around large Native urban centres. And there are issues around that too, like poverty and substance abuse.”
As far as he is concerned, “one cannot give these issues too much attention.”
“If you are a person with any kind of moral concern and you care about what happens to your fellows, then you have to take a position on that,” he challenges. “And there is only one position to take. They say that people need the jobs. That’s colonial thinking. It’s like saying, well let’s take all the ivory out of the Congo because we can. Jobs are not justification for what they are doing to the land and the Aboriginal people on it.”
In our conversation, we told Cockburn about the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee, and the wisdom found within it. He showed definite interest in finding out more and said he would look it up online and do some reading about it.
February 5, 2014
In conversation with Bruce Cockburn-
Famed Canadian performer, songwriter set to headline Kindness Project benefit concert
by Colleen Toms
The last time Bruce Cockburn was in Canada, he was stranded in Toronto for three days after wind chill temperatures of -40 C caused a "ground hold" at Pearson International Airport.
“We were sitting on the tarmac for six hours waiting to take off,” Cockburn said. “As soon as they said we weren’t going anywhere, my wife got on the phone and booked us a hotel room. It was chaos, a lot of people were getting displaced from flights.”
Still, Cockburn, who was born in Ottawa and now resides in San Francisco, looks forward to returning to the ice and snow.
“I’m enjoying being here, but I still feel very much like a Canadian” he said during a telephone interview from his home. “I’m looking forward to a little hit of winter.”
Cockburn will headline the second annual benefit concert in support of the Freedom House Kindness Project at the Sanderson Centre on Saturday, Feb. 15. Funds raised from the concert will be used to develop kindness-based curriculum for area schools.
“(Bullying) seems to be more and more prevalent these days,” Cockburn said. “I went to school a long time ago and experienced some bullying, but I don’t feel it was the same as the way it is portrayed in the media these days.”
Cyber-bullying is a much more relentless and vicious form of bullying that victims are unable to escape from, he added.
“When bullies were ganging up on you physically you could avoid it by taking a different route home or by going out the other door,” Cockburn said. “With the internet, kids can’t do that, and when you get to an age where you start worrying about your reputation, it becomes a big problem. Whatever we can do to mitigate that is important.
“I have a two-year-old daughter growing up in this atmosphere that is now considered the norm and I’m concerned about the possibility of her being impacted by that.”
Becoming a father again at age 68 has made Cockburn look at life differently. He also has a 36-year-old daughter and several grandchildren.
“In some ways, it’s a different perspective than when I was in my 30s,” he said. “A lot of things mattered to me then that don’t matter now. I felt pressure to perform, to pay attention to the world and I’ve done a lot of that over the years. Now I can still pay enough attention, but I don’t have to be driven crazy by it the same way. I think I have a greater capacity to love and be loved. I think I might be a little bit nicer.”
Well-known as a staunch activist, Cockburn said he feels a lot of satisfaction in the ability to use his music as an impetus for change.
“The ability to travel and experience a lot of the world, not just touring to perform but through invitations to go to interesting places that comes with the public visibility that I have, that has made a big difference in my life,” he said. “Performing for people gives me a great sense of satisfaction, if I do it right.”
Using his music as a means to effect change is important to Cockburn, but he believes every person has a role to play when it comes to protecting the planet.
“I think it comes down to everybody to do what they can,” Cockburn said. “I heard over and over again as a kid to leave the campsite the way you found it. Because I have an audience I am able to communicate to a lot of different people. What I can do to leave the campsite better is to share what experiences I have.”
Over his 40-plus year career Cockburn has released more than 30 albums – which included hits like Lovers in a Dangerous Time, If I had a Rocket Launcher and If a Tree Falls – won 13 Juno awards, was named an officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
His most recent album, Small Source of Comfort, was released in 2011 and Cockburn recently released a documentary titled Pacing the Cage. In November 2014, his first memoir will be released by Harper Collins.
“It’s the first time I felt like it was appropriate,” Cockburn said. “It always felt 'too soon.' I mean, Avril Lavigne has a biography out – what’s with that? She hasn’t had a life yet. To me, I had to wait until I had a story to tell and I felt it was my story to tell.”
Cockburn’s solo performance at the Sanderson Centre will include a collection of songs from his early days, as well as his recent works. Tickets cost $55 for orchestra seats and $45 for balcony seats and are available through the Sanderson Centre box office.
February 3, 2014
Cockburn helps Conrad Grebel celebrate golden anniversary
by Robert Reid
WATERLOO — When Conrad Grebel University College decided to present a concert in celebration of its 50th anniversary, the alumni committee searched for an artist who reflected the Christian liberal arts college's teaching philosophy.
They found the perfect representative in Bruce Cockburn.
Cockburn returns to the familiar digs of the Humanities Theatre to perform a solo concert Feb. 13. A small number of tickets remain unsold.
Fred Martin, the college's director of development, said acknowledged that the renowned Canadian singer/songwriter was "at the top of the list."
"His music has always been popular with students and alumni, and his humanitarian work and voice for social justice … have always struck a chord."
As it turns out, the chord resonates both ways.
In an interview from behind the wheel of a car travelling somewhere in California, Cockburn confirms he has always enjoyed performing in front of students.
"The energy and sense of imagination are palpable," Cockburn acknowledges, adding he doesn't design repertoire specifically for college or university audiences.
Cockburn maintains a number of associations with institutions of higher learning.
McMaster University conferred an honorary doctorate on Cockburn to add to his Order of Canada, multiple Junos and numerous awards and accolades. The 68-year-old artist donated his archives to the university.
With a career extending back to the mid-1960s, frequent world travels (both music and humanitarian tours), and more than 30 albums to his credit, there isn't much Cockburn hasn't done professionally.
Still, after nearly 50 years in the public eye, new insights into the man and his music continue to emerge.
In a recent DVD, Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage, the singer/songwriter reflects on his life and career as a film crew follows him around while on tour.
The behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal documentary features appearances by Bono, longtime collaborator Colin Linden, longtime manager Bernie Finkelstein, author Michael Ondaatje and retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, among others.
Initially, Cockburn thought the idea was "horrible," but concedes the project "turned out pretty well."
Describing it as "a sweet, little film," he suggests "it is less colourful than it might have been" had it "been grittier."
He has a chance to provide a grittier picture of himself this fall when Harper Collins releases his memoir which, incidentally, is also called Pacing the Cage (originally a line from his song of the same title).
"It wasn't my first choice for a title, but people seem to like it," he admits. "I didn't want people getting confused. The book is quite different from the film."
Written with the assistance of a co-writer, the 500-page memoir ends in 2005.
"I didn't have any trouble writing the early stuff, but I needed perspective on the adult stuff, since a lot of people I write about are still alive."
He solicited the help of a longtime, American journalist friend to "help (me) make sense of things" and "provide a structure."
Because the memoir ends prematurely, room is left for a sequel, but Cockburn says he is "in no rush" to tackle a companion volume.
"This has been difficult enough," he asserts with a laugh.
Cockburn has been approached many times by authors who wanted to write biographies, but he always rejected the idea.
"I thought I hadn't lived long enough to develop an overview of my life."
When the proper time arrived, he decided "it was appropriate for me to tell my own story."
When Pacing the Cage hits the bookstores, one of Canada's greatest singer/songwriters will continue to be a creative pilgrim in progress.
January 29, 2014
M.I.A., Tegan and Sara, Neko Case to Headline Canadian Music Week-
Annual festival brings over 1,000 artists to Toronto
by Ryan Reed
On May 6th, Canadian Music Week will kick off its 32nd year with an eclectic lineup that includes Tegan and Sara, Neko Case, M.I.A., Television and Ellie Goulding as headliners. The five-night festival will run through May 10th and include over 1,000 artists performing at 60-plus venues around downtown Toronto.
Other notable acts include City and Colour, the Dodos, No Age and Flashbush Zombies. CMW 2014 will also include interviews with such artists as Nile Rodgers, deadmau5, Amanda Palmer, Bruce Cockburn and City and Colour, along with keynote speeches from industry figureheads.
CMW was created in 1981 to increase exposure for emerging artists and form a networking platform for industry professionals. In its three-decade run, it's rapidly grown into one of the most influential media conferences in the country and featured appearances from Slash, Gene Simmons, Public Enemy, Alan Parsons and Sir George Martin.
In addition to its musical performances, awards ceremonies (including the Industry Awards and Radio Music Awards) and other industry-related events, CMW 2014 will also include film and comedy festivals. For full details, check out the official CMW website.
January 17, 2014
Cockburn's 15 Minutes of Fame
by Luke Hendry
Bruce Cockburn is doing what many dream of doing: quit his day job to become a writer.
But it's really only a sabbatical.
Cockburn, 68, is at work on his memoir and daydreaming about meeting his deadline and returning to songwriting. In the meantime he'll perform Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. at Belleville's Empire Theatre.
“Pretty sure I'll be able to think about music again,” he says through static on the phone.
He's walking around his neighbourhood San Francisco, where he now lives with his wife, M.J., and their two-year-old daughter, Iona.
With chronically self-deprecating humour – and apologies for the poor reception on his phone – Cockburn sounds relaxed but soon describes the pressure of writing his memoir. It shares a title, Pacing the Cage, with a Cockburn song and a new documentary film about him. It's set for a November release.
“Then I'll just have to go around justifying it,” he says, chuckling.
There are notes of optimism and relief in his voice as he talks about the possibility of writing music again and explains he simply hasn't had the headspace or time.
“The book's taken up all the creative energy and imagination for now.
“The book has turned out to be much more of a burden than I imagined it would.
“It started off easy because I started off writing about my early childhood. That far away in time, the memories are concise. They're sharp, they're clear, they're short, and they're not complicated by concerns for the feelings of people I don't know anymore.”
But the term “tell-all” isn't something that'll appear on the jacket.
“I'm not naming people if I feel it's going to compromise them somehow.”
Cockburn says he'd written 100 pages himself but then called for help as he “got bogged down” and struggled with the book's structure.
He recruited fellow Northern California resident Greg King as co-author. King's photos have appeared in Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Smithsonian magazines; he's also president of Siskiyou Land Conservancy.
King now writes a chapter in Cockburn's voice; the artist then tweaks the text, ensuring it still sounds like him.
“It sounds like it is me talking – and it is, in fact, me talking.”
Cockburn's also the focus of the documentary film – also called Pacing the Cage – covering his 2009 tour.
“The process of making it was fun.
“It's a bit of an ego stroke, having this camera follow you around.
“I think they caught they flavour of me on tour very well.”
He compared it to hearing your recorded voice for the first time.
“It doesn't have the kind of automatic humiliation factor that it did in the beginning.
“Then you realize how it's everybody sees you anyway.”
The only problem: “I think there's some bad hair in the film,” says Cockburn, laughing.
He says he's now much more comfortable in the spotlight, but it took years of work.
“Some people are lucky enough to have the show-off gene.
“I'm sure I have the inflammation as much as anyone, but the way I was raised, it wasn't appropriate behaviour.
“In the beginning I was very, very reluctant to be exposed at all.
“I wanted to people to come to the music. I wanted people to come to the shows. I didn't want to be a 'personality' in public. I wanted to be anonymous.
“Of course it doesn't really work like that.”
He says he'd never been called “sir” and found it “so embarrassing” to be recognized and treated as a celebrity.
“I felt like I was being drawn into this class hierarchy.”
Yet now, he joked, “if somebody doesn't do it, you're offended.
“There's a sort of insidious element to it in that way.”
Cockburn says he isn't keen to invite his fans into his private life and is “not a fan of social media.” Manager Bernie Finklestein, however, maintains his client's busy Facebook page.
Though some are billing his current tour as being in support of his 32nd album, 2011's Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn says the tour's setlists are “all over the place,” mixing old and new tunes.
His live act didn't have much of a band component until the 1980s and he's again performing alone.
And soon, he says, there may be more music to play.
“I'd love to write another song,” he says, “but when I think of ideas, I have to put them in the book, because the book has to get done.”
And in the meantime, he says, all the attention feels pretty good.
“Hey, man. It's my 15 minutes of fame,” he laughs. “It's great!”
Tickets: $57.82 at the theatre, 321 Front St., 613-969-0099 ext. 1 or theempiretheatre.com
January 12, 2014
Bruce contributed his voice to the song, Hellbender, by a band called Fire Dog. The song is a tribute to a salamander of the same name. You can listen to the track and purchase the music at the Fire Dog website.