Media 2006

Posted: December 14, 2006
Cockburn & Fearing pick up awards
D. Keebler

Bruce Cockburn took home the Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist - Solo, for his album, Speechless. The awards were handed out in Edmonton on December 10, 2006. His label-mate, Stephen Fearing took home Best Songwriter for his album, Yellowjacket.


November 27, 2006
True North Press Release

Bruce Cockburn Visits Venezuela During Their Presidential Elections in December 2006

TORONTO ­ November 27, 2006 - An eight member delegation has been put together of peace, religious and human rights activists from the United States and Canada to visit Venezuela during the time of the December presidential elections from November 28 to December 7, 2006. The purpose of the delegation is to have a direct experience of changes taking place in Venezuela, with a special attention to the lives of the poor. The group will also have the chance to observe the electoral experience first hand. The eight days in the country will be divided between Caracas and the state of Lara in order to experience both urban and rural realities. Participants will visit community groups involved in new initiatives in the areas of health, education, agriculture, cooperatives, culture and communication. The group will also have the chance to dialogue with religious leaders, members of the government and the opposition, and representatives of the United States government in Venezuela and to reflect on the experience and strategize about follow up.

Cockburn has traveled extensively on many fact-finding trips including: Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile during the Pinochet Dictatorship, Honduras, El Salvador, Kosovo, Nepal, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Somalia and in 2004 war-torn Baghdad.


Posted: November 15, 2006
Daniel Keebler

Off To Venezuela

In a conversation with Bruce backstage after the recent Olympia, Washington concert he told me he is heading to Venezuela in late November to monitor the presidential elections, which are to take place on December 3, 2006. Among those he will be traveling with are Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and photojournalist Linda Panetta. In January 2004, Bruce accompanied these two and others to Iraq to see first-hand what was happening there.


Posted: November 6, 2006
USC Canada Press Release

Bruce Cockburn, Snatum Kaur and Guru Ganesha at Ottawa Peace Prayer Day 2006

Ottawa Friends for Peace invites you to celebrate peace at the fourth annual Peace Prayer Day Saturday, October 21, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, at City Hall – Elgin and Laurier. Internationally known recording stars Snatam Kaur and Guru Ganesha Singh Khalsa will perform for a full hour, including their medley of chants from many faiths. Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn will receive a Peace Award for his work for peace and social justice with Unitarian Services Committee of Canada, and Betty-Anne Davis will be honoured for introducing modern midwifery practices around the world. Bruce and Betty-Anne will present their personal Visions for Peace. 

There will be singing, dancing, and drumming with performances by Pipers for Peace, Every Woman’s Drum Circle, Nubia Caripito, Raging Grannies, the Skylarks, Big Soul Project, and many more. There will be interfaith prayers for peace, a silent auction, great food and beverages, and a chance to meet others who stand for peace, work for peace, and live for peace. Admission is free, and all donations and proceeds from the day will go to USC Canada. 

Why should you go? Snatum Kaur and Guru Ganesha, international recording stars, will be there to open the afternoon’s proceedings at 1.30pm. That’s why. Bruce Cockburn will be there – not to sing or play the acoustic guitar but to receive a Peace Award for his sterling work with USC Canada. That’s why. So you can enjoy and participate in a celebration of peace, social justice and planetary care. That’s why. Friends for Peace is a coalition of groups committed to raising awareness about peace, social justice and planetary care. It also supports local organizations like Child Haven International, Peace Camp Ottawa, Multi-Faith Housing and the campaign to expand the mandate of the Canadian War Museum to include the creation of a culture of peace. 

Come and participate with the choirs and dancers in this multi-faith, multi-cultural extravaganza for peace. Support our children and students as they roar for peace prior to the Peace Awards ceremony. Enjoy the kitchen fare provided by retail outlets and restaurants throughout the city. Bid for bargains from the silent auction, be sure to make a donation as the day is free of charge and browse the tables set up by peace, activist, environmental and yoga groups. This is not a day to be missed. Mark it on your calendar – Saturday October 21, Ottawa City Hall, 10.00am – 4.00pm: Peace Prayer Day Ottawa 2006.

Photo: Faris Ahmed


November 2, 2006
True North press release

True North Artists Come-up Big In 2006 Canadian Folk Music Awards Nominations

November 2, 2006 - True North Records has come-up big in this years Canadian Folk Music Award nominations with a total of eight nominations.

Bruce Cockburn has been nominated for four Canadian Folk Music Awards - Best Songwriter, Best Contemporary Singer, Best Solo Instrumentalist and Best Solo Artist.

Stephen Fearing has also been nominated for four Canadian Folk Music Awards - Best Contemporary Album, Best Contemporary Singer, Producer of the Year and Best Solo Artist.

To send congratulations to Stephen Fearing please go to his MySpace Page or post your comments below.

To send you congratulations to Bruce please post your comments in our blog.

Congratulations to both Bruce and Stephen from everyone at True North Records.


November 2006
Reprinted here by permission from the staff at FolkWax

FolkWax Is Sittin' In With Bruce Cockburn
by Bob Gersztyn

Bruce Cockburn's musical history spans five decades and 29 albums. During the 1960s his bands, OLIVUS, The Children, and 3's A Crowd, shared the stage with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Wilson Pickett in Cockburn's native Canada. After Neil Young bailed out of the Mariposa Folk Festival to join Crosby, Stills, & Nash at Woodstock back in August 1969, Cockburn took his place as the solo headliner. At that time he began a solo career, writing deeply personal and spiritual songs beginning with his self-titled album released in 1970. Ten albums later, in 1979, Dancing In The Dragon's Jaws provided an international radio hit when "Wondering Where The Lions Are" started to receive international airplay.

His newfound popularity expanded his horizons and, after traveling to Central America in the early 1980s, Cockburn's music began to take on a much more political tone. "If I Had A Rocket Launcher," from 1984's Lovers In A Dangerous Time" and "Call It Democracy" became anthems. His battle cry also included Native American rights, ecological issues, land mines, and, more recently, the war in Iraq.

Every Cockburn album holds a number of indelible compositions with hook-laden melodies that impale the psyche through idea-changing lyrics. A quarter of a century ago, 1981's Inner City Front produced the prophetic anthem "Justice," which excoriated mankind for inhumanities committed against itself in the name of everything including "Jesus, Buddha, Islam, man, liberation, civilization, race, and peace." 2006 has produced Life Short Call Now whose compositional subject matter includes the obvious war on terror, with titles like "This Is Baghdad," ecological issues represented by "Beautiful Creatures," and personal relationships with "Different When It Comes To You." The overall theme is reflective of his nomadic lifestyle coupled with the language of television infomercials.

Bruce Cockburn is echoing prophetic voices of the past like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Malachi. He's a musical artist whose style combines the ancient and traditional elements of prophetic poetry with modern musical forms ranging from Folk to Rap. His music transcends the status quo. Although he's won every musical award Canada has to offer, he still has more of a cult following in the U.S. and around the world. After seeing Cockburn perform dozens of times over the past three decades and repeatedly listening to all 29 albums, it was with much excitement and anticipation that FolkWax senior contributing editor Bob Gersztyn sat down with Bruce to talk about his new album, among other things.


Bob Gersztyn for FolkWax: Are you touring with a band this time and if so are any of the musicians on the album?

Bruce Cockburn: Yep, they both are, Julie Wolf on keyboards and Gary Craig on drums. It's a trio format and they both are on the album. Julie toured with me before as part of a quartet on the last band tour that I did. Gary has played on a number of my albums, but has not toured with me before, so I'm actually very excited to have him on the road and we've had a really good week and a half just now, rehearsing a repertoire for the tour.

FW: Are you going to be doing any wailing electric guitar solos?

BC: Not exactly. In keeping with the generally acoustic vibe of this album we're sort of leaning that way more, but you never know what might come out. There will be a few moments.

FW: Why did you choose the title Life Short Call Now?

BC: It was the title of the song that was on the album, obviously, and it just seemed like a good title for the whole album. When I make an album I don't sit down and plan a concept. It's always when I have enough songs to fulfill the time requirements that we go into the studio to do an album. So whatever I've been encountering and writing about during the period of time leading up to that is what determines the content of an album. But after the fact we're in the studio recording the songs and we start listening to it all back and thinking that Life Short Call Now is a pretty good name for this album.

I guess that's for a couple of reasons, in addition to the sense that the song itself talks about being lonely and using the language of infomercials, "don't wait call now." Maybe it's a function of ongoing aging or maybe it's a function of the fact that we're a species that's destroying its habitat, but one way or another it seemed a little more urgent perhaps than they once might have seemed. It's like whatever you're going to do that's good in the world, do it now while you have the chance because it's gonna get harder as time goes on. So like I said, it's after the fact that I named the album with that in mind. 

FW: That goes along with another song that you have on the album called "Beautiful Creatures." In it you say that the "...beautiful creatures are going away." Why are they going away and exactly who are they?

BC: Well, we're seeing the loss of thousands and thousands of species that we share the planet with. Like the ones that we're aware of, the ones with the romantic image that we can access as humans, that are kind of cuddly. There's a cuddly factor, if I can put it that way. Animals like polar bears and tigers, these animals are going to be gone. There's disagreement over what is behind climate change, but there's no question in my mind that whether there's a natural element to it. There's also a very strong element of human interference with the natural balance of things.

The arctic ice is melting, polar bears can't breathe anymore, their babies are drowning. They can't hunt for seals because seals don't have any ice to come up on. For the first time in the memory of the Intuit people, polar bears are starting to eat each other because they're not getting anything else to eat. It just seems to be heartbreaking that these beautiful creatures are leaving the way that they are. We're not really doing much about it. There's a lot of talk and, like I say, some of those particular species that are highly visible and highly symbolic for humans are noticed. People pay attention to that a little bit, but not enough to actually sort it out and way too late in the game, also, to sort it out.

There's all the other species, thousands of birds and insects and things that we don't normally think about or know the names of. Like creatures that live in the tropics and areas that are being clear-cut or otherwise messed with. We're facing the extinction of species that parallels the great extinctions of the past. In the past, those extinctions have been accompanied by pretty severe changes in the whole of the world's environment and we may not survive those changes if that's what we're faced with here, and it seems as though we might be, so life's short.

FW: How does war play into all of that?

BC: It's a complicated one. War is hands down one of the single biggest destroyers of environment that humans have come up with. It may be more localized than some of the other effects that we've had. In an area where fighting is taking place with modern weapons, the environment is going to be destroyed, period. I mean that's what happens. People, places, and animal habitats get burned, bombed; everything gets upset in that kind of setting. The thing is where the urge to fight seems to be an inescapable part of human nature, as much as the urge to love each other.

We have this schizoid thing going on where, on the one hand we're capable of envisioning the great glories of a loving world and the benefits of being respectful and kind towards each other, and yet we don't seem to be able to stop killing each other at the same time. That's why I say it seems to be an inescapable part of our nature. I've said this before, kind of with respect to the last album, not Speechless, but You've Never Seen Everything. It seems to me that when I wrote the songs on that album that we were in a race between the discovery of the true, for whatever better way to put it, cosmic connections that exists among us all and between us and the environment that we live in, the planetary system that we live in, etc. There is a race between the recognition of those things and the innate urge to self-destruct, and there's a lot of human behavior, a lot of the big strokes and big decisions are being made by people who are acting in service of that self-destructive urge.

FW: Did you actually meet the mercenary that you sing about in "See You Tomorrow"?

BC: Yeah. I got offered a job when I was going to the Berklee, B-E-R-K-L-E-E in Boston, not the famous California place. I was going there in the mid-1960s and I got offered this summer job with this guy who was going down to Central America to run guns to Cuba.

FW: How did you get an offer like that?

BC: I just knew somebody who knew somebody. One of my dorm-mates had this ex-military friend who was going to do this and he wanted somebody to go watch his back. At first I thought it was kind of a cool idea and then I realized what he wanted was for me go down there and get between him and people that wanted to kill him and I thought, "Hmm, maybe not." So at that time and that age, I was 18 or 19, and the moral implications were not evident to me. Now they would be, of course, anytime something like that comes up, but back then I really didn't think about that. It was just like this could be cool, never did anything like that before. But thank God I decided not to do it.

FW: Yeah, definitely, that would be a pretty dangerous sort of thing.

BC: You think? And not even a good thing. Whatever Castro's faults are, the returning of Cuba to its previous sort of rule was not a good idea and that's what they were trying to do, of course, to roll back the Cuban revolution.

Part Two

Bob Gersztyn for FolkWax: I once read or heard that you played on the same stage with Jimi Hendrix in The [Greenwich] Village. I think that you were in a band?

Bruce Cockburn: Not in The Village. We opened for Hendrix in Montreal actually, in an arena.

FW: Was that with The Children?

BC: No. At that time the band was called Olivus, which is spelled O-L-I-V-U-S, which of course was supposed to sound like "All Of Us," and we thought that it was terribly clever. It's kind of embarrassing to think about it now, but anyway, that was the name of the band and we had a few really cool opening gigs. We opened for Cream in Ottawa and we opened for Wilson Pickett in Toronto and we opened for the Lovin' Spoonful somewhere. That one was The Children. There were some interesting gigs that we had, but they were few and far between. Mostly we rehearsed and didn't have gigs. There was a review in one of the Montreal papers, which somebody showed me in Paris actually, a couple of years ago. I was there doing PR for an album, whatever album had just come out, and the guy from the record company that was driving me around was a big Hendrix fan. I said, you know, I opened a show for him once. He got all excited and his friend who has a Hendrix website came up with a reprint of this review from the Montreal Gazette, I think. There used to be a couple of English papers back then in Montreal, which said that if it had been anybody but Hendrix we would have been the stars of the show. The guy really liked us, which leads me to suspect that he was heavily influenced by LSD at the time.

FW: [Laughter]

BC: I don't think we were very good, but in any case there is a record of that having happened.

FW: Speaking of LSD, I have a question that I wanted to ask you. The line in "Mystery" that goes "I stood before the shaman, saw star-strewn space, behind the eyeholes in his face" sounds to me kind of like a peyote vision. How do you feel about the usage of substances like that for creative purposes?

BC: I think that it's perfectly fine, if it's directed and conscious. A lot of people take those kinds of things just to get stoned. I did my share of LSD back in the day, but not on the occasion that the song refers to. I was totally straight, in the middle of an afternoon. The shaman in question was the guy who painted the painting that we used on the cover of Dancing In the Dragons Jaws. He was the first native painter to come out and actually paint their myths. He became very famous for doing that. He's from the western part of Ontario originally. He may have died, I'm not sure, because he sort of faded into obscurity, but for a while he was really influential and famous as a painter. He influenced a whole generation of other native artists to similarly paint their own myths and spirituality in their own imagery, not in kind of white people's or European imagery. He got a lot of criticism from other native people for that, but he was a shaman. At least he said he was.

We went to his apartment; well, at least to an apartment that he was temporarily staying in, in Toronto. At one point during the conversation with him I had this vivid...I was looking at his face and we were talking about tea or something totally inconsequential, and I'm looking in his face and I had that experience of where his eyes were windows into space and it freaked me right out and I didn't say anything, but he saw me react or something. He saw a look come over my face I guess, and he kind of smiled and didn't say anything. He kind of smiled a knowing smile and that was the extent of it, but it was shocking. I had to assume it was something real because I wasn't stoned. At that point it had been a long time since I did anything like that. I gave up on all that kind of stuff really at the end of the sixties, even before that. So it had been at least ten years since I'd done any of that kind of stuff and there he was. I don't make any of this shit up. People think it's imagination, but it's not. I don't have any imagination, I just report.

"I don't have any imagination, I just report."

FW: I was talking to Peter Bergman from the Firesign Theater and John Sinclair, the manager of the MC5, a couple of years ago and I asked them what benefits the 21st century was reaping from the 1960's counterculture, and they told me that other than helping to stop the Vietnam War, changing music, and allowing liberality in clothing, nothing. What do you think?

BC: I think that there is, but it's hard to access. One of the things that happened in the 1960s was Vatican II, in which Pope John XXIII convened all the bigwigs of the Catholic church to decide what the destiny of the church should be and what role it should play in the modern world. It was decided at that time that the church would be the church of the poor. It was decided that I think because the vibe of the sixties, the kind of philosophy and energy that was flowing around. It flowed through the clerics as much as it flowed through everybody else. I mean it was just in the air. It touched everybody, whether they wore the uniform or not...of the hippie movement I mean. As a result of Vatican II the church began to teach people in Latin America to read. As a result of people in Latin America learning to read they started trying to overthrow the governments that were keeping them poor and malnourished and not getting medical attention and all sorts of stuff. Many church people became supporters of that kind of social change, and we've been living with the result ever since.

There is just one case where the sixties definitely affected current history and is still affecting it, because those revolutions have come and gone and they've been repressed violently in almost every case, but the reason for them being there hasn't gone away so they keep coming back. It was the church deciding to identify itself with the poor that changed that, and I really think that wouldn't have happened in any era other than the sixties, in the same way that it did. We don't still have a Vietnam War because people in the sixties decided that they'd had enough.

I also think that the Civil Rights movement became successful because it had the support of, not just because of this of course, but one of the things that contributed to the success of the Civil Rights movement was the support of White liberals who constituted a voting bloc that politicians had to pay attention to. It wasn't just a sudden humanitarian awakening on the part of the government of the day. Their awakening had to do with pressure from voters and the anticipation of losing elections and stuff like that. That's a little before the hippie movement, but it was still going on, still evolving as it is today, because the need is still there for it to evolve and things are not quite equitable yet. I just see all these trends that are going on. The fashion comes back and the young kids going around looking like hippies today don't have any idea what it meant to be looking like that in 1967. Because people used to hassle you for looking like that back then and now they just think that you're weird.

FW: Five or six years ago I was at a Hot Tuna concert and many of the people were dressed in hippie garb. I mentioned something about the counterculture to a young woman standing next to me and she took offence. "I'm not part of the counterculture," she said, as her boyfriend gave me a dirty look. I thought that it was funny.

BC: Well they're not because they got it out of fashion magazines. It's more than a thing, because the Rainbow Family still exists, right? The Grateful Dead, throughout their life span as an entity, attracted these huge crowds of people of all ages that wanted to carry on that sensibility and a lot of this was for fun, but it was a thing that you identified with for fun. I knew high school kids in the nineties that were Grateful Dead fans, who would go everywhere to their shows and those kids are now adults. They've grown up with that sensibility and identified themselves with it. So I don't see it disappearing and I don't see it being meaningless. The thing you have to remember too is that being a hippie in the sixties was also a fashion statement.

The first time I ever heard the word "hippie" was in 1964, when I went to Europe the first time. Before that people would call us "beatniks" or "hipsters," or whatever. I remember meeting this guy with hair down to his butt and a big, full beard. He was an English guy, but he was hitchhiking back to England after having participated in the blowing up of a statue of Franco in Spain, according to his story anyway. I said something about beatniks and he said, "we're not beatniks, we're hippies." That's the first time I'd heard the word hippie, and I thought it had obviously evolved from hipster and whatever. It was like, okay, well that's a word. But at that point the people that would identify themselves that way were a very conspicuous minority. Bell bottoms weren't fashionable and the hair styles weren't fashionable, they were counterculture, but within a couple of years of that everybody that was coming out of high school had long hair and had bell bottoms. The fact that they identified with a set of values that was not their parents' set of values doesn't make it less of a fashion event. So it never really was a lot more than that. There was more going on. You didn't have to be a hippie to oppose the Vietnam War; it just happened that most of the people who opposed the war were of that generation who came out of high school wearing bell-bottoms and long hair. I think, anyway.

FW: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.


October 26, 2006

Richard Hoare investigates the possible lyrical interpretation of Bruce Cockburn’s song, Twilight on the Champlain Sea.
27th October 2006

Artist: Bruce Cockburn
Song: Twilight on the Champlain Sea
Lyrics Written: No date available
Media: Download on iTunes Canada
Released: 18th July 2006
Duration: 5mins 23sec

Bruce Cockburn – guitar & vocal
Jon Goldsmith - electric piano
Gary Craig – drums
David Piltch – acoustic bass
Ani DiFranco – background vocal 

This is Cockburn’s first legal download only song and what a subject matter to pick. From a track sequencing, sound and lyric point of view this song would probably not sit well on the 2006 CD release Life Short Call Now. Cockburn would seem to have bared his soul in song over the loss of his relationship with fine artist Sally Sweetland, not something Bruce normally does with such apparently specific identifiable references.

The Champlain Sea was a temporary inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, created by the retreating glaciers during the close of the last ice age. The sea included lands in what are now the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as parts of the American States of New York and Vermont. In the early part of this decade Bruce lived in Quebec (Montreal) and Sally lived in Vermont. In between these two locations is modern Lake Champlain which was formed when the ice melted.

The song structure adopts a slow sparse jazz feel starting with Bruce on sedately paced acoustic guitar. “River that flows where there used to be sea” is probably the Richelieu River which flows north to drain Lake Champlain into the St Lawrence River. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to reach the mouth of the river at Sorel in 1609. “Just these shells you dig up where there used to be trees” is likely to be fossils, the modern evidence of the sea and the existence of ancient shorelines in the former coastal regions. Bruce then changes lyrical tack to lament life’s dysfunctional conversational problems with people in life that he wants to get to know.

The second verse starts with “Sun goes off the water,” a reference to twilight that appears as the sun goes below the horizon. The lines “There’s a cloud of witness in the houses, hills and passing cars, The cameras, cops and voyeurs who all want to be pop stars” may be a reference to the town of Woodstock, Vermont where in addition, Sally exhibits her work. The lyrics continue with more heavy irony. Cockburn refers to his partner as “baby” (a word he has mentioned in past interviews as not being his style), the angle of his equipment and has a dig at Sweetland referring to his love of the sky. Bruce apparently responds by sending up his being “an air sign” (Gemini) by creating floating vocals with Ani Di Franco!

Jon Goldsmith relieves the tension with a beautiful electric piano break not unlike Banana’s playing in The Youngbloods.

The third verse starts with Bruce bemoaning the depth of relationship he is seeking. The “waterlogged sponge,” “troll” and “monster” references really hit a self loathing low esteem following rejection. It is a far cry from both the synergy Sally and Bruce had in the My Beat 2001 television documentary and the final line in the song. Ani comes in again on vocals on “In the same skin.”

I assume that writing this song was a cathartic experience for Cockburn. Rarely has Bruce apparently been so direct about one of his relationships since the 1980 Humans album documented the divorce from his wife.

The music is an understated jazz triumph with a devastating lyric. Bruce has once again created a new work which does not repeat his decades of song writing.

Author's footnote: Bruce’s manager, Bernie Finkelstein, provided the musician line up above and also commented that this track does not feature on a Japanese only release of the CD Life Short Call Now. For the record, Daniel Keebler first heard this song at a pre concert Cockburn sound check in November 2005.


Posted: October 24, 2006



TORONTO – OCTOBER 24, 2006 - The Canadian dates for Bruce Cockburn’s North American tour are seeing packed venues, double encores and five-star show reviews. Performing with Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco) and Gary Craig (Blackie & The Rodeo Kings) critics are claiming that the songs off LIFE SHORT CALL NOW are some of Cockburn’s best material yet. This is Bruce Cockburn’s 29th release with appearances from Ani Difranco, Damhnait Doyle, Hawksley Workman and Ron Sexsmith. 

Bruce had the number one video on BRAVO in Canada last week for the single “Different When It Comes To You”. A CP wire service story caused a buzz when it asked Cockburn what would you do if the Taliban invaded Canada? “I would enlist, some freedoms are worth defending, regardless of your personal beliefs about war” claimed Cockburn. 

The LIFE SHORT CALL NOW tour hits Thunder Bay, Wednesday, October 25 then heads west to Saskatoon, Friday, October 27 and the Canadian tour finishes in Nanaimo on November 6. Before Bruce embarks on the European dates he makes a stop in Venezuela.

Check out:


October 20, 2006

Bruce Cockburn says he’d enlist ‘if Taliban invaded Canada’
by The Canadian Press

BELLEVILLE, Ont. (CP) — Trying to imagine Bruce Cockburn as a soldier is a bit of a stretch.

But the singer, whose songs strongly condemn war and injustice, says enlisting in the military is something he could consider.

“What would I do if the Taliban invaded Canada?” he said in an interview, staring reflectively at the ceiling of his dressing room before performing at Belleville’s Empire Theatre.

“I’d sign up. I know how to shoot,” Cockburn said with an easy shrug.

Tough words for an avowed peace-loving folkie.

The outspoken musician’s global activism earned him the first-ever humanitarian award at this year’s Junos. Named to the Order of Canada in 1983, he’s made numerous fact-finding trips around the world and acted as a spokesman for many humanitarian and environmental concerns.

Some freedoms are worth defending, regardless of your personal beliefs about war, he said.

“That’s what I’d sign up for,” he said, explaining he’d want to defend the right “to learn and think what you want” as Canadians have now taken as a birthright.

Cockburn said that for the first time in a generation, Canadians are having to re-evaluate their position in the world in the context of the country’s participation in the Afghanistan conflict.

“Now we’re a country at war,” he said. “I don’t think we really know what that means. We are so not ready to defend ourselves against anything.”

Cockburn, who penned “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” a song about punishing those responsible for the world’s injustices, said Canada needs to own up to its actions beyond its borders.

“I’ve seen the effects of our way of life on other people and I feel bad about it,” he said.

“We’ve poisoned the Third World,” he said. “We’ve taken all we can get from it and we’re not giving anything back.

“And we wonder why people are cheering al-Qaida. They’re cheering al-Qaida because they’re giving us a black eye.”

But the western world’s evils don’t justify the actions of terrorists and fanatics like the Taliban, Cockburn said.

“We owe a debt to the people we’ve ripped off all these centuries,” he said, “but that does not mean bowing down” to terrorists.


 October 19, 2006

Cockburn's happy with his place in life 
by Chris Cobb
The Ottawa Citizen

He's 61 years and 29 albums old, but Bruce Cockburn says he'll still be striving for perfection the day he plays his last note.

When he started strumming guitar to impress the girls at Nepean High School all those years ago, he had ambition and drive but no clue where it all might lead. "I had no concept of where I'd be when I started out," says an upbeat Cockburn during a phone interview from his home in Kingston. "but I'm very pleased with where I've ended up to the extent that I can keep on playing even though the creative aspect of what I'm doing is by turns satisfying and frustrating." By which he means?

"I don't feel in any position to settle out," he says, "and I'm glad of that because it would be too much like retirement. When you create a piece of art, in my case a song, you want it to be as perfect as possible for what it is -- a perfect statement of itself. But I can't imagine any artist looking at a piece of work and saying 'that's perfect.' Well, maybe some do but I listen to a finished song and say 'it's as good as it's going to get and I like it."

And to the legions of fellow musicians, amateur and professional alike, who have long admired Cockburn's startling ability as a guitarist, he would like to confess that he is still learning.

"There's always room for development," he says. "There's always more to learn about the guitar."

As Cockburnologists know well, he left Ottawa in the mid-1960s to study briefly at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and returned to Canada to join a series of musical combos including The Children, the final incarnation of The Esquires and 3s A Crowd (with David Wiffen and Richard Patterson). He launched his solo career in 1969 and through hard slog, as opposed to meteoric rise, has developed a loyal following around the world.

Cockburn's appears at the NAC on Saturday on the final leg of a North American tour in support of his latest CD, Life Short, Call Now, a title that suggests some new urgency for new grandfather Bruce -- or Pappi Cockburn, as his daughter Jenny's two-year-old daughter knows him.

"I'm feeling a certain precariousness," he says, "It's partly because of my own age and partly of what's going on -- or is it our awareness of what's going on? I'm not sure. Either the world is going faster down the tubes every day or I've become more aware. Maybe both are true, but for all of us life has become increasingly precarious. So with life short, call now. In other words, if you've got something to say, best say it quick."

Life Short, Call Now is a typical Cockburn song mix. The title track is a road song begun three years ago after a frenetic period that began performing at a benefit concert with k.d. lang in Shanghai, continued in Winnipeg at an event with David Suzuki and ended in Los Angeles finishing his previous album You've Never Seen Everything.

"I drove to L.A. from Winnipeg," he says, "and stopped off the see a friend in St. Louis who is in a relationship with a man she loves. As I left their place, I was aware of my own status of being in between relationships -- and that's what kicks the song off."

Billboards promise paradise
And tattoos done while you wait
Possible futures all laid out
On the sweeping curve of the interstate
Got no city, got no land
Got no lover, got no wife
How many ways to say goodbye
Can one man fit in a nomad life?

Cockburn has long been a chronicler of man's inhumanity to man from the jaunty and generalized Blues Got the World (By the Balls) written in 1972 through to This is Baghdad, inspired by a visit to Iraq with friends in the winter of 2004.

"I wanted to see what it was like up close," he says. "Whenever I saw Iraqi on news reports, Iraqis were cradling dead children or running down the street with blood streaming down their faces. But I couldn't get a sense of what it was like for people living with this stuff. It was a short visit but we met a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life."

It was quieter in Iraq back then and less dangerous for foreigners but still, he says, it was scary enough.

"People said that the week we were there was the quietest they could remember since Bush officially declared the war over," he says, "but there was shooting every night and one big car bomb went off. Now it's four or five car bombs a day and an incredible number of kidnappings and executions that didn't seem to be as big a part of the picture back then."

The instrumental Jerusalem Poker was inspired by a visit to the Israeli capital and the Edward Whittemore novel of the same name.

"When I was standing in Jerusalem," says Cockburn, "I was thinking that anything that happens here will affect everyone in the world whether or not they are represented by any of the religions practised there. It's a nexus. The Whittemore novel concerns a 12-year poker game carried on in the back room of a hovel in Jerusalem. It's obscure but I love it."

For someone with a voracious curiosity about the world, Cockburn doesn't own a computer and has no e-mail address.

"If you're paying attention," he says, "information is always there without a computer. I don't feel the need to have one. But I do use other people's computers from time to time and my girlfriend is very computer savvy."

Cockburn is touring with drummer Gary Craig and keyboard player/vocalist Julie Wolf, both of whom play on the new album.

And, of course, the NAC audience will hear samplings from some of the other 28 albums, including Wondering Where the Lions Are, released in 1979 and his only Top 40.

"And we're doing Dust and Diesel, which we haven't done for a long time," he says. "Except for the encores, we do more or less the same songs each night."

Cockburn will be heading off to tour Europe, and maybe Australia, this winter and is still looking to the future, still watching the world and lamenting its tragedies.

"Material never seems to dry up," he says, "and sometimes, I kind of wish it would."

Bruce Cockburn plays Saturday at the National Arts Centre. Tickets & times, 613-755-1111.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006


August 27, 2006
The Lexington Herald

Finding music in his many travels
by Walter Tunis

Examine the lyrical contours of Bruce Cockburn's songs, and you will discover music that operates as a sort of ongoing travelogue.

Sure, the veteran Canadian songsmith's works are ripe with themes as political and personal as they are social and spiritual. But at least once on every album he has made during the past three decades, Cockburn (pronounced coe-burn) has operated as a correspondent who forges the struggles, willfulness and celebration of foreign shores into sometimes rockish but more often ruminative reports on the human condition.

From the Caribbean carnivals of Tobago comes 1986's Down Here Tonight. From the crowded, intemperate streets of Katmandu comes 1988's Tibetan Side of Town. From the African lowlands comes 1997's The Mines of Mozambique.

So it's hardly a surprise to find him reporting from Iraq on This Is Baghdad, one of many arresting snapshots from his new album Life Short Call Now.

Cockburn had just returned from American-occupied Baghdad when he last performed in Lexington in 2004. Now his observations have led him back to a longtime friend and collaborator, back to the stark and human songwriting detail that made such '80s tunes as If I Had a Rocket Launcher and Call It Democracy among his most topically vital protest anthems and, finally, back to Lexington. He returns to The Kentucky Theatre for a performance Monday.

"It took a while to get my notes together into a singable form for This Is Baghdad," Cockburn said in a recent phone interview. "I didn't have the song, as you know, when we last came through Lexington. But I simply attempted, as I've done with other places I've visited, to paint a portrait of the city as I found it.

"I mean, I didn't go to Baghdad looking for song material. But I always hope anything I get to experience so closely might produce a song."

But This Is Baghdad needed something more than Cockburn's wildly exact descriptions of a destabilized country. It needed the sort of musical reinforcement few of his recordings possessed. It needed an orchestra.

So he called on his former keyboardist Jonathan Goldsmith, who produced some of Cockburn's finest albums (including 1984's Stealing Fire, 1986's World of Wonders and 1988's Big Circumstance). Now an experienced and respected film score composer, Goldsmith helped set This Is Baghdad and Beautiful Creatures to strings.

"I wanted those songs to have a kind of cinematic quality," Cockburn said. "That, in turn, gave me the idea of asking Jonathan to produce the album. I thought, 'Here's a guy, a friend of mine, who writes really well for strings and knows how to produce albums. It was kind of a no-brainer to ask him."

On first listen, another new tune seems to also stem from Cockburn's journey to Iraq. On To Fit in My Heart, Cockburn quietly but firmly confronts fundamentalism. It's an almost meditative piece that suggests all of life's wonders -- time, the sea, even God -- cannot be contained by the barriers man constructs around them.

But such fundamentalism, Cockburn said, is hardly exclusive to any country or ideology.

"Any kind of fundamentalism -- whether it's Marxist fundamentalism, Muslim fundamentalism or Christian fundamentalism -- springs from some sort of psychosis that a lot of humans share. It has to do with issues of authority and fear. It embraces a world view where everything is simple. That's awfully cheap on the part of the individuals involved. It's also socially dangerous because it divides the world up into us and them. And it's particularly warped from a spiritual point of view to use the notion of the divine as a means of assertion of power. I don't think God is about that at all. That's what the song is about."

But perhaps the most immediately emotive work on Life Short Call Now is its title tune. Again it was the product of travel -- in particular, a solo drive Cockburn took from St. Louis to Los Angeles.

"I was between relationships at the time and, I guess, feeling quite aware of being alone," he said. "The landscape of Missouri was relatively featureless except for the rolling hills and billboards. Still, the billboards kind caught my eye. There was lots of religious stuff, lots of 1-800 numbers to call if you want to be saved or don't want to have an abortion, alternating with ads for casinos and sex clubs. And in the middle of all this was this one billboard that stood out in my mind: 'Mike's Tattoos: Done While You Wait.' So all of those things conspired and kicked off that tune.

"I guess I'm just a little restless by nature. I like to feel like I'm going somewhere. I don't think it would be a particularly satisfying feeling to be sitting still and looking back at what I've already done. I suppose that would have its own rewards in a way, but not in a deep, meaningful one. Life and work, for me, is this sense of being part of a process, being part of something that is always evolving."


Posted: August 11, 2006

Sherri Schultz, Girl Extraordinaire, granted my request to do a review of Bruce's recent show in San Francisco. Sherri and I met in 1994 at a Cockburn soundcheck at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. She now resides in The City By The Bay. Here is an exclusive to Gavin's Woodpile. -DK

Saturday Night at the Church of Bruce
Review by Sherri Schultz

Bruce Cockburn at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, August 5, with keyboardist Julie Wolf and percussionist Gary Craig

“Come all you stumblers who believe love rules … stand up and let it shine.”
--Bruce Cockburn, “Mystery,” from Life Short Call Now (2006)

My 20th (or so) Bruce Cockburn concert in as many years took place at the fabulously over-the-top Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. “This is better than church,” said my friend Sylvia. Designed by a French architect and reminiscent of Napoleon’s excesses, the hall’s impossibly ornate interior (circa 1907, immediately post-Earthquake) felt like a brothel—every surface either mirrored, covered in gilt, or adorned with some sort of fresco involving carved ornamentation. And indeed, the hall did serve as a “restaurant/bordello” around the time of Prohibition.

(I was a little disappointed that Bruce didn’t comment on his surroundings, but after more than 30 years of touring, perhaps he’s seen it all by now.)

Seating was supper-club style, with groups of chairs around small bistro tables on the first floor and the mezzanine. The sold-out hall likely held no more than 600 people. The feeling was wonderfully intimate, especially since my friends and I were twelfth in line, which meant we got seated right behind all the dinner-ticket holders.

We enjoyed an opening set by Bruce’s fellow Canadian Sarah Harmer, and then Bruce—looking a little stockier than I remembered in a short-sleeved shirt over a T-shirt (too much road food/not enough biking?)—took the stage around 9:30, along with percussionist Gary Craig and keyboardist Julie Wolf. He opened with the cheerful “Open,” then paused for a sound adjustment. The ever-alert Julie began playing a simpering piano interlude in the style of a vaudeville show, after which Bruce said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all technical issues were so easily resolved?”

The always-satisfying “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” came next, after which Bruce asked us, “Is it too early in the evening for you to sing?” Getting a mild response, he said, “Inconclusive . . . but that’s OK,” and led us in “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” seeming to enjoy thoroughly what must have been his 100-millionth rendition of the song. “Well done,” he complimented us afterward.

Bruce played straight through till 11:30, including two encores—an intense, driving concert of 22 songs all together, including 9 tracks from his new album, Life Short Call Now, which he recorded with a 23-piece symphony along with Gary, Julie, and a host of other fine musicians. As usual, he played with intensity and closed eyes, letting loose a relaxed smile only a few times (usually when he graciously stepped out of the spotlight to allow Julie and Gary to strut their stuff). And as usual, he generally let the music speak for itself, but did offer us a few comments here and there.

“Jerusalem Poker,” a song from the new album, revealed itself as a wonderfully complex multi-instrumental piece without the hand-clapping on the recorded version. Bruce grooved on his guitar while Julie blew into a melodica, a curious instrument that looked a bit like a curving ivory elephant tusk, which she used on several songs.

“Life Short Call Now” was even more sweetly melancholy live than on the album. “My friend Celia said that was the saddest song she’d ever heard … till she heard this one,” he said to audience laughter, then sang the falsetto-inflected dirge “Beautiful Creatures,” with Julie using her magic to recreate the sounds of the symphony on the album.

Next Bruce brought out his shiny silver guitar, which drew whistles from the crowd, and launched into “Wait No More,” probably my favorite song to hear live. Gary’s pounding drums gave the song the urgent feel of “Stolen Land,” while Julie’s accordion and Bruce’s fast guitar work created a frenzy that elicited howls from the audience.

Bruce seemed to have arranged the set to present his most political songs together around the middle of the show. 1983’s “Dust and Diesel,” written in Nicaragua, was resurrected as a companion to the more contemporary song-poem “This Is Baghdad,” mesmerizing in its relative simplicity and understated chorus: I can still hear the single line “This is Baghdad” echoing through the hall. Following this with “Tell the Universe” (a denunciation of Bush collaboratively written by the band) had me feeling overwhelmed—where is the light?—but elicited audience cheers. A driving “Put It in Your Heart,” inspired by Osama Bin Laden, closed out this segment of the show.

Next came the driving “Night Train,” enhanced by Julie’s fierce accordion and vocals, which complemented Bruce’s perfectly. Having been a fan of Julie’s since hearing her solo at Seattle’s Serafina Italian restaurant years ago, I have been so thrilled to see these two collaborating.

During a brief pause the audience hurled a dozen suggestions for songs at Bruce, but he stuck to his setlist with “Different When It Comes to You,” the first single from Life Short; then “Last Night of the World” followed by a knockout version of “Slow Down Fast” from the new album, which marries Bruce’s rapid-fire spoken-word rant against the state of the world with a driving beat. Bruce used his guttural “Let the Bad Air Out” voice on the vocals, then stepped back from the mike to allow Julie the spotlight. She was all over the keyboards, and the audience cheered her on.

“Pacing the Cage” elicited a shout of “Beautiful!” from a listener. After “If a Tree Falls,” the audience responded with a deluge of cheers and applause as they realized the concert was drawing to a close. Bruce chose to end the show with the quiet “Mystery”—its simplicity and hope a welcome and healing tonic after the evening’s deluge of complexity and (at times) negativity. His deadpan  delivery of “I was built on a Friday and you can't fix me / Even so I've done okay” drew appreciative laughter, while “Grab that last bottle full of gasoline / Light a toast to yesterday” rang with power.

Then “You have been absolutely wonderful. Good night,” said Bruce, before the crowd’s rhythmic stomping and clapping brought the band back onstage. The first encore brought us the ever-popular “Let the Bad Air Out,” enhanced by Julie’s funky organ, and “To Fit in My Heart,” a swoony selection that on Life Short makes full use of the symphony.

Called back to the stage a second time, he said, “You guys are really stuck for someplace to be tonight,” then treated us to “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” and finally, because “I hate to leave you with that one,” sang us a beautiful “Lord of the Starfields.” It’s astonishing how different Bruce’s early work is from that of the present day, and from much of the in-between. Bruce, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes. And his concerts are invariably an emotional roller-coaster ride through the complete suite of possible reactions to our world today.

Now some personal musings which may or may not be of interest to anyone else, but were good for me to write:

Seeing the sweat glistening on Bruce’s brow toward the end of a particularly blistering “Night Train,” I wondered, not for the first time—just how long is Bruce going to be able to keep on doing this? Not just one concert now and then, but touring for months on end all over the country and world, playing night after night in a different place each time? He’s 61 now; is he going to be doing this at 70?

I’m not morbid, but he started it, writing so much about mortality in the last few years. I lost my mother two months ago, my father is 82, my aunt is 81, and now I’m thinking—one day I’ll have to adjust to a world without Bruce.

Bruce has been a touchstone throughout my adult life, and I feel lucky that our lives have intersected in this way. I discovered him in college and attended my first concert of his right after graduation in 1986, at Portland’s Schnitzer Hall, where I was overwhelmed by the impact of Bruce and band, live. Then I moved to Washington, D.C., and, as if to welcome me, literally one of the first events I attended featured him—a huge benefit for anti-contra-aid work held in the historic DAR Hall.

I saw him nearly every year in DC, then in Seattle throughout my years there. In 2002 I had to come to San Francisco to help an elderly aunt. I was staying in a rented room living out of suitcases, but he was there for me again, at the Fillmore. I even sat next to a longtime fan who became a friend and gave me some wonderful bootleg CDs of live performances (oops, is that bad to say?).

Now I’ve moved to San Francisco for good, and family chaos has erupted within a month of my arrival, but on the very day that I moved into my new and hard-won apartment, I got to celebrate with friends and Bruce, and was once again overwhelmed by his inspiring gifts and the beauty he creates. I hope the reminder of what good things humans can create will set me on the right path for the San Francisco phase of my life.

Throughout my life Bruce has been a guiding beacon, reminding me of what’s important and what’s not, reminding me of the possibilities of beauty and love when I feel overwhelmed by more negative forces. I appreciate him now. I’ll miss him later.

Set list
Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Wondering Where the Lions Are
*Jerusalem Poker
*Life Short Call Now
*Beautiful Creatures
Wait No More
Dust and Diesel
*This Is Baghdad
*Tell the Universe
Put It in Your Heart
Night Train
*Different When It Comes to You
Last Night of the World
*Slow Down Fast
Pacing the Cage
If a Tree Falls

1st encore:
Let the Bad Air Out
*To Fit in My Heart

2nd encore:
If I had a Rocket Launcher
Lord of the Starfields

* = From the new album, Life Short Call Now


Posted: August 3, 2006

Life Short Call Now Moves and Soothes
Joseph "The Punk" Hunt
July/August 2006

Listening to a new Bruce Cockburn release is much like opening a bottle of fine red wine. You pour it, swirl it, examine its legs, breathe its body, and taste its complexity. You spend time with it or you won’t get it. So also it is with Cockburn’s newest offering, Life Short Call Now. It is simply a joy to taste and savor. Even the CD cover artwork, created by A Man Called Wycraft, becomes a  part of the listening experience. From the phone on fire to the bullet through the world, we sense what’s coming.

LSCN is a composition of twelve songs whose poetry, melody and musicianship range the gamut of human emotion and which reflect upon, both a life in need, and a world in trouble. Three of the twelve songs are melodic instrumentals, which provide space and breathing room for the others. Musically, Bruce brings together an array of musicians and voices to create fullness and depth to each track. Long-time Cockburn listeners will find comfort in the familiarity of his craft and stimulation in new sounds created by strings, horns, percussion and harmonizing vocals that dance and play with Bruce’s guitar work and singing.

As the CD begins, Bruce immediately embraces the listener with the melodically soothing title track, Life Short Call Now, a desperate but gentle plea for closeness before it’s too late:

You’ve no idea how I long
For even one loving caress
For you to step into my heart
Without deception or duress

The urgency lifts softly away with horns floating in the distance as the song winds down. This one has a destiny.

In See You Tomorrow, Ani Defranco joins Bruce in a fast-moving track that pulsates and vibrates with the anticipation of a lover’s refuge.

These chains of flesh are sour and sweet
But these we must explore, oh
I know I’m going to feel complete
When I see you tomorrow

Mystery begins a troubadour’s sweet, but solo observation of how the miraculous is found in the mundane. The song builds steadily as Bruce’s friends join him one by one, first echoing voices, then keyboards, percussion and strings. By song’s end, we too are joining the waltz, swirling together in an anthem of life’s call.

Come all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine

Beautiful Creatures may remind some of Embers of Eden in Bruce’s use of minor tones to question why humans can’t seem to help but push the world over on its face. It’s sad, haunting and painful. Here, Bruce shows the range of his voice. He glides upward and slides off into an orchestra of strings such that one becomes the other and then melts away.

We create what destroys
Bind ourselves to betray
The beautiful creatures are going away

Bruce’s guitar playing is sublime in his first instrumental of the disc, Peace March, an intricate work with a soft and uplifting melody.

Slow Down Fast moves hard and frenzied. Kevin Turcotte’s blasting horns and Gary Craig’s spine-searing drums combine with Bruce’s flying acoustic guitar and growling vocals to sweep us up with pure rock-n roll. Play it loud and growl along.

One-eyed sun leering through the haze
Hordes of loveless marching while the little drummer plays
Nails in the coffin rats in the maze
Dancing arm in arm with the looming end of days
Got to slow down

Tell the Universe is an “on the road” collaboration written by Bruce, Julie Wolf, Ben Riley and Steve Lucas during their 2003 You’ve Never Seen Everything tour, inspired by their view of American foreign policy at work in the cradle of civilization. With a brewing rage, the track calls out into the open the indifference shown those who suffer the destruction of their world at the hands of incompetence.

You can self destruct – that’s your right
But keep it to yourself if you don’t mind

In the genre of Mines of Mozambique and Postcards from Cambodia, This is Baghdad documents Bruce’s observations from his 2004 journey to Iraq. Bruce weaves a dramatic soundtrack with an orchestra of stringed instruments through the sights and sounds, glares and flares of a war-torn city clinging to normalcy amid unchecked violence spiraling out of an insecure America’s control.

Carbombed and carjacked and kidnapped and shot
How do you like this freedom we brought?
We packed all the ordnance but the one thing we forgot
Was a plan in case it didn’t turn out like we thought

Jerusalem Poker: With strong, clapping percussion against clean, rhythmic guitar work, Bruce eases us smoothly but deliberately out of the Middle East with his second instrumental.

Different When It Comes To You gets the juices flowing from the first note. The grin returns. You have no choice. Your head bops up and down with a gleeful acceptance of letting your lust go. The tune is airy and fun. You’re a human being in love with someone new. Just enjoy it.

I bring you my broken self
With zero hidden from your view
I don’t usually do that but it’s
Different when it comes to you

To Fit in My Heart: The strings, drums, horns and keyboards all come together with ethereal grace in Bruce’s last vocal track, a mystically powerful poem about the world within the heart. Moving slow and steady uphill, the beauty then cascades down and around, and washes us with a sensory overload of wonder.

God’s too big to fit in a book
Nothing’s too big to fit in my heart

In Nude Descending a Staircase, Bruce finishes our taste buds with a sultry, keyboard-dominant and jazzy instrumental that begins with mysterious fuzz, then eases into a dreamlike, rolling melody before ending as it began. Stay tuned to the end when, in this reviewer’s interpretation, the song presents the moment of truth.

In Life Short Call Now, Bruce shows that he continues to grow and stretch beyond prior musical experiences. The limits move farther out. The album is adventurous and familiar, delicate and hard, complex and simple, nuanced and bold. It is Bruce at his best. Like the finest wine, it intoxicates. Spend time with it. You will love it.


Posted: July 29, 2006

Richard Hoare looks at Life Short Call Now

Artist: Bruce Cockburn
CD Title: Life Short Call Now
Labels: True North (Canada), Rounder (USA) & Cooking Vinyl (UK)
Produced by Jonathan Goldsmith
Released: July 2006
Running Time: 58 mins 49 secs

by Richard Hoare

What strikes me initially about this album is that Cockburn has moved the sound from the darkness of You’ve Never Seen Everything back into the light. The music is more accessible to a wider audience but the lyrical punch has never been greater or more direct.

The rhythm section comprises Gary Craig, the drummer on several recent Cockburn albums and David Piltch on bass who made such an impact on Mary Margaret O’Hara’s 1988 Miss America album. The other musician include Jon Goldsmith & Julie Wolf on a variety of keyboards and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet. Backing vocals are provided by Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman, Damhnait Doyle, Ani DiFranco and Julie Wolf. The surprise contribution is from a twenty-five plus piece orchestra arranged and conducted by Jonathan Goldsmith.

Jon Goldsmith (with Kerry Crawford) was the producer of Bruce’s highly successful albums Stealing Fire (1984) and World of Wonders (1985) and he went on to produce Big Circumstance (1989) on his own.

The link between the above albums and Life Short Call Now is the Michael Occhipinti album Creation Dream, a CD of beautiful re-interpretations of Cockburn’s songs released in 2000 on True North. That album was produced by Jonathan Goldsmith who also contributed piano and the players included Hugh Marsh and Kevin Turcotte. Bruce was sufficiently impressed with the project that he played acoustic guitar on one track.

By way of continuity with Cockburn’s last release, the instrumental compilation Speechless (2005), this new record contains three instrumentals. The last time Cockburn included three instrumentals on a non-compilation record was on Salt, Sun and Time (1974) and even then one included a synthesizer.

Cockburn has created the new album like a flower whose petals unfold as it develops and he wrote it predominantly on acoustic guitar which is what he mainly plays on the album.

1. Life Short Call Now

The album opens with acoustic guitar and evolves with drums and backing vocals. The bleak “between relationships” lyrics longing for love and the loneliness on the road is tempered by the coda, which has a beautiful sequence of backing vocals and Kevin’s trumpet.

2. See You Tomorrow

Bruce has thrown off the melancholy of the first track and has created a song that exudes optimism and expectation. The upbeat sample rhythm and Gary’s drums are blended with Hugh’s violin and the backing vocals of Ani DiFranco. Bruce seems to use the title for the double meaning of “get lost” to the gun runner he encountered in the 60s and the literal meaning for a new found love.

3. Mystery

This song starts in a children’s school folk song recitation style which is deceptive because the lyrics and music develop like a mantra. In the middle of the song Cockburn plays an acoustic guitar melody reminiscent of Ry Cooder which is taken up by keyboards played in the style of Van Dyke Parks. Strings join the mix and the finish is the same melody played by a horn section in a Tom Waits/Salvation Army Band style.

4. Beautiful Creatures

Bruce laments the loss of our fellow non-humans by our “progress” backed by the orchestra in full flow. Cockburn’s vocal swoop into a very effective falsetto has not been heard elsewhere in his oeuvre. The strings and vocals at times emulate the beauty that Van Dyke Parks and The Beach Boys created for Brian Wilson’s song Surfs Up.

5. Peace March

This is a strident and rhythmic acoustic guitar instrumental with Gary Craig keeping the military beat on low level drums. If ever there was need for a peace march, now is the time.

6. Slow Down Fast

A Night Train like rhythm kicks this song into life as Bruce spits out the political and national security lyrics in Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues mode. The song slows for the title chorus and Kevin’s trumpet recalls Michael White’s trumpet in People See Through You. Cockburn plays a wonderful fast coherent acoustic guitar solo, the antithesis of slowing down and at the end asks “CSIS won’t you tell me what you’ve got on me?” Those initials stand for Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

7. Tell The Universe

Goldsmith’s piano and clip clop horse hoove-like percussion from Craig are the backdrop to Cockburn’s recitation which develops into singing. Bruce asks Generation Two to face up to his actions. The strings join the mix and Cockburn plays some shimmering tremolo guitar. This track should be played on radio back to back with Fear Country by T Bone Burnett from his new album The True False Identity (2006) on DMZ/Columbia.

8. This Is Baghdad

The orchestra swells into life with an incessant low percussion beat and Bruce picks his charango similar to Santiago Dawn on World of Wonders. Cockburn provides a journal picture of the capital of Iraq in the verses. In the chorus’ he repeats the title of the song over and over while the beauty of the strings wash over the song. There is some fantastic clapping metallic percussion and a  horn plays an eastern call to prayer.

9. Jerusalem Poker

A creeping ground noise opens the track and hand clapping provides the beat, which may be a subliminal reference to hands of cards in poker. Percussion takes up the rhythm and Bruce and Kevin alternate their acoustic guitar and flugelhorn licks and Jon joins the mix on piano. To my ears this track is related to Bruce’s 1999 instrumentals Down to The Delta and Deep Lake. The title Jerusalem Poker was also used for a 1978 novel by Edward Whittimore (the second book of his Middle East quartet) about three men, who on 31st December 1921, sat down and played a game of poker in an antiquities shop in Jerusalem, the stakes being nothing less than the control of that city – a great fantasy dressed in truth.

10. Different When It Comes To You

Bruce performs a two and a half minute love song with a difference comprising three verses. Cockburn plays guitar backed by keyboards with Damhnait Doyle on backing vocals. It’s the single and its uncanny simplicity and brevity is its winning quality.

11. To Fit In My Heart

Ground noises and electric guitar provide the bed for Cockburn’s vocal adventures into the upper registers. The instruments including strings create a deep sea, deep space wash-over-you ambience and Kevin plays trumpet flurries. The song is slow and tense and may be the best track on the album. It puts me in mind of the Danny O’Keefe track on Global Blues (1979) with a Japanese font title about saving whales.

12. Nude Descending A Staircase

The title of the track is taken from the title of a 1911 Cubo-Futurist painting by the Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp. Radio interference open and close the track which may be a reference to political eavesdropping. The use of radio tuning as music is reminiscent of the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen. For example, part of his work Hymnen was used in the 1971 film Walkabout. Using a bossa nova percussion backbeat Bruce plays an electric jazz guitar instrumental suggesting a lounge lizard Wes Montgomery vibe, interplaying with the orchestra and vibes. Kevin’s trumpet plays out the coda as the radio interference gains in volume and the track and album end abruptly with a loud click. It could be the tape stop button, a door closing or a rifle being cocked – you decide.

Cockburn’s intention was to make this album Canadian which is what he achieved with the musicians, the recording studio in Ontario and the mixing studio in Toronto with the exception of Ani DiFranco and the mastering in New York.

The packaging is another project by A Man Called Wrycraft. Michael seems to play visually with a communication theme with the phone on the booklet cover and microwave communication links on the inside back cover. The middle of the booklet has a fine overhead photograph of Bruce and Jon in the Puck’s Farm studio. Kevin Kelly took several of the photographs at the Holiday Inn, King Street, Toronto. There is a wooden folk art rabbit under the CD tray. A rabbit is a common folklore archetype of the trickster who uses his cunning to outwit his enemies.

This is a highly listenable and immediate album with a fascinating underbelly of messages. Any one can make a worthy political record. Bruce, however, has the imagination and skill to make one that you want to play and play.


Posted: May 24, 2006
True North Press release



TORONTO – MAY23, 2006 – Canadian tour dates are now confirmed for Bruce Cockburn supporting his 29th release, LIFE SHORT CALL NOW. Bruce is touring the US in July and August but you can catch him this summer at the Winnipeg Folk Festival,  July 8 & 9 and at the Edmonton Folk Festival on August 12. The Canadian tour starts this fall on October 13 in Charlottetown, PEI. 

LIFE SHORT CALL NOW was produced by Jonathan Goldsmith who also recorded Cockburn’s Stealing Fire in 1984, World of Wonders in 1985 and Big Circumstance in 1988. The CD also features guest appearances by Ani DiFranco, Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman, Damhnait Doyle and jazz trumpeter Kevin Turcotte.

Bruce will be performing with Gary Craig – drums and Julie Wolf – Keyboards.


Posted: April 26, 2006
True North Press Press Release


APRIL 24, 2006 –TORONTO - On July 11, 2006 True North Records Records will release Bruce Cockburn’s 29th studio recording entitled LIFE SHORT CALL NOW. This beautiful album follows up 2005’s Speechless – Cockburn’s first-ever instrumental record. Life Short Call Now was recorded at Puck’s Farm outside of Toronto. It includes 12 Cockburn originals and features guest appearances from Ani Difranco, Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman and Damhnait Doyle. Life Short Call Now was produced by JOHNATHAN GOLDSMITH who also produced Bruce Cockburn’s Stealing Fire in 1984. Several of these songs were written during and after Bruce Cockburn’s 2004 fact-finding mission to Baghdad. Some tracks feature Cockburn with a twenty-three piece orchestra which is a first for Bruce.

Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” was voted by listeners to number one on the CBC radio show The National Playlist where it stayed for three consecutive weeks during the month of March.

Cockburn’s 1979 hit “Wondering Where The Lions Are” has been recorded by Jimmy Buffett as the opening theme to the upcoming feature film “Hoot” which opens in theatres in May. The song will also be on the soundtrack. 

Bruce Cockburn has been honored with multiple awards throughout his thirty-five year career, including the inaugural Humanitarian Award at the 2006 JUNO’s, April 2 in Halifax. The Tenco Award for Lifetime Achievement in Italy and 20 gold and platinum awards. He is also an Officer of the Order of Canada and inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He is also the recipient of honorary degrees in Letters and Music from several North American universities, including Boston’s Berklee and Toronto’s York University. Cockburn’s songs have been covered by such diverse artists as the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffet, Maria Muldaur, k.d. Lang, Third World, Judy Collins and others.

A North American tour to be announced shortly.

Track Listing for Life Short Call Now:

1. Life Short Call Now
2. See You Tomorrow
3. Mystery
4. Beautiful Creatures
5. Peace March
6. Slow Down Fast
7. Tell the Universe
8. This is Baghdad
9. Jerusalem Poker
10. Different When It Comes to You
11. To Fit in My Heart
12. Nude Descending a Staircase


March 31, 2006

Bruce will be attending the Ann Arbor Book Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 13, 2006. He was invited by author, Cathleen Falsani, who has just released a book called The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People.


March 29, 2006
Special to The Globe and Mail

True North's strong spirit
Bernie Finkelstein has championed Canadian music for 40-plus years -- and he's about to be recognized for it
by Alan Niester

TORONTO -- Bernie Finkelstein is back behind his cluttered desk, where he belongs.

His office, and the rooms that surround it in his True North Records complex just off downtown Toronto, are a closet organizer's worst nightmare but a music junkie's dream. In a corner sits a huge box of canisters marked "Bruce Cockburn outtakes." One ancient looking bureau holds stacks and stacks of compact discs set aside for promotional purposes. Concert posters and photographs compete for recognition and every spare bit of flat space, while one complete wall is given over to the Juno Awards (38 of them at last count) and gold and platinum records (39) the company has collected throughout its history.

Thirty-five years of the collected ephemera of the country's oldest and most successful independent record company cram these offices, and all of it is a testament to the 60-year-old dynamo whose very name has been synonymous with the company for all these years.

But for five months or so last year, the familiar and cherubic record-company executive was missing from his post, recuperating from major heart surgery, the need for which seems to have caught everyone, including Finkelstein, by surprise.

"I just started feeling ill one day, last February," he recalls. "I hadn't been in the hospital since I was seven, hadn't seen a doctor in five years. But I started getting the feeling that things weren't right. I remember I'd mentioned to my wife Elizabeth that it seemed they were putting the baggage carousels in the airports a lot farther from the planes these days. I guess that was a warning sign. So I called my doctor, asked if he could see me, and later that same day I was on my way to the hospital."

The result was a quadruple bypass operation combined with a valve replacement, which kept Finkelstein out of the office for about six months. "But of course," he said with a smile, "I kept on the phone from my hospital bed."

That last statement should not be too surprising, given that for the past 40-plus years, Finkelstein has been a constant driving force in the Canadian music industry. A familiar face in Toronto's burgeoning Yorkville music scene in the early sixties, Finkelstein not only founded the country's first major independent record label, he has been deeply involved in artist management and music publishing (True North Publishing Group). He founded the Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA), where he is still a board member, and was also the co-founder and chairman of VideoFACT, a program that provides grants to Canadian artists to assist in making music videos. His considerable contributions to Canada's cultural history have resulted in Finkelstein's being chosen to receive the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) Walt Grealis special-achievement award at this year's Juno presentation.

The son of an Air Force warrant officer posted at suburban Toronto's Downsview Air Base, Finkelstein gravitated to the nascent Yorkville music scene in 1963, taking odd jobs, sleeping where he could, and ultimately dropping out of high school soon thereafter.

It was while "running the espresso machine, washing dishes and cleaning up" at a club called the El Patio that he came into contact with a young rock band called the Paupers.

"They'd be on stage rehearsing, and I'd provide sandwiches for them," Finkelstein recalls. "They were a young band with a lot of questions -- should we wear our hair long? should we have matching suits? -- and I'd always be there with an answer. One day, about three or four months later, they asked me if I'd manage them"

Finkelstein had absolutely no managerial experience, but took the plunge anyway. His method of conducting the band's affairs from a payphone on Yorkville Avenue is the stuff of legend.

With scant opportunities to get the band a recording deal in Canada, Finkelstein approached MGM-Verve Records in New York, already a progressive label with the likes of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on its roster, and managed to get a record deal signed. He also secured a groundbreaking gig for the band at the Café Au Go Go, opening for the young Jefferson Airplane.

The Paupers made such a splash in their New York debut that they attracted the interest of Bob Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, who approached Finkelstein with an offer to co-manage the band.

He eventually bought out Finkelstein for $20,000, a sum that allowed Finkelstein the opportunity to work with a new signing, Kensington Market, then give up the music business for a short time to become a back-to-the-land hippie on a farm outside Killaloe in Eastern Ontario.

"I stayed on the farm for a year, around 1968 and 69," he recounts. "But then I woke up one morning and realized I was bored to tears and almost broke, so I had to decide what to do next."

He knew that he wanted to continue in the music business, but also knew that the two experiences he had had with major American record companies had been less than satisfactory.

Why, then, not simply start his own company? "That way I figured I could do what I wanted to do, or what my acts wanted to do, without having to get someone's approval in New York or L.A.," he reasoned.

Time spent in Northern Ontario had seen him come to appreciate a more acoustic-based folk-style music, "one that, today, we would call roots music, though that designation wasn't around at the time." On returning to Toronto, he selected a name for the company, True North, and put out the word that he was looking to sign acts.

On the advice of producer Gen Martynec, Finkelstein went down to the Pornographic Onion coffeehouse at Toronto's Ryerson University to watch a young Ottawa Valley musician named Bruce Cockburn. He came away impressed enough to begin negotiations with the then 24-year-old singer-guitarist.

"I remember him saying to me: 'Bernie, I'll only sign with you if you can guarantee to me that I can do the album solo.' I thought, well, this is paradise. I was doing all this with less than $5,000 and I had to book a studio and make album jackets, find distribution, and here was a guy begging me to make a cheap record. Well, okay, let's do it."

Cockburn's association with Finkelstein has lasted to this day, with True North acting as both Cockburn's record and management company. And that initial signing of Cockburn was the beginning of a line that has included such Canadian luminaries as diverse as Rough Trade, Luke and the Apostles, 54-40 and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, among many others. All told, True North Records has released more than 300 albums and CDs, most of them by Canadian acts.

It should come as no surprise that Finkelstein is a huge booster of the Canadian music industry in general, and he comes across as relatively outspoken in its defence. When asked about the concept of the Canadian inferiority complex that was so often referred to in decades past, he said: "I've been trying to fight that all my life. And I'm disappointed that it still exists, although I think  less than it used to."

For Finkelstein, Canada stills needs to be more pro-active in encouraging and celebrating its musical luminaries. "We need to learn more. We need to be able to walk into a bookstore and see a hundred books about the Canadian music business, not just one. We need to walk into schools and see posters not just of the Beatles and Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, but the Guess Who as well. Our story needs to be more complete. We need to see less Associated Press stories in our newspapers, and more Canadian Press stories.

"We're way better than we think we are. We have a long history that goes way back before me, and we need to celebrate it a whole lot more."

A special tribute to Bernie Finkelstein will be made in Halifax during the 2006 Juno Gala Dinner and Awards, on Saturday. He will also be honoured during a special segment of the Juno Awards, to air Sunday on CTV.


March 9, 2006
The Toronto Star

The way it feels on the way to the top
by Greg Quill

When Roxanne Potvin was too young to be out late at night, she would badger her already musically inclined parents to drive across the river from the family home in Hull, Que., and smuggle her in to catch whoever was playing at the venerable Rainbow, Ottawa's home of the blues.

"There's not much blues music in Hull," says the 24-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist who last week made the biggest leap of her life, to Toronto, to be close to her new manager and record label boss, veteran rock `n' roll star handler Tom Berry.
"I was just 14 when my mom and dad started taking me to the Rainbow, and it was my dream back then to be able to play there myself," recalls Potvin, who would become something of a fixture at the club in her late teens, singing the blues, learning guitar licks from the masters passing through, and soaking up influences like the proverbial musical sponge.

Ten years later Potvin's youthful dreams have been surpassed. Stars have been steadily aligning themselves in her favour since 2003, when the young musician composed, recorded and released her first indie solo album, Careless Loving, and started flogging it wherever she could. It took her to occasional club dates and concerts around southern Ontario, and blues and folk festivals where, like young roots music star Serena Ryder, she soon came to the attention of serious music industry movers and shakers on the lookout for rare and original talent.
At exactly the right time in her life, Potvin is emerging from behind the industry buzz that has surrounded her and takes centre stage tonight at The Rivoli for the launch of The Way It Feels on Berry's Alert Records.

It's a stunning showcase of her extraordinarily mature vocal and songwriting abilities, a satisfying blend of blues, R & B, folk and country elements produced by Toronto-bred, award-winning roots music veteran Colin Linden, and featuring singularly effective contributions from stellar guests, including John Hiatt and Daniel Lanois on vocals, Bruce Cockburn on guitar, Richard Bell on keyboards and Memphis Horns legends Wayne Jackson on trumpet and trombone and Tom McGinley on sax.
A newcomer couldn't ask for more important attention on her first professional outing, and Potvin knows it.

"These are all people Colin has worked with," she says. "But I have to take credit for choosing John Hiatt, who has always been a huge inspiration to me. When I'm writing, he's always in the back of my mind.
"When I get stuck I ask myself, `What would John do?' I had a song, `A Love That's Simple,' with a chorus that's perfect for his voice. He played Massey Hall ... while I was recording, so we went down there and asked him to drop by. It all worked out wonderfully."

Cockburn came to mind when Linden needed guitar parts for the song "While I Wait For You" that required both a supreme picker's skill and serious jazz chops. And Lanois, who is bilingual and has a great affection for Acadian music, was an easy choice for "La Merveille," says Potvin, still amazed her unwitting musical mentors were so willing to help.
"I was totally intimidated among these big-time guys, especially when it came to playing my own guitar parts. The guitar is a very important part of what I do, and while I'm not a great player, it needed to be included, and I needed to play as well as I could. The musicians on the sessions were very encouraging."

But while star guests are a nice bonus, Potvin knows it's her own music and performance on record that will make or break her fledgling career, and she has been very careful to maximize her options. She doesn't want to go back to supporting her musical habit, she says, with low-paying day jobs .
"I'm surprised myself that it's not a blues record, given my listening preferences and my background. But then, my first album wasn't strictly blues either. The music on The Way It Feels was totally intuitive. I guess I'm not writing only blues songs any more, and I didn't want to dismiss any song just because it doesn't fit the 12-bar format.

"It may be a risk, because I'm known as a blues musician. But they're honest songs, and I think the record is an honest expression of what I do — without boundaries."


March 2, 2006
Signpost Records Press Release

Steve Bell
My Dinner With Bruce -
songs of Bruce Cockburn


"I don't believe in it; says Bell. "We don't really create anything. We work with what has already been created - arranging the good gifts we receive in ways that are unique to us."

"Our best work, my best work, grows out of the soil of someone else's work and life."

Bell's career is rooted in a music making family; it grew from a personal fascination with playing guitar, budded into the lifestyle of a working musician, and ultimately found its fruition in the musical niche of singer/songwriter.

Throughout that journey, Steve Bell was being nourished and shaped by others. His family provided not only the legacy of lasting melody and captivating harmony, but a grounded spirituality that deeply informs Bell's work. His celebrated guitar skills were acquired at the feet of numerous guitar heroes, while singer/songwriters (including Cockburn) inspired him to craft and capture songs that, like good poems, offer the listener access to a universe in which honesty and hope live side by side.

In this rich humus, Steve Bell has cultivated a remarkable body of work. Twelve albums and tireless touring over 16 years have resulted in numerous awards (including JUNO's in 1997 and 2000), the sale of over 250,000 units worldwide, the launching of Signpost Music (Bell's own independent record label) and thou-sands of loyal fans. Larry LeBlanc (Billboard Magazine) calls Steve "a Canadian musical treasure."

There have been hurdles along the way. Bell describes 2004/2005 as containing "a disquieting constellation of events;" including the physical relocation from a much loved country home into the city, the death of a dear friend and mentor, and a renewed personal encounter with the struggles of the oppressed.

Of these challenges, Bell says, "When our kids were little, Nanci and I would tell them that if they ever got separated from us they should return to the last place we saw them and wait, and we would come and find them. When all these events took place in my life, I felt somewhat dislocated ...a bit lost. So I just did what I always told my kids to do. I went back to something familiar and waited to be found: For me, in this season, that familiar place was the songs of Bruce Cockburn."

"My current album, My Dinner With Bruce, is as personal as any I've ever offered. These songs have connect-ed themselves so deeply to my own story that I can't not sing them. They have been good gifts to me, and I'm happy to share them."

Bernie Finkelstein (President / True North Records) sums up My Dinner With Bruce this way: "Steve Bell finds the beauty, strength, and intrigue in Bruce Cockburn's songs and gives each track his own fine interpretation. Simply said, this is a wonderful record."

Track list: Going to the Country/ Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon/ All the Ways I Want You/ God Bless the Children/ Closer to the Light/ Lord of the Starfields/ Love Loves You Too/ My Lady and My Lord/ Pacing the Cage/ Red Brother Red Sister/ Southland of the Heart/ The Coming Rains/ Wondering Where the Lions Are


Posted: February 8, 2006

On February 5, 2006, Leonard Cohen and Anne Murray were among those honored for their musical achievements at the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame ceremony at Toronto's Bassett Theatre. Murray has performed songs by at least 80 Canadian songwriters, including Gordon Lightfoot (who was in attendance), Rita MacNeil and Bruce Cockburn (who have pre-recorded congratulations).


Posted: February 4, 2006

Definitely Not The Opera
CBC Radio One
Airdate is February 4, 2006

Chances are you’ve always wondered whether Canadian musical icon Bruce Cockburn would rather stick a needle in his eye or listen to Boston for the rest of his life. Well, wonder no more - in preparation for Sook-Yin’s mixed tape chat with Bruce, we’ll ask him to play a little game we call Would You Rather?


February 2, 2006

Press Release

CARAS Honours Music Legend Bruce Cockburn with First-Ever Humanitarian Award

TORONTO, February 2, 2006 – The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) today announced that legendary singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn is the recipient of this year’s inaugural Humanitarian Award that recognizes the positive social, environmental and humanitarian contributions made by Canadian artists.

Cockburn will be honoured with the Humanitarian Award in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Friday, March 31, 2006 at the Juno Awards Welcome Reception. He will also be recognized during The 2006 JUNO Awards broadcast on Sunday, April 2 on CTV.

“We are honoured to celebrate Mr. Cockburn and his contribution to the improvement of the human condition,” said Melanie Berry, President of CARAS. “His dedication and devotion to creating awareness of the political issues that affect us all is truly inspiring.”

“I am deeply touched that CARAS is honouring me as their first recipient of the Humanitarian Award,” said Cockburn. “I hope that the introduction of this award will inspire as many artists as possible to participate fully in the global community."

As one of this country’s most celebrated and respected artists, Cockburn is known for his political lyrics and calls for social justice. His career spans more than 35 years. Throughout this time, he has worked tirelessly alongside such groups as the USC (Unitarian Service Committee), OXFAM and Friends of the Earth to raise awareness of the need for humanitarian and environmental relief. He is also a supporter of Amnesty International and numerous other advocate groups.

His devotion to social and environmental issues crystallized in 1983 with an eye-opening trip to refugee camps in Central America on behalf of OXFAM. Since then, Cockburn has traveled extensively on many fact-finding trips including: Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile during the Pinochet Dictatorship, Honduras, El Salvador, Kosovo, Nepal, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Somalia and most recently war-torn Baghdad.

Since the mid-nineties, Cockburn has been among the leaders that have lobbied for the movement to ban landmines. He has also been at the forefront of efforts to obtain justice for North America’s Aboriginal peoples. During the ‘80s, he was involved with the Haida Nation’s quest to stop the logging in the Queen Charlotte Islands, helping to raise funds for the legal expenses needed to defend the Haida’s land claim. Other involvements include the campaign for a treaty with the Lubicon Cree in Northern Alberta and the Innu people’s struggle to stop NATO over-flights in Labrador.

His political activism has not only influenced government but also continues to resonate with his fans. Cockburn has written countless songs on a variety of political issues ranging from landmines to famine. Many of his best-known songs are of a political nature including “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “A Dream Like Mine,” “Call It Democracy” and “If A Tree Falls”.

The Ottawa native has been a spokesperson for the USC since the seventies, and is also a past Honorary Chair of Friends of the Earth Canada.

In 1983 Cockburn was honoured with The Order of Canada, and was further promoted within the Order in 2003. In 1998, he was recognized with The Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.

Cockburn's other accolades include an honourary doctorate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, and an honourary degree from both York University in Toronto and St. Thomas University in Nova Scotia. In addition, he has also received a diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

In 2001, Cockburn was inducted to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and in 2003 he was inducted to the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. His international awards include Italy’s Tenco Award for Lifetime Achievement and Holland’s Edison Award.

In April 2005, 1.34 million viewers watched The 2005 JUNO Awards from Winnipeg on CTV. In all, more than 5.7 million Canadians tuned in to watch some part of the show – an increase of almost half a million viewers compared to the 2004 broadcast - making it once again the most-watched Canadian awards telecast. CTV began broadcasting The JUNO Awards in 2002 when it telecast the Awards from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, before taking it to Ottawa (2003), Edmonton (2004) and Winnipeg (2005). The 2007 JUNO Awards will be broadcast from Saskatoon on CTV.

Sponsors for The 2006 JUNO Awards include FACTOR, Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage’s “Canada Music Fund”, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Halifax Regional Municipality, Events Halifax and Radio Starmaker Fund. Broadcast sponsors for the event are General Motors, Pantene Pro-V, Doritos and Nice ’n Easy.

About CARAS:
The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences/L'academie canadienne des arts et des sciences de l'enregistrement (CARAS) is a not-for-profit organization created to preserve and enhance the Canadian music and recording industries and to contribute toward higher artistic and industry standards. The main focus of CARAS is the exploration and development of opportunities to showcase and promote Canadian artists and music through television vehicles such as the JUNO Awards. For more information on the 35th anniversary JUNO Awards, visit the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ (CARAS) website at The 2006 JUNO Awards will air on CTV, on Sunday, April 2nd, 2006.

About CTV:
CTV, Canada’s largest private broadcaster, offers a wide range of quality news, sports, information, and entertainment programming. It boasts the number-one national newscast, CTV National News With Lloyd Robertson, and is the number-one choice for prime-time viewing. CTV owns 21 conventional television stations across Canada and has interests in 14 specialty channels, including the number-one Canadian specialty channel, TSN. CTV is owned by Bell Globemedia, Canada’s premier multi-media company. More information about CTV may be found on the company website at

Web Links:
JUNO Awards:
Bruce Cockburn:


February 2, 2006
The Edmonton Sun

Juno’s first Humanitarian award goes to Cockburn
From the Canadian Press

TORONTO -- Veteran folksinger Bruce Cockburn will be honoured with the inaugural Humanitarian Award at this year's Juno festivities, recognizing nearly four decades of charity and political activism.

"I am deeply touched," Cockburn, who's at work recording a new album, said in a statement.
"I hope that the introduction of this award will inspire as many artists as possible to participate fully in the global community."

With songs like If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Call It Democracy and If a Tree Falls, Cockburn has often used his music as a vehicle for social and political commentary.

Ottawa-born Cockburn, 60, will be honoured at a reception on March 31, part of a slew of activities held by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences leading up to the Juno Awards. He'll also be acknowledged during the televised awards bash April 2.

A notable increase in socially conscious performers prompted the recording academy to launch the award, said chairman Ross Reynolds. It's intended to recognize social, environmental and humanitarian contributions by Canadian artists.

"There are so many artists doing so many remarkable things around the world that we really felt it was time to start recognizing some of these," he said.

"They deserve to have a bit of a spotlight put on them."

Cockburn - whose songs have been recorded by more than 200 different artists including the Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffet and the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia - was a natural choice for the award's kickoff.

"Bruce is the guy who's been doing it for his career, and was doing it at a time when it wasn't popular. It could be perceived to have hurt his career early on."


Since the 1970s, Cockburn has championed causes such as banning landmines and promoting justice for North American aboriginals.

He travels often to Third World countries including Cambodia, Somalia, Vietnam and Mozambique. Most recently he was part of a delegation that visited Baghdad on a fact-finding mission headed by a U.S. Catholic bishop.

He's worked with the Unitarian Service Committee, Friends of the Earth and Oxfam, and has been a vigorous supporter of Amnesty International.


Posted: January 14
CBC News Release

Shakin All Over - Canadian Pop Music In The 1960s

The flower-power decade gave the world a wealth of great music, from England's mods to America's psychedelic rockers. But the hippie era also gave us cool sounds from the Great White North. It started with the folk music of Ian & Sylvia and the rhythm 'n' blues of Ronnie Hawkins and quickly evolved into a sonic revolution, as literally hundreds of bands and singer-songwriters from coast to coast began making noise. Shakin' All Over captures all of those freewheeling sounds, from such legendary stars as Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Neil Young, Anne Murray and The Band to cult heroes like David Wiffen, The Collectors and Mashmakhan. The two-hour special airs on CBC Television, Monday, January 30, 2006, at 8 p.m.

Shakin' All Over takes viewers on a trip back in time to Vancouver's 4th Avenue, Winnipeg's community centres, Montreal's dance halls and the clubs and coffeehouses that sprang up along Toronto's Yorkville and Yonge Street. There, in the absence of a music industry, a brave new sound began to emerge. The special is full of candid interviews with more than 60 iconic figures like Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Bruce Cockburn, who offer illuminating stories about each other. And, the show features an abundance of rare performance clips from the period, from Early Morning Rain to Oh What a Feeling.

But Shakin' All Over also features some of Canada's brightest younger stars, including Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies and Sarah Harmer, who pay tribute to the period. Hawksley Workman tells of being inspired by Ian Tyson, who wrote his first song, Four Strong Winds, after hearing "this punk named Dylan." Matthew Good fondly remembers cranking the volume on Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride. And Sloan's Jay Ferguson draws a connection between the Canadian bands of the '60s and current garage-rock favourites. Said Ferguson: "If you listen to records by The Ugly Ducklings or The Great Scots, they could almost be a hit in this day.

Because it's so contemporary with the revival of that sound by The White Stripes and The Hives." Along with vintage archival footage from a variety of sources, including the CBC, Shakin' All Over mines contemporary material to present recent covers of classic Canadian songs, including Diana Krall's spellbinding performance of Joni Mitchell's A Case of You and Margo Timmins' and Tom Cochrane's stunning rendition of The Guess Who's American Woman. This is a music lover's dream:a TV show with non-stop performances, including more than 60 classic songs.

Shakin' All Over is based on the book Before the Gold Rush - Flashbacks to the Dawn of the Canadian Sound by Nicholas Jennings. Directed by Gary McGroarty, and produced by Nick Orchard, Randolph Eustace-Walden and Pierre L. Touchette. Executive producer is Luc Ch�telain. Produced by Soapbox Productions and Amïrimage-Spectra.

Ottawa interviews with: Harvey Glatt, Les Emmerson, Richard Patterson.


Posted: January 11, 2006
by D. Keebler

I talked with Bernie Finkelstein this morning regarding Bruce's next album. Here's the gist of of our conversation:

We’re starting the record January 30th. We’ve already set a release date of July 11th in North America. I can’t tell you what the album’s going to be called. I can tell you a few of the musicians, but I can’t tell you all the musicians. David Piltch... David has never really played with Bruce, but he's is one of Canada’s greatest, greatest bass players. He’s best known for his work with k.d. lang, I think. Julie Wolf, whom some people will be familiar with, and Gary Craig on drums. That’s the basic band. We are recording it north of Toronto. I can give you some of the tune titles:

Mystery, Beautiful Creatures, Peace March, Different When It Comes To You, To Fit In My Heart, This Is Baghdad, Twilight On The Champlain Sea. Those are all the titles I have now. He’s got quite a few songs, he has more songs than that but that’s just some of the ones I can give you now.

Bruce is going to tour right after the release of the album. In fact we’re going to do some dates before the album comes out. We have confirmed that he’s going to be at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I’m not sure what night we’re going to do his concert but he’ll be at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on July 8th and 9th. We think that the majority of what he’ll do after his album comes out will probably be with a band. Anything we do before the album comes out will still be solo. I can’t give the details right now, but I can give you a break on the fact that we have just booked two solo shows… one on June 23rd at the Britt Festival near Medford, Oregon. It’s an outdoor show. And one on June 25th... it’s the Kate Wolf Festival, near Laytonville, California.

Bruce and Jon have stayed very good friends. Jon is very, very active in Toronto mostly doing film scores. He does a lot of film scores in L.A. as well. He produces a lot of jazz records, but don’t confused, we’re not doing a jazz record at all. They’ve been talking and it just seemed like a good move right now. They’ve been friendly ever since before they even worked together on Stealing Fire.

When I asked Bernie about dates outside North America he said "it should include Europe, the UK and Australia and maybe more."


Posted: January 10, 2006

Special Juno prize to honour Bernie Finkelstein

Indie record company executive and talent manager Bernie Finkelstein will be honoured for his contributions to Canadian music at the upcoming Juno Awards in April.

The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which administers the Junos, announced Tuesday that Finkelstein is the 2006 recipient of the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award. The annual honour recognizes "individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of the Canadian music industry."

"Throughout his career, Bernie has continually been pivotal in bringing Canadian music and artists to Canada and the world," CARAS president Melanie Berry said in a statement.

Previous recipients of the annual honour include radio entrepreneur Allan Slaight, record exec Terry Mcbride, talent manager Michael Cohl, music retailer Sam Sniderman and performer Ronnie Hawkins.

The prize is named after Walt Grealis, who founded the pioneering RPM music magazine in 1964 and the Gold Leaf Awards, a precursor to today's Juno Awards.

Toronto-born Finkelstein, 61, has been a fixture of the Canadian music scene since the late-1960s, when he was the manager of Toronto rock groups the Paupers and Kensington Market.

In 1969, he founded True North Records, signing on the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who would go on to release more than a dozen records on what is now Canada's oldest independent record label. The award-winning True North, which has also expanded to encompass song publishing, has also released albums by Murray McLauchlan, 54-40 and Blackie & The Rodeo Kings.

Also, as one of Canada's top talent managers, Finklestein's roster has included artists like Cockburn, McLauchlan, Dan Hill and Barney Bentall. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in February 2003.

This year's Juno Gala, set for Halifax on April 2, will include a special tribute to Finkelstein.

© Daniel Keebler 1993-2023