Bruce Cockburn

11 Jul


The first time that I heard of Bruce Cockburn was around 1981. At the time I was a licensed Foursquare minister and limited my musical listening to light rock, like what’s played on KZLA in Los Angeles, California. At that time my life was in a state of flux as I moved and travelled all over the country, from L.A. to Georgia, Oregon, Texas, and Michigan. During this time period, my post office address changed so frequently that I had a hard time remembering what my home address was.

The article that I read talked about how Bruce had used a profane four-letter word in one of his songs, and it was arguing in his defense. I never heard of him or the song at the time, so I read the article with a detached attitude. Then a couple of years later, when, after a 13 year absence, I was living in the town where I grew up, Warren, Michigan, I began to frequent a used record store on the Detroit/Ferndale Border, along 8 or 9 mile Road, where I found most of Bruce’s 33 rpm vinyl records for around $3.00 each, at a time that new albums cost around $5.00 each. I listened to the album, which bore the title β€œHumans,” which was based on his derailed marriage and failed fatherhood. I listened with empathy, as I reflected on my own predicament. I was a middle-aged minister with a wife and six children, who was trying to support my family through jobs that were mundane, while at the same time pursuing the ministry that I felt God had called me to.

This was that time period where technology was beginning to make a change in the way that people listened to music. The digital format had just begun to make an impact as some artists were releasing their new work only on the CD format. By 1986, I moved back to Oregon and purchased a CD player, and began to buy CDs, instead of 33 rpm vinyl records. Bruce Cockburn was one of the first artists that I purchased and listened to in the new format.

The first time that I saw Bruce live, was in 1986, soon after I moved back to Oregon. After that I would go see him almost every time that he played in Oregon. Even before I was working with a music publication that gave me credentials, I had snuck my camera into the venue, to take photos. However unauthorized photos are always taken with fear and apprehension of being caught, removed from the concert and having your film confiscated, so the quality is not always the best.

Once I had credentials, I photographed and reviewed a number of his concerts and even interviewed Bruce for Folkwax and the Wittenburg Door. His lyrics are intriguing and inspiring, and his musical ability is mesmerizing. I included some YouTube links to seven of my favorite selections; if you like them you can find others through them. I included some of the hundreds of the photographs that I took of Bruce.

Call It Democracy:

Last Night of the World:

Wondering Where The Lions Are:

If I Had A Rocket Launcher:

Lovers In A Dangerous Time:

Fascist Architecture:

A Dream Like Mine:

Bruce Cockburn is one of hundreds of Christian music artists that I wrote about in my book, Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music. A new article about the book was just published in the Ecumenical News at the following link.


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