Monday, September 14, 2009

Discovering Bruce Cockburn

Over the course of time our musical tastes evolve (I suppose for some they probably don't, but even those who go with Top40 radio their whole lives will evolve along with Top40 radio). I think it is possible to say some music is better than other music, but much of what we have to say has to do with our preferences which change subjectively over time. That's fine.

That said, I've always sort of known that one day I'd get into Bruce Cockburn (pronounced Coe-burn). He is Canada's musical poet, or so I've understood, and caught glimpses of myself now and then. As the bulk of his career has gone unheard by the masses and was before my time (so to speak) I never knew quite where to dive in with him, and so have only had occasional encounters with him. But if your musical tastes evolve, it seems inevitable that one day the excellence of Cockburn ought to catch up with you.

Maybe it means I'm getting older, and I'm okay with that, but I think the day to explore Bruce Cockburn has finally come. I downloaded a podcast from CBC Radio Live of an Ontario Cockburn concert of a few days ago and can't stop listening to it. It is starkly candid, poetically straightforward, and unlike many one-person acts, makes you forget there is no band.

The line that first grabbed me today was from his second song in the set, Last Night of the World, where he just comes out and says:

I learned as a child
Not to trust in my body
I've carried that burden
Through my life
But there's a day
When we all get to be pried loose.

Not sure why, not even sure I agree with what he may or may not be saying with that last part, but my, what songwriting!

Today feels sort of like the day I finally dipped my toe into Dylan. But it is kind of more special, isn't it, because this one is Canadian, is ours, no? (By the way, Cockburn has been given five, count-em, five, honourary doctorates! Though it seems excessive, I have no problem with that.)

I know I'm late to the party, but hey, Cockburn here I come. Any of you seasoned veterans want to enlighten me on where I start? I have iTunes money for one album out of his 30+. Do I do the greatest hits/live thing or is there a natural starting point in there somewhere?


Stewart said...

There is no doubt...the man is a fine poet and excellent musician. I've dropped in on his music occasionally starting in the early 70's...then I was particularly interested in his spiritual journey. I read this week where he went to Afganistan and sang "Rocket Launcher"...a song birthed in the drug wars in South America i think. He's definitely not afraid to speak his mind in a way that captivates and makes you think...hence the doctorates i presume.

Eric said...

Welcome to the party! My favorite albums of his, in order: 1) Charity of Night 2) Dancing in Dragon's Jaws 3) Joy will Find a Way 4) Nothing but a burning light 5) Big Circumstance. I think his 70's stuff is still the best; be aware that he took a big of a "swerve" in the 80s. But you can't really go wrong - just dive in!

Anonymous said...

what are you studying exactly - say if i were to quote you and needed to know your occupation/interest/area ...

what would you call yourself in print?

Jon Coutts said...

I'm not sure what I am in print. "PhD student at the University of Aberdeen" I think. Probably to elaborate you'd say "PhD student in the School of Divinity, History and Philsophy at the University of Aberdeen" but that's already getting to be a mouthfull. So maybe just say Jon the Awesome Guy.

Eric: Thanks! Just the list I was looking for!

el Maggie said...

"All the Diamonds in the World" - one of his most overtly Christian songs, and it's simple and beautiful. I'm also a sucker for "lovers in a dangerous time", but that might be because I am on the Barenaked Ladies Generation . . .