Born: 1945, Ottawa
1970 Bruce Cockburn
1971 High Winds White Sky
1971 Sunwheel Dance
1973 Night Vision
1974 Salt, Sun and Time
1975 Joy Will Find a Way
1976 In the Falling Dark
1978 Further Adventures Of Bruce Cockburn
1979 Dancing In the Dragon’s Jaws
1981 Inner City Front
1983 The Trouble With Normal
1984 Stealing Fire
1986 World of Wonders
1988 Big Circumstance
1991 Nothing But a Burning Light
1994 Dart to the Heart
1997 Charity of Night
1999 Breakfast In New Orleans … Dinner In Timbuktu
2003 You’ve Never Seen Everything
2006 Life Short Call Now
(Bolded items above were certified Platinum in Canada)
“Wondering Where the Lions Are“, 1979
- Peaked at #39 in the Canadian RPM Charts
- Peaked at #21 in the U.S. Hot 100
Most Successful Single:
“If a Tree Falls“, 1989
- Peaked at #8 in the Canadian RPM Charts
Some Other Well-Known Songs:
- “Tokyo“, 1980
- “Coldest Night of the Year“, 1981
- “Lovers in a Dangerous Time“, 1984
- “If I Had a Rocket Launcher“, 1984
- “People See Through You”, 1986
- “Don’t Feel Your Touch”, 1989
- “A Dream Like Mine”, 1991
- “Great Big Love”, 1992
- “Somebody Touched Me”, 1992
- “Listen For the Laugh”, 1994
- “Scanning These Crowds”, 1994
- “Night Train”, 1997
- Canadian Music Hall of Fame (2001)
- 3 Platinum Albums in Canada
- 7 Juno Awards including Male Artist of the Year in both 1981 and 1982
- Released over 20 original studio albums
- Honorary Chair of Friends of the Earth
Bruce Cockburn, a jack-of-all-trades in the folk music industry, is a composer, arranger, poet, guitarist, pianist, humanitarian activist, and singer. His rise to stardom was slow and steady, and he now has a large volume of material—over 20 studio albums of original songs—under his name. He has also been one of the few English-Canadian singer-songwriters to enjoy success in Quebec and has recorded French versions of a number of his songs.
Born in the nation’s capital, and spending part of his childhood on a farm outside of Pembroke, Cockburn entered the period of his junior youth enamoured with Elvis Presley, inspiring him to take up music. He had learned the clarinet and the trumpet but realized that the piano and guitar were the vehicles that made someone a rock star. He found a guitar in his grandmother’s attic and began strumming along to hits on the radio. He attended Nepean High School and played in some bands. After doing some buskin in Paris, he proceeded to Boston, U.S.A. to study at the Berklee School of Music. Around this time he fell in love with folk music and also got into jazz. He ended up dropping out of the music school after three semesters, feeling it wasn’t a good fit for him, and returned to Ottawa, joining some local rock bands.
By the end of the decade, perhaps encouraged by his appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967 and as the headliner in 1969 when Neil Young cancelled to participate in Woodstock, Cockburn felt a solo career was the better way to go. In Toronto, a musician friend introduced Bruce to manager Bernie Finkelstein who had formed True North Records. Cockburn released his debut (self-titled) album on this label in 1970. It won a Juno Award.
Not only was his music praised but his gift for penning thoughtful lyrics which, over the years, have presented a mish-mash of rural imagery, human rights, environmentalism, and subtle theology. Poet Charles Williams and theologian Harvey Cox are cited as primary influences.
Cockburn quickly gained a large following enabling him to tour the country in 1972. After several albums, he decided to spice up his music by adding some jazz, pop, and rock flavours. The result was his first significant radio hit in 1979: “Wondering Where the Lions Are” which earned him an appearance on Saturday Night Live in the United States. This new folk-rock direction eventually became Cockburn’s most popular.
After touring Japan with Murray McLauchlan, Bruce released his politically-drenched Humans in 1980 which spawned the minor hit “Tokyo”.
This stronger political direction became most evident with the release of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” which he had composed after visiting Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico that were being attacked by Guatemalan military helicopters. Cockburn had, by now, broadened his outlook from rural settings in the Ottawa valley to encompass the whole planet, as he became increasingly aware of political issues and human rights violations around the globe. He traveled to such places as Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal. With a new, strong and clear international vision, Cockburn sang out (and spoke out in a series of lecture tours) against land mines, deforestation, and corrupt financial institutions while internationalizing his music with the inclusion of reggae, Latin, Afrobeat, and other styles. Success peaked in 1989 thanks to Big Circumstance and its hit single, “If a Tree Falls”, which broke into the Top 10 at home and into the Top 30 in Australia.
Cockburn’s activism kept him busy throughout the 1990′s after the release of a tribute album by various artists. Most notable was perhaps the Barenaked Ladies’ cover of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” which helped launch their career. He teamed up with friend T-Bone Burnett in Los Angeles to record some of his albums during this decade.
In 2001, Bruce Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The telecast featured testimonials from U2′s Bono, Jackson Browne, Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, and Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett.