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New music flowing again

Bruce Cockburn to perform at Kent Stage

By KELLY MAILE Staff Writer Published: June 1, 2017 4:00 AM
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One of Canada's musical treasures is coming to Kent Stage on Friday for a solo show before his tour of North America and the release of a new album, "Bone On Bone" in September.

As if seeing singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn croon old tunes like "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" in the flesh wasn't enough, he's bringing new music with him.

"The exciting thing for me is its been a while since I had an album out," said Cockburn, calling from San Francisco. "Writing a memoir took three years."

Cockburn released his memoir, "Rumours Of Glory," in Nov. 2014 by Harper Collins worldwide, which shares his political views among other things.

"There were no songs," he said. "The creative energy was going into the book. The book came out and here I am and I haven't any songs. Fortunately, the songs did start coming. The stuff on the album represents what I've written in a couple years since the book."

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There's a couple songs that touch on the environment and a passing reference about Trump on the album, but most of it is about life and human experiences as he sees it. That's the job, he said.

"People have asked, 'Are you writing stuff about Donald Trump?' He gets enough attention. Really the emphasis on the album is more spiritual than political like my albums. Based on some stuff I was doing in the early 80s I get filed in some circles as a political singer. I don't disown that at all, but it's only a tiny part of what I do."

Cockburn will reach back into his catalogue to play hits like "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" and the beautiful "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." He explained the inspiration for writing that song was hearing first-hand accounts of Guatemalan refugees who'd fled savage attacks and were living in makeshift refugee camps on the Guatemala-Mexico border in the 80s. Through a Canadian non-profit organization, Cockburn went to Guatemala and snuck into a couple of the camps.

"The Reagan administration was saying there was no war in Central America. There was no refugees. In fact, Central America was stricken with ferocious levels of violence, 100,000 people living as refugees," he said. "Their stories were horrifying. These were survivors of military raids on their villages that were fatal for most villagers. The stories put Hollywood slayer movies to shame."

Cockburn sings, "I don't believe in guarded borders and I don't believe in hate. I don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states. And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate. If I had a rocket launcher, I would retaliate."

Cockburn was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He moved to San Francisco eight years ago with his wife.

Cockburn is being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in September. He will be joining Neil Young, Beau Dommage and Stephane Venne at the ceremony at Toronto's Massey Hall.

"It's nice to be recognized that way," he said. "I thought 'aren't you supposed to be dead for that?' or it might be an addition to retirement, which I'm not ready for," said the 72-year-old singer. "But having been through it all I don't feel that way. I'm very pleased. It's nice."


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