Il suo stile, con il personalissimo modo di suonare la chitarra, fonde generi come pop, folk, rock, reggae e jazz. Le liriche sono ispirate dalla sua visione umanistica e metafisica della vita vicina all’etica cristiana.
Bruce Douglas Cockburn OC (/ˈkoʊbərn/; born May 27, 1945) is a Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter whose career spans over 40 years. His song styles range from folk to jazz-influenced rock and his lyrics cover a broad range of topics that reveal a passion for human rights, politics and spirituality.
In 2014, he released his memoirs, Rumours of Glory: A Memoir.
Cockburn was born in 1945 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and spent some of his early years on a farm outside Pembroke, Ontario. He has stated in interviews that his first guitar was one he found around 1959 in his grandmother’s attic, which he adorned with golden stars and used to play along to radio hits. Cockburn attended Nepean High School, where his 1964 yearbook photo states his desire “to become a musician”.He attended Berklee School of Music in Boston for three semesters in the mid-1960s. In 1966 he joined an Ottawa band called The Children, which lasted for about a year. In the spring of 1967 he joined the final lineup of The Esquires. He moved to Toronto that summer to form The Flying Circus with former Bobby Kris & The Imperials members Marty Fisher and Gordon MacBain and ex-Tripp member Neil Lillie. The group recorded some material in late 1967 (which remains unreleased) before changing its name to Olivus in the spring of 1968, by which time Lillie (who changed his name to Neil Merryweather) had been replaced by Dennis Pendrith from Livingstone’s Journey. Olivus opened for The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream in April 1968. That summer Cockburn broke up the band with the intention of going solo, but ended up in the band 3’s a Crowd with David Wiffen, Colleen Peterson, and Richard Patterson, who had been a co-member of The Children. Cockburn left 3’s a Crowd in the spring of 1969 to pursue a solo career.
Cockburn’s first solo appearance was at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967, and in 1969 he was a headliner. In 1970 he released his self-titled, solo album. Cockburn’s guitar work and songwriting won him an enthusiastic following. His early work featured rural and nautical imagery and Biblical metaphors. Raised as an agnostic, early in his career he became a Christian. Many of his albums from the 1970s refer to Christianity, which in turn informs his concerns for human rights and environmentalism. His references to Christianity include the Grail imagery of 20th-century Christian poet Charles Williams and the ideas of theologian Harvey Cox.
While Cockburn had been popular in Canada for years, he did not have a big impact in the United States until 1979, with the release of the album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws. “Wondering Where the Lions Are“, the first single from that album, reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US in June 1980, and earned Cockburn an appearance on NBC‘s hit TV show Saturday Night Live.
Cockburn was married from 1969 to 1980 and has a daughter from that marriage. He wrote the song “Little Seahorse”, released on In the Falling Dark, in late 1975 about the time when his daughter wasin utero.
Through the 1980s Cockburn’s songwriting became increasingly urban, global and political as he became more involved with progressive causes. His political concerns were first hinted at on the albums: Humans,Inner City Front and The Trouble with Normal. They became more evident in 1984, with his second US radio hit, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” (No. 88 in the US) from the Stealing Fire album. He had written the song a year earlier, after visiting Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico that were attacked by Guatemalan military helicopters. His political activism continues to the present. Cockburn has travelled to countries such as Mozambique and Iraq, played benefit concerts, and written songs on a variety of subjects ranging from the International Monetary Fund to land mines. His internationalist bent is reflected in the many world musicinfluences in his music, including reggae and Latin music.
In 1991 Intrepid Records released Kick at the Darkness, a tribute album to Cockburn whose title comes from a phrase in his song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time“. It features the Barenaked Ladies‘ cover of that song, which became their first Top 40 hit and an element in their early success. This lyric was also referenced by U2 in their song “God Part II” from their album Rattle and Hum.
In the early 1990s, Cockburn teamed with T-Bone Burnett for two albums, Nothing but a Burning Light and Dart to the Heart. The latter included a song, “Closer to the Light”, inspired by the death of songwriter Mark Heard, a close friend of Cockburn and Burnett. Cockburn frequently refers to Heard as his favourite songwriter and he was one of many artists who paid tribute to Heard on an album and video titled Strong Hand of Love.
In 1998 Cockburn travelled with filmmaker Robert Lang to Mali, West Africa, where he jammed with Grammy Award-winning blues musician Ali Farka Toure and kora master Toumani Diabate. The month-long journey was documented in the film River of Sand, which won the Regard Canadien award for best documentary at the Vues d’Afrique Film Festival in Montreal. It was also invited for competition at the International Festival of Environmental Films in Paris.
Some of Cockburn’s previously published material had been collected in several albums: Resume, Mummy Dust, and Waiting for a Miracle. His first greatest hits collection was Anything Anytime Anywhere: Singles 1979–2002, released in 2002.
In January 2003 Cockburn finished recording his 21st album, You’ve Never Seen Everything, which features contributions from Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Sam Phillips, Sarah Harmer, Hugh Marsh, Jonell Mosser, Larry Taylor and Steven Hodges. (Taylor and Hodges, formerly of Canned Heat who performed at Monterey and Woodstock in the 1960s, may be known best for their work with Tom Waits).
Cockburn performed a set at the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario, on July 2, 2005. Speechless, an instrumental compilation of new and previously released material, was released on October 24, 2005. His 22nd album, Life Short Call Now, was released on July 18, 2006.
Canadian senator and retired general Roméo Dallaire, who is active in humanitarian fundraising and promoting awareness, appeared on stage at the University of Victoria with Cockburn. The October 4, 2008, concert was held to aid the plight of child soldiers.
In 2009 Cockburn travelled to Afghanistan to visit his brother, Capt. John Cockburn, and to play a concert for Canadian troops. He performed his 1984 song “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and was temporarily awarded an actual rocket launcher by the military. Cockburn has stated that, while unsure of the original Invasion of Afghanistan, he supported Canada’s role there.
Cockburn released his studio album Small Source of Comfort in 2011. “Lois on the Autobahn”, a cheerful and experiential instrumental recalling “Rouler sa bosse” from Salt, Sun and Time is a tribute to Cockburn’s mother, Lois, who succumbed to cancer in 2010.
Cockburn married his longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett shortly after the birth of his second daughter, Iona (b. November 2011) in 2011. As of 2014, the family lives in the San Francisco area, where Cockburn is writing his memoirs up to 2004.
A documentary film, Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, was released in 2013 on television and a brief theatrical showing; directed by Joel Goldberg, gave a rare look into Cockburn’s music, life and politics