Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from A-E

Cockburn, Bruce

canada artist hit album

Cockburn, Bruce, a superstar north of the 45th parallel, with one hit record south of Canada; b. Ottawa, Canada, May 27, 1945. Although Cockburn is a quarter-of-a-century veteran of the rock wars, in the U.S. that tenure has garnered him but one hit single, 1979’s “Wondering Where the Lions are,” which reached #21. There have been several more underground hitlets, like the college-radio fueled “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” but Cockburn’s reputation for political correctness, in some circles, overshadows his musical achievements. In his native Canada, however, Cockburn has 13 gold albums, three platinum albums, ten Juno awards, and was named to the Order of Canada.

Cockburn always risked an outspoken stand in his work, taking on issues and morality to the detriment of his popular appeal. No artist since Phil Ochs has taken such strong political stands. His first ten albums strongly reflected his Christian humanism. During this period, which roughly encompassed the 1970s, he rarely left Canada to perform. With the release of his 1981 album, Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, Cockburn downplayed his devotion in favor of the politics of human relations and expanded his folky handle with elements of non- western music. The result was his only hit in the U.S., “Wondering Where the Lions Are.”

Cockburn was unable to follow this up with another hit, and his American record company went out of business as his next album came out. He remained popular in Canada and a cult performer in the U.S. Sony Music decided to take a chance on Cockburn in 1991, releasing Nothing but a Burning Light . An extremely musical album, it featured players like Jim Keltner, Mark O’Conner, T-Bone Burnett (who also produced), Booker T. Jones, and Jackson Browne. Despite their best efforts, including an aggressive reissue program making all his work available in the U.S., some for the first time, Cockburn continued to sell indifferently in the U.S. His second Sony release, Dart Through the Heart, produced the hitlet “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” but failed to raise his profile appreciably.

Cockburn’s 1997 release, The Charity of the Night, featured heavyweight players such as jazz vibes player Gary Burton, bassist Rob Wasserman, and the slide guitar of Bonnie Raitt, as well as appearances by Annie DiFranco, Bob Weir, Maria Muldaur, and others. Nonetheless, it too made little impact beyond Cockburn’s circle of devoted listeners. His high-energy show is neatly captured on 1998’s You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance . His 25th album, Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu prominently featured an array of female singers, including Lucinda Williams and fellow Canadian Margo Timmins from the Cowboy Junkies. It also delved into a renewed interest in non-western sounds spurred by a trip to Mali (captured in the film River of SandExploring Life on the Desert’s Edge), prominently using a traditional African harp called a kora .

Perhaps someday Cockburn will manage to shed some of the labels that hinder him—folk artist, Christian artist, leftist artist—and music fans will assess him merely as an artist. Until then, he seems content to play for his fans in Canada and his cult audience elsewhere.

Cockcroft, Sir John Douglas [next]

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or