For several years now I’ve come to the unavoidable conclusion that both fans (and here I include myself) as well as members of the general public live with the music of Bruce Cockburn without necessarily understanding or appreciating its complexities in a conscious way. In this short book I try to remedy this state of affairs as far as his early work is concerned.
The book is structured as follows. Chapters 2, 3, and 4, are primarily biographical. They reconstruct Bruce’s life story, as he has relayed it to journalists and others over the years, from his birth in 1945, to his first appearance as an established solo artist at Toronto’s Massey Hall in spring 1970. Wherever and whenever appropriate, I let him speak for himself. A small portion of his biography dealing with his marriage and early Christian experiences also appears in Chapter 6.
Chapter 5 offers an original, narrative-based interpretation of Bruce Cockburn, his debut album (CD or vinyl copies are hard to come by these days, however, it can be listened to or downloaded from True North Records at: http://www.truenorthrecords.com/Albums.php?album_id=14). Here, my interpretation rests on the assumption that Bruce consciously sequenced the album’s songs so as to tell a distinctive autobiographical story of his own social and spiritual initiation.
Historically, Bruce has been an unusually private Canadian celebrity. As early as 1976 journalist Patricia Holtz pointed out that he cared “an extreme amount about his privacy,” while the “idea of interviews seem[ed] to him like an unnecessary intrusion.” Today, however, he appears increasingly comfortable with the idea of sharing his life story with the public. Significantly, in the spring of 2010, he announced that he would be writing and publishing his own memoirs through HarperOne. As Bruce put the matter at a press conference at the time:
“‘… the notion that there should be a book about me has popped up now and then, along with offers to write it … It always seemed too soon, and I’ve felt all along that such a book should be mine to author. When HarperOne expressed their interest, it finally did seem timely …’”
Cockburn’s memoirs, titled Rumours of Glory: A Memoir, will be released on 4 November 2014, alongside a new 9-CD box set compilation under the same title, which includes a wide range of valuable supplementary material.