Most of us planner types have a tune or two we’ve tucked away under the file, “funeral songs.” Here’s one of mine:
Make me a bed of fond memories
make me to lie down with a smile
everything that rises afterward falls
but all that dies has first to live.
As longing becomes love
as night turns to day
joy will find a way.
Ah, Bruce. Bruce Cockburn, that is. Not “the Boss” Bruce. But Bruce, Canada’s Bruce, the quirky, questing, gentle, angry man who has provided the soundtrack to most of my life.
I first saw Bruce in concert only a few years after this early song was released. He wore a plaid shirt and jeans, his face framed by a mop of hair, full beard, and small, round wire-rimmed glasses, a look that has become fashionable again in hipster circles. I was at the time still entwined with Christian church activities and Bruce’s music spoke both to my love of storytelling and my wrestling with reconciling faith with modern knowledge.
I’ve travelled along with Bruce as he moved from plaid shirt guy to social justice warrior guy to leather pants guy to Jungian-analyzed wise-seer guy. Bruce’s lyrics have painted scenes from all over the world, from Toronto in The Coldest Night of the Year to Central America in his nice-guy-gets-angry If I Had a Rocket Launcher. He is also a splendid instrumentalist: give a listen to Speechless, his guitar-only recording from 2005.
Bruce, born and raised in the Ottawa region and a well-awarded Canadian music icon, has moved on in his life. He became a father five years ago for the second time at age 66 with a then-36-year-old woman who is now his second wife, with whom he lives in California. He shared his reflections in a recent memoir, Rumours of Glory, a copy of which he’s signing for me in the photo accompanying this post, taken after a November 2014 solo concert at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.
In Canada’s 150th celebration year, Bruce, now 71, is scheduled to make only a few appearances in his home and native land. He’s performing at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on April 2 (as host of the Juno’s Songwriters’ Circle benefit concert) the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, ON on July 9 and the Vancouver Island Musicfest on July 15. The rest of his published tour dates for 2017 are in the U.S.
Everything changes, Bruce Cockburn once wrote. Here’s hoping for him, and for all who admire him, that joy will, indeed, find a way.
Photo: Chris Moorehead