Feel the 'Burn

A devout Christian who writes defiantly leftist songs, Bruce Cockburn is both a phenomenal guitarist and an acclaimed lyricist. Cockburn has been Canada's best purveyor of world-beat folk for more than four decades. His most recognized songs are "Wondering Where the Lions Are" (1979) and "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" (1984), two of the most unlikely hits to ever find their way into the top 40.

Like Van Morrison, Cockburn has parlayed his literate and passionate prose into a dedicated fanbase that continues to snatch up each new release, including his most recent effort, Life Short Call Now, another candid mix of love songs and political concerns. We recently caught up with him over the phone.

You once said that people would sing about anything if it has a good enough tune. Do you think even a protest song needs to have some kind of hook to it?

First of all, I don't know what a protest song is exactly. I think that no matter what you're saying, the idea is to make a good song. You may have a burning message that you want to get across to people, but if you don't put it in a good song, it's just going to sound stupid.

One Internet site labeled you as the "Canadian Bob Dylan." Is that something that is hard to live up to?

As great as the Internet is as a means of communicating, you have to be careful how you take some things. I mean, I've been called worse. One paper called me the Canadian John Denver. I'd much rather be the Canadian Bob Dylan.

A lot has been written about you being a devout Christian. Do you think spirituality has been hijacked by the conservative movement in the United States?

A year ago I was driving from Philadelphia to Seattle, and there was nothing on the radio except country music and Christian propaganda. I call it propaganda because it isn't people talking about their faith. It's totally toxic and very manipulative. There is a stunning hypocrisy in espousing so-called family values. The lies are layers deep. It might be time for real Christians to stop calling themselves Christians because it's so co-opted.

Yet secular musicians seem to distance themselves from any association with religious music.

My problem with the Christian music scene and the reason that I don't want to be identified with it is that the music is shitty. It's all so derivative. Where is the sense of exploration that is a part of the creative process? You are not serving God by putting out crappy art to the world.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers

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