It took a bit longer than anticipated, but Canadian icon Bruce Cockburn says he felt different emotions when finally completing his memoir "Rumours Of Glory."
"It was such a long project to work on," the 69-year-old says down the line from his San Francisco home. "I was working on that thing for three years and as it neared completion there were a lot of deadlines involved. [HarperCollins] was great, the editors I was working with were really good, but it was quite stressful actually getting it done. So there was relief when it was over. I think the book turned out pretty well now that I've had time to sit back and feel what it is as an entity instead of something to be enslaved by. It feels pretty good.”
The 544-page memoir begins when Cockburn was a kid and continues through his adventurous music career before concluding in 2004. "It was easy writing about childhood and being at a music school and all of these distant memories that were part of essentially the set up for the rest of life. But once I got to the rest of life it became very complicated. In my mind I couldn't figure out how to approach it really."
So he brought journalist Greg King on board as co-writer. "I hired him to interview me on a tour bus while I was on tour. I work from about noon to about midnight and then we get on the tour bus and go to the next town. So I've drunk about half a bottle of wine by then and then I generally get on the bus and drink the other half. So Greg and I would sit there drinking wine and he would ask me these questions about stuff. It was a good way to dredge up memories because you get into that loquacious state that alcohol puts you in. It's way better than me sitting at a desk trying to figure out what I remembered about things and what was worth bothering with."
In addition to the book a massive box set also entitled "Rumours Of Glory" comes out Oct. 28. The compilation includes 117 songs spread over nine discs, a live DVD and previously unreleased material.
"We had talked for years about doing a box set and I guess this provided the excuse," he says. The box set's most unique aspect is the sequencing of the songs. Unlike an anthology which often puts the material in chronological order, Cockburn says the remastered songs are in the order they appear in the memoir.
As for unreleased material, Cockburn says "one-offs" and tribute album contributions are included and demos that are slightly different from the versions found on the studio albums.
"There's a couple of songs that have never seen the light of day," he says. "In the collection in general there's the first song of mine that was ever recorded which was pretty obscure in its day and it remains so. I was actually quite happy to have it remain obscure although it isn't so bad when I hear it today. But that was a demo that I made in 1966. And there's another song that dates from back then. People haven't heard of those really."
While the memoir and box set have kept him busy, Cockburn also continues to lend his voice and name to causes he feels strongly about. Earlier this year, he became involved with the Collateral Damage Project, a cause concerning suicide rates among men in Native or First Nations communities. Cockburn was approached by the organization's founder Scott Chisholm about bringing awareness to the organization and doing a Public Service Announcement regarding it.
"For a long time when I was younger all the people I knew who died were suicides," he says. "There weren't that many, maybe half a dozen people I was acquainted with who killed themselves. I'm not sure if I totally agree with the negativity of suicide if you are a cancer victim or if you're terminally ill with anything and looking forward to years of suffering. As long as it doesn't come back on your family.
"The big problem with suicide is in all but those circumstances it's a terribly selfish act. Some of that made it seem like something to get involved with. And, of course, in the Native communities where suicide is a huge social issue, not just a matter of individuals, it's kind of epidemic. So there's a real point to try to head it off in that setting too."
It's just one of the many causes and humanitarian work Cockburn has done over the years, work that seen him given the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Award earlier this year. The singer says he's selective when it comes to choosing causes.
"It's a lot about circumstance," he says. "I get asked to do all sorts of things that sound really worthwhile. A lot of them I have to say no to or don't even get around to really properly responding to because there isn't time. So when things like this do happen there's a kind of fortuitous synchronicity factor that allows it to come off."
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of one of Cockburn's signature tunes "If I Had A Rocket Launcher." Given the current international instability and conflict, he says he's not shocked the song still resonates three decades later.
"I can't say I'm really surprised by the fact that it's still relevant," he says. "It's the sort of thing one hopes would become out-of-date or become a piece of history instead of having any current relevance. But obviously there's a lot of that kind of stuff going on. I was going to say it gets worse and worse but that's not really true, it's always been worse. It's who gets to be the victim and who doesn't. For the victims, each one of these horrors is just as bad as the rest."
As for the future, Cockburn has a string of promotional appearances and concerts in November but otherwise is focussed on raising his young daughter Iona, a child who loves listening to her father's music, children songs and a certain noted singer.
"Bonnie Raitt," Cockburn says. "She's not even three and about a month ago we had Bonnie on the CD player and there's a live solo version of a song called 'Love Me Like A Man' which is her and a bass player. So Iona is listening to this and she says, 'She's moving her fingers the way you do.' To me that's an ear, that's way more of an ear than I've got."
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