Canadian Music Week is pleased to announce acclaimed Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn as the 2014 recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. The award – bestowed to the singer/songwriter in recognition of his social activism and benevolent support of humanitarian interests and causes – will be presented in Toronto on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards gala held during Canadian Music Week 2014.
“My Father Allan and I have both respected Bruce Cockburn as an artist and humanist since his early coffeehouse days,” said Gary Slaight. ”His philanthropy and compassion for charitable issues is commendable and something all of us should strive to emulate – even if on a personal level. Bruce has long been deserving of such an award and recognition, and we are thrilled to see his efforts honoured this year.as the recipient of the Allan Slaight humanitarian award.”
“It seems to me that if we accept that it’s appropriate to love our neighbour, whether as people of faith or as people just trying to live well, then we all need to do whatever we can to look out for that neighbour’s welfare,” said Bruce Cockburn. ”I’m very honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. I hope the existence of the award will help to inspire ever greater numbers of people in the music community to throw their support behind the many ongoing efforts to make this world better.”
For more than 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been revered as one of Canada’s most prolific singer/songwriters and advocates for human rights. His politically and socially charged lyrics have continuously brought Canada’s attention to causes around the world while his travels to such countries as Mali, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Iraq have underscored his commitment to humanitarian and environmental relief.
A social activist since the early-eighties, Cockburn has worked throughout his career alongside such groups as the USC (Unitarian Service Committee), OXFAM, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, The David Suzuki Foundation and numerous other advocate groups speaking out and raising awareness about landmines, famine, Third World debt, native rights, unsustainable logging, climate change and air pollution. He has been at the forefront of efforts to ban landmines, which met a resolve with the signing of a United Nations treaty banning their use in 1997, and to obtain justice for North America’s Aboriginal peoples.
Cockburn’s progressive causes and political concerns permeate his repertoire, including such tracks as “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” (inspired by a visit to Central American refugee camps on behalf of OXFAM), “Call It Democracy” (a social commentary on the devastating effects of the International Monetary Fund’s policies in Third World countries), “The Trouble With Normal” (citing labour strikes, tenant struggles and Third World subjugation), “If A Tree Falls” (calling for an end to destruction of the world’s rainforests), “Mines of Mozambique”, and “Postcards from Cambodia” (both documenting the deadly impact of anti-personnel mines). A more recent example is the powerful “Each One Lost” (stemming from a trip to war-torn Afghanistan in 2009), a mournful ode to lost soldiers that can be found on his latest album, Small Source of Comfort.
Cockburn’s activism is equally notable in his live performances, touring internationally in support of his causes. He performed at a UNICEF concert in Kosovo, the UN Summit for Climate Control in Montreal, Live 8 in Barrie, Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 in New York, Child Soldiers No More in support of ending the use of child soldiers in Victoria, the 100th Anniversary of Wounded Knee in South Dakota and Music Without Borders for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal in Toronto to name a few.
His music, along with his humanitarian work, have brought Cockburn a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, several international awards as well as seven honourary Doctorates. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year, the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn’s extensive songbook with a tribute concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti, folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin’ Jennys.
Earlier this year, Cockburn was named the Sustainability Ambassador for the 2013 JUNO Awards in an effort to raise public awareness about the organization’s environmental efforts in reducing their carbon footprint. An interactive exhibit dedicated to different sustainability themes featuring exhibits by Cockburn as well as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Young and Sarah Harmer complemented the campaign.
Most recently, Cockburn donated a large share of his archives – including three guitars, scrapbooks, notebooks, recordings, and original song lyrics – to Hamilton’s McMaster University to be used as resource material for students and fans. Personal observations, schedules, correspondence and other meaningful memorabilia are included, offering a window into Cockburn’s imagination and creative process.
Bruce Cockburn continues to actively write and record music as well as support his humanitarian interests and causes. He will be releasing his memoir in May of 2014.
ABOUT CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK:
Canadian Music Week is Canada’s leading annual entertainment event dedicated to the expression and growth of the country’s music, media and entertainment industries. Combining three information-intensive conferences; a trade exposition; a film festival; a comedy festival; four awards shows and the nation’s largest New Music Festival – Canadian Music Fest – CMW spans a six-day period from March 19 to March 24, 2013 at the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel and over 60 downtown Toronto venues, attracting participants from across the globe. For more information, visit www.cmw.net.
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Bruce Cockburn has always been a restless spirit. Over the course of four decades, the celebrated Canadian artist has traveled to the corners of the earth out of humanitarian concerns—often to trouble spots experiencing events that have led to some of his most memorable songs. Going up against chaos, even if it involves grave risks, can be necessary to get closer to the truth.
“My mother once said that I must have a death wish, always going to what she called ‘those awful places,’” laughs Cockburn. “I don’t think of it that way. I make these trips partly because I want to see things for myself and partly out of my own sense of adventure.”
Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience.
“Each One Lost” and “Comets of Kandahar,” one of five instrumentals on the album, stem from a trip Cockburn made to war-torn Afghanistan in 2009. The elegiac “Each One Lost” was written after Cockburn witnessed a ceremony honouring two young Canadian Forces soldiers who had been killed that day and whose coffins were being flown back to Canada. It was, recalls Cockburn, “one of the saddest and most moving scenes I’ve been privileged to witness.”
“Here come the dead boys, moving slowly past the pipes and prayers and strained commanding voices,” Cockburn sings solemnly on “Each One Lost.” Over a mournful accordion, the simple chorus sums up the gravity of the hymn-like song: “each one lost is a vital part of you and me.”
In contrast, one light-hearted number reflects Cockburn’s frequently underappreciated sense of humour. “Called Me Back” is a comic reflection on the frustrations of waiting for a return phone call that never comes. Meanwhile, listeners are bound to be intrigued by “Call Me Rose,” written from the point of view of disgraced former U.S. president Richard Nixon, who receives a chance at redemption after being reincarnated as a single mother living in a housing project with two children.
Brooklyn-based violinist Jenny Scheinman is one of Bruce’s two female collaborators on Small Source of Comfort. Scheinman, best known for her work with Bill Frisell and Norah Jones, provides some thrilling flourishes to instrumentals like “Lois on the Autobahn” and the bluesy, gypsy-like swing of “Comets of Kandahar,” a track that Cockburn describes as “Django meets John Lee Hooker.”
Produced by longtime associate Colin Linden, the album also features Annabelle Chvostek, a Montreal-based singer-songwriter with whom Cockburn wrote two songs on which they also harmonize: the introspective “Driving Away” and the driving, freewheeling “Boundless.” In addition to newcomers Scheinman and Chvostek, Small Source of Comfort includes such regular Cockburn accompanists as bassist Jon Dymond, drummer Gary Craig and producer Linden, who also plays guitar.
As always, there’s a spiritual side to Cockburn’s latest collection, best reflected on the closing “Gifts,” a song written in 1968 and but recorded here for the first time, and “The Iris of the World,” which opens the album. The latter includes the humorously rueful line, “I’m good at catching rainbows, not so good at catching trout.”
That admission serves as a useful metaphor for Cockburn’s approach to songwriting. “As you go through life, it’s like taking a hike alongside a river,” he explains. “Your eye catches little things that flash in the water, various stones and flotsam. I’m a bit of a packrat when it comes to saving these reflections. And, occasionally, a few of them make their way into songs.”
Those songs, along with his humanitarian work, have brought Cockburn a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and several international awards. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year, the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn’s extensive songbook with a tribute concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti, folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin’ Jennys.
Never content to rest on his laurels, Cockburn keeps looking ahead. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” he once said. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stopped working till they dropped, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.” Small Source of Comfort, a reflection of Cockburn’s ever-expanding world of wonders, is the latest step in his creative evolution