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Cockburn, Bruce Douglas

Bruce Cockburn fonds. – 1955-2010. – 3.3 m of textual records and other materials; 2,691 photographs; 963 audio recordings; 83 moving image recordings; 58 posters; and 43 items of realia.

Bruce Cockburn is a well known Canadian singer and songwriter.  He was born in Ottawa on 27 May 1945. After playing in Ottawa rock bands (The Children, Esquires, 3’s a Crowd), Cockburn became a folk singer with a humanist, poetic style combining elements of jazz, rock and reggae. His recordings include Sunwheel Dance (1971), In the Falling Dark (1976), Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws (1979), Stealing Fire (1984), the singles collection Waiting for a Miracle (1987), The Charity of Night (1996), and Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999). Cockburn has written songs in English and French; among his signature pieces are “Goin’ to the Country,” “Musical Friends,” his 1980 hit “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “The Trouble with Normal”, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”

Concert touring and regular album releases in the United States, Australia and Europe have given Bruce Cockburn a solid international reputation. All 31 of Cockburn's albums were recorded on the Canadian label True North Records, while some distribution has been managed by the American companies Columbia Records and Rounder Records.

Cockburn is also well known as a social activist.  His song “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” (1984) was inspired by a visit to Central American refugee camps on behalf of Oxfam. In 1986 he performed two benefit concerts that raised funds to help the Haida in their land claims struggle. He has also worked with the Unitarian Services Committee, Friends of the Earth and World Vision Canada. “If a Tree Falls” (1989) calls for an end to destruction of the world’s rain forests.  The 1996 song “The Mines of Mozambique” documents the deadly impact of anti-personnel mines. After addressing the land-mine issue in dozens of interviews, Cockburn and singer-songwriter friend Jackson Browne headlined a fundraising concert in Ottawa on 3 December 1997 that marked the signing of a United Nations treaty banning their use.

Environmentalist David Suzuki and musical peer Gordon Lightfoot inducted Cockburn into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001.  Cockburn is also the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Order of Canada. Bruce Cockburn continues to actively write and record music as well as support his humanitarian interests and causes. This biographical sketch has been adapted from The Canadian Encyclopedia.

The fonds is very comprehensive and includes: 32 notebooks in which Cockburn composed most of his song lyrics from 1969 to 2002; song sheets and scores; correspondence, including fan mail; awards, including gold records; promotional material, including posters; tour books; scrapbooks; photographs; a copy of each of Cockburn’s recordings; video and film items; and other material.

The fonds has been arranged in the following series:
Series 1 – Notebooks. – 37.5 cm (32 volumes; includes 6 photographs). – The notebooks contain most of the song lyrics composed by Cockburn from 1969 to 2002.
Series 2 – Song sheets, scores, lyrics, etc
Series 3 – Letters and Other Personal Documents
Series 4 – Charities and Causes
Series 5 – Fan Mail and related publications
Series 6 – Photographs
Series 7 – Awards
Series 8 – Promotional Material
Series 9 – Tour books
Series 10 – Folk Festivals and Other Programs
Series 11 – Memorabilia
Series 12 – Scrapbooks
Series 13 – Sound Recordings
Series 14 – Moving Images
Series 15 – Publications and Clippings
Series 16 – Legal documents
Series 17 – Realia – Guitars and clothing

Title based on creator of the fonds.
The first accrual (accession 2010-18) was acquired in 2010 from Bruce Cockburn via his manager, Bernie Finkelstein.
Finding aid available electronically.
There are no access restrictions.
Further accruals are expected.

Contact: archives@mcmaster.ca
Last Reviewed: June 19, 2012
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