May 272017

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Bruce Cockburn, a curious and spiritual man who finds the wonder where you can’t and who sees the danger when you don’t. The Canadian singer-songwriter has released two dozen albums over the last 45 years, but isn’t too well known outside of the Great White North. Generally speaking, Bruce’s ’70s albums were acoustic, frequently religious, and grounded in nature; perfect Sunday brunch backgrounds. The ’80s recordings were more electric, angrier, yet always hopeful. Cockburn is perceptive, able to explain a complex tragedy by focusing on the victims it created. And regardless of the decade, Cockburn’s love songs were always in the mix. Bruce has won 13 Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy) and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Bruce turns 72 today and we celebrate by offering a selection of other artists covering his work.

Tom Rush – One Day I Walk (Bruce Cockburn cover)

High Winds White Sky was Bruce Cockburn’s second album, released in 1971. It is filled with simple, beautiful songs structured around Bruce’s crisp and technical fingerstyle. Folk singer Tom Rush covered “One Day I Walk” on 1974’s Ladies Love Outlaws. James Taylor and Carly Simon add backing vocals on Tom’s version.

Spaghetti Hillbillies – Stolen Land (Bruce Cockburn cover)

Bruce Cockburn is known for his appreciation of nature and his championing of indigenous people whether they be in Canada, Central America or Mozambique. Cockburn wrote “Stolen Land” for British Columbia’s Haida Nation. California band Spaghetti Hillbillies recorded a gritty version last spring in support of the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota.

Michael Hedges – Wondering Where The Lions Are (Bruce Cockburn cover)

Bruce Cockburn’s biggest U.S. hit was the jaunty “Wondering Where The Lions Are” from 1979’s Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws. It’s also probably the most frequently covered Cockburn song. Videos like this are common today, but this roughly-35-year-old recording of a young Michael Hedges is an unexpected gem. Hedges’ joyful cover is faithful to Bruce’s original while showcasing his own unique style.

Reid Jamieson – Coldest Night Of The Year (Bruce Cockburn cover)

“Coldest Night of the Year” is one of the finer love songs from a man who’s written so many great ones.  Bruce’s tale of of a lonely winter’s night out in Toronto resonates to anyone who’s ever been a third wheel or designated driver. Our warm and fuzzy cover comes from Vancouver’s Reid Jamieson.

Barenaked Ladies – Lovers In A Dangerous Time (Bruce Cockburn cover)

Probably Bruce’s signature song and a perfect example of how he can synthesize love, hope, and fear better than anyone. If you’ve heard just one Bruce Cockburn cover, this is likely it. Barenaked Ladies were not well known (even in Canada) in 1991 when they were invited to participate in the Bruce Cockburn tribute Kick At The Darkness. Their version adds some piano to the mix and became the band’s first Canadian hit.

If you’re looking for a solid introduction to Bruce Cockburn, check out this compilation on Amazon.

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  3 Responses to “They Say It’s Your Birthday: Bruce Cockburn”

Comments (3)
  1. One more from your old pal Reido


    I have always loved this version. Ron Kavana was HUGE for a brief period on the cusp of the 1990s. What happened to him?

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