After spending decades in music, 67-year-old Canadian singer, guitarist and virtuoso guitarist Bruce Cockburn has reached the status and age for collecting lifetime achievement awards.
Jimmy Buffett, k.d. lang, Judy Collins, Barenaked Ladies and British prog-rock band Elbow are among the many who’ve recorded Cockburn’s songs. His own recordings have sold 7 million copies worldwide.
Cockburn’s honors include induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He’s a 12-time Juno Award winner, Canada’s version of the Grammys. In November, he received a lifetime achievement award from SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada).
“I’m still trying to figure out what it means,” he said from San Francisco, where he lives with his wife and 14-month-old daughter. “This is what’s happening and it’s appropriate because that’s the age I am. It’s nice to get awards and have people recognize that I’ve done what I’ve done. But it doesn’t feel like anything’s over to me. It’s an ongoing story as far as I’m concerned.”
Cockburn’s been somewhat less busy with performing and writing songs of late, in part because he’s busy raising his daughter. He was 31 when his first daughter was born.
“I was worried then about my art and the need to vigorously pursue the art,” Cockburn admitted. “That got in the way of my relationship with my older daughter. We have a good relationship now but, when she was little, I wasn’t as accommodating or available to her as I am to my new daughter.”
Perhaps the latter issues will come up in the memoir Cockburn is writing.
“I’ve always been more interested in the here and now and the future,” he said. “It’s a new thing for me to dig into the past and think about the relationships between music and people, for instance, or between people and God or me and everything.”
Cockburn assumes he’ll be more musically active once he delivers his overdue manuscript.
“I’ve never taken songwriting for granted,” he said. “But assuming that nothing drastic happens, I will get back to writing songs.”
Being an experienced writer of lyrics is helping him write his book.
“But it’s different kettle of fish,” he said. “A song is a short-term event, even if it takes a long time. I’ve written some songs over a period of months. You work on it a little here, a little there. You can almost get it but then there’s something missing. You wait a while for that to fall in place. But with a book, it’s extended energy and focus that’s quite challenging, I have to say.”
Cockburn is making a rare return to the American South next week for a show at the Vermilionville Performance Center in Lafayette.
In the mid-’90s, Cockburn spent some time in New Orleans, playing a show at the House of Blues and mixing his album, The Charity of Night, at fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois’ French Quarter recording studio, Kingsway.
“I fell in love with New Orleans but so far it’s unrequited,” he said. “But I got to hang out for a couple of weeks in the Quarter and enjoyed that immensely.”