Tuesday, October 18, 2005

On Liking Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn isn't the artist I put on the stereo when I get home. I don't even own an album. I've really only heard one record (Nothing But A Burning Light), a few singles, and his Christmas album. So why does his music continue to resonate with me? Certainly, he is a Christian who hasn't separated his identity from his music, and that helps. But, oddly, I think it is largely due to his politics. "Mighty Trucks of Midnight", "If I Had A Rocket Launcher", "Wondering Where The Lions Are" are all highly political songs. However, they didn't easily fit into my politics (particularly when I first heard them). But within (and, in a sense, beneath) them, and in songs like "Indian Wars" I heard a human, rather than a political outrage. For Cockburn, people cannot be sublimated to class, economic, or geopolitical concerns. Perhaps due to that fact, Cockburn never comes across as posturing or lecturing (as, unfortunately, does Neil Young) but as honestly desiring the good without partisan precommitments. Now, I should probably say that the division I've made between Cockburn's political & religious elements in his music is not nearly as clean as I've treated them.

Cockburn's earnest, personalist songwriting has, I believe, helped me broaden my political horizons from a fairly narrow, ideological construction into a far more catholic (yes, and Catholic) view of politics, by helping to illuminate how one ought to approach the whole political endeavour.


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