If Bruce Cockburn had a rocket launcher, he'd probably give it to Hamilton's McMaster University. On May 7, the iconic Canadian folk singer-songwriter and guitarist handed over notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, scrapbooks, guitars and more than 1,000 recordings. “These are my tools, my rough drafts, my mementoes and my trophies," Cockburn said at a ceremony attended by fellow musicians Tom Wilson and Colin Linden and long-time manager Bernie Finkelstein. "Together, they form the roadmap of my working life."
In addition to the wealth of archival material donated by Bruce Cockburn to McMaster University this week, three guitars were gifted. This acoustic model, handcrafted by the Toronto luthier Linda Manzer, is decorated with quotations from Jean-Francois Lyotard, Herman Melville and others. In places the silver ink is rubbed off from use. Around the controls: “[There?] is nothing left to lose” and “The swiftest bird flies alone.”
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The Manzer in its case. Other artists who have owned guitars by Linda Manzer include Carlos Santana, Liona Boyd, Paul Simon and Pat Metheny, whose Manzer-made “Pikasso Guitar” is a cubist-inspired model with four necks.
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A Platinum record awarded to Bruce Cockburn in 1986 to commemorate exceeding 100,000 sales of the 1984 album Stealing Fire, set in archival folder.The album included the hits Lovers in a Dangerous Time and If I Had a Rocket Launcher.
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A baseball cap commemorates a Voters for Choice concert held in Santa Barbara Jan. 26, 1996. Cockburn rarely takes part in head-wear, but benefit concerts are old hat to the socially conscious musician.
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Circa 1981, the year he released his album Inner City Front. Cockburn has a reputation for seriousness, but his later work (particularly 2011’s Small Source of Comfort) reveals wit and dry humour.
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Lyrics for All the Diamonds (in this World), with a drawing of sailboat in the sun. Cockburn’s donated archives included songwriting notebooks – “a mongrel assortment of stationery,” he said at a ceremony at McMaster on May 7 – from 1969 to 2002. The pages here are dated, Stockholm, July, 1973.
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Drawing of campfire from inside cover of notebook No. 5. In the past, Cockburn has expressed some degree of remorse over the fact that he hadn’t written the type of songs that can be sung around a campfire.”
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Have guitar will travel. Bruce Cockburn is currently finishing work on his autobiography, but he’s scheduled to tour this summer. Concerts and festivals include appearances at the Edmonton Folk Festival (Aug. 10) and a pair of shows at the Algonquin Theatre, Huntsville, Ont., Aug. 27 and 28). Full tour info: brucecockburn.com/tour
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