Friday, June 13, 2008

Throughout his career Bruce Cockburn has never shied away from controversy. His left leaning songs have inspired many but have no doubt caused some to wish that he just stick to the music. But, Cockburn can’t just stick to the music because politics and world events is an important aspect of the world we live in and the life he lives. Bruce Cockburn is no armchair critic. Over the years Cockburn has traveled extensively abroad which provides the basis and inspiration for many of his political leaning songs. Also, he has been personally involved in numerous projects which range from the removal of land mines in Africa to bringing attention to the terrible plight of Native Americans, South Americans, and most recently the people of Iraq. One may not agree with Cockburn's particular political conclusions but there is no doubt that Cockburn’s political songs are written and performed with great passion and we can respect his convictions and zeal even if we don’t always agree with his viewpoint. Following is a sample of some of Cockburn’s songs which reflect his perspective on the world we live in.

INDIAN WARS

Out in the desert where the wind never stops
A few simple people try to grow a few crops
Trying to maintain a life and a home
On land that was theirs before the Romans thought of Rome

A few dozen survivors, ragged but proud
With a few woolly sheep, under gathering cloud
It's never been easy, or free from strife
But the pulse of the land is the pulse of their life


You thought it was over but it's just like before
Will there never be an end to the Indian wars?

It's not breech-loading rifles and wholesale slaughter
It's kickbacks and thugs and diverted water
Treaties get signed and the papers change hands
But they might as well draft these agreements in sand

Noble Savage on the cinema screen
An Indian's good when he cannot be seen
And the so-called white so-called race
Digs for itself a pit of disgrace

WHERE THE DEATH SQUADS LIVE

Goons in blackface creeping in the road --
farm family waiting for the night to explode --
working the land in an age of terror
you come to see the moon as the bad news bearer
down where the death squad lives.

They cut down people like they cut down trees --
chop off its head so it will stay on its knees --
the forest shrinks but the earth remains
slash and burn and it grows again
down where the death squad lives.

I've got friends trying to batter the system down
fighting the past till the future comes round.
it'll never be a perfect world till God declares it that way
but that don't mean there's nothing we can do or say
down where the death squad lives.

Like some kind of never-ending Easter passion,
from every agony a hero's fashioned.
around every evil there gathers love --
bombs aren't the only things that fall from above
down where the dead squad lives
down where the dead squad lives

Sometimes i feel like there's a padlock on my soul.
if you opened up my heart you'd find a big black hole
but when the feeling comes through, it comes through strong --
if you think there's no difference between right and wrong
just go down where the death squad lives.

This world can be better than it is today.
You can say i'm a dreamer but that's okay.
without the could-be and the might-have-been
all you've got left is your fragile skin
and that ain't worth much down where the death squad lives.


POSTCARDS FROM CAMBODIA

Abe Lincoln once turned to somebody and said,
"Do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?"

There are three tiny deaths heads carved out of mammoth tusk
on the ledge in my bathroom
They grin at me in the morning when I'm taking a leak,
but they say very little.

Outside Phnom Penh there's a tower, glass paneled,
maybe ten meters high
filled with skulls from the killing fields
Most of them lack the lower jaw
so they don't exactly grin
but they whisper, as if from a great distance,
of pain, and of pain left far behind

Eighteen thousand empty eyeholes peering out at the four directions

Electric fly buzz, green moist breeze
Bone-colored Brahma bull grazes wet-eyed,
hobbled in hollow of mass grave
In the neighboring field a small herd
of young boys plays soccer,
their laughter swallowed in expanding silence

This is too big for anger,
it’s too big for blame.
We stumble through history so
humanly lame
So I bow down my head
Say a prayer for us all
That we don’t fear the spirit
when it comes to call

The sun will soon slide down into the far end of the ancient reservoir.
Orange ball merging with its water-borne twin
below air-brushed edges of cloud.
But first, it spreads itself,

a golden scrim behind fractal sweep of swooping fly catchers.
Silhouetted dark green trees,
blue horizon

The rains are late this year.
The sky has no more tears to shed.
But from the air Cambodia remains
a disc of wet green, bordered by bright haze.
Water-filled bomb craters, sun streaked gleam
stitched in strings across patchwork land and
march west toward the far hills of Thailand.
Macro analog of Ankor Wat’s temple walls
intricate bas-relief of thousand-year-old battles
pitted with AK rounds

And under the sign of the seven headed cobra
the naga who sees in all directions
seven million landmines lie in terraced grass, in paddy, in bush
(Call it a minescape now)

Sally holds the beggar's hand and cries
at his scarred up face and absent eyes
and right leg gone from above the knee

Tears spot the dust on the worn stone causeway
whose sculpted guardians row on row
Half frown, half smile, mysterious, mute.

And this is too big for anger.
It’s too big for blame
We stumble through history so
humanly lame.
So I bow down my head,
say a prayer for us all.
That we don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call.


CALL IT DEMOCRACY

padded with power here they come
international loan sharks backed by the guns
of market hungry military profiteers
whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
with the blood of the poor

who rob life of its quality
who render rage a necessity
by turning countries into labour camps
modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

sinister cynical instrument
who makes the gun into a sacrament --
the only response to the deification
of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
idolatry of ideology

north south east west
kill the best and buy the rest
it's just spend a buck to make a buck
you don't really give a flying fuck
about the people in misery

IMF dirty MF
takes away everything it can get
always making certain that there's one thing left
keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

see the paid-off local bottom feeders
passing themselves off as leaders
kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
open for business like a cheap bordello

and they call it democracy
and they call it democracy
and they call it democracy
and they call it democracy

see the loaded eyes of the children too
trying to make the best of it the way kids do
one day you're going to rise from your habitual feast
to find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
they call the revolution

IMF dirty MF
takes away everything it can get
always making certain that there's one thing left
keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

Gospel Of Bondage

Tabloids, bellowing raw delight
hail the return of the Teutonic Knights
inbred for purity and spoiling for a fight,
another little puppet of the New Right.

See-through dollars and mystery plagues,
varied detritus of Aquarian Age.
Shutters on storefronts and shutters in the mind --
we kill ourselves to keep ourselves safe from crime.
that's the gospel of bondage...

We so afraid of disorder we make it into a god
we can only placate with state security laws,
whose church consists of secret courts and wiretaps and shocks,
whose priests hold smoking guns, and whose sign is the double cross.

But God must be on the side of the side that's right
and not the right that justifies itself in terms of might --
least of all a bunch of neo-nazis running hooded through the night
which may be why He's so conspicuously out of sight
of the gospel of bondage...

You read the bible in your special ways,
you're fond of quoting certain things it says --
mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
but when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
but if God stays silent, what else can you do
except listen to the silence? If you ever did you'd surely see
that God won't be reduced to an ideology
such as the gospel of bondage...



TRICKLE DOWN

Picture on magazine boardroom pop star
Pinstripe prophet of peckerhead greed
You say 'Trust me with the money -- the keys to the universe'
Trickle down will give us everything we need

Brand new century private penitentiary
bank vault utopia padded for the few
And it's tumours for the masses coughing for the masses
Earphones for the masses and they all serve you
Trickle down give /em the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood
What used to pass for education now looks more like ignoration
Take the people’s money and slip it to the corporation
Yellow rain golden shower pesticide firepower
Summon feudal demons of sweatshop subjugation

Workfare foul air homeless beggars everywhere
Picturephone aristocrats lounge around the pool
Captains of industry smiling beneficently
Leaking hole supertanker ship of fools
Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood
Take over takedown big bucks shakedown
Schoolyard pusher offer anything-for-profit
First got to privatize then you get to piratize
Hooked on avarice- how do we get off it?
Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood
Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood

MINES OF MOZAMBIQUE

There's a broad river winding
Through this African lowland
The moon is held up orange and big
See it raise its hands
And the last ferry's pulling out
With no place left to stand
For the mines of Mozambique

There's a wealth of amputation
Waiting in the ground
But no one can remember
Where they put it down
If you're the child that finds it there
You will rise upon the sound
Of the mines of Mozambique

Some men rob the passersby
For a bit of cash to spend
Some men rob whole countries dry
And still get called their friend
And under the feeding frenzy
There's a wound that will not mend
In the mines of Mozambique
Night, like peace,
Is a state of suspension
Tomorrow the heat will rise
And mist will hide the marshy fields
The mango and the cashew trees
Which only now they're clearing brush from under.

Rusted husks of blown up trucks
Line the roadway north of town
Like passing through a sculpture gallery
War is the artist
But he's sleeping now

And somebody will be peddling vials of penicillin stolen out of all the medical kits sent to the countryside.

And in the bare workshop they'll be molding plastic into little prosthetic limbs
For the children of this artist
And for those who farm the soil that received
His bitter seed...
The all-night stragglers stagger home
Cocks begin to crow
And singing birds are starting up
Telling what they know
And after awhile the sun will come
And we'll see what it will show
Of the mines of Mozambique


THIS IS BAGHDAD


Everything's broken in the birthplace of law
As Generation Two tries on his tragic flaw
America's might under desert sun
I saw her frightened eyes behind the muzzle of her gun

Uranium dust and the smell of decay
Sewage in the street where the kids run and play
Not enough morphine and not enough gauze
Firefight in darkness like snapping of jaws
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad

You couldn't see the blast-the morning was bright-
But some radiant energy flared up into the light
Like the sky throwing its hands up in a horrified dismay
Or the souls of the dead as they sped on their way

Carbombed and carjacked and kidnapped and shot
How do you like it, this freedom we brought
We packed all the ordnance but the thing we forgot
Was a plan in case it didn't turn out quite like we thought
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad
This is Baghdad

2 comments:

julieunplugged said...

These are great lyrics. You have been promoting Cochburn for years and I still haven't bought his music. But I'm heading to iTunes right now to sample based on this post. :)

Bilbo said...

Julie,

I hope you find something of his that you like. Cockburn has been a steady guide and friend of my soul for years which is why I continue to promote him...and...I think he is one of the most underrated and unappreciated musicians of our times. I own 26 of his C.D.'s and I find myself going back to music year after year...and...his lyrics are just incredible in my opinion...