Bruce Cockburn FAQ - Lyrics

BiographyMusicLPs, Tapes, CDs

Q4: Where can I get BC lyrics via the web?
A: Lyrics for all his songs through the Dart to the Heart album can be found at:
All the lyrics can also be found here:

Q5: Where can I get BC lyrics via ftp?
A: /pub/incoming/lyrics at

Q6: Who is the subject of the song Closer To The Light?
A: Singer/songwriter Mark Heard, who died at a young age of a heartattack in 1992. Bruce also performed Mark's song "Strong Hand of Love" on the 1994 Heard tribute cd of the same name.

Q7: In Listen For The Laugh, who is the media king and who is the sacred bitch?
A: Ted Turner is the media king.
(Source: Fred Wright. Archive: v01.n043.)

A: As far as the sacred bitch of the song, Bruce says: “Well, I was thinking of Madonna, actually. But it doesn’t have to be her; its the image of womanhood that we’ve inherited from the patriarchy- the painted whore image that we worship. Some cultures have actually literally worshipped that kind of image,a nd I suppose its fair to say that we sort of do, too.”
(Source: Spotlight magazine, 1994)

Q8: In Love Loves You, what is the meaning of "If you love love, love loves you, too?"
A: Many humans were bothered by this line because it seemed to contradict an unconditional love. (Tom Senor started the thread with "I just can't understand this in a way that makes it not trite or meaningless or (if it were possible) both." Archive v01.n097.) Many others quoted things it reminded them of, including Karl Marx, Van Morrison in "Beside You" from Astral Weeks "the love that loves to love", James Joyce from Ulysses "Love love's to love love", Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H "It's nice to be nice . . . to the nice", BC himself "Oh love that fires the sun keep me burning", but the best answer (in this FAQ compiler's humble-but-accurate opinion, was from Noel C Carlson: "Okay, so here's my 2 cents worth. I do believe that we are loved by God even if we do not love Him. (I hope "him" is not too politically incorrect!) The bible speaks of reaping what we is in giving that we receive... therefore if you love, then love will be given back to you!"
(Source: Archive: v01.n102.)

Q9: In How I Spent My Fall Vacation are the lines "I guess I'll end up like Bernie in his dream/a displaced person in some foreign border town." Who is Bernie?
A: Bernie is Bernie Finklestein, his manager and a nice guy...
(Source: Dave D. Cawley. Archive v01.n037.)

Q10: In Hoop Dancer, who is Roland of Roland's horn fame?
A: Roland, hero of an 11th century French epic poem. Left in command of Charlemagne's rear-guard, he is attacked by an army of Saracens, and fights until all his men have been killed. Alone and wounded, he sounds his enchanted horn. Charlemagne hears the horn from miles away, and returns to find Roland dead, the enemy in flight. The fictional character Roland ispossibly based on Hruolandus, a Frankish count who was killed fighting the Basques in 778. - World Book Encyclopedia.
(Source: Steve Watson. Archive: v01.n037.)

A: A while back a friend of mine had a theory on this. Roland is/was a jazz musician (of the blowy type; a saxophonist I think) whose surname eludes me (Rashaan Roland Kirk? or is that someone else?). Anyway, this Roland character has perfected the craft of circular breathing - out through the mouth, in through the nose, and can thus theoretically play notes on his saxophone for a tremendously long time. Hence the reference in the song (I can't remember the rest of the lyrics, but seem to recall that this theory fits in).
(Source: Andrew Rate. Archive: v01.n038.)

Q11: In Lily Of The Midnight Sky what does "ich will alles" mean?
A: "Ich will alles" is German for "i demand everything" or "I want everything."
(Source: Graham Knight. Archive: v01.n091.)

Q12: In Nicaragua, what does "Sandino vive en la lucha por la paz" mean?
A: Sandino lives in the struggle (or fight) for peace.
(Source: Dave D. Cawley. Archive v01.n93.)

Q13: In Stolen Land, who is Anna Mae?
A: From my memory, Anna Marie Aquash was one of the organizers of the Native American Rights movement in Colorado in the 1970's. She was warned by the BIA (Beaurough of Indian Affairs) and federal agents that she had better stop organizing, and after she didn't, she was raped, beaten, murdered and left lying in a ditch, apparently at the hands of said agents. Of course, the case "was never solved".
(Source: David Sheppard. Archive v01.n039.)

A: Try In The Spirit of Crazy Horse, Peter Mathiessen's book about the Leonard Peltier/Pine Ridge shootout case. Anna Mae Aquash was very involved in the AIM during that period. I haven't read the book yet, but she gets a lot of mentions in the index, including quite a bit of space devoted to the murky circumstances of her death.
(Source: Mark Friesen. Archive: v01.n042.)

Q14: What is the story behind Peggy's Kitchen Wall?
A: The sum total of my background knowledge: the caption on this song in the songbook reads: "It's a true story, honest. And it happened in T.O." (That's Toronto, Ontario.)
(Source: Steve Watson. Archive: v01.n034.)

A: I was talking to Hugh Marsh between sets at a concert years ago, and he told me that Peggy is Judy Cade's (previous backup singer of Bruce's) mother, and that it is an actual incident.
(Source: Ric Kolenda. Archive v01.n218.)

Q20: I hear there was a fourth verse to Peggy's Kitchen Wall that didn't make the cut. Anybody know what it was?
A: Check the t.v. channel, looking for the news
Ananlyst and anchor woman, haven't got a clue
Criminal investigation, results are somewhat small
Tell me who put that bullet hole in Peggy's kitchen wall
[This extra verse has been performed at least once in live versions]
(Source: Bryan Paul Thomas. Archive: n01.v287)

Q15: What does "Rouler Sa Bosse" mean?
A: "Rouler Sa Bosse" (which is literally something along the lines of "Roll the Hump") means To wander about or See life, or something like that. I forget who told me that. It took a long time to get a coherent explanation from anyone. The first person I asked snickered, making me wonder if there isn't a rather earthy (?) overtone attached to the phrase, too.
(Source Steve Graham. Archive: v01.n011)

Q16: Any particular significance to the line "USED TRUCKS DIRTY DONUTS YOU YOU'RE THE ONE" in Silver Wheels?
A: "You--you're the one" is a line that was part of the MacDonalds hamburger jingle years ago. They all appear to be advertising slogans (although "Dirty Donuts" is admitedly poor advertising. It could be a twist on Dunkin Donuts or refer to a Donuts sign that is dirty.)
(Source: Gail Defendorf. Archive n01.201)

Q17: In Cry of a Tiny Babe, what is the deal with Mary, when she answers Josephs comment that he thought she had been with another man with the phrase, "What if I had been?"
A: Bruce has said he was trying to give Mary "a little bit of an attitude" in order to counteract the "cliche" that the Christmas story has become to many of us. [Note: There is a long thread on this topic running through most of December 1994.]
(Source: Deb Messling. Archive: v01.n128.)

Q18: Perhaps there are some enlightened individuals who can shed some light as to the meanings of Shipwrecked At The Stable Door and Fascist Architecture.
A: The liner notes in Big Circumstance include the statement "Thanks to Gerard Manning ("Lion and Lamb"). There is a chapter in this book entitled, "Shipwrecked at the Stable Door". It is based on a quote from Ortega y Gasset: "There is no theology but the theology of the shipwrecked...." (I hope I am quoting this accurately). (Source: Deirdre Hill. Archive: n01.v189)

A: An extended (and practically exhaustive) analysis of Shipwrecked At The Stable Door is in Archive v01.n183 and a shorter discussion of Fascist Architecture, also.

Q19: In Scanning These Crowds, what fell on Saskatchewan in 1885 and who is Louis Riel?
A: Louis Riel was supported by Gabriel Dumont of the Metis, and Poundmaker of the Sioux (or Cree). When Lord Selkirk purchased land from the Hudson Bay Co. and moved in his settlers to the Red River valley, the Metis were perturbed to say the least. If squatter's rights meant anything, then it was Metis/native land, but of course England had granted huge chunks of land to the HBC in the 1600's in order to develop the fur trade (not settlement) disregarding the natives as they were not "using" the land. The Metis are comprised of a Scots/French/Native mixture, descendents of the early fur traders/couriers du bois. In general (though not always) the Scots/native mix tended not be as involved in the disputes as the French/native mix. At first the Metis fought back legally electing Louis Riel as a Member of Parliament of the tiny province of Manitoba.The Canadian parliament refused to allow Riel to sit, and in fact tried to arrest him. So Riel travelled all the way to Ottawa (a couple of months journey in those days) and had to flee . So then we have the first rebellion, crushed by the Canadian government at the urging of Orange Ontario and against the fierce opposition of Quebec. Not the first, or last, time religious differences or any diferences for that matter created conflict between Ontario and the Quebec. Louis Riel fled to the U.S.A., but Gabriel Dumont convinced him to return after about ten years, and another rebellion ensued. The Metis had been pushed west to Saskatchewan by this time.The Metis set up their own "colony" , elected Riel leader. There were some fanatical Orangemen in Red River who talked a hate line, threatening violence against Riel and the Metis. After an altercation, an Orangeman was arrested and sentenced to death. Unfortunately he was killed, and Orange Ontario freaked. So Macdonald sent out another force over the newly laid CPR rail tracks and after numerous battles, the last one at Batoche I believe, Louis Riel was imprisoned, given a trial, and hanged. Quebec tried to get the death penalty commuted, but the Orangemen forced Macdonald to carry it through.

Louis Riel was a Catholic/native mystic, supported to some extent by the Catholic Church out of Quebec. Riel had a vision, a very democratic/religious vison, of the west, the Metis, and man's place in it. This vision of course didn't suit the purposes of "nation-building" that Macdonald and the establishment was engaged in.
(Source: Ken MacDonald. Archive v01.n170.)

Q21: Why "nine billion names of God" in One of the Best Ones?
A: Arthur C. Clarke wrote a story called "The Nine Billion Names of God," which is about a group of monks in the Himalayas who believe that the task of man is to name the 9 billion names of God. They purchase a computer and hire consultants to help with their task. The consultants installed the program and departed as it started spewing out random names. They were part of the way down the mountain when the program should have run its course. At about that time the programmers looked up to see stars blinking off one-by- one.
(Source: Brian Cameron, Mufffy, Don Boring, Suzanne. Archive: n01.v276-277)

Q22: What are some of the influences BC has cited?
A: Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws - Charles Williams. Big Circumstance - E.E. Cummings, Bob and Gracie Ekblad, Tom Kellyi, Brenan Manning ("Lion & Lamb"), Dan Russell and Allison Ottman, Ursula LeGuin ("Buffalo Gals Won't You Come Out Tonight"), USC Canada, Susan Walsh, Nimala Pokharel, The plant manager at Chernobyl. . .Nothing But a Burning Light - M.T. Kelly ("A Dream Like Mine")

Q23: The liner notes say that Dream Like Mine grew from a book by M.T. Kelly. Anyone have any info?
A: Dream Like Mine is published by Warner Books, Inc., 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, copyright 1987. ISBN: 0-446-36308-1. It won the Govenor General's Award (whatever that is). The cover says that the Warner Books edition is published by arrangement with Stoddart Publishing Company, Inc.
(Source: Sean Sharp. Archive v01.n122.)

A. The book A Dream Like Mine by M.T. Kelly, IS currently in print as a paperback. Publisher is Warner Books, price is $4.95, publication date is 1992, ISBN is 0-446-36308-1. According to 1995 Books in Print.
Source: Deb Messling. Archive v01.n127.)

A: Bruce told me (at the 31 August 1994 DTTH show at the Mount Baker Theatre Center in Bellingham, WA) that he and the director (Richard Bugajski) of "Clearcut", a 1992 Canadian movie featuring Graham Greene and based on M.T. Kelly's "Dream Like Mine", were thinking of integrating Bruce's song of same title into the movie but that it didn't seem to fit the mood of the disturbing, yet powerful film.
(Source: Daniel Lorenz Johnson. Archive: v02.n101.)

Q24: Who is Charles Williams?
A: Worked at Oxford University Press, gave remarkably popular lectures at Oxford on such subjects as Chastity (in favour of it, of course!), was a great friend of C.S.Lewis, wrote a set of intriguing, but very odd novels, categorized by their blurbist (is that a word?) as "Spiritual Thrillers". And so on. Was, by all appearances, a unique sort of fellow. (Source Steve Graham. Archive: v01.n021)

Q52: Is that a dog I hear at the end of Nanzen Ji?
A: Yes. According to an interview on Murray MacLachan's CBC show, Bruce said that there was a dog barking at the end of Nanjen Ji. It was "very zen." In Tibet they told me that the dogs were monks who didn't quite make it to the next reincarnation, if that means anything.
(Source: Audrey Pearson. Archive: n01.v268)

Q55: Who is Tom Kelly and why is he on his bike rumbling down the Tibetan Side of Town?
A: Tom Kelly was the photographer along with the group BC visited Nepal with, he had a motorcycle (which is the bike mentioned).
(Source: Rob Caldwell. Archive: ?)

Q57: Who is the poet in Maybe The Poet?
A: The poet is Allen Ginsburg, the drugged poet is William Burroughs, the woman is Joyce Carol Oates.
(Source: Frank Brusca. Private e-mail about a Baltimore concert in the 80's)

Last updated: 07 Jun 2005