Monday, April 23, 2007

If a Tree Falls

When I was in grade four my oldest sister had a friend who I thought was very nice. She was nicer to me than my sister anyway. One day I had nowhere to go so I tagged along with my sister to her friend's house. I remember thinking that this high school girl was so cool. She had her home's basement all to herself, played the electric guitar and had lots of cool records. That day she taught me how to play Smoke on the Water, which is still the only guitar bit I know how to play. I flipped through her vinyl records and saw artists like Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin.

I got to one album that I simply had to pull out because the name of the artist was so amusing to a fourth grader like myself: Bruce Cockburn. She noticed that I was studying the the record front to back and thought I had some other interest in it beyond the name. I had to stop myself from giggling much like I did when while reading a physics book I came across the name of Klaus Fuchs.

When we got up to leave on that summer day, she handed me the Bruce Cockburn album and insisted that I accept it as a gift. After some resistance I obliged, took the record and made my way back home, flattered by the attention, wondering what to do with this uncool music and anxious to have a laugh with my friend down the street about the illicit name on the record. I did try listening to it a couple of times but it just didn't catch the imagination of a restless 10 year old.

Years later in high school I heard this artist again who is of course a legend in Canadian music. He had released music that seemed quite a bit cooler to me at that time. This was an era in which I often wore surplus military khakis as a fashion staple, and I got that through a confluence of influence from Cockburn and The Clash. I became conscious of political issues mainly through music and my first thoughts on the environment were probably guided by the music of artists like Cockburn (with a shout-out to The Nature of Things scientist David Suzuki).

Some people have been sounding alarms for decades and most people hardly took notice of them. It finally took the efforts of a cheated presidential candidate to bring the mainstream on board. Suzuki once described our situation by saying:

I feel like we're all sitting in a car heading at a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour and everybody in the car is debating about where they want to sit. OK, there are a few people in the car who are saying, "For god's sake, slow down and turn the car." Unfortunately, they're locked in the trunk.

Happy Earth Day


Anonymous said...

I first heard Bruce Cockburn while doing my homework listening to CKOC's Top 40 Countdown, out of Hamilrock, ON.

The song was "Tokyo". It was powerful, poetically acute, and quickly became a favourite. Even at thirteen I could appreciate that Bruce was operating beyond top 40.

I had always wondered why CKOC never bleeped the line
" Energy and patience and the power of the fuck"
Was it because he was being earnest and not simply jarring?

Ten minutes ago I learned the line actually reads "Energy and patience and the power of the buck"

Yes, the buck bleeping powerful too.

JakeJakob said...

I also grew up in Hamilton. Check this out: