Rumours of Glory


Canadian troubador Bruce Cockburn just released what he calls a memoir” entitled Rumours of Glory.
The singer-songwriter described by Jackson Browne as “one of the most astute and compelling songwriters in the English language” is easily one of the most gifted practitioners of the art on the planet. If he were an American and if he promoted himself he would be acknowledged as the very best in the world.But alas and thankfully, Cockburn has never been at ease with celebrity and has allowed his art to speak for itself. And it speaks volumes and often prophetic truth to power.
What is staggering about a memoir by a person in the music biz is that it could be easily be read as a primer on an engaged Christian life.
This book hits you on the first page when the author says, “Along the way when i found Jesus Christ” you know you are in for either an emotional born again experience or a serious reflection on what it means to be a disciple in the modern age. Luckily, it is the latter. This book could be at home in a university theology class.It is that thoughtful and compelling.
The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works with all the power games governments play is quite astounding. His analysis of global politics as seen from the unique stance of life observed on the periphery is striking. Cockburn allows himself to hear the cries of the poor in Central America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. He goes to the killing fields of Cambodia,Vietnam, Guatemala, the chaos of Mozambique and the horror show of Iraq. He goes not as an expert but as a witness to the suffering and he allows it to inform his music.
Cockburn’s legitimate anger does not spare the real war criminals like George Bush ‘the half-wit Texas oilman’ whom he also calls “the King of Fools” and “His Highness” nor the bloodless US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright whom on a 60 Minute program told interviewer Leslie Stahl that the starvation of half a million children in Iraq because of an embargo “was worth it.”
We think the price is worth it! ..
tell the universe what you’ve done
out in the desert with your smoking gun
looks like you’ve ben having too much fun
tell the universe what you’ve done (2003)
Cockburn is astonished. His disgust was palpable as it was when he in 1983 saw the murderous activity of US sponsored Guatemalan madman Rios Montt.his response then was his song,”If I had a rocket launcher, some sonofabitch would die.”
Cockburn has deep respect for the heroic Catholic bishop Tom Gumbleton whose peace missions had taken him to Vietnam, Nicaragua,El Salvador, Hiroshima,Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru and had visited Iraq seven times when Cockburn caught up with him in Baghdad. And Gumbleton correctly is just Tom and not Your Grace.
The book is chock full of some of his great songs which he contextualizes creatively. there are so many! He advises his listeners to “don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call”. He constantly pleads to ‘remain open to the touch of the Divine, a reality that is so much bigger than our day to day selves. He purposely puts spirit in lower case to allow the experience of non-Christians to percolate.

It is his observation that “we spend excessive energy shutting ourselves off from spirit, distracting ourselves from it, and hiding from our inner works and it costs us dearly.The absence of a relationship with spirit allows us to do things like murder each other by the hundreds of thousands and play foolish power games among ourselves and between nations” (p.469)

In this brutally frank memoir this essentially shy man allows us to peer into his highly personal but public life, one that is always moving, developing and deepening.His faith is deeply incarnational, enmeshed in our beautiful, broken world. Unlike too many clerics i’ve know Bruce Cockburn does not invent the human, he takes him and her where he finds them in all their glory and fallenness.He never despairs. He tells us that “my soul is rooted in the divine; and that life is,or ought to be ruled by love.who or what God might be,what the cosmos actually consists of, how love and evil are so regularly cojoined in the human heart—all are questions that hail from a deep and overarching mystery that has forever teased and tossed us.”
The mystery, as the universe keeps reminding me, deepens and opens with every breath.
In 2004 he wrote a song called Mystery. He challenges us:

Don’t tell me there is no mystery
and don’t tell me there is no mystery
it overflows my cup

this feast of beauty can intoxicate
this feat of beauty can intoxicate
just like the finest wine

Rumours of Glory is a potent invitation to hear the music of Bruce Cockburn in a deeper way



  1. 1
    Bill Heffernan Says:

    Good one Teddy!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. 2
    mushafta Says:

    Love this one Ted!
    Love it!
    More later!

  3. 3
    mushafta Says:

    Well Ted, I must tell you I’m quite impressed with this story and the wonderful things you’re right about Cockburn

    What impresses me the most is Colburn’s inclusivity and your full endorsement of such a “theology”.

    Of course I say theology in that his use of the small S in spirit is what I know Francesco will be up in arms about.

    I know that both you and I have been cast into hell by this good man-certainly deemed non-Catholic, nonetheless it merits some discussion.

    I had a long discussion with a theologian friend of mine today who teaches in an established Catholic seminary. He obviously does not see eye to eye with his prelate!

    He confirms that Frances is a major disturber. He wonders what might happen should Burke and this guy from Southeast Asia.. Tonga ?have to sit together at the Vatican. Planets apart!

    Your many times previous assessment about JP 2 and Benedict appointing like minded conservatives in stark contrast to what Frances has just recently done will indeed bring about a tempest.

    Everything is now set for a major and I mean major renewal.

    This church has to adopt some of your theology Ted – no mistake about it. It is too small minded. Too rich. Too powerful. Too controlling. Too many American bullies. No dialogue.

    I do believe in the Holy Spirit! My pentecostal friends will never forgive me if I strayed! But they are light years away from any form of a change in that church. Something and I mean something has to happen.

    These churches are destroying us by being so adversarial with each other and refusing to back down. So judgemental and domineering.

    Enter Francis. An immediate reformer.
    But can he possibly bring about so much change and at the same time put out all the fires that will ensue? That is my main concern. The likes of Burke and some of these radicals from the Third World – I just cannot see them getting along!

    Keep it coming Ted!

  4. 4

    Reblogged this on allanbaker.

  5. 5
    mcluhansghost Says:

    Ted, I think the last time our paths briefly crossed was, I believe, at a Cockburn lovefest in Guelph about a decade ago. I am currently bounding through this musician-poet’s riveting memoir and find your commentary spot on. So at the risk paraphrasing you circa 1984 – ‘I have been through Cockburn’s songs’, and after reading two thirds of his memoir – ‘Cockburn’s songs have been through me.’

    Michael Redfearn

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