Monday, June 15, 2015

Review of Rumours of Glory

Book #24: Rumours of Glory: A Memoir, by Bruce Cockburn. Hardcover.

The first thing I look for in picking up a biography is the “as told to” or “with” notation, indicating that the subject did not in fact write the book. But there is no such indication on this memoir, and reading it, I have no doubt the Canadian singer and songwriter penned every word. The writing is just too good to NOT have been written by him.

Cockburn is vulnerable about his own shortcomings as an artist, a businessman, and occasionally a man. His honesty is refreshing, and I was regularly surprised by the depth he was willing to go in telling his story. Either he took notes over the years, or he has an excellent memory, because he recalls some moments in a lot of detail. My favorite album by Cockburn is “Nothing But A Burning Light,” and he explains in detail the process of recording those songs with the now-legendary T Bone Burnett.

This is not just the story of a man’s life in music, because Cockburn’s life has involved so much more than just music. Much of the book tracks his transition into a political and social activist. His travels to third-world countries, before, after, and during times of war, are gripping. His views of American policy do not always align with mine, but I appreciate his wisdom and his good heart. One of my favorite stories is how this liberal hippie folk-singer became a fan of shooting, became a friend of many shooters (which confused his liberal hippie friends), and even became a defender of some aspects of the Second Amendment.

And throughout the story, Cockburn shares the story of a man on a lifelong pilgrimage to experience and understand God. He details his attempts to “fit in” with the religious music industry early in his career, and then how his relationship with the Divine found its way into his music to varying degrees over the years. His thoughts on this topic are as interesting to me as his musings on creativity or current events.

This is not a quick read, coming in at over 500 pages. Cockburn has a lot to say, and continually manages to find interesting ways to say those things.

Source: Purchased from

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