Our top 10 Bruce Cockburn songs list presents the wonderful music of one of Canada’s most loved and legendary musical artists. The Canadian rock artist was born in 1945, starting his professional music career in 1967. Before launching his professional music career, Bruce Cockburn spent several years learning to play the guitar and piano. He also took jazz music composition lessons for three years, only dropping out to join The Children.
The Children lasted for only one year, after which Bruce Cockburn took on professional music. His toddler steps in his professional music career were marked by his admission to The Esquires. However, his time with The Esquire was short following the ensemble disbanding. After The Esquire disbanded, he went on to form The Flying Circus alongside several Bobby Kris & The Imperials and Tripp ex-members.
The band changed its moniker to Olivus, opening for Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Bruce Cockburn left the band hoping to go solo. However, he joined the folk-rock band 3’s a Crowd only to depart from the ensemble in 1969. His departure from 3’s a Crowd marked the beginning of his solo career. The single “Going to the Country” marked his debut solo release. His exquisite guitar and songwriting skills gave Bruce Cockburn a cult following within his first solo releases.
His solo career saw Bruce Cockburn become a renowned folk-rock artist. Bruce Cockburn won the Juno Awards Canadian Folksinger of the Year accolade in 1971, 1972, and 1973. In 1974, he was nominated for the same awards and the Juno Awards Male Vocalist of the Year award. All this while, Bruce Cockburn star shone brightly in his homeland but failed to attract as much mainstream success in the US.
However, it all changed after the release of his ninth studio album, Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws (1979). One of the best Bruce Cockburn songs from the album includes “Wondering Where the Lions Are.” In the 1980s, Bruce Cockburn took on urban, political, and global concerns with his songwriting. “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” is among the most popular political songs from his album Stealing Fire (1984).
Bruce Cockburn has teamed up with many artists throughout his career, including Sam Phillips, Larry Taylor, Emmylou Harris, and Jackson Browne. His politically-inspired releases saw critics list Bruce among distinguished activists of the people’s welfare. Bruce Cockburn has released over twenty-five solo studio albums. Some artists who have paid homage to Bruce Cockburn’s musical catalog include Barenaked Ladies, Judy Collins, Jimmy Buffett, The Jerry Garcia Band, and Steve Bell.
#10 – A Dream Like Mine
Opening our top 10 Bruce Cockburn songs is the dazzling guitar-driven ode “A Dream Like Mine.” The folk-rock song is featured on his album, Nothing but a Burning Light (1991). Like most of the songs in the album, “A Dream Like Mine” brings the best in Bruce Cockburn vocals. In this reflective folk-rock ballad, Bruce Cockburn also featured the legendary Booker T. Jones on the organ.
The song was inspired by a book of the same title penned by M.T. Kelly. “A Dream Like Mine” peaked at number twenty-two on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart (then called Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart).
#9 – People See Through You
“People See Through You” is an energetic ballad from World of Wonders (1986). The song finds Bruce Cockburn aiming shots at Ronald Reagan. “People See Through You” finds the singer conveying an amusing contrast between the power of government agencies and how it is abused.
#8 – The Coldest Night of the Year
The number eight track on our top 10 Bruce Cockburn songs is the melodic hit “The Coldest Night of the Year.” The song was released on Bruce Cockburn’s eleventh LP Inner City Front (1981). Reid Jamieson covered this song in 2012. The British rock duo Twice as Much featured Vashti Bunyan on their song with a similar title (different lyrics). Their version was later covered by the musical duo She & Him in 2016.
#7 – Last Night of the World
“Last Night of the World” is a charming song from his album Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999). Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (1999), finds the singer encouraging his fanbase to look forward to the new twenty-first century while taking lessons from the past century. His hit single “Last Night of the World” features the background vocals of Jonell Mosser.
The song finds Bruce Cockburn showcasing his sensitivity to the tough problems faced by Guatemalan refugees. In the song, Bruce Cockburn mentions the pop-punk band Superchunk, ascertaining the act’s popularity.
#6 – Call It Democracy
Number six on our top 10 Bruce Cockburn songs list is the insightful hit “Call It Democracy.” “Call It Democracy” is a timeless melodic ballad from his album World of Wonders (1986). In this song, singer Bruce Cockburn cites how the International Monetary Fund fosters unbearable debt in developing nations. The song received moderate airplay on MTV after the release of its video.
#5 – Different When It Comes to You
“Different When It Comes to You” is a rhythmic ode from Bruce Cockburn’s reflective album Life Short Call Now (2006). Bruce Cockburn penned the song after his fact-finding operation at Baghdad in 2004. “Different When It Comes to You” is perfectly arranged thanks to production by Jonathan Goldsmith.
The producer is also well-known for his artful work with Martin Tielli, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, and Jane Siberry. Background vocals from Damhnait Doyle add some extra glitter to the song’s vocal quality.
#4 – If A Tree Falls
Big Circumstance (1988) is home to “If A Tree Falls,” an environmental-oriented ballad. The song finds the singer showcasing how the human body and the rainforest are interdependent. Sadly, many fail to consider the rainforest’s significant role in human existence resulting to deforestation. “If A Tree Falls” proves how the human race remains to be the epitome of its own demise. The song peaked at number twenty on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.
#3 – If I Had a Rocket Launcher
“If I Had a Rocket Launcher” is one of the most open-hearted furious ballads. The song is featured on his album Stealing Fire (1984). Bruce Cockburn penned the song following inspiration from his visit to the Guatemalan refugee camps. The song saw Bruce Cockburn regarded as one of the most reputable forthright musical activists.
“If I Had a Rocket Launcher” finds him despairing of waiting for a remedy towards the counterinsurgency campaign of the Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. The song peaked at number eighty-eight on the Billboard Hot 100.
#2 – Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Bruce Cockburn released the hit “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” on his album Stealing Fire (1984). The song was inspired by Bruce Cockburn meeting youngsters expressing love in a playground. He contrasts the thrill and optimism of the new love with the hopelessness of the Cold War.
Several artists have covered the song, including Barenaked Ladies, Frazey Ford, Oysterband, and Dan Fogelberg. “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” peaked at number fifty-six on the Billboard Alternative Airplay charts.
#1 – Wondering Where the Lions Are
Number one on our top 10 Bruce Cockburn songs list is the captivating hit “Wondering Where the Lions Are.” The song is featured on Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaw (1979). Bruce penned its lyrics as a rejoinder to a brief conflict between Russia and China which saw the two nations threaten a nuclear exchange.
“Wondering Where the Lions Are” is Bruce Cockburn’s best performing song on the Billboard Hot 100. The song peaked at number twenty-one on this chart. Leo Sayer, Donavon Frankenreiter, Jimmy Buffett, and Vigilantes of Love have covered this song.
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