Thursday, July 08, 2010

"Aren't we all, and isn't it always?": Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time"

As you can see, I got Bruce Cockburn's autograph (story here).

I know what you are thinking.

Even though most of you have never even heard, let alone heard of, Bruce Cockburn...


(neophytes can
start here, OR of his signature songs, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" is perhaps even more prophetic for our time than when first released (1984). Like U2's "Bullet," and "Sunday Bloody Sunday," though it had a particular Sitz In Leben, the meaning and application rhematically morphs to meet the headlines of any's always dangerous times.

The song was even quoted by Bono (thank God that Christian journalist Terry Mattingly introduced Bono to Cockburn's and T-Bone Burnett's music early on) in U2's "God Part 2." But even that didn't make Bruce a household word like he is in his native Canada.

Len (a Canadian, so of course familiar with Bruce) quotes Brueggemann in commenting on the song:“We can only stand in readiness for what God may do…that standing requires the use of intentional disciplines that in every case are marked by danger.”
Len has also written this article named after the song.

It's been covered by The Barenaked Ladies, Dan Fogelberg..and other folks you never heard of.
It's been preached, even at weddings.
But after the lyrics below, and following comments by Bruce about the song, here's some videos of the man doing it himself:

don't the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes
One day you're waiting for the sky to fall
The next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

These fragile bodies of touch and taste
This vibrant skin -- this hair like lace
Spirits open to the thrust of grace
Never a breath you can afford to waste
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime --
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight --
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
And we're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • 10 January 2002

    Editorial note: An interesting factoid sent to the project by Carrie Anderson, is that Bono of U2 has used this in a song on the 'Rattle and Hum' album on the song 'God Part II': "heard a singer on the radio late last night says he's gonna kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight". Of course Bruce Cockburn is credited for his conribution to the song.
  • 1990
    "Aren't we all and isn't it always."
    - from "Rumours of Glory 1980-1990" (songbook), edited by Arthur McGregor, OFC Publications, Ottawa, 1990. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

  • 1994 "I was thinking of kids in a schoolyard. I was thinking of my daughter. Sitting there wanting to hold hands with some little boy and looking at a future, looking at the world around them. How different that was when I was a kid when, even though we had air-raid drills, nobody took that seriously that the world would end. You could have hope when I was a kid. And now I think that's very difficult. I think a lot of that is evident from the actions and the ethos of a lot of kids. It was kind of an attempt to offer a hopeful message to them. You still have to live and you have to give it your best shot."
    -- from "Closer to the Light with Bruce Cockburn" by Paul Zollo, SongTalk, vol.4, issue 2, 1994. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

  • 22 November 1994

    Lovers in a Dangerous Time', which leads off the same album that features 'Rocket Launcher,' seems to be drawn from the same Central American experience; one readily supposes the stirring number is an ode to romantic passion among the revolutionaries Cockburn met. He says it actually was sparked by something much more ordinary. "I was thinking about kids in a schoolyard, eighth-graders or ninth-graders who were bold enough to hold hands and feel the beginnings of passion for another person in the face of the no-future that they would be confronted with. I was thinking, 'How can they envision a life in the face of so many things that appear to threaten it?' [He maintains the revolutionaries-in-love interpretation works, though, and is pleased that some listeners have related the song to the AIDS crisis as well.]
    - from "Bruce Cockburn: Interior Motive" by Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times, 22 November 1994. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

  • 15 January 2002

    What is the meaning behind "got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight"?

    Bruce Cockburn:
    What I meant was that we can't settle for things as they are...just throw up our hands, there's another song called The Trouble With Normal that says things in a different way -- if you don't tackle the problems they're gonna get worse.
    - from Canoe Online Chat with Bruce Cockburn, 15 January 2002. Submitted by Suzanne D. Myers.
  • 15 June 2010

    On Wednesday (16 June 2010) at Massey Hall, iconic recording artist Bruce Cockburn and guest stars will perform some of his best-known material. Cockburn talks over the set list with Brad Wheeler.

    The graceful 1984 hit was later covered with success by the Barenaked Ladies. Cockburn speaks about different eras, and how none are less dangerous than others.
    "When I wrote that, I was thinking of kids my daughter’s age. She was quite young at the time. But, for any given individual, the world has always been a place where you could die. That’s the baseline. At times we can ignore that, more than other times. There are times when fear is in the air, and, of course, there’s always people around willing to exploit that, and enhance it, if need be."
    - from Bruce Cockburn Set for Luminato Honours - 40 Years of songs to Live By by Brad Wheeler.
  • -LINK

  • Here's how old the song is, original music video:


    1. Bruce is a standard in my music library (but I'm Canadian so there ya go) and there are also connections between him and Bono and over to "old time" rockers Larry Norman and Mark Heard (both of whom are gone now). at any rate, they're a staple for my listening.

    2. Your friend and mine, Don Berg, linked me to this.
      I've been a Bruce Cockburn fan since 1980 or so. We had "Lovers in a dangerous time" played at our wedding reception in 1987.

    3. Hey, Shallow and Gary:

      Yeah, it's been since about 1982 for me, in college, that i have been following Bruce..
      Which is when and where I also met the infamous Don Berg!

      Mark Heard=amazing, too. Shallow, did you mean a literal connection between Bono and Heard, or just musical/thematic? That would be fascinating if those two ever met? I know they had mutual friends, but about six degrees of separation

    4. or perhaps shallow is referring to the connection between Bruce and Heard. Bruce's "Closer to the Heart" is about the premature death of Mark Heard.

      1. Belated thanks, Don . You're right .. what else is new?


    Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!