Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics - part 14

Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 14):
World of Wonders (1983)

This was the first newly released Bruce Cockburn album that I had purchased, and at this point of my life I was a diehard Cockburn fan and loved the newer political content of his songs. Unlike many of his more recent fans, I was also a huge fan of the deep spiritual content of his earlier work that touched me “deep down where I lived.” Can this spirituality still be found in World of Wonders, if had Bruce become a secular Canadian music star. Lest one think that Bruce is little known, when this album was released, his picture was plastered across every inch of the window to the record store across from the University of Winnipeg, where I was attending.
During this time, Bruce had a problem. That is, if he identified himself as a Christian artist, he would be associating himself with the Moral Majority, who were supporting policies in Central America that were subsidizing the horrors that he had witnessed while there. He would not condone oppression wrapped up in an angelic shroud.

Call It Democracy

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament -
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
Idolatry of ideology

Bruce is beginning to find his hope though. It is in the faces and the faith of those who are living under these appalling conditions. Shining out from behind the bad stuff is some good stuff too. “Dancing In Paradise” describes an oppressive vignette in each stanza, but concludes each with “and there’s dancing in paradise,” indicating that the people find a way to live on.

Dancing In Paradise

Biggy Dread gunned down by police at Big Bridge March 16
Riding a mule cart to Sav-la-Mar pulled out a cutlass and they had to shoot
That's what they say
Something tells me they like to shoot
Something in the eyes of the ones at the road block
Where they searched the car and tried to get us to confess to whatever...
There's truncheons and gas down in Harbour St.
Typical response where life isn't so sweet
And somebody gets desperate enough to say so
Price of fish price of flour
Going up up up almost by the hour
And they throw away money on spectacular shows
To show the world the right likes the right music
And the Prime Minister sucks ice cream in the company of a happy band of children
While a naked man, sores on his neck,
Lies for days in Washington Blvd. gnawing chicken bones
And the Chamber of Commerce thinks there's too much crime
And there's a kung fu movie in every town
And there's Dancing in Paradise...

World of Wonders

There's a rainbow shining in a bead of spittle
Falling diamonds in rattling rain
Light flexed on moving muscle
I stand here dazzled with my heart in flames (at this...)
World of wonders...

Moment of peace like brief arctic bloom
Red/gold ripple of the sun going down
Line of black hills makes my bed
Sky full of love pulled over my head
World of wonders...

Grace abounds in these songs. This is was Bruce has said about it: “Grace lives in the dirt you know?...If you’ve got to wait until you’re sitting out on a mountaintop somewhere to experience grace, you’re probably going to miss it. It’s not really grace then. You’ve constructed an atmosphere for yourself to get in touch with an aspect of yourself. But it’s that gleam in a ‘bead of spittle.’ That’s where the grace is. It’s all over the place.”

The imagery of “Down Here Tonight” conveys a prayer to the “Lord of the starfields” that thanks to the fire and the light, we are doing ok down here tonight even in this hour of darkness.

Down Here Tonight

Pans gonna play and the fire burn bright
Talking drums say everything's all right
Beating of the sea sends a message
To the far starlight
"We're doing okay down here tonight"

The end of the road's still far away
But the travelling's better by the light of day
This hour of darkness is the time to dance
Lay down your burdens -- give the beat a chance

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