Great BIG LOVE
Cockburn mines music, politics, spiritualism for candid bio
to his manager, Toronto music mogul Bernie Finkelstein, whom he lauds despite their differing personalities. He grinds a few axes and gets even with a couple of enemies in the music biz. But as a rule, he is respectful of the many big names with whom he has crossed paths. At one point, he admits to breaking into tears at a restaurant when record producer T Bone Burnett called him a hypocrite. Cockburn’s religiosity may be the only subject that takes up more space here than his feelings of emotional constipation. His parents were garden-variety Protestants, but by his early 20s, he was testing out more fundamentalist waters. His left-wing political convictions separated him from many of his fellow Christians — especially U.S. evangelicals — and over the decades his cosmology has evolved into mystical realms that some might see as indistinguishable from Buddhism or, worse, United Churchdom. He also has to engage in intellectual gymnastics to square his Christian beliefs with an affair with a married woman he had in Los Angeles in the 1990s. He refers to her as “Madame X,” and seems to continue to carry a torch for her. But to give him credit, Cockburn is unafraid to attempt to express the inexpressible. The one subject he remains mum about is money. He excuses this by insisting, several times, that art and Mammon inhabit separate temples. But it would be interesting to learn how well he has done financially from his back catalogue and songwriting royalties. Overall, this is a rewarding read, candid and erudite, even where it is a bit plodding. Does the world need another summary of the events of 9/11? Nowhere does he acknowledge a ghost writer, so one assumes Cockburn penned every word himself. The book ends in 2004, and one imagines him having spent much of the last decade in his den in San Francisco — where he resides with his current wife, M.J. Hannett, and their three-year-old daughter — methodically chipping away at the granite block of his life story. Rumours of glory? Neither premature nor undeserved. Morley Walker is a former Free Press literary editor and arts columnist.