Here’s a recommendation for your home stereo, your iPod, or your car stereo today: Bruce Cockburn.

Looking Closer salutes one of the most prolific, influential songwriters alive today… on this, today, his 60th birthday .

Extraordinary guitar playing, soulful vocals, poetic lyrics, eyes wide open, conscience wide awake, confrontational and yet self-effacing… Cockburn hasn’t put out a bad album yet. I may not be terribly fond of his preoccupation with flashy keyboards during the 80s, but he’s turned in several essential recordings, including some live albums that threaten to set fire to your stereo. I suspect that at least two of his studio albums will maintain reputations as “masterpieces” — Nothing but a Burning Light (produced by T-Bone Burnett) and The Charity of Night (produced by the artist himself.)

Nothing But a Burning Light

The Charity of Night

It’s hard to describe what it is that makes Cockburn such a superlative musician. Is it his poetic lyrics? His masterful guitar playing? His commanding stage presence? Over the Rhine is the only group I’ve seen play live more often than Cockburn… I’ve probably attended close to ten of his shows, each one well worth the time and money. He’s inspiring, provocative, aggressive, soulful, prayerful, meditative, improvisational, and witty.

Here are the lyrics to the Bruce Cockburn song that singer/songwriter Bryan Rust performed during the ceremony when Anne and I were married…

Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Universe Maker
Here’s a song in your praise

Wings of the storm cloud
Beginning and end
You make my heart leap
Like a banner in the wind

O love that fires the sun, keep me burning…

Lord of the starfields
Sower of life
Heaven and earth are
Full of your light

Voice of the nova
Smile of the dew
All of our yearning
Only comes home to you

O love that fires the sun, keep me burning…

Thanks for all of the tunes, challenges, poetry, and music, Bruce! Here’s to the next, oh… thirty albums!

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