259. Stealing Fire – Bruce Cockburn


Bruce Cockburn

Stealing Fire is probably Bruce Cockburn’s most “commercial” and accessible project in an illustrative career spanning four decades. That’s not to say it is in any way hit radio ready. It remains, though, one of Cockburn’s most influential and memorable projects. Even Christian radio in some circles picked up some of the songs for regular rotation.

After a trip to Central America Cockburn returned with a world music influence and a suitcase full of songs of passion, pain, anger and grace. All that poured out into this wonderful record. The album is most noted for the semi-hit “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” The always peace-minded Cockburn was so distraught over the victims of war in Central America that even he would cry out in anger against the perpetrators.

Many were offended by the final of the song in which Cockburn exclaims that if he had a rocket launcher, “some sonofabitch would die.” Lost in the violent outburst was the fact that in circumstances as evil as those he was experiencing, even the most peaceful of man would be driven to this sort of outburst. Brilliant song!

The first track, “Lovers In a Dangerous Time,” should have been a radio hit and was later covered by Barenaked Ladies. One line in particular inspired U2’s Bono would would add it the song “God Part II” in which he says “I heard a singer on the radio late last night/Says he’s gonna kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” That line is one of the my favorite and most memorable Cockburn lines. Bono is not the only fan of Cockburn as many consider him one of the great songwriters of this generation.

“Making Contact” made it’s way onto some more daring Christian radio station. The world music influenced melody worked well on radio and the chorus was utterly unforgettable. On a dark and difficult album this one light moment clearly stands out. “Making contact/Swimming in an ocean of love.”

It is hard to ignore Cockburn’s far left political stand. It is also hard to ignore the truth, grace, passion and purpose with which he writes and performs. On Stealing Fire that is a wonderful blend of all of these and more and for the unitiated, it’s one of the two or three best places to start.

  1. James
    November 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    This is my personal favorite Cockburn album! Though “Dancing In The Dragons Jaws” and “Humans” are classics as well! I agree with you “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight” may be one of the finest lyrical moments of any songwriter anywhere!

  2. Tim McKenzie
    December 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

    They say U2 covered ‘If I had a Rocket Launcher’ around the time of Achtung Baby, but never released it. I was kind of hoping that it would be included on the deluxe edition of Achtung Baby, but it wasn’t to be…

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