Bruce Cockburn’s new album “Bone on Bone” came as a surprise and a relief to the musician. After publishing his memoir, “Rumors of Glory,” he went for a number of years without writing any songs. This was a significant hiatus for a seasoned musician who had put out 32 records since his debut in 1970. “Iwasn’t sure there would be more songs,” he recalls.

Cockburn’s return to songwriting came when he was asked to contribute music to a documentary about Canadian poet Al Purdy. The song, “Three Al Purdys,” is written as a rant by a homeless man. Cockburn, who now lives in San Francisco, says the the city with all its contrasts between cafe society and the significant homeless population gave him inspiration

Already popular in his native Canada, Cockburn became known in the U.S. from his 1979 album “Dancing in the Dragons Jaws,” which includes the song “Wondering Where the Lions Are.” Since then, Cockburn has become known for creating music inspired by his spirituality and social justice work.

One of his best known songs, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” was written after he visited his brother, who was working in Central America with the Oxfam charity and experienced the Solidarity movement in El Salvador and the Sandinista’s in Nicaragua. He has also drawn inspiration from the struggles of the Native people in Canada and the U.S. Cockburn says his protest songs are love songs. “They are about authenticity and the longing for connection,” he says. “Part of the job of being human is just trying to spread the light, at whatever level you can do it.”

Cockburn is also known for his masterful guitar playing. It is the instrument he began with and has been central to his explorations of music. He says, “the more I play the better I feel.”

Cockburn will be in Atlanta this Friday night, April 20, at the City Winery.  For tickets and information, visit

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist, poet and musician.