This week on eTown we present Part One of a special eTown Show featuring the wily veteran Bruce Cockburn and the wide-eyed neophyte Abraham Alexander. Nick also has an intriguing chat with author Kelsey Freeman.
One of Canada’s finest artists, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. The Ottawa-born artist remains deeply respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth.
His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. Bruce Cockburn has written more than 400 songs on 35 albums over a career spanning more than 50 years, of which 23 have received gold or platinum certification. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. He has sold more than nine-million albums worldwide, and has been honoured with 13 JUNO Awards, an induction into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and he has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
His commitment to growth has made Bruce Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come. In 2020 Cockburn celebrated his 50-year anniversary as a recording artist. As his producer-friend Colin Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.
Born in Greece to parents of Nigerian descent, Abraham Alexander moved to Texas with his family at age 11, determined to escape the racial tensions they faced in Athens. But while his lyrics speak to pain and trauma and life-changing loss, Alexander instills his music with a joyful passion and irrepressible spirit, ultimately giving way to songs that radiate undeniable hope.
In the making of his debut EP, Alexander traveled from Fort Worth to London and worked with producer/songwriters like Cameron Warren (The Dap Kings, Dan Caplen), shaping his songs with elements of soul, hip-hop, and blues. He is currently working on his follow-up album.
Kelsey Freeman is a writer, advocate, and educator focused on immigration policy, Indigenous rights, and climate displacement. Her debut book No Option but North was published in 2020 and is based off of her year on a Fulbright Fellowship in Mexico interviewing Central American migrants. It won the 2021 Colorado Book Award in creative nonfiction and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She has since spoken and interviewed across the U.S. on immigration policy. Previously, Kelsey worked at Central Oregon Community College, where she collaborated with Tribes across Oregon to start a college-readiness program for Native American high school students. She is currently a Knight Hennessy Scholar studying international policy at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.