Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Bruce Coburn: Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda
artist: Bruce Cockburn
songwriter: Bruce Cockburn
date released: 1984 by Bruce Cockburn
Taken literally "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" is about love and war. Obviously the videographer of this clip thought so. The less obvious story behind the lyrics comes from Bob Mersereau's book, The Top 100 Canadian Singles (Goose Lane, 2010), where he cites Coburn as saying:
"It was the early 1980s...My daughter would have been five, early school age. One day it struck me what awful prospects these kids must think they have. They were being taught all this stuff. In public school, in her class they were asked to bring in a pig's lung to show them what happens when you smoke. Stuff like that. I mean, that's okay for high school kids, but little kids--I didn't think should be treated that way. Of course, it made her a passionate anti-smoker....
I felt, if I were that age and aware of the world at that time, I would look around and I would go, you can't get close to somebody without worrying about AIDS, you've got environmental degradation, you've got war....all the same stuff we all had and every generation had, but more and more graphically and broadly communicated than was the case when I was a kid....So it [the song] was really motivated by a desire to communicate something encouraging to them."
Bruce Cockburn was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1945. He spent his early years growing up on a farm in Pembroke, Ontario, where he found his first guitar in his grandmother's attic.
While Cockburn was popular as a singer-songwriter in Canada in the folk, rock and jazz traditions, he burst onto the American music scene in 1979 with his hit single, "Wondering Where The Lions Are."
As a songwriter, Cockburn would enhance the song lists of many other artists. "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" became the cover of the Barenaked Ladies who rocketed to hitdom with their rendition of the song. According to Cockburn, "Lovers" was inspired by seeing teenagers expressing romantic love in a schoolyard.
The song presents two contrasting images of the hopefulness of new love and the despair of a wider world where love brings foreboding and doom. Cockburn's songwriting is a work in progress. Thematically, his songs exhibit a wide range of social commentary from the urban, to the global and to the political affairs of the world. Political activism took him to various beleaguered parts of the world where he was also to absorb their musical influences: Reggae, Latin, West African Kora, blues, etc.
In his lifetime, Cockburn received five honorary doctorates, most recently an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Memorial University of Newfoundland.
With many awards and accolades to his credit, Cockburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002. In 2001, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.