…the world survives into another day

“I have a relative who is involved in one of those kinds of government jobs where they can’t say what they do,” Bruce Cockburn once explained.  “The part you can say involves monitoring other people’s radio transmissions and breaking codes. At that time China and the Soviet Union were almost at war on their mutual border. And both of them had nuclear capabilities. (My relative) said, ‘We could wake up tomorrow to a nuclear war.’ Coming from him, it was a serious statement.”

“So I woke up the next morning and it wasn’t a nuclear war. It was a real nice day and there was all this good stuff going on and I had a dream that night which is the dream that is referred to in the first verse of the song, where there were lions at the door, but they weren’t threatening, it was kind of a peaceful thing.”

Born in 1945 in Ottawa, Ontario, Bruce Douglas Cockburn’s first guitar was one he found in his grandmother’s attic, which he adorned with golden stars and used to play along to radio hits….”Hopes to become a musician,” stated the caption under his high school photo. “He has a guitar.”

After graduation Cockburn became a busker in Paris for a while, then he enrolled at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. But as occasionally happens, his passion to create and perform conflicted with the rigors of academia. He returned to Ottawa and eventually signed with a small, local record label. Wondering Where the Lions Are from his 1979 album, Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws gained wide exposure outside of Canada and ushered in an international career for Cockburn.

Beyond its messages of hope and spiritually there has long been speculation about references made in the song, many of them ostensibly specific to Vancouver (“The Lions” are a pair of pointed peaks overlooking the city for example and there are always “freighters on the nod” in Vancouver Harbor and English Bay) as well as Vancouver Island (where orange Mars Water Bombers, used to fight forest fires, float on Sproat Lake). In the end, however Cockburn is more than happy to allow them to remain slightly oblique.

Today’s selection was Bruce Cockburn’s only Top 40 hit in the United States, peaking at Number 21 on the Billboard charts.  While also a significant hit in Canada, seven of his subsequent singles were far bigger hits there.  Still, Wondering Where the Lions Are was named the “29th Greatest Canadian Song of All Time” by CBC Radio… “All time” …we’re talking about eternity here.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 4 May

Wondering Where the Lions Are

 Sun’s up, uuh huh, looks okay

The world survives into another day

And I’m thinking about eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.

 I had another dream about lions at the door

They weren’t half as frightening as they were before

But I’m thinking about eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.

Walls, windows, trees, waves coming through

You be in me and I’ll be in you

Together in eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

Up among the firs where it smells so sweet

Or down in the valley where the river used to be

I got my mind on eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I’m wondering where the lions are…

I’m wondering where the lions are…

Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake,

Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take,

Pointing a finger at eternity

I’m sitting in the middle of this ecstasy

Young men marching, helmets shining in the sun,

Polished and precise like the brain behind the gun

(Should be!) They got me thinking about eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

 And I’m wondering where the lions are…

I’m wondering where the lions are…

 Freighters on the nod on the surface of the bay

One of these days we’re going to sail away,

Going to sail into eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

 And I’m wondering where the lions are…

I’m wondering where the lions are

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