“If I Had a Rocket Launcher” by Bruce Cockburn
(Words/Music: Bruce Cockburn, Album: Stealing Fire, True North Records 1984)
I think one of the things that will be the legacy of the 80s (besides Aqua Net, neon, and tie dye) will the benevolence and political involvement of its artists. I know they sometimes get all lumped together as having more style than substance, particularly those artists known primarily for their videos, but there are a number of bands whose influence, both musically and socially, is deeply rooted in the idealism of the 60s. Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” while not as well known as other politically charged songs (see list below) because his popularity was confined primarily to Canada, was one of a number of songs that speaks to specific social and world problems. A short (and probably grossly incomplete list) would include:
Bruce Cockburn is generally known as a folk-rock artist whose interests and musical style adapted to the sound of the 80s to include synthesizers and keyboards (not unlike artists like Dream Academy and The Fixx). After a trip to Guatemalan refugee camps inside of Mexico which were subsequently attacked by Guatemalan military helicopters, Cockburn was so outraged that he wrote this song, including the final, controversial, and not-so-folksy “If I had a rocket launcher/Some son-of-a-bitch would die.” In the end, the legacy of this song remains evidence of what happens when you take someone and show him atrocities and push him too far but, while rousing, cooler heads prevailed and the rage is expressed as a song and not as another act of vengeance.
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