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'Keep singing': Bruce Cockburn calls on folk artists to push for free speech

Bruce Cockburn, left, accepts his People's Voice Award for his role in social and political commentary from country singer Kris Kristofferson at the Folk Alliance International awards show, in Kansas City, Mo., on February 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Brian Hetherman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Bruce Cockburn, left, accepts his People's Voice Award for his role in social and political commentary from country singer Kris Kristofferson at the Folk Alliance International awards show, in Kansas City, Mo., on February 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Brian Hetherman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Folk singer Bruce Cockburn is encouraging U.S. musicians to keep pushing for free speech under the Donald Trump administration.

While accepting an honour at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo. on Wednesday night he took a moment to address the volatile political climate.

"It seems evident that the current administration is not much interested in democracy," he said in prepared remarks.

"They are trying to stifle opposition across the board by a range of means. Looks to me like they're just getting started."

The Canadian singer, who lives in San Francisco, then urged musicians to be a catalyst for dialogue and debate.

"We may get tired, but we have to keep singing," he said.

Country singer Kris Kristofferson presented Cockburn with the People's Voice Award in recognition of his role in social and political commentary. His 1984 track "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" is widely considered a staple of activist music.

Cockburn reflected on his experiences as a young performer during the Vietnam War, and on later years when he found his voice during the U.S. presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

He then turned to the current U.S. political climate and told songwriters to consider their music as more than just words, but a "focal point for collective energy" of the community.

"Doesn't mean we can't sing love songs," Cockburn reasoned.

"But if you think you can keep your head down and ignore the political side of things, it's liable to be waiting for you with a blackjack in the alley when you come out the stage door."