Cockburn was born in Ottawa and entered the music business in the late 1960's. His big breakthrough was 1979's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" which led to an extended period of chart success in Canada. Between 1979 and 1997, Cockburn had 8 top 40 singles (and another 12 songs that charted but did not break the top 40). In contrast, only "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" and "Wondering Where the Lions Are" broke the top 100 in the U.S.
Interestingly, prior to 1984's Stealing Fire, Cockburn was not considered an unusually political songwriter, though his humanist and pacifist leanings were known to his fans. However, an Oxfam sponsored trip to Central America underscored the troubles there, and led to much of the material on his album. "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was inspired by an actual event, where Cockburn saw Guatemalan refugees fired on by helicopters.
Although there was some controversy around the song -- particularly the last lyric, Cockburn has said that it is not a call for violence, but a cry for help.
"If I Had a Rocket Launcher" peaked at #88 in the U.S., while the Stealing Fire LP would reach #74.
Cool trivia fact: Bruce Cockburn is a one hit wonder in the U.S.; only 1979's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" (#21) broke the top 40.