If I Had a Rocket Launcher
|"If I Had A Rocket Launcher"|
|Single by Bruce Cockburn|
|from the album Stealing Fire|
|Label||True North, Gold Mountain|
|Producer(s)||Jon Goldsmith, Kerry Crawford|
The song was inspired by Cockburn's visit, sponsored by Oxfam, to Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico following the counterinsurgency campaign of dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. Although Cockburn had occasionally touched on political themes in his earlier songs, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was his first explicitly political song to be released as a single, and earned him a new reputation as an outspoken musical activist.
In the song, Cockburn despairs of waiting for a political solution to the crisis, and expresses the desire to take matters into his own hands. Each verse ends with a line stating what Cockburn would do if he had a rocket launcher: in the first verse, I'd make somebody pay. In the second, I would retaliate. In the third, I would not hesitate.
The fourth and final verse ends with the song's most famous and controversial lyric: If I had a rocket launcher, some son-of-a-bitch would die.
In a later interview, Cockburn stated that the song "is not a call to arms; this is a cry."
In 2009, Cockburn performed the song for Canadian troops in Afghanistan; he was subsequently presented (temporarily) with a rocket launcher.
Although the song received considerable airplay on Canadian radio in early 1985, many radio stations played an edited version which faded out before the "son-of-a-bitch" lyric was heard. The song failed to reach the national Top 40, peaking at No. 49 on the Canadian charts in the week of March 9, 1985. It did, however, reach the Top 40 in some individual markets — for example, it peaked at No. 24 on the CHUM Chart in Toronto.