If I Had A Rocket Launcher (4:59)

Cover of Stealing Fire

From Stealing Fire and 29 other releases

If I Had A Rocket Launcher is a song by Bruce Cockburn, from his album Stealing Fire.

The song was inspired by Cockburn’s visit, sponsored by OXFAM, to Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico following the military torture 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 he 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.”

Chart performance
Although the song received considerable airplay on radio in early , many radio stations played an edited version which faded out before the “son-of-a-bitch” lyric was heard. Consequently, the song failed to reach the national Top 40, peaking at #49 on the Canadian charts in the week of March 9, 1985.


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Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher... I'd make somebody pay

MetroLyrics Full lyrics at MetroLyrics


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  • radio_face

    I have one

    10 Mar 11:43pm Reply
  • TuneBlendR

    Hearing a great Live version...

    24 Sep 2013 Reply
  • jamboxdj

    I like the song, but it has cheeseball 80's sounds all over.

    19 May 2013 Reply
  • Drazba

    popular song for him in the day

    2 Feb 2013 Reply
  • bootknapper

    I must say this is very nice music

    4 Jan 2013 Reply
  • mccaroll

    A radio program "the acoustic storm", played this song shorting after 9/11, I thought it expressed my thoughts and feeling accurately. As a pacifist, I struggled with these feelings; however, I have to admit, I felt that way for the first time in my life, and still experience these feelings today.

    22 Oct 2012 Reply
  • activefinch

    very interesing guitar work in this song

    1 Aug 2012 Reply
  • Eye_Gore

    I'd love for him and Ani DiFranco to share one stage featuring their unique guitar techniques.

    27 Jul 2012 Reply
  • Eye_Gore

    Hey Bruce, can I borrow that rocket launcher for my asshole neighbor?

    5 Jul 2012 Reply
  • WestfalianAlien

    If I had a rocket launcher, I 'ld make bonjedi pay for that comment.

    26 Jun 2012 Reply
  • bondjedi


    22 Jun 2012 Reply


    6 Jun 2012 Reply
  • Canoecat

    So powerful, & still (unfortunately), so relevant...

    26 Mar 2012 Reply
  • gotgore101

    I love this song. Wish I could play the guitar like Bruce.

    3 Feb 2012 Reply
  • timesaround

    It's a great song.

    23 Sep 2011 Reply
  • OLdSKuul62

    Great song Thanks Gertski ! You always have something good to share .

    26 Apr 2011 Reply
  • boscopud

    Thanks Brian! And ditto what everyone else here is saying. And then there's this gorgeous, ugly truth of a song which I just received from another dear friend: http://www.last.fm/music/Steppenwolf/_/Monster Find and read these lyrics and weep.

    31 Mar 2011 Reply
  • gertski

    Speak the truth.

    31 Mar 2011 Reply


    28 Jun 2010 Reply
  • Kevin_McLeod

    Great song!

    17 May 2010 Reply
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