"Je ne regrette rien" By Edith Piaf Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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Note: Originally posted Oct 20, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Leonard Cohen Channels Edith Piaf

Édith_Piaf_914-6440
One of the responses to my request to the members of LeonardCohenForum for help in finding documented instances of Leonard Cohen favoring a specific song performed by another artist came from Eskimo, who pointed out,

He [Leonard Cohen] sang some of Je ne regrette rien,1 a song made famous by Piaf, in the Ghomeshi interview.

Indeed, Jian Ghomeshi writes

At one point we discuss Cohen’s long-established tendency to write poetry and songs inspired by his awe and reverence for the beauty of women. I ask whether he believes women have been a source of empowerment or weakness in his life. He answers both (of course): “We’re invited into this arena, which is a very dangerous arena, where the possibilities of humiliation and failure are ample. So there’s no fixed lesson that one can learn about the thing because the heart is always opening and closing, it’s always softening and hardening. We’re always experiencing joy or sadness.” When I follow with a query about whether, despite his famous relationships with various women, he regrets not having one single lifelong partner, he responds by singing to me, “Je ne regrette rien …” [emphasis mine] 

Cohen has spoken of listening to and admiring Piaf several times, a fact noted in this Salon.com article,

Cohen wrote poetry while listening to Ray Charles, Edith Piaf and Nina Simone [emphasis mine]

… and includes her in his poem,  “You’d Sing Too,” excerpted here:

You’d sing too
if you found yourself
in a place like this
You wouldn’t worry about
whether you were as good
as Ray Charles or Edith Piaf

You’d sing
[emphasis mine]

Cohen, in fact, attempted to translate some of PIaf’s songs into English for Jennifer Warnes.2

Edith Piaf – Non, Je ne regrette rien

Credit Due Department: “Édith Piaf 914-6440” by Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 – negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang 2.24.01.05, bestanddeelnummer 914-6440 – Nationaal Archief. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 nl via Commons.

Note: Originally posted July 8, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Translation: “I regret nothing” []
  2. See Leonard Cohen On The Difficulty Of Translating Songs []