Ron Cornelius Recounts Leonard Cohen’s Special Performance Of “As Time Goes By”

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Ron Cornelius on guitar backing Leonard Cohen

In the process of discussing The Guitar Behind Dylan & Cohen by Ron Cornelius with the author, I came to realize that Ron is a born raconteur who happens to have been guitarist and musical director for the 1970 and 1972 Leonard Cohen tours. He also happens to venerate Leonard Cohen – but not to the point of passing up a good story. In Ron Cornelius The Guitar Behind Dylan & Cohen By Ron Cornelius: Review + Unpublished Dublin Candles Story, for example, the story was an account of Leonard’s Dublin hotel room being set afire by candles lit during a pre-concert warmup session. Now, we have another Leonard Cohen tale not included in the book – which is a treat for music fans.

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Leonard Cohen, Ron Cornelius, & As Time Goes By

At some point in 1972, Leonard Cohen confides to his guitarist and musical director, Ron Cornelius, that he has an inclination to perform As Time Goes By,. the classic written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931 that achieved fame as part of the soundtrack of the 1941 movie Casablanca.

Consequently, Ron obtains the song’s original sheet music and spends a week or two rewriting it to create something worthy of a Leonard Cohen performance. He plays the guitar accompaniment for Leonard, and Leonard approves, telling Ron to be ready to play it.

And, sure enough, near the end of a show, Leonard signals Ron that he is ready to perform As Time Goes By as an encore. A single spotlight beams on Leonard. Ron moves to the side of the stage where there is enough light to allow him to see his fingerings. The song begins. After a few bars, Ron turns back to watch Leonard.

What he spots first is the microphone, which is laying on the floor. Then he turns his gaze upward to see singer-songwriter-poet-novelist Leonard Cohen singing the elegant As Time Goes By – while doing a headstand.

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Leonard Cohen & As Time Goes By

As Time Goes By was performed by Leonard Cohen at these concerts:

  • Concertgebouw, Amsterdam – April 15, 1972 (last song)
  • Circus Krone, Munich – April 11, 1972 (third from last song)
  • Elizabethan Ballroom, Belle Vue, Manchester – March 20, 1972 (last song)
  • National Stadium, Dublin – March 18, 1972 (last song)

The following  recording of As Time Goes By can be downloaded as part of Another Other Leonard Cohen Album. It is not necessarily the headstand performance.

As Time Goes By – Leonard Cohen 1972

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2 Replies to “Ron Cornelius Recounts Leonard Cohen’s Special Performance Of “As Time Goes By””

  1. Bev

    Allan, Thanks for that info –most entertaining – maybe Ron remembers which concert it was!

    Small detail but I think Munich’s date should be 11th not 12thApril. I’ve heard all those concerts except Manchester. The audio here seems to be from the Dublin concert and listening to the snickers of laughter from the audience at the start it could well be the headstand concert 🙂

    While introducing this song LC says, “This is a song that, I don’t know; there’s so much advice in songs today, so much dogmatic information about who you should be and what you should be. And a long time ago somebody wrote this song that I always used to sing myself – this is the way it goes…… It’s the only advice I ever wanna leave”.

    1. DrHGuy Post author

      Bev – (1) Thanks for the correction. (2) Ron isn’t sure about which concert it was so instead of including our speculations and guesses, we decided to stick with the material about which Ron was confident,