Leonard Cohen and Ralph Gibson At Galerie Agathe Gaillard, Paris

Who Is Ralph Gibson?

Before answering my own suspiciously convenient rhetorical question, I should explain how this query arose: I saw the above photo posted, among other shots of Leonard Cohen, somewhere online without any identification of the subjects, the photographer, the location, the date, the occasion, … Now, Leonard Cohen is photographed with lots of folks in whom the typical viewer would have little interest (e.g., fans, restaurant staff, minor politicians, and the occasional blogger). This photo, however, seemed to carry more significance than would a casual snapshot of one more anonymous well-wisher or someone hoping to snag an autograph to sell on eBay.

After searching, I identified the figure on the right as Ralph Gibson, the photographer as Yvette Troispoux, and the event as an opening of Ralph Gibson ‘s work at the Galerie Agathe Gaillard  (no date). Of course, as a card-carrying Philistine, I still had no idea who Ralph Gibson was or why Leonard Cohen was pictured with him

Ralph Gibson is …

best known, in the words of Wikipedia, as “an American art photographer.” From my reading, he, in fact, appears to fall into the category of well-known and much respected by his peers but misses the cut for the photographer-rock star classification (aka photographers recognized by the general public). A generous sampling of his work can be found at his web site.

Leonard Cohen – Ralph Gibson Connections

The earliest connection between Ralph Gibson and Leonard Cohen began in the late 1960s when both artists were residents of the Chelsea Hotel and where Gibson printed “his photographs for The Somnambulist, his first Lustrum photography book in his tiny kitchenette.”1

Leonard Cohen and Ralph Gibson, along with John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, and others also provided financial and editorial support for a “critically-acclaimed literary journal, Zero.”2

Finally, it turns out that Ralph Gibson worked on a project for Leonard Cohen. Specifically, Ralph Gibson played guitar on Leonard Cohen’s New Skin For The Old Ceremony album and is correspondingly credited for his efforts.

One source3 indicates Gibson also toured with Cohen, but I can’t find independent confirmation of that.

One might presume that a big time photographer who knew and performed with Leonard Cohen would have taken batches of photos of the Canadian singer-songwriter. At time of posting, however, I found only one such shot, “Leonard Cohen, Montreal, 1973 [on bed with guitar]” listed in a catalog of Gibson’s work. The photo is displayed on several web sites, including fleurmach.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Yvette Troispoux. The art from New Skin For The Old Ceremony album showing the credits was contributed by Dominique BOILE.

  1. Source: Chelsea Hotel Through the Eyes of Photographers Exhibit by Wendy R. Williams, posted at New York Cool. []
  2. Source: Bill Womack bio at Helios web site. []
  3. When Time Stands Still by Leif Wigh. Posted at Moderna Museet: 2009 []

Leonard Cohen Elaborates On “These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood” From Gypsy’s Wife

As I wrote in 1975 or 1976, ‘These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood.’ I had this sense that some thing had happened, and that people were kind of hanging on to their little bits of furniture and bobbing about in the torrent. Therefore, descriptions like ‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘anti-abortion,’ these definitions that were current and still define the political life, were entirely irrelevant, considering the catastrophe and the predicament people found themselves in.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Note: “These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood” is a line from the lyrics of The Gypsy’s Wife, released on Leonard’s 1979 album Recent Songs.

From A Purple Haze To A Purple Patch by Adam Sweeting (The Canberra Times: July 24, 1994)

Max Layton, Irving Layton’s Son, Talks About Leonard Cohen – Family Friend, Guitar Teacher, & Woman Magnet

The release of Max Layton’s album, “It’s a Mystery to Me,”  in triggered a recounting of his stories about family friend Leonard Cohen.

Guitar Lessons With Leonard Cohen

From Max Layton A Leonard Cohen Approved Album by Don Graham (Cashbox Canada: June 4, 2014)

Max Layton: Leonard would bring his guitar to parties at my parents’ house in Cote St. Luc when I was nine or ten. That’s when I fell in love with the sound of it – and first met him. I remember him showing me how to play E minor ,the simplest two-finger chord, and me taking his guitar upstairs to my bedroom and cradling it in my arms and strumming it quietly while downstairs the partiers got louder. Leonard was a student at McGill and taught me guitar throughout the fall and winter of my 13th year. That would be 1959. My parents had separated by then and I was still living with my mother, Betty Sutherland, aka Boschka, who was an artist. Her painting is on the CD cover. Somehow she managed to buy me a guitar and she traded one of her paintings for the lessons, which consisted of Leonard teaching me chords and various finger-picking techniques. It took about an hour once a week to get downtown by bus, then a long climb carrying my guitar to the top of Mountain St. where Leonard had a bachelor apartment. I remember choking back tears when he told me he had taught me all he could.

A final Leonard Cohen quote of the album. “Max you seem to be in very good shape, unusual confidence in the voice, you got something going Max with these songs.”

Leonard Cohen – “A Magnet Attracting Women”

From Irving Layton Avenue Unveiling (The Chronicle: April 30th 2007)

Max recalls how, at night, he would sneak out of his room and watch from the top of the stairs what the adults were up to. He describes Cohen as being like a “magnet attracting women.” As soon as Cohen stepped into the room, women would swirl around.

“Leonard, in my opinion, is the greatest song writer of our times,” says Max. “He’s the 21st century Jewish psalmist. His songs for me were very religious, beautiful and memorable.”

Credit Due Department: I was alerted to this article by Linda Sturgess

Note: Originally posted Jun 10, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen 1985 – Photo By Richard Dumas

Video: 2009 Leonard Cohen Barcelona Blessings “May your life be sweet as apples dipped in honey”

Yesterday’s post about Leonard Cohen’s Priestly Blessing – Belfast 2009 called to mind another special Cohen blessing. At the Sept 21 2009 Barcelona show, Leonard incorporated a reference to the Rosh Hashanah custom of eating a slice of apple dipped in honey to express hopes that the upcoming year will be sweet and fruitful. An enlightening exposition of the origins and meaning of this Rosh Hashanah tradition can be found at Aish.com.

Leonard Cohen – Blessings
Barcelona: Sept 21 2009
Video by TallMan3rdRow


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