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 In Ron Cornelius The Guitar Behind Dylan & Cohen By Ron Cornelius: Review + Unpublished Dublin Candles Story, for example, the story was an account of Leonard’s Dublin hotel room being set afire by candles lit during a pre-concert warmup session.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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Video: Rare Leonard Cohen Performance Of Az Der Rebe Zingt – Vienna 1976

Rebbe-ZingtLeonard Cohen performed “Az Der Rebe Zingt” in only nine concerts and never released the song on a recording. A few days ago, this earnest 1976 Leonard Cohen performance of “Az Der Rebe Zingt” in Vienna surfaced on YouTube.

Update: Song Background & Lyrics

In contrast to Leonard Cohen’s almost solemn performance, “Az Der Rebe Zingt” is typically sung as a lively, light-hearted tune (see video at end of the post). There are several variations provided for the lyrics of this Yiddish folk song. The version below and the English translation are adapted from Jane Enkin Music and Story.

Az der rebe zingt (When the rabbi sings)
Zingen ale khasidim (All the hasidim sing)
Tshiri biri bim tshiri biri bom
Zingen ale khasidim

Az der rebe trinkt (When the rabbi drinks)
Trinken ale khasidim (All the hasidim drink)
Yaba baba bay – Lekhayim! Yaba baba bay – Lekhayim! (To life!)
Trinken ale khasidim

Az der rebe lakht (When the rabbi laughs)
Lakhn ale khasidim (All the hasidim laugh)
Ha ha….
Lakhn ale khasidim

Az der rebe veynt (When the rabbi cries)
Veynen ale khasidim (All the hasidim cry)
Oy oy oy oy oy vey’z mir, oy oy… (Oh, woe is me)
Veynen ale khasidim

Az der rebe shloft (When the rabbi sleeps)
Shlofn ale khasidim (All the hasidim sleep)
(shh… yawn… hmmm…)

Az der rebe tantst! (When the rabbi dances)
Tantsn ale khasidim (All the hasidim dance)
Ay didi day didi day, ay didi day didi day
Tantsn ale khasidim

Update: The Performance Venue

This is the story behind the banner [which reads, in English, To stay (here) is solidarity”] Back in the 70’s in Vienna a former slaughterhouse called St. Marx was used as a cultural center for young people. But in 1976 the city council decided to tear it down. So hundreds of young people seized the building and tried to save their cultural center. They were supported by Austrian artists. When Leonard Cohen played a concert in Vienna he heard the story and after the concert he went there to support these people fighting for their cultural center. And this is the end of the story: after 101 days the occupants had to leave the building but the city council gave them a nearby building where they founded a new cultural center called “Arena”.1

Leonard Cohen – Az Der Rebe Zingt
Vienna: June 14, 1976

 

A more traditional rendition by the Ramatayim Men’s Choir, Jerusalem ca be viewed below.

Note: Originally posted Apr 7, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. From LeonardCohenForum post by stella s. []

Everybody Knows: The Fate Of The Long Stem Rose At The 2009 Leonard Cohen Nashville Concert

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Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

From “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen

Nashville Production Of “The Rose” – In Two Acts

Act I

From bridger15 posting at LeonardCohenForum,

Everybody Knows: At 1.25, LC picks up a long stem rose with attached small flags of Canada, US and the State of Tennessee that I had placed on the stage apron prior to the beginning of the song. LC places it on the drum riser as he often does with gifts.

The video below automatically begins at 1:25.

Leonard Cohen – Everybody Knows
Nashville TPAC: Nov 5, 2009
Video from bridgebud

Act II

rose2

From bridger15 posting at LeonardCohenForum,

I Tried to Leave You: At 5.20, Raphael starts his solo and fails to catch one of his sticks. Roscoe Beck presents him with my long stem rose that LC had placed on the drum riser earlier.

The video below automatically begins at 5:20.

Leonard Cohen – I Tried to Leave You
Nashville TPAC: Nov 5, 2009
Video from bridgebud

Note: Originally posted Nov 7, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Photos, Videos, Review: 2009 Leonard Cohen World Tour Re-Opens For Business – With A Twist – In Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Leonard Cohen Displays Revised Repertoire In Fort Lauderdale-Southern Florida-Sunrise-BankAtlantic Center1

While all the reviews of the Leonard Cohen Fort Lauderdale concert I’ve read have been laudatory and at least one has examined the performance in some depth (more about that later), only a few comments at  LeonardCohenForum from fans who attended the performance and the videos of the actual songs from the concert revealed that several of the songs that have been mainstays of the World Tour for the past 16 months have been recast in new arrangements.

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Rather than compose paragraphs of explication that would inevitably flounder in musicological muck, I offer a simple comparison and contrast example of this phenomenon.

Leonard Cohen – Waiting For The Miracle
Fort Lauderdale: Oct 17, 2009
Video from mayormyq

Compare that version with the same song performed by the same musicians just over two months ago in Lisbon.

Leonard Cohen – Waiting For The Miracle
Lisbon Aug 3, 2009
Video from albertnoonan

OK, it’s arguably a tad less dramatic than the shift in content I described in Leonard Cohen World Tour ON ICE – New Marketing Strategy For Florida Shows, but, still, …

Given the undeniable success and popularity of the World Tour and the fact that many of the venues scheduled for the final swing through the USA have never previously been the site of a Cohen concert, it would have been easy to argue that changes were unnecessary and perhaps contraindicated since the new formats could prove less popular than their predecessors.

Besides, shifts in the arrangements of songs would seem to have slight marketing potential. “The Leonard Cohen World Tour, now featuring a new, more complex lyrical formulation of Waiting For The Miracle” just doesn’t strike one as an effective TV commercial in Southern Florida markets.

Finally, there is the matter of logistics. Exactly when, during the hectic concert schedule, were the changes conceived and rehearsed?

My core cynicism notwithstanding, the only likely  rationale for these musical rearrangements I can devise is that Leonard Cohen thought they were indicated for artistic purposes and the audience might enjoy them.2

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The Concert Review To Read

At least one review, Hello and goodbye: Leonard Cohen’s first-ever Florida concert in Sunrise is likely his last by Sean Piccoli (Palm Beach Post: Oct 19, 2009), went beyond the typical reports that listed the songs played and reprinted the standard Cohen cliches to offer some insight into the concert experience. Excerpts follow but do yourself a favor and read the entire piece at the link (Update: The original source is no longer online; a copy of the article is preserved at LeonardCohenForum):

... circumstances point to Cohen’s first-ever concert in Florida — about 40 years in the making — also being his last. There was an undeniable sense of hello-and-goodbye to the old pop laureate’s performance on Saturday night at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. “I don’t know when we’ll pass this way again,” he said early on, “so we’re going to give you everything we’ve got.”

Backed by nine players, all skilled and closely attuned to their frontman, Cohen sang more than two dozen of his emotionally eloquent songs, the centerpiece of every one of them being his unusual voice. Cohen’s dusky baritone is anything but trained, but in concert it helped give his confessional lyrics the weight of experience — good, bad and ambiguous.

Inside the slow, soulful waltz of “Bird on the Wire,” Cohen managed to sound both rueful and philosophical — perched between “I’m sorry” and “Oh, well”– when he sang, “I have torn everyone who reached out for me.” His singing was frank, but not without guile.3

… It [his voice] had a way of authenticating language that could be considered archaic (“If It Be Your Will”) or abstract (“Famous Blue Raincoat”). To create a vocabulary for his spiritual self, his inner life, Cohen has dipped into poetry and scripture, and chosen words that might sound florid and dated in other contexts. Here — and partly because he’s been so good at getting every syllable to fit his voice — the lyricism is solid and durable.

… Cohen was also a pleasure to hear between numbers, and an absolute gentleman who kept finding inventive ways to thank the audience — “for climbing the vertiginous heights to your seats for braving the menacing, psychotic, abrasive qualities of people you don’t know for the warm and welcoming reception.”

… it’s not inconceivable that he would play Florida again. But his worldview, as spelled out in his songs, is about the fleeting nature of things. Whether or not he returns here, his thinking on Saturday seemed to be: Play like it’s your last time, because after that it’s all just memory and hindsight.

Credit Due Department:

All of the outstanding  photos of the Fort Lauderdale concert displayed in this post were taken by and used with the gracious permission of hassan.

Note: Originally posted Oct 19, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. The locations listed, Fort Lauderdale, Southern Florida, Sunrise, BankAtlantic Center, and BankAtlantic, have each been used, usually without reference to the others, by various news sources and blogs to identify the same October 17, 2009 Leonard Cohen concert site. []
  2. I know. I’m disappointed in me, too. []
  3. Emphasis mine. I think this is a wonderfully accurate and succinct characterization of Leonard Cohen’s songwriting and singing. []

Classic Video: Leonard Cohen & Judy Collins Perform Suzanne – 1976

lc-jcollins-suzanneAnd you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind

Leonard Cohen & Judy Collins – Suzanne
1976 Soundstage TV Broadcast: Chicago
Video by Beta Hi-Fi Archive

Note: Originally posted Feb 17, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

New Leonard Cohen Videos: Suzanne & I’m Your Man – Vancouver 2010

vacIf you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner, take my hand, or
If you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man

These quality videos were uploaded only yesterday.

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
Vancouver: December 2, 2010
Video by Marie Noonan

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Vancouver: December 2, 2010
Video by Marie Noonan