“[Leonard Cohen] is not your buddy; he’s your man” 2012 Toronto Review

Leonard Cohen: Toronto Dec 4, 2012

Leonard Cohen: Toronto Dec 4, 2012

With obvious similarities, porkpie hats and fedoras fall into the same genus. Nevertheless, they’re worlds apart. While the former exudes a certain gallant roguishness (see Popeye Doyle), the latter, if worn in earnest (i.e., not you, Joey Jeremiah), radiates class and sophistication (see Leonard Cohen). Earlier this year, Cohen turned 78 years old. He is not your buddy; he’s your man. He exists in rarefied air, and he looks damn natural in a gentleman’s hat.quotedown2

Opening lines of Leonard Cohen – Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, December 4 by Scott Tavener (Exclaim: Dec 5, 2012).

Credit Due Department: Photo by Naomi Bushwoman. Originally posted December 6, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Voice: “A cavernous monotone like the horn of an ocean liner leaving port.”


Cohen doesn’t so much sing as chant, delivering the dire tidings with an irresistible rhythm. The message is suited to his voice – a cavernous monotone like the horn of an ocean liner leaving port.quotedown2


Leonard Cohen: Born With The Gift Of A Golden Voice

Leonard Cohen’s distinctive voice has been described so often and so strikingly that I’ve collected these characterizations under their own tag: Leonard Cohen’s Voice

This quotation is from Ever the Pessimist, Leonard Cohen Sings Of Doom and Gloom by Scott Pendleton (The Christian Science Monitor: July 30, 1993). Photo by Ted McDonnell

Leonard Cohen Lauds Elvis Presley, Sings “Can’t Help Falling in Love”


Note: The following content is extracted from earlier Cohencentric posts, Leonard Cohen on Elvis Presley and “Don’t” & “Are You Lonesome Tonight” By Elvis Presley Are On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox. I’m re-posting it to commemorate this same material appearing at another site without attribution. See final section of this post for more Information.

“I was a huge fan of Elvis”
~ Leonard Cohen

I have plans to sing an Elvis song on stage soon. … – I was a huge fan of Elvis! I was in town until today and bought a compilation LP of the man. Soon you will hear me sing “Don’t” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” – but not at the plate. My voice is too deep. 20,000 cigarettes have led my tone of voice three to four notches down too far.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Bård Oses intervju med Leonard Cohen by Linn Gjerstad (BA: March 26, 2012) in Google Translation


“Presley had that special kind of voice”
~ Leonard Cohen

I was relieved that all the stuff we’d been feeling for so long found expression in Presley and in rock in general, I was playing his records all the time to friends when they’d come over. I’d say, ‘This guy is a great singer’ – and they thought this was some kind of inverse snobbery. But it wasn’t. Presley had that special kind of voice which makes your heart go out to a singer.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Read Leonard Cohen’s exclusive interview with Hot Press from 1988 by Joe Jackson (Hot Press: 11 Nov 2016)

Leonard Sings Elvis

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“Leonard [Cohen] taught me that a perfect mixture of cynicism and optimism is at the heart of great things” Josh Ritter

675px-josh-ritterFrom Josh Ritter, Lee Ranaldo, Richard Thompson and More Pay Tribute to Leonard Cohen by Jonathan Bernstein (Village Voice: January 26, 2017)

Credit Due Department: Photo by Sean Rowe – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjr-images/4074163795/, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia Commons

Leonard Cohen’s Gateway To Roy Orbison: Jennifer Warnes At Black & White Night


“Make it like Roy Orbison would do it”
~ Leonard Cohen

That Leonard Cohen held Roy Orbison in high regard is a certainty, as evidenced by this excerpt from Various Positions – A Life Of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel (Random House of Canada 1996):

In rehearsal [for the 1988 tour] Cohen would tell the band to ‘make it like Roy Orbison would do it.’ The musicians had a picture of Orbison pasted into their chart folder.

And, as noted in Roy Orbison’s “House Without Windows” (Or Hank Williams’ “House Without Love”) Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox, #6 on Leonard Cohen’s Top Ten Songs Of 1988 list is “House Without Love” by  Roy Orbison.1

It’s significant that these two Leonard Cohen references to Roy Orbison, both dated 1988, are the only allusions the Lord Byron of Rock ‘n’ Roll made to the Big O I found – until I came across a Jan 30, 2017 article about the re-release of Roy Orbison’s Black & White Night video.

Jennifer Warnes Explains How Roy Orbison’s Black & White Night Impacted Leonard Cohen’s Music

Jennifer Warnes was one of the friends at Roy Orbison’s September 30, 1987 Black & White Night With Friends performance. Her entire account of the event, including Jackson Browne inviting her to participate and her work with T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, and Bonnie Raitt, is a treat to read (and the full article is available at the link below), but the focus of this post is on the influence this experience ultimately had on Leonard Cohen. The following excerpts are pertinent:2

“I told Leonard he needed to be there [at the Black & White Show], because I knew it would be good. He was my friend and my ticket, …  I remember where Leonard was sitting, and Rebecca De Mornay [who was briefly engaged to Cohen] was there…

“In studying Anita Kerr’s arrangements I began to understand how to support a pop record with stacking, and what that does to a song…  She [Warnes]  contrasts stacking (“a slang term generally used in the recording studio, when one singer can compose an arrangement and then sing all the parts in layers”) with the process of “my generation of recording artists, who lowered the costs and risks of recording live by multi-tracking or overdubbing. Meanwhile, digital technology can now ‘clone’ vocals: Virtual choirs can be constructed by an engineer through ‘cut and paste’ technology–infinite construction [such that] the live, real, spirited force in the room when music is created live, is absent.”

A week after the show, then, Cohen, “like he usually did,” sent Warnes a number of new songs to go over and make suggestions. He must have been deeply impressed by the show and was very respectful of Roy afterwards,” she says. “I picked what I thought I had something strong to add to, including ‘Tower of Song’–but didn’t tell him I was taking the information I learned from Anita Kerr and applying it. When he showed up at the studio I told him he probably wasn’t going to like what I did, but to give me a chance. I’d layered up three or four voices on ‘Tower,’ and he just loved it and ended up going with that approach for many years. He was hooked on the idea of making his recordings sound more pop.” [emphasis mine]

So, while it seems safe to assume that Leonard Cohen, the aficionado of jukebox tunes and country music radio, must have been aware of Roy Orbison prior to 1987, it appears that Jennifer Warnes and the 1987 Black & White Night were the catalysts that led Cohen to Orbisize some of his songs and make his “recordings sound more pop.”


  1. Leonard Cohen – In Eigenen Worten by Jim Devlin []
  2. With Roy Orbison’s landmark all-star ‘Black & White Night’ long form video being re-released in new format, Jennifer Warnes reveals its influence on Leonard Cohen by Jim Bessman (Centerline: January 30, 2017) []

“It was a Leonard lovefest all around” A Visit From St. Leonard – 2012 London, ON Leonard Cohen Show Review

Portion of poster promoting the Dec 11, 2012 Leonard Cohen London, Ontario concert signed by Mr COhen

Portion of poster promoting the Dec 11, 2012 Leonard Cohen London, Ontario concert signed by Mr Cohen

A Visit From St. Leonard

A Visit From St. Leonard …. otherwise known as Leonard Cohen, whose visit I was looking forward to so much more than that of the other guy whose last name begins with the letter “C”. Revered Canadian poet and singer Leonard Cohen, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, is blessed with a marvelous baritone voice and a large repertoire of rather bleak songs that combine the religious and the sexual. Backed by a stellar group of musicians and backup singers, he entertained his London fans for over three hours with songs from recent albums, and old favourites like “Chelsea Hotel”, “Suzanne”, “Hallelujah” and “Bird on the Wire” – it was a Leonard lovefest all around.

From A Visit From St. Leonard, a report on the Dec 11, 2012 London, Ontario Leonard Cohen Concert posted Dec 13, 2012 at Forest City Fashionista. The post also contains several photos.

Credit Due Department: Photo of autographed poster by BudGardens via Twitter. Originally posted Dec 17, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric