Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Taylor, & Leonard Cohen

[Leonard Cohen & Bob Dylan have] known each other for a long time, and I know there’s a lot of respect for each other. Jennifer Warnes told me a story once that there was a BMI [Broadcast Music, Inc] dinner once, they were honouring Bob Dylan. And Leonard was there and Jennifer was there. And at one point, Bob Dylan took Elizabeth Taylor by the hand and said, ‘Come, let me introduce you to a real poet…’quotedown2

Roscoe Beck


Leonard Cohen: Behind The Scenes, Part 6! by Michael Bonner (Uncut: November 19, 2008)

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at

Leonard Cohen, Bard Of Bedsits Boffo In Boston – 2009


Cohen Wonderful At The Wang:
Photos & Review

Once again, a striking shot of the marquee at a venue for a Cohen concert  anchors the Heck Of A Guy post about that performance.

cohen-kneel-wang9I’m unsure why there are only one or two other photos (at least, that I’ve found) taken from this perspective (otherwise known as the balcony) of Cohen kneeling, but I am grateful for these few instances of that classic image.

The final two photos capture the physicality of Dino Soldo’s style of playing the woodwinds.cohen-wind-wangcohen-wind2-wang9

The Words
While a number of reports of the Boston show competently describe the performance and some nicely evoke the experience of watching the concert, I am especially taken with the review at Neo-neocon: Leonard Cohen comes to Boston, which offers a perspective not only of Cohen’s work place within the context of the lives of those in the cohort Neo-neocon and I share but also of the significance of his music on our consciousness. Excerpts follow:

As I’ve written before, Leonard Cohen is not for everyone (although he’s certainly for me). Some find him boring, some find him droning, some find him hard to tell apart from Dustin Hoffman until he opens his mouth (although as they’ve both aged, they look a lot less alike than they used to). But I find him to be one of the most compelling and hypnotic singer-songwriters, poet-musicians—whatever sort of hyphenated descriptive term you prefer—in the world.

Cohen spent a lot of time last night with his hat on and his eyes closed and his legs bent or even in a full kneel (try doing that when you’re seventy-four), facing his backup singers or his musicians and singing to them. It sounds as though this would distance him from the audience, but it didn’t; it’s his way of reaching deep within himself to give the greatest emotional power to each song. The words are neither more nor less important than the music, and although he’s probably sung each composition hundreds or even thousands of times, he never seems to be just going through the motions.

For example, when Cohen sang “Suzanne,” one of his earliest songs, he brought thick layers of memory to those of us who had first heard it back in high school or college in the 60s, from a Leonard Cohen who seemed mature at the time but was only in his mid-thirties. How did he make it seem so fresh now, singing it as an old man? His voice is far deeper (deeper even than I’d heard it sound recently in You Tube videos from the current tour—how deep can a man’s voice get and still be heard by the human ear?) But that’s not the only thing that’s deeper; you can hear all the ache of the intervening years—the hard-won wisdom and the hard-fought pain—in his phrasing and tone, and as you listen you nod and think of all that you’ve been through in those same passing decades.

… it is a tribute to the extraordinary musicality of Cohen and everyone else on the stage that none of the new variations is ever a disappointment no matter how deeply entrenched in one’s head a beloved original might be. Each new phrasing, each new riff, is a revelation.

I have just used the word “revelation,” and it points to another characteristic of Cohen’s work: there is a religious undercurrent to it, even when he’s singing about sex (or maybe especially when he’s singing about sex). How he manages to combine the worldly and even the world-weary with the ecstatic and the numinous is a mystery, but his music is permeated with this sense.

The full review cam be read at Neo-neocon: Leonard Cohen comes to Boston.

Credit Due Department:

The great shot of the marquee at the Wang Theatre was taken by Avi Elkoni, The other  three photos were taken by xrayspx, who has generously licensed these pictures for uses such as this.

Note: Originally posted Jun 1, 2009 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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


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.


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.




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


Perspective & The 2009 Leonard Cohen Oakland Concert


Putting Cohen In Context

A review of the April 13, 2009 Oakland concert, Leonard Cohen’s Perfect Offering by Gary Kamiya, is online at It’s an interesting perspective, placing this show in the context of past tours and focusing not only on the performance but also on the notion of Cohen dealing with old age without self-delusion, false bravado, or fearfulness.

I’ve excerpted passages in hopes of convincing viewers that the entire piece is worth perusal.

For the people fortunate enough to see Leonard Cohen on his current national tour, as I did Monday night at Oakland, Calif.’s Paramount Theater, the world is a bigger, deeper, older, more bitter and radiant place. Every Cohen performance is an epic event. And in his three-hour-plus performance, part of his first tour in 15 years, the great songwriter, poet and novelist once again used his powerful body of work to create, for one night, a theater of his life, a public confession so intimate, complex, combative and profound that it felt as much like prayer as performance. At the end of the evening, as the audience floated out, still transported to whatever unknown inner place his words and music had carried them, you could almost feel a palpable sense of collective gratitude that such artistry still exists in a weary world — that Leonard Cohen is still around.


For those of us still hiding from the revenges planned by the whirligig of time, it can be hard to look. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen Cohen perform. The first time was sometime in the 1970s — it’s been so long I don’t remember exactly. The last was on his mid-’90s tour, during the remarkable career renaissance spurred by his superb 1988 album, “I’m Your Man.” In a stock line he uses in every show, but which surely brings down the house every time, Cohen noted that the last time he performed was 14 or 15 years ago, then deadpanned, “I was 60 years old. Just a crazy kid with a dream.” In those 14 years, Cohen went from being a brilliantly sardonic middle-aged man (“Now my friends are gone and my hair is gray/ I ache in the places where I used to play”) to a brilliantly sardonic old man. In his black suit and fedora, he looks like a cross between an aging hipster and a retired Jewish haberdasher, with a little John Updike thrown in. It’s a cool look, and Cohen is trim and spry (in a delightful touch, he skipped off the stage at end of each set), but there’s no hiding the fact that the golden boy is gone and won’t come back.

But, of course, Cohen knows this, and talks about it, and plays with it, and interrogates it. At one point in his second set, he said that he’d been working out, and slyly opened his suit jacket to reveal his (flat) stomach. “But it’s too late,” he said. And then, after a beat: “It’s always been too late.” Old age, like everything else for Cohen, is a curiosity to be investigated. It’s inescapable, and yet in a certain sense it can be overcome. During his memorable version of “I’m Your Man,” which like all of his unabashed love songs falls like a redemptive rain after the caustic romantic pessimism of much of his other work, he made one of his characteristic, intriguing tweaks to his lyrics: following the line, “If you want another kind of lover,” he changed the original “I’ll wear a mask for you” to “I’ll wear an old man’s mask for you.” Cohen’s point seemed to be that his old age is real, but it is also a mask, and that beneath it, the same youthful fire of passion and devotion burns. In fact, maybe it burns higher and hotter, as he gets closer to what he calls “closing time.” It certainly felt like that Monday night.

The Force Of The Venue

The above photos by Aki Gibbons, shot from amidst the audience rather than from onstage or the apron of the stage, effectively evoke the sense of the place and the impact those surroundings have on the performance and those attending the performance.

Compare the setting of the Paramount Theater in Oakland (shown above) where Cohen and crew put on a three hour show (which outlasted many in the audience with babysitters or early meetings the next morning) with that of  the  Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival (shown below) where Leonard Cohen has been allotted a 60 minute slot tonight,1 during which time other bands will also be playing on other stages.

Coachella_2007_Main_StageIt’s not necessarily a matter of one venue being better or worse for Cohen’s music; it does, however, seem intuitively clear that the venues do differ significantly and that such a variation cannot but have an impact on the singer and the audience.

Readers still unconvinced of the significant distinctions between the theater and festival environments may find one final difference persuasive: Coachella is the only Cohen Tour venue for which I’ve found advice on How to Find Love (at Coachella): The eHow article opens with these lines:

Let’s face it, out of all the music festivals out there, Coachella has, BY FAR, the sexiest crowd. After all, this is California, where image is everything. Girls and boys alike dress to impress. And while the crowd isn’t quite as “open” as they are at other famous festivals (Woodstock ’69, for example)… there is still a bit of that free spirited, “anything can happen” vibe floating in the air around the polo fields.

Like the man says,

There ain’t no cure,
There ain’t no cure,
There ain’t no cure for love

Note: Originally posted Apr 17, 2009 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. According to Countdown to Coachella, Leonard Cohen will appear on the Outdoor Stage from 7:30PM to 8:30 PM []

2013 Leonard Cohen New Orleans Concert: “Spirituality, sex, wit and a staggering legacy” aka Another Day At The Tower Of Song Office


Leonard Cohen & Troupe Viewed From Mahalia Jackson Theater Balcony – New Orleans 2013

Leonard Cohen’s first-ever New Orleans concert Thursday night was, I think most would agree, transcendent; over the course of nearly three hours and a satisfying number of familiar songs, he and his band hit the mark of reverence, humor, ribaldry and general intimacy with the nearly sold-out theater even while battling a well-publicized group flu.

Opening paragraph of Spirituality, sex, wit and a staggering legacy: Leonard Cohen at the Mahalia Jackson Theater by Alison Fensterstock. The Times-Picayune: March 29, 2013. Full report and photo gallery (photos by Erika Goldring) at link.

Roscoe Beck “Down For The Count”

According to this on-the-scene report, Roscoe Beck, the 2013 Leonard Cohen Tor Musical Director, was stricken with an exacerbation of flu symptoms during the encores at the New Orleans concert last night (March 28, 2013). The photo & the following text are by Joey Carenza:


Down for the Count: Roscoe Beck flat on the deck with what appears to be a nasty bit of stomach flu. The band is going to have to scramble to keep the encores coming.

Better Out Than In: Well, that’s my stance and I’m sticking near it. Roscoe is looking better, fluids dripping and then back to hotel. Pretty bog standard food poisoning it seems. Hey, it happens.

Credit Due Department: Photo atop post by John Rigney,  Originally posted Mar 29, 2013 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Creation & Destruction: Guided By The Beauty Of Leonard Cohen’s Weapons


Note: The English translation of the cover headings on the Dec 21, 2001 DJBFA Magazine.follows:

Creation and Destruction
The Sleeping Angels1
Sugar Glaze Upon The Bitter Lemon Drops Of Life

Introduction By DrHGuy

Thinking (correctly), I would be interested, John Buckley McQuaid sent me an English translation of Creation and Destruction, originally written in 2001 by Pia Raug for the December edition of Danish Composers’ Organization (DJBFA) Magazine. John then put me in touch with Pia, who explained.

The title “Creation and Destruction” of course is/was connected to the collision between my position back then as an elected spokeswoman for the Creative Community of Music and the signs of ultimate Destruction still smouldering further down Manhattan. Thus the quote from Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg’s grand poem “For the Young” – written in the wake of the out brake of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Grieg himself was shot by the Nazis in Berlin 1943. His song/hymn with music composed by a Danish composer back in 1952 has become a unifier between all the people of the Nordic countries who dare believe in and fight for peace even when destruction hits and hope needs constant reassurance.

I was impressed by the essay and especially taken with the recurrent motif featuring the author’s search for and discoveries of traces of Leonard Cohen. I have edited Pia’s own English translation, primarily to produce a colloquial English version that, one hopes, is easily accessible to readers.

Creation And Destruction By Pia Raug

First published (in Danish) in DJBFA Magazine (Dec 2001); Posted here in English translation by Pia Raug, edited by Allan Showalter

Download (PDF, 80KB)

Pia Raug


Pia Raug has been a singer-songwriter since 1976, releasing 14 albums *recently collected into 2 box sets) from 1978 to 2009. She has served as Board member of DJBFA (Danish Composers’ Organization) 1987-2012, Board member of Koda (Danish Authors’ Rights Society = ASCAP, SOCAN etc.) 1987-2013, Vice Chair and subsequently Chair of DJBFA 2001-2012, President of CIAM (World Composers’ Organization within CISAC) 2003-2007, and Chair of the Koda Board 2011-2013. Now, in 2017, she is finally back home to music,


  1. From a Saint-Exupery quote: “Inhuman times awaken the sleeping angels” []