Adam Cohen On His Father, Leonard Cohen: “The guy is hilarious”

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The guy is hilarious. I’ve gone into the family business, and we get a tremendous amount of laughter out of that. Hanging out with him is the best, whether it’s over a tuna sandwich or on the front stoop of his house.quotedown2

Adam Cohen

 

Adam Cohen on his father, Leonard Cohen, quoted in My Old Man: Tales of Our Fathers, edited by Ted Kessler,   Canongate Books; 26 May 2016.

Credit Due Department: Photo from Adam Cohen Facebook Page

Considering Leonard Cohen’s Explanation Of “What Artistic Inspiration Might Actually Involve”

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 13, 2016: Leonard Cohen event for the release of his new album "You Want It Darker" on October 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Sony Music Canada)

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 13, 2016: Leonard Cohen event for the release of his new album “You Want It Darker” on October 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Sony Music Canada)

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Asked about the inspiration for a particular line for a particular song, Cohen answered, instead, with the most persuasive explanation I’ve encountered of what artistic inspiration might actually involve. At critical moments, from our depths, out of an impulse not for glory, not for wealth, not for fame, not for power, but out of an appetite to serve — serve something larger than ourselves, however one might define it — the emergency inside us finally speaks. Like all emergencies, this one, which I understand Cohen to be saying is a crisis of feeling, could result in casualties. Instead, worded and heard, it becomes a moment when lives might be saved, starting with our own. In Cohen’s vision of inspiration, these moments of articulation aren’t instances of the artist-as-god swooping in from on high. Rather, they are offerings that arise from below, things given from one person experiencing a state of emergency to another, at the critical moment.quotedown2

 

From Three Iconic Musicians on Artistic Creation — and Its Importance Now: Beck, Kendrick Lamar and Tom Waits articulate the creative impulse by Wyatt Mason (New York Times Magazine: March 1, 2017). Only the first three paragraphs of the introduction pertain to Leonard Cohen, but the entire piece is  a worthwhile read.

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. []

“[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

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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.”

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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”

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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

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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

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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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