Video: Mary Martin On Managing Leonard Cohen & Recording Him In Her Bathtub

In 1966, Martin began managing Leonard Cohen, a successful poet in Canada who wanted make records. She helped Cohen create a demo tape by having him sing in the empty bathtub of her home, making use of the natural acoustics, with a tape recorder in the room with him. Martin helped Cohen sign with Columbia Records, and also introduced him to Judy Collins, the first singer to have success recording with Cohen’s tunes. As an example of how fiercely protective Martin could be of Cohen’s songs, she recalled a story about hearing that Joan Baez had been performing “Suzanne,” a song first recorded by Collins. Only Baez changed some of the lyrics when she performed the song. Martin sent her a terse letter demanding she stop changing the song, explaining, “I don’t think you would take another brush to Andrew Wyeth and his paintings. Therefore, do not alter Leonard Cohen’s poetry.”  [See Leonard Cohen “Couldn’t Care Less” That Joan Baez “Brutally Violated” His Song Suzanne]

From Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum: Mary Martin by Michael McCall ( Country Music Hall of Fame: November 17, 2009)

Martin’s career is impressive, as noted in Country’s Comeback Player of the Year by Robert Hilburn (Los Angeles Times: Feb 26, 2002):

Besides helping singer-songwriter Cohen get his first record contract and then introducing Bob Dylan to the Band in the ’60s, she managed Morrison briefly and signed Emmylou Harris to Warner Bros. Records in the ’70s. She also worked closely with Clint Black and Lorrie Morgan at RCA Nashville in the late ’80s. Other acts she’s managed or worked with along the way range from Vince Gill to cult favorite Rodney Crowell.

Mary Martin Speaks About Leonard Cohen

Credit Due Department: Video courtesy of The Country Music Hall Of Fame’s program “The Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum, November 17th, 2009.” I was alerted to this video by Roman Gavrilin aka Hermitage Prisoner. Originally posted Nov 7, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Photos, Review Of 2009 Leonard Cohen León Concert

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July 31, 2009 Leonard Cohen León Concert Review

The following text is a Google translation of the opening paragraph of Leonard Cohen tiñe León con la amargura de sus plegarias poéticas by Cristina Fanjul, published in Diario de León on August 1, 2009.  Although the computer translation is, as is often the case, almost comic at points, the language approaches poetry, leaving those of us ignorant of Portugese wondering how lovely this newspaper review of a Cohen concert must be in its native idiom.

leon2Leonard Cohen Dyes Leon With The Bitterness Of His Poetic Prayers

As a contemporary Lord Byron, the beautiful loser with a burning violin, Leonard Cohen led thousands in León to recover the beauty of songs which after years of silence. Wearing his hat as master of ceremonies, the Canadian poet deployed the magic of Dance Me To The End Of Love, The Future,  Ain’t No Cure For Love and Everybody Knows. Leonard Cohen yesterday became one of the most important cultural events of the city and Leon Arena was capital for almost three hours of epic music that shapes a poet to transcend the mud, singing and continues to look for individuality that he considers unattainable.

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Credit Due Department: These gorgeous photos from the July 31, 2009 Leonard Cohen concert in León were taken by Indiana Caba.

Note: Originally posted Aug 2, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Attends First Live Gig: Josh White – Ruby Foo’s Montreal 1949

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Leonard Cohen Recalls Seeing Josh White

[Question:] What was the first gig you went to?

[Leonard Cohen:] Josh White in Ruby Foo’s, a Chinese restaurant in Montreal, 1949. Josh White was a black blues singer, once associated with the leftist folk song movement in New York City but allegedly turned federal witness in the investigation of communistic folk singers and lost a lot of credibility. Still played a great guitar. He knew how to bend a string.1

Josh White

Leonard Cohen was certainly correct about Josh White knowing “how to bend a string.” His playing style influenced many guitarists, including Pete Seeger, Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Elvis Presley, The Kingston Trio, Merle Travis, Dave Van Ronk, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Mike Bloomfield, David Crosby, Richie Havens, Don McLean, Ry Cooder, John Fogerty, Eva Cassidy and Jack White.2

And Leonard Cohen’s summary of White’s political conflicts was similarly accurate. As Wikipedia notes,

White also became the closest African-American friend and confidant to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, White’s anti-segregationist and international human rights political stance presented in many of his recordings and in his speeches at rallies resulted in the right-wing McCarthyites assuming him a Communist. Accordingly, from 1947 through the mid 1960s, White became caught up in the anti-Communist Red Scare, and combined with the resulting attempt to clear his name, his career was damaged.

Josh White was also – before he was blacklisted – in demand as an actor on radio, Broadway, and film.

Josh White on Video

Ruby Foo’s – Montreal

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  1. Q Questionnaire – Leonard Cohen, Q Magazine, September 1994. []
  2. Wikipedia []

Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Lines Written Under “The Tyranny Of Rhyme,” Politics, Love As An Ailment, Anjani, Recycling His Art & More – 2006

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This Feb. 7, 2006 interview offers an impressive range and depth of material (albeit organized in a somewhat random manner).

From CBC description:

Leonard Cohen has reasons to celebrate. Five of his songs are being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. As heard in this in-depth radio interview, the usually reserved artist reflects back on his life. He talks openly about his days at a Buddhist monastery, his love of wine, his failure at love and what this latest honour means for the 71-year-old artist.

The five songs by Leonard Cohen inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 were

  • Ain’t No Cure For Love
  • Bird on the Wire
  • Everybody Knows (co-written with Sharon Robinson)
  • Suzanne
  • Hallelujah

Program: Sounds Like Canada
Broadcast Date: Feb. 7, 2006
Guest: Leonard Cohen
Host: Shelagh Rogers
Duration: 21:02

Leonard Cohen’s Spiritual Sojourn In India By Ratnesh Mathur

india1Introduction By DrHGuy

After leaving the Mount Baldy Zen Center, Leonard Cohen came to Bombay late in 1998 to study with Ramesh Balsekar. During that stay, Ratnesh Mathur met the Canadian singer-songwriter and came to know him during his visits to India. In Leonard Cohen, India, & Me By Ratnesh Mathur, Ratnesh described his relationship with Leonard and aspects of Leonard’s experiences in India. Today’s post focuses on the spiritual significance of that journey. I have edited the text, primarily to put it in colloquial English and reorganized the content for easier reading.

Update: Unpublished Photos Of Leonard Cohen In India – With Ratnesh & Sangeeta Mathur And Unidentified Companion

Relief From Depression Vs Spiritual Enlightenment

Much has been written about how Leonard’s trip to Bombay cured his life long depression. Both Indian-based tribute pieces in which I was involved, Bird on a Wire: How Bombay helped Leonard Cohen find his voice again (Scroll.in) and When the light got in for Leonard Cohen (BBC India), chose titles that implicitly featured the depression cure notion.  And, indeed, Leonard himself testified to the depression and its dissipation to both Sylvie Simmons and me, but it somehow became the key aspect of his stay in India. The importance of the lifting of Leonard’s depression notwithstanding, it was actually a side-effect.

Leonard came to India as a religious seeker – not a novice but a man deeply knowledgeable about Indian philosophical thought (i.e., the Upanishads/Vedanta and Buddhism). And, here in India, Leonard found answers to his spiritual questions through a mix of street/cultural life and Vedantic and Buddhist wisdom.

wrteMy contention is that Leonard Cohen’s quest – the subject of his seeking – has somehow been shunted aside in previous reports. In realigning the focus, I have found the following articles most relevant:

Leonard Cohen On The Bhagwad Gita

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“It was a crazy, crazy time” Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Backup Singers

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The Women Of Leonard Cohen’s Army1

In a previous 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour posting, Corlynn Hanney Talks About Singing Backup On The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour, I note the following:

When researching Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival concert2 made me unavoidably aware of ongoing confusion about not only dates, venues, and even the existence of certain 1970 concerts but also who sang backup – and more research in secondary sources succeeded in further  muddying the waters – I finally succumbed to the obvious: I sought out someone who was there.

As it turned out, this was an especially fruitful strategy, the notion of unanticipated consequences about which one reads so much bad press notwithstanding. Both of Leonard Cohen’s 1970 backup singers, in fact, provided not only factual data about that enterprise but also intriguing perspectives of the tour.

The initial goal of today’s post was, in fact, simply to clarify who did – and did not – sing backup for Leonard Cohen during the 1970 Tour. A funny thing, however, happened on the way to this goal. In the process of looking for an accurate roster of female vocalists for Leonard Cohen concerts that took place over 40 years ago, I found instead a story of love, music, danger, celebrities, marriages, an irresistibly charming auberge, an irresistibly charming Leonard Cohen, revolution, a horseback ride through the French countryside, and even a specimen of that elusive, much-longed-for happily ever after ending.

Yep – just another Leonard Cohen Tour.

That romantic tale starts but by no means ends in today’s post – which also begins the original task of delineating Leonard Cohen’s backup angels of the 1970 adventure.

Leonard Cohen and Backup Singers 1970 (venue unknown)

The Boys In The Band

The male membership of the band is clear: Bob Johnston (who was also Cohen’s Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer) and Nashville-based musicians Charlie Daniels (electric bass, fiddle), Ron Cornelius (lead guitar, harmonica), and Elkin “Bubba” Fowler (guitar, banjo).

Susan Musmanno, Corlynn Hanney, & Aileen Fowler – Leonard Cohen’s 2 Great Backup Singers In 1970

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  1. The band for the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour nicknamed themselves “The Army.”  More about that in a later post. []
  2. See Leonard Cohen At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival – Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem []