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 In Ron Cornelius The Guitar Behind Dylan & Cohen By Ron Cornelius: Review + Unpublished Dublin Candles Story, for example, the story was an account of Leonard’s Dublin hotel room being set afire by candles lit during a pre-concert warmup session.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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Perspective & The 2009 Leonard Cohen Oakland Concert

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Putting Cohen In Context

A review of the April 13, 2009 Oakland concert, Leonard Cohen’s Perfect Offering by Gary Kamiya, is online at Salon.com 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.

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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 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  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

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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:

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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 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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

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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

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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,

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

2013 Leonard Cohen Winnipeg Show: Video, Photos, Review, George Jones Tribute

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Review & Photos From Winnipeg Free Press

First he takes a Juno. Then he takes the ’Peg.

Leonard Cohen may be at the top of the Canadian musical mountain, but he still knows his place in the universe.

The 78-year-old Montrealer kneeled on his prayer bones at the MTS Centre Friday night, pleading for redemption from a higher power and begging for forgiveness from an adoring crowd.

He was supposed to perform here on March 11, but the flu swept its way through his exceptional band, so the gig was rescheduled until Friday night.

The wait was worth it.

From Review: Cohen still a musical, lyrical force by Alan Small. Winnipeg Free Press: April 27, 2013. The full review, which ranked the Cohen concert “4 1/2 stars out of five” is available at the link as is a slide show of nine photos by Trevor Hagan.

Poster promoting 2013 Leonard Cohen Winnipeg concert

Poster promoting 2013 Leonard Cohen Winnipeg concert

Leonard Cohen – First We Take Manhattan
Winnipeg: April 26, 2013
Video by bigcanadiano

Tribute To Fallen Workers In Song

The review includes a description of Leonard Cohen’s tribute to recently deceased Canadian folk & country singers, Stompin’ Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil and to country legend George Jones, who died the same day as the Winnipeg show, April 26, 2013.

In a 2001 interview with Mark Binelli, Cohen talked about Jones:1

I listened to country as a kid. I could get WWVA from West Virginia, late at night. Have you heard George Jones’ last record, Cold Hard Truth? I love to hear an old guy laying out his situation.2 He has the best voice in America.

In honor of Jones, Cohen played “Choices,” a ballad Jones wrote in 1999 following a car wreck attributed to drinking, his final alcohol-related incident. “Choices”won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

“Choices” is one of three George Jones songs posted as selections at Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox, a series which features songs the Canadian singer-songwriter has specifically named and lauded in interviews.

Update: Video

There is no known video of Choices from the Winnipeg show. The performance below took place a couple of months later.

Leonard Cohen – Choices (George Jones Cover)
Mannheim: June 29, 2013

 

Note: Originally posted Apr 27, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Q&A: The New Leonard Cohen –  by Mark Binelli. Rolling Stone. Posted Oct 19, 2001. []
  2. I also love to hear an old guy laying out his situation. Incidentally, George Jones was born September 12, 1931, making him only 3 years older than Leonard Cohen, who was born September 21, 1934. It was because Jones began his professional career at 16 and was singing on Texas stations in the 1940s that his songs could possibly have been available on radio while Cohen was still an adolescent. I haven’t been able to track down when Jones began singing at WWVA, but, according to allmusic, the first George Jones recording (a single called “No Money in This Deal”) was released in early 1954, just after Jones returned from a stint in the Marines, on a local Texas label where it received no attention. At that time, Leonard Cohen would have been 19 years old []

Leonard Cohen Just Says No To Julie Christensen

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Julie Christensen’s Political Anatomy

Among many other musical accomplishments, Julie Christensen has performed as vocalist on two of Leonard Cohen’s tours as well as on his albums. So, it is not surprising to find that she went to him for assistance with songwriting. Christensen recounts this exchange with Cohen:

One of the first songs that came was the one that eventually became the title track. I started writing it a few years back around the time of Independence Day. I asked Leonard Cohen to help me write because he was the only person I knew who could give it the weight that it deserved. But when I told him the opening line, which goes “Between my thighs / Is all my country,” he responded,

I can’t help you there, darling. You got yourself into this one, so you’re on your own.1,2

From The great leap forward: Julie Christensen takes us to Where the Fireworks Are by Brett Leigh-Dicks (VC Reporter: May 17, 2007), reprinted at Stone Cupid. Photo from Stone Cupid

Note: Originally posted May 19, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. It is disconcerting to realize that Leonard Cohen saying “No” to a beautiful woman is more seductive than me saying “Yes” – or “Yes, yes yes, a million times yes.” []
  2. One needn’t worry about Ms Christensen’s song; she reports that “… in the end, that [song] just propelled itself forward.” []