“Never question where love comes from …” Leonard Cohen

Jennifer Warnes: I phoned Leonard on the day that my mother – who in many ways was my ‘significant other’ – died. ‘Was that somehow strange, devoting one’s life to one’s mother?’ I asked. His response was impeccable

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Never question where love comes from. We have no control over these things. From a stranger, a mother, a dog, or that perfect mate, it comes from wherever it comes. You were lucky, in fact – everyone hopes to find love in the place that you found it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, quoted by Jennifer Warnes in Leonard Cohen – as remembered by Jennifer Warnes by Marcus Webb (Slow Journalism: 7 November 2016).

Donna Washburn 1972 Leonard Cohen Tour Backup Singer – 1970? Not So Much

Leonard Cohen with band and backup singers, Jennifer Warnes & Donna Washburn

More Weirdness From The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour

The final piece of the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour Backup Singers puzzle is the role Donna Washburn played as backup singer that year.

It should surprise no one who has been following the Heck Of A Guy account of the to discover that, notwithstanding reports found on the official Leonard Cohen site, LeonardCohenFiles, LeonardCohenForum, and 1800+ other sites – including the usually astute Heck Of A Guy – declaring that she served as backup singer at the most famous of Leonard Cohen’s 1970 concerts, the number of times Donna Washburn sang backup to Leonard Cohen in 1970 was zero, zip, zilch, nada, …

She was, however, a backup singer during the Leonard Cohen 1972 tour although she is overshadowed by Jennifer Warnes, Cohen’s other female vocalist that year. And, Washburn had an interesting professional career prior to 1972. But, first, let’s clear up the mistaken notion that she sang backup for Cohen in 1970.

Another Cautionary Tale About Internet-abetted Press Releases

The problem arises from the official blurb for the 2009 release of the Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle of Wight 1970 CD/DVD  put out by Columbia/Legacy:

CD-DVD Cover art – Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970

This excerpt is taken from the copy of the press release from LeonardCohen.com but is identical to that found on hundreds of other sites:

The CD (and double-LP) of ‘Live At The Isle of Wight 1970’ represent the 77-minute concert set as performed by Cohen and his backup band: Bob Johnston (Cohen’s Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer), and Nashville musicians Charlie Daniels (electric bass, fiddle), Ron Cornelius (lead guitar), and Elkin ‘Bubba’ Fowler (bass, banjo). They were joined by backup singers Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno, and Donna Washburn. [emphasis mine]

As noted above, that same phrase,”backup singers Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno, and Donna Washburn,” is found by Google at the official Leonard Cohen site, LeonardCohenFiles, LeonardCohenForum, and 1800+ other sites – including this one.

While my attempts to discover through official channels why Donna Washburn was credited as a backup singer on the Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle of Wight 1970 CD/DVD were unrequited, Aileen Fowler aka Susan Musmanno (backup singer, along with Corlynn Hanney, on the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour) offers helpful information:1

… there’s a third girl onstage in the Isle of Wight video; that was the only time I ever saw her. She was a friend of Ron Cornelius’s. I don’t recall ever seeing Donna except at the Isle of Wight. I am assuming that she is the girl sitting behind Ron in the video. She doesn’t appear to be miked, and looks like she is just jamming along. We never rehearsed with her. I can’t think that she would have been paid. And that was the only time she showed up on my watch. Why she got a backup singer credit for that performance at IOW is a mystery to me.

Continue Reading →

  1. Aileen and her husband, Elkin Fowler, guitarist during the 1970 tour have been especially useful in filling in the blanks about the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour. See “It was a crazy, crazy time” Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Backup Singers. []

Leonard Cohen On Jennifer Warnes & Her Famous Blue Raincoat Album “Her taste is impeccable, her musical decisions are impeccable…”

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She [Jennifer Warnes] goes for real emotion in the back up vocals … her taste is impeccable, her musical decisions are impeccable. I’m very pleased with this project [Famous Blue Raincoat album] for many reasons. I love Jennifer as a person and as a singer and the fact that she’s dedicated all that talent to my songs – well you don’t have many of those gestures made towards you in your life.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

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

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

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“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.”

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  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) []

Video: Leonard Cohen Talks About Songwriting, Making Videos, Truth Vs Facts…

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Also Featuring Jennifer Warnes, Harry Rasky, Judy Collins

While this video from ZoomerMedia is labeled only “Leonard Cohen,” I agree with Gordana Stupar’s speculation that it is the CBC broadcast “An Evening With Leonard Cohen.” It certainly fits the description of that show found at Diamonds in the Mine:

3 March 1989 – An Evening With Leonard Cohen – CBC
Documentary featuring interviews and live clips from Paris 1988. Jennifer Warnes, Harry Rasky, Judy Collins, Moses Znaimer provided comments and clips from the BBC Songs from the Life of Leonard Cohen were also included.

Leonard Cohen
Uploaded on YouTube by ZoomerMedia

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Gordana Stupar, who alerted me to this video

“I can think of no more beautiful job than to have loved him” Jennifer Warnes On Her Relationship With Leonard Cohen

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I’m like the waitress. I’m bringing the food. But I didn’t grow the food, you know? And I can think of no more beautiful job than to have loved [Leonard Cohen] and supported him and known him. That to me is like a very fulfilling feeling. There’s no emptiness when I think of him.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

 

Born to be his conduit’: Jennifer Warnes remembers her friend and collaborator Leonard Cohen by Randall Roberts (LA Times: Nov 14, 2016). I received the photo as a gift from Jennifer Warnes.