Dave Van Ronk On How To Write A Song: Step #1. Get Drunk With Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell


Dave Van Ronk And The Folk Music Scene

Dave Van Ronk was an integral part of the1960s folk revival, not only because of his own work but also because the Mayor of  MacDougal Street, as he was known, presided over the coffeehouse folk culture, influencing, helping, and inspiring many folk performers such as Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell, in fact, held that his rendition of her song “Both Sides Now” (which he called “Clouds:) was the finest ever.

Last Call By Dave Van Ronk – With Collaboration Of Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell

Dave Van Ronk originally released “Last Call,” on his album Songs For Ageing Children in 1973. In 1994, he released a different version of  the song on Going Back To Brooklyn and included  the story of how the song came to be in the liner notes.

He reported that he spent the night drinking with Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell at the Chelsea Hotel, and the next morning the lyrics to this song had been scribbled out although none of the three drinking buddies remembered writing it.

Van Ronk elaborated on the circumstances in his live introductions to the song, explaining that the lyrics were found  in his notebook in a handwriting none of them recognized. Since it was in his notebook, Leonard and Joni held that he obviously wrote it.1

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  1. Music Musings and Miscellany []

Hear Joni Mitchell Talk About “Deliciously Decadent” Leonard Cohen, A Fake Tim Buckley & Green Sunsets


Joni Mitchell 1988 Radio Broadcast

On September 6, 1988,  Joni Mitchell appeared on “Hubert On The Air,” a one-hour show on Dutch radio hosted by Hubert van Hoof, to select and comment on her favorite songs, the ones that “thrilled her” or, alternatively, “knocked her socks off” from her childhood to the time of the broadcast.1 Mitchell, who can sometimes come off as defensive or even bitter about her musical influences, is generous, thoughtful, and charming in this instance.

Joni Mitchell Talks About Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” Green Sunsets & Tim Buckley Impostor

The excerpt below from the show features her comments about “Suzanne” and a related incident about accompanying a man who claimed to be Tim Buckley (although Mitchell knew this was only a pose) on a cruise near Miami where she sighted a green sunset. The 7.5 minute clip also includes a recording of Leonard Cohen singing “Suzanne.”


Bonus: Green Flash Sunsets

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  1. Joni’s song choices, most of which (though not the classical pieces), were part of the the broadcast, follow:

    • Stravinsky: Rites of Spring – Dance of the Adolescents
    • Rachmaninoff: Theme from Paganini
    • Miles Davis: It Never Entered My Mind
    • Louis Jordan: Saturday Night Fish Fry
    • Bill Haley: Rock Around the Clock
    • Chuck Berry: Maybelline
    • Bob Dylan: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
    • Edith Piaf with Les Companions de la Chanson: Trois Cloches (3 bells)
    • Billie Holiday: You’ve Changed
    • Leonard Cohen: Suzanne
    • Buffalo Springfield: Rock and Roll Woman, Broken Arrow
    • Jimi Hendrix: The Wind Cries Mary []

Hear Joni Mitchell Talk About Her Search For A Promotion-minded Record Company, Differences In Audiences, & Engelbert Humperdinck (1967)


Joni Mitchell Interview Unheard For 42 Years

In 1967, between sets at The Second Fret, a club in Philadelphia, Joni Mitchell recorded a 15 minute interview in which she is as earnest as always but much less defensive and  more vulnerable than she was to become later in her career. Forty-two years later, the interview was rediscovered and made available again.

She discusses technical issues involved in singing her songs, her departure from the folk genre into rock and roll with songs like “Both Sides Now,” cross-over hits, evolving lyrics, audiences in Philadelphia, Fayetteville, Detroit, and Flint, and more.

There are even passing references to her husband, Chuck, with whom she sang duets, the Johnny Preston hit, “Running Bear,” and the length of her hair (within three inches of her waist).

This delightful interview is available for download at JoniMitchell1967

Credit Due Department:  Adrian du Plessis, personable manager for Allison Crowe, alerted me to this interview and placed the download link at Allison Crowe’s web site.

Adrian discovered the interview via the JMDL (Joni Mitchell Discussion List):

Date: Sat, 26 Dec 2009 20:06:55 -0700
From: “Les Irvin”
Subject: Interview unheard for 42 years now available

On Friday evening, March 17, 1967, Ed Sciaky went to the 2nd Fret (operated by Manny “Money” Rubin) in downtown Philadelphia (on Sansom Street) and recorded an interview with Joni Mitchell. Recorded between sets, this recording was mastered at 7 and a half IPS on Shamrock recording tape, a cheap brand of audio tape but all that college student Ed Sciaky could afford. It was recorded on an Amex 354 mono tape recorder with an RCA 44 microphone. Ed Sciaky spoke into one side of the mic and Joni into the other. Since Joni spoke softly, her level was lower than Ed. The interview was engineered by Mike Biel, a student executive at the station at that time.

The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia (of which Ed is now a member), an organization of 350 area broadcasters, has recently equalized and adjusted the levels of the interview and the complete audio interview is now available on their website. They are proud to make this priceless interview again available to the public. The entire interview has not been heard since it was aired the next evening, Saturday, March 18th on Ed’s folk music show called “Broadside,” which was broadcast Saturday evenings from 8 pm and 12 midnight over WRTI-FM, the campus radio station of Temple University in Philadelphia. The 1974 airing over WMMR was an excerpt.


Credit Due Department: Photo by Matt Gibbonshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/ultomatt/3126812062/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8031501

Note: Originally posted Nov 18, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The Leonard Cohen – Joni Mitchell Nexus Of Nakedness


“Won’t you let me see your naked body?”

Adrian Du Plessis, Allison Crowe’s Personable Manager and a 1960s & 1970s music aficionado has observed a serendipitous confluence between

1. A DrHGuy.com Leonard Cohen quotation entry: Q: Is there anything greater in life than the sight of a naked beautiful woman? Leonard Cohen: “Not too many.”

and, appearing the same day,

2. A posting by another Facebook friend of a photo (displayed atop this post) of a naked Joni Mitchell from the inside cover of her 1972 album, For The Roses.

Is this concurrence a mere coincidence? Well, of course it is, but it’s an interesting coincidence. So, let’s add one more pertinent quote, this one from Joni Mitchell:

He [Leonard Cohen] owns the phrase “naked body,” for example; it appears in every one of his songs.1

Note: Originally posted February 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period by Michelle Mercer. Free Press; 1st Edition, April 7, 2009 []

Stranger Song, Indeed – Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, & The Man On An Acid Trip


Judy Collins Helps Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, And The Man Coming Down From An Acid Trip

While “the man coming down from an acid trip” plays a role in a strange story in Judy Collins’ newly published book, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes – My Life In Music,1 he is at most the fourth strangest element in the single paragraph that deals with him, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins herself.

In a few pages of  Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, Judy Collins has written accounts of her connections with Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. Most of the information has been previously published in books about or interviews with Collins, Cohen, and Mitchell.  Nonetheless, the unique perspective has led me to excerpt the book’s sections dealing with Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, including explanations of the role Judy Collins played in promoting the careers of Cohen and Mitchell. (Also see Judy Collins Describes Leonard Cohen’s 1st Concert Appearance 1967)

We begin with an anecdote that offers some new (at least to me) and odd (again, at least to me) content and is set forth in an even odder, downright eccentric construction:

Joni and Leonard met for the first time at that concert [the Newport afternoon concert] and began a love affair. Still, everyone was a little off-center. I remember being in bed with a man I did not know who was coming down from an acid  trip and wanted me to “comfort him,” no sex involved. Leonard sat in the room with us, singing “The Stranger Song” softly  to himself, not paying any attention at all to what was happening on the bed. The Chelsea Hotel indeed! I trusted Leonard completely in very intimate situations and although we never had an intimate exchange of that kind ourselves, he was a constant ally I could take into battle with no fear of betrayal. Joni wrote “That Song About The Midway” about Leonard, or so she says. Sounds right: the festival, the guy, the jewel in the ear.

If I were still grading Freshman Composition papers (my work/study job in college), this paragraph would be covered in red ink, my scrawls asking, first of all, why a sentence about Joni and Leonard meeting and beginning a love affair is followed immediately in the same paragraph with the non sequitur, “Still, everyone was a little off-center,” and then by a scene portraying the narrator in bed with and (asexually) comforting  a man coming down from an acid trip while Leonard sings a song while “[without] paying any attention at all to what was happening on the bed.” There is more, but let’s not linger over violated principles of narrative exposition.

It doesn’t require the services of a hot-shot shrink (my job after coming to my senses and opting for medical school rather than a post-graduate English Lit program) to detect signs that Judy Collins may have some unresolved anger directed toward Joni Mitchell and that Leonard Cohen is somehow involved.

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  1. Judy Collins. Crown Archetype, October 18, 2011 []