Joni Mitchell On Hearing Leonard Cohen Sing “Suzanne” At The 1967 Newport Festival

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At the [1967] Newport Folk Festival … Leonard did “Suzanne.” I’d met him and I went, ‘I love that song. What a great song.’ Really. “Suzanne” was one of the greatest songs I ever heard. So I was proud to meet an artist. He made me feel humble, because I looked at that song and I went, ‘Woah. All my songs seem so naive by comparison.’ It raised the standard of what I wanted to write.quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014.

Note: Originally posted Sep 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Joni Mitchell on the ubiquity of “naked body” in Leonard Cohen’s songs

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He [Leonard Cohen] owns the phrase ‘naked body,’ for example; it appears in every one of his songs.quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

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

DrHGuy Note: This quotation is inexplicably interpreted as a criticism – go figure.

Leonard Cohen Déjà Vu – Dominique Issermann’s French Look Photo On Books, Cover Art, Tickets, & More

paris-1985-concert-poster-from-dom-scaled10001Note: Originally Oct 29, 2012 posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The recent publication of two posts featuring 1985 Leonard Cohen concert posters based on the same image of a bereted Leonard Cohen with cigarette in hand reminded me that at least one book (“The Lyrics Of Leonard Cohen”) and one DVD cover (“After The Gold Rush”) employed the same photo, making this a candidate for the Leonard Cohen Déjà Vu series.

I asked Dominique BOILE if he had any other Leonard Cohen media featuring this shot; his response supplied all the specimens displayed below, save the book and DVD already mentioned, one of the posters, the Ira Nadel biography and the two items credited to Tom Sakic. Dominique was also responsible for identifying the photographer of this much-used but rarely credited shot: the 1982 photo was taken by Dominique Issermann in the très French province of the Santa Monica Pier.

On Posters

On Tickets

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Video: Allison Crowe Performs Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You

allison-crowe-sylvan-hour

Performer: Allison Crowe; Writer: Joni Mitchell; Muse: Leonard Cohen

The following information is taken from the YouTube description:

Allison Crowe uncorks vintage “A Case of You” – off her “Sylvan Hour” album – with passion and artistry recognizing two great Canadian musical inspirations intertwined in the song – its writer, Joni Mitchell, and muse, Leonard Cohen. Cinematically, Frank Borzage directs the adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” – scenes here featuring the film’s leading stars Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper and Adolphe Menjou.

Allison Crowe – A Case Of You

Purchase download of A Case of You by Allison Crowe

“Sylvan Hour is truly a masterpiece” says pioneering culture blog Muruch.

Discover this music from a remarkable artist at a personal and creative crossroads in her life. “Sylvan Hour” is an album of songs bridging west and east, piano and guitar, then and now…

For fans of Allison Crowe at her purest, this is voice, one accompanying instrument – one take. Real-time performances in the sequence they’re played and sung by Allison in a log-home on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada.

That afternoon the musician was in the midst of migrating from her birthplace of Nanaimo, BC, on Canada’s Pacific, to a new nest in Corner Brook, NL, on the Atlantic coast. Soon to fly east, Crowe bade farewell to those near and dear on western shores – including compatriot Kayla Schmah on Salt Spring, neighbouring Vancouver Island.

Decades earlier Schmah’s parents had made an epic trek to the Pacific Northwest from Central Canada – in a repurposed donut truck. Planting themselves in the Gulf Islands archipelago, they lived at first in a converted parachute in the woods. From the ground up the home-steaders then built a family dwelling out of Douglas Fir – their “sylvan castle”.

Allison and Kayla, as musicians had shared stages together from their teens onward (and, years later, becoming a film-scorer in Hollywood, Schmah brilliantly orchestrated and produced Crowe’s album “Spiral”.) Among the friends together on SSI this day was Ryan Adams (who, like Schmah was a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music and was en route to becoming an in-demand tv/film audio engineer in Los Angeles).

With mics and a laptop set-up in the living-room, Adams captured this set of the newest songs in Allison’s repertoire – originals including “Skeletons and Spirits”, “Running”, and “Silence” as well as a trio of covers (interpreting songs famously by Joni Mitchell, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Aretha Franklin).

Also gorgeous, but differently so, essentially group versions of most of these songs were released near the end of that same year (2006) on Allison Crowe’s album “This Little Bird” (the title track a celebration of her migration). “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” is the sole sylvan session recording released before – it’s presented now within the full hour of music for all time.

Enjoy this most natural of talents – in this most natural of settings.

Book Review: Joni Mitchell Talks About Growing Up, Art, Songwriting, Love – And Leonard Cohen

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Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words by Malka Marom

ECW Press: September 9, 20141

The Author: Malka Marom

Malka Marom began her professional life as a singer but then became a broadcaster, hosting CBC’s weekly show “Song Of Our People” and City TV’s “Mosaic,” and documentary producer. She is also the author of a novel, Sulha.2 In 1966, she first heard Joni Mitchell perform at a coffee house and was immediately transfixed by Mitchell’s talent. She became an admirer and friend of Mitchell, and these perspectives characterize the book.

In this video, Marom describes her first encounter with Joni Mitchell.

Interview With Malka Marom

Note: Marom had originally planned to author a single book based on her interviews with Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Instead, Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words has been published first with a parallel volume on Leonard Cohen anticipated next year.

The Book: Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words

The weakness of Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words: It’s not a biography; instead, it’s a conversation between Joni Mitchell and Malka Marom, an adoring friend and fellow artist, comprising three interviews, which took place in 1973, 1979, and 2012.

The strength of Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words: It’s not a biography; instead, it’s a conversation between Joni Mitchell and Malka Marom, an adoring friend and fellow artist, comprising three interviews, which took place in 1973, 1979, and 2012.

Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words is not intended or designed to be a comprehensive, dispassionate, hierarchically organized survey of Mitchell’s life and work. Other than occasional comments by some of Mitchell’s associates who happen to be present when the interviews tale place, such as Elliot Roberts (manager), Tom Scott (saxophonist and leader of LA Express), and John Guerin (drummer), the only narrators are Mitchell and Marom.  Indeed, the book is literally an edited transcript of the conversation between Mitchell and Marom studded with photographs, Mitchell’s paintings, and the lyrics of a large number of  her songs.

Because the book is built around three extensive interviews held over the span of almost forty years, the content naturally skews toward the topics of interest to the two participants at those points in time. Since, for example,  the first session takes place during the taping of Court And Spark and the second occurs while Mitchell is at work on  Mingus, issues pertinent to these two albums are especially prominent.

Consequently, Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words is replete with discussions that sound like two old friends retelling familiar stories and sharing impressions about people they both know. For example, early in the third interview, Marom and Mitchell have this exchange which ends with a comparison of Leonard Cohen’s approach to performing with Mitchell’s:

M: Thirty-three years have passed since we last recorded our conversation, and forty-five years since I first saw you sing at the Riverboat, nearly half a century ago, my God. Yet last night I saw you singing and dancing here at your home as if not a day passed since then, as they say, and I thought what a shame that I’m the only one to witness it. How wonderful it would be if you went on tour, like Leonard Cohen is these days. You saw his concert in Toronto, and you liked it.

J: Yeah, I thought it was the best I ever saw of him. I thought it was the best band he ever had, best orchestra, the best arrangements plus the repertoire — across the board, good collection of songs.

M: I thought he was amazing, especially if you consider how frail he feels in your arms when you hug him. J: Yeah, he’s very frail. Very delicate. Like my dad was at the end. M: And yet on the stage. To see him bending and almost dancing. I thought he was really wonderful. He seemed to derive a lot of energy from the audience, from their love for him and his work. Are you tempted to go on the road?

J: No. I just was never addicted to applause or honorariums. The measure for me was the art itself. Leonard’s such a seducer he could probably believe that that many people could be in love with him. [laughs] I can’t. I don’t trust mass adoration. It doesn’t feed me. I see it as a potential dragon. I’m not that addicted to applause that I want to manipulate the monkey to roar for me. I wouldn’t get a thrill out of that, or try for a sense of victory. It wouldn’t work for me. I’d rather that they forget to applaud. That they’re so stunned, they’re tranced in. That would be more exciting to me than the biggest applause of the night. Then I feel that I’ve accomplished something. I’m really not a performing animal. I don’t have that need. I prefer the creation of the song. I like the collaborations, the camaraderie of players, and small clubs.

As one might expect. the colloquy between Mitchell and Marom frequently changes course, veering off on a tangent or simply following a whim to land on such subjects as jazz, loneliness, New York Vs Los Angeles, dance, primitive Vs luxurious lifestyles, Canada,  and medical science.

In addition to anecdotes about other artists (e.g., Dylan, David Crosby, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder), the entertainment business, Mitchell’s current affliction with Morgellons,3 and landmark events in Mitchell’s career (e.g., the ordeal of her appearance at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival), this volume includes a poignant, often heartbreaking account of Mitchell’s early history, from childhood through her marriage to Chuck Mitchell.  She recalls saving the tissues wrapped around oranges to use as toilet paper, being diagnosed with polio and then “shipped … out of town a hundred miles away,” and, beginning her songwriting under anguishing conditions:

The writing of my own songs came out of the trauma of my being an unwed mother and being destitute. I mean destitute in a strange city and pregnant, and living in a fifteen-dollar-a-week room. It was the attic room, and all the railings .,, there was one left out of every four because last winter, the people burnt them to keep the room warm … And in Toronto I had, I think, sixty dollars, maybe, with me in a town where the cheapest room was fifteen dollars a week. And I had six months ahead of me, no work … I lived in this attic in Toronto. I was living on Ingersoll cheese spread and Hovis loaf because that place was full of starving artists and you couldn’t keep anything in the fridge, so my diet was atrocious. And one day Duke Redbird’s brother came from the reservation. This big Indian. I’d never even met him. He came to my door. He knocked on the door and he said, “Here.” And he shoved me a basket of McIntosh apples. They used to come in those bentwood baskets. “Here.” Very rudely. It’s one of the kindest things that ever happened. And he turned on his heels and went away. A total stranger. And I thought, “He must know. Do they know what condition I’m in?”

Mitchell offers thoughtful, insightful commentary – uninhibited by false modesty – about her take on creativity in the fields of art and music.

M: I’d like to clarify something I’d heard you say: “I have a painter’s mentality, rather than a musician’s or a poet’s.” What do you mean by that?

J: Okay. The creative process of a painter is absolute solitude. No one’s gonna come in and say, “Don’t put that blue stroke there. Put an orange stroke there.” It’s just inappropriate. And it doesn’t mean you’re controlling. I had a lot of “Joni, you’re so controlling.” Yes, I am controlling and so it should be. I should be in control of my art. I’m within my rights to control my own art. You should not be trying to direct it. In painting, you have to be very decisive. Once you paint over it, it’s gone, whereas in songwriting, in music, you can usually get back, if you decide, “Oops, it was better the way it was before,” you can get back. I think that’s why I’m able to produce my own records. You have to be able to switch from sensual, sensitive, emotional to [the] adjudicative mind, which is intellectual clarity. You paint … it has to be emotional and sensitive to get the good line, but then when you stand back, you engage intellect and clarity to adjudicate it, so you’re your own producer. You have access to those heads and you can shift quickly from one [to] another. You can be very hard on yourself without bruising yourself. And you can be accurate; you can go right to the heart of the trouble. You don’t have to tippy-toe around somebody’s ego and praise them and stroke them, and then get to the problem and waste an hour like that … the delicate problem of addressing someone’s ego.

Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words – From Both Sides Now

Readers of this book who are looking for a chronological sequenced account of Joni Mitchell’s life or a balanced, in-depth analysis of her work are doomed to disappointment.  This volume does, however, present the opportunity to contemplate Mitchell reporting on her life with significantly  less vigilance and self-protectiveness of the sort that mark her routine interviews. Her conversations with Marom are ingrained with intimacy, authenticity, and sincerity. The result is an altogether gratifying read.

Adrian Du Plessis, Allison Crowe’s personable manager, wrote me about reading Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words; this excerpt from his message is a splendid description of the experience of reading this book:

With Joni, like Leonard, one gets to know their voices – literally and figuratively – and it’s a delight to hear them just on a roll. Like you’re sitting in the kitchen with the wine flowing and the cigarette butts piling up in the ashtray.

________________________

  1. The official release date of September 9, 2014 notwithstanding, Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words by Malka Marom is available now on several sites. []
  2. A more complete biography is available on Marom’s website []
  3. Morgellons is a poorly understood and controversial disorder. Those suffering from the disease feel as though they are infested with disease-causing agents described as things like insects, parasites, hairs or fibers. Other neurological symptoms, including severe fatigue and memory problems, are sometimes associated. []

The Resonance Of Joni Mitchell’s “Wizard of Is” With Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”

About That Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell Thing

The Leonard Cohen-Joni Mitchell connection could have been the model for the Facebook relationship status classification, “It’s complicated.” They have much in common. Both are Canadian, both are respected singer-songwriters who came of age professionally in the late 1960s, both have roots in the folk movement, and both ran with the same Bob Dylan-Judy Collins group of colleagues.

And, for a time in 1967, they also shared the same bed during a short-lived romantic liaison described in some detail at Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things.

The relationship issue that is key to a discussion of Mitchell’s Wizard Of Is, however,  is her dramatic shift from infatuated admiration of Cohen, someone she considered an intellectual and artistic mentor, to her dismissal of him as “a boudoir poet.” This excerpt from a New York Magazine interview: characterizes the change in her perspective:

[Interviewer:] Were you similarly skeptical about the folk scene in New York in the late sixties?

[Mitchell:] No. I briefly liked Leonard Cohen, though once I read Camus and Lorca I started to realize that he had taken a lot of lines from those books, which was disappointing to me.

On the other hand, the end of their romance was not the end of their relationship.  Long after both had moved on to new lovers, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell remained friends, frequently contacting  and visiting each other.1

Leonard Cohen And Joni Mitchell’s Music

Given that singer-songwriters often sing and write about their own experiences, it is not surprising that Leonard Cohen had an impact of some of Joni Mitchell’s songs.

As noted in the aforementioned  March 31, 2007 post about the Cohen-Mitchell romance and its aftermath, Leonard Cohen appears, according to various sources, in four or more Joni Mitchell songs: Rainy Night House, That Song About The Midway, The Gallery, and A Case Of You.

Shortly  after publishing that original Cohen-Mitchell post, I noticed both of these artists had written and performed, within no more than a year of one another, assuredly nonidentical songs with the identical title Winter Lady.

Quelle coincidence, eh?

An essay focusing on the contrasts between the two songs can be found at  “Winter Lady” By Joni Mitchell Meets “Winter Lady” By Leonard Cohen – The Video.

Joni Mitchell’s Wizard of Is
& Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

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  1. It is worth noting that on Herbie Handcock’s River: The Joni Letters, the 2007 Album of the Year, Leonard Cohen is a featured artist, reciting the poetic lyrics to The Jungle Line. []