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
- 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. [↩]