Videos: Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins On His Singing Debut & Suzanne

judylenHow Judy Collins Helped Leonard Cohen Start His Singer-Songwriter Career

Judy Collins – Interviewed By Bill Moyers About Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne”

Judy Collins praises Cohen’s lyricism and outlines the religious inflections of his work.  She also sings “Suzanne.”

Leonard Cohen Interviewed About Judy Collins and “Suzanne”

In this video Cohen reports on the reason for his “mad decision” to “rectify [his] economic situation” by  shifting from writing poems and novels to writing and singing songs, his first meeting with Judy Collins, and his anxiety about being a singer rather than focusing exclusively on songwriting:

I remember saying to my lawyer who was accompanying me there [NYC]. In a state of panic, I said ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here; I can’t sing,’ and he said, ‘None of you guys can sing. When I want to hear singers, I go the Metropolitan Opera.’

And I think that’s more or less the position I had anyway. I never thought we were singers. I certainly never had any musical standards to tyrannize me. I thought it was something to do with the truth, that if you told your story, that’s what the song was about.

The video also includes the account by Judy Collins on Cohen’s near-catastrophic public singing debut at New York’s Town Hall and Cohen singing “Suzanne.”

Leonard Cohen photo from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, Identifiers: ASC01707. Judy Collins photo by ABC Television – eBayfrontback, Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons

Note: Originally posted July 10, 2010 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Classic Video: Leonard Cohen & Judy Collins Perform Suzanne – 1976

lc-jcollins-suzanneAnd you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind

Leonard Cohen & Judy Collins – Suzanne
1976 Soundstage TV Broadcast: Chicago
Video by Beta Hi-Fi Archive

Note: Originally posted Feb 17, 2013 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Judy Collins Performs Suzanne At Grammys Premiere In Honor Of Leonard Cohen

Judy Collins, whose early recordings of Leonard Cohen’s music first introduced the Canadian singer-songwriter to a wide audience, paid tribute to her fellow worker in song at the 59th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony on Feb. 12, 2017 with a gorgeous cover of Suzanne that earned a standing ovation.

Video: Judy Collins Talks About Meeting Leonard Cohen & His Walking Off The Stage At His First Performance

judtcJudy Collins to Leonard Cohen after hearing him play Suzanne:

You can play the guitar very well … I’ve heard worse. You can sing very nicely; I’ve heard much worse … And that [Suzanne] is a song – and I’m recording it tomorrow.

Originally broadcast on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (CBC TV)

Note: Originally posted December 12, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

When Did Leonard Cohen Perform At The 1967 Rheingold Festival?


1967 Rheingold Festival Print Ad Promotes July 21 Judy Collins-Leonard Cohen Show

It’s well known that one of Leonard Cohen’s earliest public appearances as a singer-songwriter took place when Judy Collins brought him onstage with her to perform Suzanne at the 1967 Rheingold Music Festival in Central Park, New York. The date of that show, however, has been unclear. Now, however, the discovery of this contemporaneous print ad for the 1967 Rheingold Festivity (the only complete schedule for the two-month 1967 Rheingold Festivity that I’ve found)  from the WBAI Folio, July, 1967, Vol. 8, WBAI radio 99.5 FM (New York, NY) provides not only an addition to the Signs Of Leonard Cohen collection but also establishes the presumptive date of the Leonard Cohen-Judy Collins performance: July 21, 1967.


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


Note: Originally posted Nov 21, 2011 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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.

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