A Valentine’s Day Gift: Leonard Cohen & Anjani Perform Never Got To Love You & Whither Thou Goest – 2007

For as in that story long ago,
The same sweet love story now is so.
Thy people shall be my people, my love.
Whither thou goest I will go.

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas Perform Never Got to Love You and Whither Thou Goest at Joe’s Pub in New York – 2007

Note: Originally posted Feb 8, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen & The Celibates Perform Memories – Copenhagen 1985

lc-cop

Frankie Lane, he was singing Jezebel
I pinned an Iron Cross to my lapel
I walked up to the tallest and the blondest girl
I said, Look, you don’t know me now but very soon you will
So won’t you let me see
I said “won’t you let me see”
I said “won’t you let me see
Your naked body?”

The suboptimal video quality notwithstanding, this recording of Leonard Cohen playing the Falkoner Teatre in Copenhagen is worth viewing not only for the performance itself but also for the obvious enjoyment radiating from the performers, including a flower- and ribbon-festooned Anjani on keyboards and vocals.

After the completion of the song, Cohen, as a bonus, does a comic turn that features the source of this post’s titular reference, “Leonard Cohen & The Celibates,”1 the threat to introduce each member of the audience individually, and, I believe, a non-metaphorical rimshot.2

Leonard Cohen – Memories
Copenhagen: Feb 9, 1985
Video from messalina79

Note: Originally posted Oct 29, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. One notes that the name given is not “Leonard Cohen & The Other Celibates.” []
  2. Sadly, it proves necessary to inform the youngsters in the audience that a “rimshot” refers to striking the rim rather than the top of a cymbal with the drumstick. A rimshot preceded by taps on the snare is a sting, a sequence often called a rimshot that is used in cabaret to accentuate the punchline of a joke. []

Video: 2007 Leonard Cohen Interview – Personal Changes, Life As Zen Monk, The Pilfering Of His Money, Al Gore & Anjani

talksw2

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas Appear On  2007 Norwegian Talk Show

This video covers the appearance of Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas as guests on the March 30, 2007 edition of “Først & sist” (“First & last”), the Norwegian talk show hosted by Fredrik Skavlan.1 (A second video of Anjani singing Innermost Door on the program is no longer available.)

nor3

Left to Right: Al Gore, Leonard Cohen, Fredrik Skavlan ( host,) Anjani Thomas, and Gro Harlem Brundtland

My recommendation of this interview segment is based in large part on Cohen’s low-key explanations of the reasons he devoted a few years to living in a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy and the events surrounding the pilferage of his retirement fund, both of which demystify the circumstances without denying the significance of the episodes.

As always, Cohen is well-spoken, poised, and witty, especially in regard to his loss of his retirement fund of several million dollars.

Money has a way of disappearing if you don’t watch it very, very closely.  That’s a certain wisdom I acquired. I wasn’t absolutely certain of this [before the loss], but now I am. It’s enough to put a dent in your mood.

[Responding to the host’s observation that Cohen seems “quite happy” despite having very little money following the loss:]  Well, I don’t recommend this as a spiritual exercise, …

As I’ve pointed out, beginning with the first Cohencentric post that addressed a Cohen interview, Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her [the interviewer’s] words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:

Leonard Cohen: I always thought I would change my name and get a tattoo

Interviewer: Where?

Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.

The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.

As one might expect, Cohen has, in the 39 years that separate the two interviews, become more subtle and sophisticated in his technique, but he still shepherds the conversation into the path he chooses, content to follow the lead of the interviewer only if it fits his needs.  This is, I hasten to add, invariably a benefit to the quality of the interview.2

norr4Two brief Cohen expositions are worthy of special note:

1. In a few sentences, he makes Al Gore, who is also a guest on the show, sound principled rather than ponderous and spiritual rather than self-righteous. Mr Gore, unfortunately, proves himself equally efficacious in undoing this rehabilitation when he responds to Cohen’s comments.

2. An interesting contrast exists between Cohen’s characterization of his relationship with Anjani in this interview and that contained in his introduction of her in the video of the 1985 Kalvøya, Norway performance of “I Tried To Leave You.”The  1985 introduction follows:

Now we come to the girl I love, even though she has a mean streak. She translates that mean streak into passion and fire. That’s why I love her. The Pearl of the Pacific, from Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms Anjani Thomas.

Compare that with his response to the host’s phrase, “This is a long love story,” which was spoken simply as an invitation for Cohen to provide the history between Anjani and him. Instead, Cohen first finds it necessary, with notable stuttering and stops and starts,  to correct the improper application of  “love story” to the relationship:

It wasn’t always a love … It was an affectionate story for a long time, and it ripened into something deeper. But I found it’s best not to name a relationship.

It is important to acknowledge that this shift does not seem the consequence of any change in Cohen’s relationship with Anjani, to whom he appears deeply attached during the interview. In fact, just prior to his halting pronouncements on the nature of the connection, Cohen had spontaneously segued from Anjani as his backup singer to Anjani as his romantic partner:

I depended on that [Anjani’s] voice, I leaned on it, I slept on that voice.

Instead, the difference appears the result of Cohen’s insistence, which has intensified with age, of speaking in a knowledgeable manner only about matters concerning which he is indeed knowledgeable.

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007

 

Anjani Sings “Thanks For The Dance”

anjani-norwaytv

Reflecting the power of ratings, the lion’s share of the interviewer’s attention is on Cohen. The primary question asked Anjani is, in fact, “How is it to work and live so close to Leonard Cohen?”

It turns out that “It’s a lot of fun.”

On the other hand, Anjani does a star turn on the show, performing “Thanks For The Dance.”

Update: As is apparent, Part 2 of Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 has been removed by the YouTube user. I have sent a message asking that the segment be restored but have received no response. As far as I can determine, the video is not available elsewhere.

Note: Originally posted Aug 10, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. The other two guests are American environmental activist and former vice president Al Gore and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who from 1984-87 was chairman of the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (also former prime minister of Norway and director-general of the World Health Organization). []
  2. One of the several reasons I desperately long to interview Leonard Cohen is my conviction that, if I can muster the presence of mind to stutter out a discernible query of any sort (currently, I’m thinking of going with “So, Leonard, how’s tricks?”), the interview will be a pristine, elegant discussion of whatever Cohen wanted to talk about – which would be the same result regardless of what I had asked, so it would be, as they say, all good. []

Why Leonard Cohen Got A Violinist In 2012 Instead Of 2008, The Chinese Tour Proposal & More

mmphNote: Originally posted Mar 27, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, the predecessor of Cohencentric

Alex Bublitchi Interview: Recruitment, Rivals, Tour Plans, His Violin, …

„Trăiesc unul dintre cele mai minunate momente ale vieții“ Interviu cu Alexandru Bublitchi by Larisa Turea, Valeriu V. Turea is a lengthy interview with violinist, Alex Bublitchi, who joined the Leonard Cohen Tour in 2012.  The interview was published in the Nov 2012 issue of Observator Cultural. The interview was conducted and posted in Romanian. The excerpts below were generated by first processing the text with Google Translate and then editing the result into vernacular English.  The headings were not part of the original article but were created and added by me for reading convenience. Finally, much of the original interview, including, for example, content about  Bublitchi’s violin, his training, and Cohen’s personal praise of his work, is not included below but is accessible at the link.

“Who is the boy with the violin?”
The Recruitment Of Alex Bublitchi

Interviewer: Tell us how you Cohen recruited you.

mario-mas

Mario Mas

Alex Bublitchi: Well, life is interesting. I played in the theater orchestra but always wanted to do something special, especially something other than classical music. I played ​​in Barcelona with a friend by the name of Mario Mas. We played the Flamenco song he wrote, that is to say world music. I made ​​a little demo for Mario and his father, Javier Mas, an exceptional musician.

Interviewer: One of the most famous guitarists in the world.

Alex Bublitchi: Right. Javier listened and wondered “Who is the boy with the violin?” Mario said, ” A friend ” and Javier asked for my phone number. He contacted me and told me he has two projects with music by Leonard Cohen. [Javier Mas was the musical director and arranger of Leonard Cohen’s tribute concerts in Barcelona in both 2006 and 2007.] He asked me if I know who Leonard Cohen is. I answered honestly that I have no idea. This happened in 2005-2006. Then he asked me to meet and bring my violin. He spoke about his Cohen project, and I talked about music. He asked me if I can improvise. I said yes, and he asked me if I could help him with the project. And I accepted, even though it meant that he had to lie to the service because the theater had me under contract. I was on vacation, I had a program to perform … But I wanted very much to participate in Javier’s project so I told them that I am worn out. It took a bit of theater, but I finally got out of the situation. They gave me two weeks off, said hurry back. I said good-bye, got into a car, and we went straight to rehearsal …

Interviewer: The theater later found out?

Alex Bublitchi: No … Maybe they found out, but they did not say anything. The project was well publicized. I was trying to hide. In many photos, everyone else smiles but I’m just a dude standing to the side with his hand over his face. No one from the theater said anything to me about it, but it’s curious that the day after the project, I got a call, asking “Feeling better?” “Yes …” “Good, come to work.”

Alex Bublitchi Meets Anjani Thomas Who Mentions Leonard Cohen’s Unrequited Search For Violinist

Anjani Thomas

Anjani Thomas

At that project, I was introduced to Anjani Thomas, Cohen’s faithful collaborator, who arrived with his son, Adam Cohen. We did a rehearsal and Anjani said, “You know, Leonard has been looking for a violinist for many years, but he can’t find one.” I, believing these stories are molded from a glass of wine, said yes, yes … But she continued, “Look, could it be …” To which I replied that, in principle, in theory, yes, I would be interested. Afterward, it seemed a nice thought, a kind word as an excellent project ended with everybody happy. That was in the summer.

The next winter, we launched a project again, a kind of Spanish Tour with Cohen’s music sung by Spanish stars, using arrangements by Javier Mas, our musical director. This gave Cohen’s original songs a Mediterranean flair, so to speak – The Gypsy ‘s Wife in a gitano flamenco singing style. It was intriguing and interesting. Master liked it very much, I realized.

Anjani and Adam Cohen said Leonard would like to go on tour and more than likely the original members of the band would accompany him on tour …

My life continues; it’s business as usual. Javier is gone.

Auditions For Tour Violinist: Christine Wu

Christine Wu

Christine Wu

Cohen began rehearsals and auditions for a violinist in the U.S. Many came and played. The audition was won by a very talented lady, Christine Wu,1 a great classical violinist. but perhaps not given to improvisation. Here you have to be very flexible. For example, when you start to play, they tell you, play something, look, in the middle of this song, come on, play something, but play it like this, you know … And clearly , if you did not improvise like a jazz player, you lose … I mean, I never played jazz seriously, but I listened to it all the time. I was always a jazz enthusiast, but if you are not trained this way, then you don’t know how to do it … Unfortunately, many musicians practicing classical music just read the notes. However, they accept it. But after two weeks when it seemed they were satisfied with her performance, Cohen said, “Thanks, but we won’t need you … ” It was a tremendous blow. She had already signed a contract and, I believe, then sued. Finally, it was resolved.

Auditions For Tour Violinist: Rafi Hakopian

They called a famous Armenian violinist, Rafi Hakopian, who played with Cohen in the ’70s and ’80s. Curiously, he does not speak a word of English although he has lived in Los Angeles for about 40 years. He came with his son, who translated, and played what he wanted. Cohen said, “Look, we have an arrangement. Please play here and do not play here.” He said, “Yes, yes” and played everywhere. Again, after two weeks, it was “Thanks, but this is not what we need.”

Call The Guy From Moldova

Then Cohen visited Javier and said, “You know, I’ve listened to the recording made ​​in Spain, I liked the arrangements, everything was great. That violin boy … who is he?” “Well, he’s a guy from Moldova who plays in Barcelona … ” “Call him and ask him if he wants to come.” Javier called me and explained the situation, finally asking if I want to come … I was in the Asturias, where I had to play in a concert with the orchestra, so I say, “Obviously I want to come …”

International Complications Arise

I was contacted by Cohen’s lawyers, who told me that he’s very difficult to contact, that there are several “filters.” I explained that, as a native of a country that is not a member of the European Community, there will be difficulties … But the Americans said, “We will be careful to do this correctly,” i.e., going through the proper court procedures … It is clear that the I will have to end my work in the theater, I could not combine the two activities … I said, “Thank you very much, I absolutely loved working here for three great years, but now I want to do something else.” I went to Madrid and at first, it was easy. I quickly obtained the U.S. visa. Complications arose when it came to visas for the UK, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. No reasons were given for the refusals. One of the managers told me later it was impossible and they could not do anything despite a huge effort.

2008: Violin Out; Saxophone In

At that time, it was decided not to take a violinist on tour. Instead, a guy who played saxophone and many other wind instruments [Dino Soldo] played the solos written for violin . Anyway, it was well received by the public, everything was fine …

Violin Forgone But Not Forgotten

But the traditional songs of mourning need to be played by a violin … Leonard Cohen’s paternal grandfather’s birthplace was somewhere in Poland in the former Russian Empire … the violin fits his soul exactly.

The Tour was to last a year but went so well that it went on for three years instead. The Tour ended, and I went on with my life, they with theirs. Meanwhile, I have received Romanian citizenship.

Leonard Cohen Picks Up Prince Of Asturias Awards & Violinist

One day Javier calls me and says, “Look, the Spaniards are giving Leonard Cohen the Prince of Asturias Award [The ceremonies attendant to the Leonard Cohen’s Prince Of Asturias Award took place in Oct 2011], and the Prince of Asturias Foundation wants us to perform a concert paying tribute that he will attend.” …”Yeah, no problem, with great pleasure.” And so I joined this project featuring violin, lute, Spanish guitar, percussion, and two girls singing. It sounded great.

He came, accepted his award, and listened to our concert. And then I think he realized what he left behind. After the concert, he approached each of us. He shook hands with me, and in his ​​serious voice said, “Beautiful playing, Alex. Beautiful.” And I looked down, as if I were embarrassed, ashamed of something. I did not even look at him … maybe because of what had happened previously. I thanked him but I kept wondering how to tell him that I now had a Romanian passport …

Alex Bublitchi Joins The Band

Afterward, the lawyers called to inquire about my legal situation as a new project was underway. I told them everything was fine, no problems getting visas, “so we can start … if you want …” Now, everything happened very fast. rehearsals were scheduled to begin on June 15, but we were all so excited and wanted to meet quickly. I arrived on May 2nd, and we met the next day … He’s extremely sensitive, stylish, and speaks very warmly. He said, “I’m glad you came, you know us by now.”

At the first rehearsal, we did not just replay the same songs. Rather our approach was sitting and talking for a time. Leonard began to play his guitar and to murmur something. The saxophonist sat nearby and began to play along with him. I took my violin and I sat. Then he continues the song, and when the time comes to improvise, he stares at someone. It sets the tone. He looks at me, nods his head, and I start to play, to improvise. He continues one stanza, again looking at me, I play again – the same song, repeating the verse. I thought that I would give way to another instrument, but he is looking at me a third time so I try to improvise something different. We all played and played. It took about ten minutes, it stretched out. Finally , he removed his glasses and said, ” Friends, this will be something extraordinary.” And everyone cheered … It was a kind of baptism by fire. You know, sometimes it happens that all the musicians are very good, but it just doesn’t work. But we knew that in this case there was a fantastic, special chemistry. I could not imagine anything better.

2013 Concerts Planned In South America, South Africa Three Year Tour Contract Extension?

Interviewer: And you signed on for a limited period …

Alex Bublitchi: Right. The contract is for 18 months. Obviously it all depends on his health … and after 18 months if all goes well, it is possible to extend up to three years. After the North American tour, there are concerts planned in South America, South Africa, all continents … He says: “We have to follow the sun.” At concerts in Dublin, I played outdoors in incredible cold, my breath turning to steam. Heaters were blowing hot air, but we still had to play dressed for winter. It was miserable. Leonard handled it very well, the rest of us not so well, H is durable physically, does meditation, arises early, eat little. He has a Japanese Zen teacher named Roshi, who is 105 years old.

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The Chinese Tour Offer
But There’s A Catch

Interviewer: Will you play venues other than, let’s say, traditional European locations … Asian, for instance?

Alex Bublitchi: Leonard Cohen has received offers from China, but probably will not go, because the Chinese ask him to change the lyrics about Tienanmen Square, for example, and he will not change the lyrics. India has made proposals for concerts. .. We plan to return to Europe in a year with a tournament. Then, we plan to hold concerts in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and maybe South America.

Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post was taken by Maarten Massa at the 2013 Leonard Cohen Bercy concert The photo of Anjani Thomas was found at her website. The image of Christine Wu is a video screenshot. A special thanks goes to Laurence from Paris who alerted me to this article.

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  1. An interesting video featuring an interview with Christine Wu along with samples of her performances can be viewed at Christine Wu Video. []

Leonard Cohen Duet Performances Of Joan of Arc You (Probably) Haven’t Heard

arcduets

Top: Laura Branigan & Cheryl Barnes; Bottom: Sharon Robinson & Anjani Thomas

Joan of Arc: From Studio Solo To Concert Duet – Revised

An earlier post on the evolution of concert performances of Joan of Arc by Leonard Cohen, About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album: Joan of Arc – The Concert Performances, held that

The live performances of Joan of Arc during the 1970-1975 tours resembled the studio version in that Cohen sang it as a solo with his backup singers relegated to the role of a female chorus “cushioning the imperfections of [his] voice.” In 1979, however, Cohen began performing Joan of Arc with a featured female vocalist, Jennifer Warnes, singing designated portions of the song. That arrangement persisted, with Julie Christensen and Hattie Webb later taking part in the duet with Cohen, through the 2012 tour. [bolding added]

Not long after that item was published, Tom Sakic, who had contributed to the article, contacted me with the news that his rigorous, scholarly research (i.e., listening to a staggering number of Leonard Cohen bootlegs) had revealed that the first such “featured female vocalist” was not Jennifer Warnes in 1979. During the 1976 Tour, backup singers, Laura Branigan and Cheryl Barnes, sang the Joan of Arc lines together, a role that in later years would be assigned to a single vocalist. Moreover, Sharon Robinson and Anjani Thomas, who were the sole backup singers in 1980 and 1985, respectively, and who were not listed in the original post, also sang the female part of the Joan of Arc duet.1

While the earlier post has since been corrected to include the rediscovered versions of Joan of Arc, I thought these little known and rarely heard renditions merited their own post.

Note: Re title of this post, (1) Yes, Leonard Cohen plus two backup singers is indeed a trio rather than a duet, but I maintain the 1976 arrangement fits the spirit of the later Joan of Arc duets and is less confusing than the alternatives.2 (2) Yes, some Cohenites must have heard Joan of Arc performed in 1976, 1980, or 1985, but none of these versions has made it to an officially released recording or a commercially popular bootleg and none has ended up on YouTube (although I intend to rectify that) so the number of current fans even aware of these renditions would appear miniscule.3

Joan of Arc and Laura Branigan & Cheryl Barnes

Leonard Cohen, Cheryl Barnes, & June 1976: French TV

Leonard Cohen, Cheryl Barnes, & Laura Branigan on French TV – June 1976

Tom Sakic points out that the 1976 rendition offered “great instrumentation (piano and viola as well) and some lyric changes” but less satisfactory arrangements of the sections sung by the female singers. In the case of the 1976 Montreux show embedded below, it appears that Barnes and Branigan forgot the lyrics, at which point Cohen abandoned the song with an impromptu declaration that makes it a complete song in a way.4

Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc featuring Laura Branigan and Cheryl Barnes
Montreux: June 25, 1976

[audio:http://cohencentric.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Montreux1976-JoanofArc.mp3]

Joan of Arc and Sharon Robinson

Leonard Cohen & Sharon Robinson in Amsterdam:  Oct 30, 1980

Leonard Cohen & Sharon Robinson in Amsterdam: Oct 30, 1980

 

Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc featuring Sharon Robinson
Amsterdam: October 30, 1980

[audio: http://cohencentric.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LC19801030d2t10-joan-of-arc.mp3]

Joan of Arc and Anjani Thomas

Anjani Thomas & Leonard Cohen in Guehenno - July 13, 1976

Anjani Thomas & Leonard Cohen in Copenhagen – 1985

Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc featuring Anjani Thomas
Hanover: March 13, 1985

[audio: http://cohencentric.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/lc1985-03-13_t28-Joan-of-Arc.mp3]

Credit Due Department: The photo of Leonard Cohen & Sharon Robinson was taken by Pete Purnell. The photos of Leonard Cohen with Cheryl Barnes, & Laura Branigan and with Anjani Thomas are video screenshots.

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  1. Tom Sakic, personal communication []
  2. “Trio & Duet Performances Of Leonard Cohen’s Joan of Arc You (Probably) Haven’t Heard,”Performances Of Leonard Cohen’s Joan of Arc Featuring One or More Female Vocalists You (Probably) Haven’t Heard,” etc. []
  3. This assertion is backed by my incredibly unscientific survey of “Cohen fans I know who responded to my emailed query immediately this morning.” []
  4. Tom Sakic, personal communication []

About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album: Joan of Arc – The Concert Performances

joanscrnsht

About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album

Leonard_Cohen_ASouvenirOfTheGrandTour_5x5_1500x1500About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album is a series of posts offering background and historical context for songs on Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, the Leonard Cohen live album scheduled for release May 12, 2015.1

This post, a continuation of About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album: Joan of Arc – Part 1, focuses on the evolution of the live versions of the song.

Joan of Arc: From Studio Solo To Concert Duet

The live performances of Joan of Arc during the 1970-1975 tours resembled the studio version (a recording of the studio version may be heard at About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album: Joan of Arc – Part 1)in that Cohen sang it as a solo with his backup singers relegated to the role of a female chorus “cushioning the imperfections of [his] voice.”2

Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc (Solo)
Olympia, Paris: 19 October 1974

In 1976, however, Cohen began performing Joan of Arc with him and female vocalists alternating, singing designated portions of the song, an arrangement that has persisted to the last public performance in 2012.

While the introduction of a female singer dramatically changes the presentation, the arrangement of the solo studio version of the song presages the duet versions performed in 1976 concerts and thereafter. Tom Sakic’s comparison of the version on the Songs of Love and Hate and the rendition from the June 17, 1993 Toronto concert, featuring Julie Christensen, found on the Cohen Live album (1994) is instructive:

Joan of Arc is written as a dialog between Joan and fire in which she burns. On the version from the Cohen Live album, Leonard Cohen sings the (male) parts of the narrator and the fire while Julie Christensen sings the (female) part of Joan.

One can, however, hear that male-female pattern in the studio version. Cohen, for example, recites rather than sings the narrative in the opening lines. When Cohen comes in on the second stanza, taking Joan’s role, he shifts from speaking to singing.

In addition, the studio version comprise two overlapped vocals (most obvious in the first and final four lines of ), one sung by Cohen and one recited by him, that augur the male-female duplicity of voices of the performances from 1979 and later.3

In Leonard Cohen: The Music and The Mystique (Omnibus Press, UK: 2012), Maurice Ratcliffe posits a fourth character in the song, in addition to Joan, Fire, and the Narrator:

… noting that the final lines are italicized in the sleevenotes, one becomes aware that these lines are sung by a fourth character. The Bystander ends the song by enunciating the tragic dilemma which he faces: “myself, I long for love and light / But must it come so cruel, must it be so bright?”

For my part, the fact that certain lines are printed in italics on liner notes does not make a compelling argument for introducing another character. It seems flimsy; it also seems an unnecessary deus ex machina. The Narrator is, after all, just the character telling the story. The theme of the song is crystallized and its poignancy enhanced by the storyteller ending the piece with this very personal, very moving observation. Tom Sakic elaborates:

Narrative prose usually has a narrator while lyric poetry has a “lyric subject.” Joan of Arc is a narrative poem or at least a ballad (traditional ballads are always narrative poems), so the voice of the poem (“lyric subject,” speaker) and the narrator are the same entity. The final verse of Joan of Arc seems to me the closure, the final comment from the person who narrated the story of Joan of Arc and her talk with fire in which she burns.4

Joan of Arc and Laura Branigan & Cheryl Barnes

Leonard Cohen, Cheryl Barnes, & June 1976: French TV

Leonard Cohen, Cheryl Barnes, & Laura Branigan on French TV – June 1976

Continue Reading →

  1. See It’s Official – Leonard Cohen “Can’t Forget” Live Album: Tracks, Sources, Pre-Order Info, & More []
  2. While Leonard Cohen’s quote specifically describes Sharon Robinson’s impact on his singing, he same effect can be ascribed to all of his backup singers. Source: The Happy Message of the Aged by Sven F. Goergens. Focus: September 15, 2001. []
  3. Tom Sakic, personal communication (with editing) []
  4. Tom Sakic, personal communication (with editing) []