Peter Torbijn of the Netherlands spotted these images from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival Program at a sale site. Leonard Cohen performed at the Festival on August 30, 1970.
DrHGuy Note: This extraordinary personal account of the 1970 Leonard Cohen University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert and its sociopolitical context has been unavailable recently.1 Now, however, Cohencentric, in cooperation with the author, Joe Way, is proud to publish the report in its entirety. I heartily recommend this article, written at a time when the Gulf War was this country’s key political issue, not only to Leonard Cohen fans but also to anyone interested in the social protests and peace movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies, the contentions over the war in Viet Nam, or the atmosphere in which the Boomer Generation made the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
1970 Leonard Cohen Madison Concert Review by Joe Way
“The fifteen minutes of the sixties” (as Leonard Cohen has characterized them) wore on into the summer and fall of 1970. Examine this timeline:
- May 4, 1970. Four students are killed and eight wounded by National Guard troops in an anti-Viet Nam demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio.
- August 24, 1970. Sterling Hall (in which is housed the Army Math Research Center) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is destroyed by a homemade bomb killing one young researcher in another Viet Nam war protest.
- August 31, 1970. Leonard Cohen performs at 4 AM at the Isle of Wight festival following a Jimi Hendrix appearance that according to Ira Nadel “set the stage on fire.” Leonard first appeared in pajamas, but then followed his seventeen song set with a fourteen minute encore that according to Kris Kristofferson was “the damnedest thing you ever saw – he charmed the beast.”
- September 18, 1970. Jimi Hendrix dies in his sleep.
- October 4, 1970. Janis Joplin dies at 27.
- October 5, 1970. British Trade Commissioner, James Cross, is kidnapped by FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) terrorists in Westmount, Leonard Cohen’s childhood Montreal home area. (Read the FLQ’s communiqué and demands after kidnapping Cross.)
- October 10, 1970. Quebec reporter, Pierre Laporte, is kidnapped by FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) terrorists.
- October 16, 1970. Pierre Trudeau implements Canada’s War Powers Act establishing martial law. When questioned about the act, an angry Trudeau replies: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is go on and bleed.” (View the CBC interview clip with Prime Minister Trudeau where he made this comment.)
- October 17, 1970. Pierre Laporte is found dead in a car trunk.
- October 30, 1970. Leonard Cohen performs at the Wisconsin Student Association sponsored, anti-war, “Bring them Home from Viet Nam” Homecoming celebration at the University of Wisconsin Field House in Madison.
Insert here an eighteen year old freshman from a very small town in northern Wisconsin called, “Tigerton” who arrived in Madison somewhere in the middle of September 1970 to start his college life. The people of Tigerton were concerned that he would turn communist and lose his religion on this godless campus. That person was me.
- Portions of this material were posted Feb 16, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. [↩]