Leonard Cohen Attends First Live Gig: Josh White – Ruby Foo’s Montreal 1949

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Leonard Cohen Recalls Seeing Josh White

[Question:] What was the first gig you went to?

[Leonard Cohen:] Josh White in Ruby Foo’s, a Chinese restaurant in Montreal, 1949. Josh White was a black blues singer, once associated with the leftist folk song movement in New York City but allegedly turned federal witness in the investigation of communistic folk singers and lost a lot of credibility. Still played a great guitar. He knew how to bend a string.1

Josh White

Leonard Cohen was certainly correct about Josh White knowing “how to bend a string.” His playing style influenced many guitarists, including Pete Seeger, Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Elvis Presley, The Kingston Trio, Merle Travis, Dave Van Ronk, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Mike Bloomfield, David Crosby, Richie Havens, Don McLean, Ry Cooder, John Fogerty, Eva Cassidy and Jack White.2

And Leonard Cohen’s summary of White’s political conflicts was similarly accurate. As Wikipedia notes,

White also became the closest African-American friend and confidant to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, White’s anti-segregationist and international human rights political stance presented in many of his recordings and in his speeches at rallies resulted in the right-wing McCarthyites assuming him a Communist. Accordingly, from 1947 through the mid 1960s, White became caught up in the anti-Communist Red Scare, and combined with the resulting attempt to clear his name, his career was damaged.

Josh White was also – before he was blacklisted – in demand as an actor on radio, Broadway, and film.

Josh White on Video

Ruby Foo’s – Montreal

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  1. Q Questionnaire – Leonard Cohen, Q Magazine, September 1994. []
  2. Wikipedia []

Leonard Cohen on Suzanne “It was never about a particular woman…it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal”

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It was never about a particular woman. For me it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal, and my life wandering alone in those parts of Montreal that are now very beautifully done up and in those days, it was the waterfront. I used to wander around down there and I used to go to that church a lot.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Cohen Wore Earplugs to a Dylan Show? by Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s: June 12, 2008. Photo of Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, better known as the Church where “the sun pours down like honey, On our lady of the harbour.”  See Our Lady Of The Harbour – The Montreal Church Embedded In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

Two Photos: A Very Young Leonard Cohen & Sister Esther Visit Westmount Conservatory In Style

lcestconservA Victorian greenhouse built in 1927 by  Lord & Burnham, the Westmount Conservatory was closed in 2015 for repairs. The City of Westmount anticipates the Conservatory will reopen, with a restored roof, in 2018. A well done article about the Conservatory with several photos can be found at The Westmount Conservatory: A Green Oasis, Tucked Away in Montreal by Melanie Guilbault  (The Main: June 11, 2015).

In the photos, Esther is wearing a Red River Coat (these coats were black or very dark blue with a choice of either tomato red or aqua blue for the tuque, sash, mittens and thick stockings) while Leonard is attired in a fur coat.

redcoatconservatory4Thanks to Maarten Massa for access to these images. Originally posted July 16,, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

3 Photos: A Very Young Leonard Cohen, His Sister Esther, & Their Dog Tinky

sail1These photos show a well-turned-out Leonard Cohen with his older sister, Esther, and their Scottish terrier, Tinky (also spelled Tinke),1 at play,

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Credit Due Department: Thanks to Maarten Massa for access to these images
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  1. More about Tinky at “The Closest Being To Me During My Childhood” – Leonard Cohen Talks About His Dog, Tinky []

Leonard Cohen On “Suzanne” – A Song Of Montreal

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The song could’ve been called by any name because I had the guitar pattern, before I had the name of the woman. But, the wife of a friend of mine is named Suzanne, and she did invite me down to her place near the river, the St. Lawrence. And she served me ~ I believe it was Constant Comment ~ tea, which is composed of tea and oranges.1 And I did enjoy her hospitality. More or less, the song is reportage in the first verse. Then, because Montreal is a religious city, and there are symbols of all the great faiths around…that verse about Jesus; and we were emerged, and we were by the river. And then, the last verse tried to sum up, somehow, the kind of compassion and attention that a man looks to receive from a woman.

The writing of “Suzanne,” like all my songs, took a long time. I wrote most of it in Montreal ~ all of it in Montreal ~ over the space of, perhaps, four or five months. I had many, many verses to it. Sometimes the song would go off on a tangent, and you’ll have perfectly respectable verses, but that have led you away from the original feel of the song. So, it’s a matter of coming back. It’s a very painful process because you have to throw away a lot of good stuff. To come back, and to get those three verses of “Suzanne,” that took me quite a long time.

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Leonard Cohen

 

The John Hammond Years: Interview with John Hammond & Leonard Cohen broadcast on BBC, Sept 20, 1986. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Sally Hunter

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  1. See Cohensubstantiation – Commonplace Tea Becomes Sacramental Repast In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne []

Leonard Cohen on Montreal: “It’s that combination of sophistication and funkiness that I like”

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Leonard Cohen interviewed by Hans Pfitzinger in Paris, 1988.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Chicoutimi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons. Originally posted Leonard Cohen interviewed by Hans Pfitzinger in Paris, 1988 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric