Patrick Leonard’s Collaboration With Leonard Cohen

Note: Originally posted Jan 12, 2015 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Collaborations

Although Leonard Cohen’s professional persona is that of the consummate solo artist, he has a long history of collaboration. Sharon Robinson, for example, co-wrote and produced Ten New Songs as well as singing and playing all the instruments on the album.1 A single sentence from Robert Christgau’s commentary on New Skin for Old Ceremony economically attests to the significance of two of Cohen’s best known producers:

Some of the new songs are less than memorable, but the settings, by John Lissauer, have the bizarre feel of John Simon’s “overproduction” on Cohen’s first album, which I always believed suited his studied vulgarity perfectly.

Similarly, Jennifer Warnes, Bob Johnston, Lewis Furey, Anjani Thomas, and Henry Lewy, among other musicians, songwriters, and producers, have influenced Cohen’s music. And, while the impact of some individuals has been limited to a single instance, e.g., Phil Spector’s work on “Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” several collaborators have left their imprints on a number of projects over a period of years.2

The Two Leonards

Patrick Leonard, who co-wrote three songs on the Old Ideas album and co-wrote eight of the nine songs on Popular Problems, is Cohen’s confederate in the current edition of these musical partnerships. The pair, in fact, are said to have “half of another album in the can.”3 This post offers an introduction to the nature of this collaboration.

Patrick Leonard’s efforts have changed  how Leonard Cohen songs are created. Perhaps the most obvious effect has been the acceleration of Cohen’s notoriously slow, laborious development process:

“Some of them came together with shockingly alarming speed,” said Cohen, who recorded many of the songs at his home studio. “Usually, I take a long, long time – partly because of an addiction to perfection, partly just sheer laziness.”4

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  1. Except Bob Metzger’s guitar work on “In My Secret Life” []
  2. Thanks to Jugurtha Harchaoui (personal communication) for this insight. []
  3. Leonard Cohen on Collaborating with Madonna Collaborator Patrick Leonard for Upcoming ‘Popular Problems’ By Phil Gallo. Billboard: September 11, 2014 []
  4. Leonard Cohen Offers Rare Peek Into His Process at ‘Popular Problems’ Preview by Steve Appleford. Rolling Stone: September 11, 2014 []

After Winning 2015 Juno Album Of The Year, Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Sees 200% Sale Increase

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Source: Alanis Morissette, Leonard Cohen enjoy big boost after Junos by Nick Patch. CTV News: March 31, 2015.

And Cohen, meanwhile, saw a 200 per cent sale increase for his album of the year winner “Popular Problems” — even though the 80-year-old couldn’t make it to accept in person.

Liel Leibovitz’s Must-Read Popular Problems Essay: “Is Leonard Cohen’s New Album His Best Yet?”

Tablet_Magazine_logoYou Don’t Have To Be Jewish To Love Popular Problems – But Looking At The Album From That Perspective Couldn’t Hurt

Liel Leibovitz, author of A Broken Hallelujah, has written a smart, insightful, and accessible essay on Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems album that uses Judaism as a prism for apprehending the methodology and significance of Cohen’s songwriting genius.

Excerpts

Think of [Leonard Cohen’s] new album, Popular Problems, as dawn on Mount Baldy, inviting you into a sparsely decorated landscape that nonetheless gives you all the discipline and all the space you need to contemplate the questions that are truly worth considering.

Here he is, for example, in “Almost Like the Blues,” reciting over a piano track that manages to be at once sober and seductive: “So I let my heart get frozen /To keep away the rot /My father said I’m chosen /My mother said I’m not /I listened to their story /Of the Gypsies and the Jews /It was good, it wasn’t boring /It was almost like the blues.” It is, first and foremost, a funny line: Is Cohen chosen? Depends on which of his parents you ask. But if it’s a joke, it’s a cosmic one: The very nature of chosenness, the spiritual engine of Judaism for millennia now, is that our seminal moment at the foothills of the mountain came with no instructions. Who’s chosen? For what? For how long? Can we be unchosen? Are our children chosen by default? God never says, leaving us to wonder for eternity what it means to have been chosen. In the meantime, all we can do is guess and make up stories—and songs—that are good, that aren’t boring, and that come as close as is possible to the pure emotional convictions of something like the blues, as transcendental an art form as we’ve got. This sort of songwriting is harder to pull off than you’d think. Any other artist looking at the mirror and seeing himself at the peak of his success might have been tempted to become, as one Israeli rock journalist put it, the Shimon Peres of rock ’n’ roll, dispensing platitudes and enjoying the comfort of his laurels. But Cohen is remarkably unsentimental. Lighter on his feet now than he’s ever been, he delivers his line with humor and with charm, but he’s still as committed as ever to the role that has made him mean so much to so many of us, namely that of the chronicler of the secret particles of truth and beauty most of us are too dense to absorb.

Read the complete article at Is Leonard Cohen’s New Album His Best Yet? by Liel Leibovitz (Tablet Magazine: Sept 19, 2014)