Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: The Gallery By Joni Mitchell

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. The Gallery is one of four songs held by some to be inspired by Joni Mitchell’s experiences with Leonard Cohen.

Mitchell directly confirmed that “Leonard is an influence on that song [The Gallery]” in Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom (ECW Press: Sept 9, 2014). Joni Mitchell and Malka Marom discussed Leonard Cohen’s role in this song:

J: Some of them [Cohen’s lyrics] are very unflattering portraits. They scared me. He could be so harsh on women.

M: Harsh in what way?

J: In the songs. “Your thighs are a ruin, you want too much / let’s say you came back some time too soon” [from Master Song by Leonard Cohen]  That’s harsh. I countered it with thinking of the pleasure I’m gonna have watching your hairline recede, which is a similar line. I think both of those things are mean. But Leonard gets funny. When you take him seriously, eventually, you start to …

M: Yes, he’s got this ironic twist in him that I like.

The sentiment behind these words from The Gallery seems clear:

When I first saw your gallery
I liked the ones of ladies
Then you began to hang up me
You studied to portray me
In ice and greens
And old blue jeans
And naked in the roses
Then you got into funny scenes
That all your work disclose

Lady, please love me now, I am dead
I am a saint, turn down your bed
I have no heart, that’s what you said
You said, I can be cruel
But let me be gentle with you

Joni Mitchell – The Gallery

 

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Rarity By Lucinda Williams

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While most of the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen or, in one case, has been built around one of his songs, today’s entry name-checks the Canadian singer-songwriter in one line.

Your voice a cello
Your words speak volumes
In the night I run for
Like Leonard Cohen’s

Rarity by Lucinda Williams

As this excerpt from Lucinda Williams: On Record by Evan Schlansky (American Songwriter: Oct 29, 2008) explains, Rarity was inspired by another musician, Mia Doi Todd:

Did you write “Rarity” with someone specific in mind?
I was actually really inspired by this artist named Mia Doi Todd. She’s just a really, really brilliant songwriter kind of more in the underground folk pop thing I guess. She goes out and tours and stuff. I guess there was a situation that inspired the song, but of course all my songs are bigger than one person. But there might be a person or an event that plants the seed for the song, but then the song becomes bigger than that. But what had happened was, a friend of turned me on to her, a record she put out on a little indie label, and this was when I was still living in Nashville, before I moved back to Los Angeles about six years ago. And I really was just struck by her lyrics. Her voice was soft and moody sounding, and her melodies were great, but her lyrics really impressed me. I’d never heard of her before. Then I was in a record store in L.A. and saw that she had a record out on a subsidiary of universal, I think it was on hip-o, maybe. But obviously she had some major label distribution, and I went, yay, finally. She’s got a chance to sell some records and get better known and things. Next thing I know I read that she’s been dropped by Universal, and now her next record is out on an unknown little indie label, so that’s what spurred the idea for the song. Because I had seen that so often, and I’d been through that myself, to some degree, and seen it happen with a lot of really good artists: where if they don’t sell enough records, they don’t really get a chance. It’s the same old story that you’ve heard a million times. So that’s basically what planted the idea for the song.

We finally got to meet, she lives in L.A., and she had came in, and I recorded a song that was going to go on West, but we had so many songs that we couldn’t put them all on the record. We sort of ran out of time, budget, money, time to record all the songs. But I had a demo of it, she came in and heard the demo, and she was really touched.

I don’t get as chance to see her play very often, but she’s just one of those unusually brilliant songwriters who probably if she had a chance to do something back in the, if she’d been around back in the day, when people like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, writers like that were coming out, she would have probably stood a better chance in getting recognition. She definitely has a cult following, that’s for sure. That’s kind of the only way you can do it now anymore, if you’re just starting out. You have to build your own thing like that. I mean, I’m lucky, ‘cause I just barely got in by the skin of my teeth. But if I was just starting out now, I’d have a hard time. I’m lucky I got as far as I did! Just before the door slammed on me, before the industry kind of went to hell and a hand basket.

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Marching Band By Movits!

1200px-movits_at_sxsw is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen or, in one case, has been built around one of his songs, today’s entry name-checks the Canadian singer-songwriter in one line.

Yep, the sole rationale posting this video in Cohencentric’s Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen series is that one line of the (mostly) Swedish lyrics of “Marching Band” (the first section of the original lyrics and the Google English translation are available at the end of this entry) by Movits!1 references Leonard Cohen. And that I find the entire song oddly delightful.

The Leonard Cohen shout-out takes place at 0:20.

Original Lyrics (bolding mine):

Ta dig från Luleå till Mississippi
Johnny Hurt, Kentucky whiskey
Nån stans i en husbil utanför Philly

Får väl köra i streck till imorgon bitti
Frågar vart vi kommer ifrån, excuse me?
Say, where you guys from? Sapmi
Ôr det kanske nåt som du känner till?
Ingvar Kamprad eller surströmming
Sen tar vi Berlin, Leonard Cohen
Började ganska sent i tonåren
Sånger från rummet på andra våningen
Ut ur min skalle
Kan inte sova på flera månader, nej, men sömnlös i
Ã.tminstone alldeles för många dygn
Har klivit upp alldeles för tidigt
Med spänningshuvudvärk [unverified]
Har sålt slut biljetter

Google Translate (bolding mine):

Take from Luleå to Mississippi
Johnny Hurt, Kentucky whiskey
Someone somewhere in a camper outside Philly

May well run in the dash to tomorrow morning
Asks where we come from, excuse me?
Say, where you guys from? Sapmi
A “is perhaps something that you know of?
Ingvar Kamprad, or fermented herring
Then we take Berlin, Leonard Cohen
Began quite late in adolescence
Songs from the room on the second floor
out of my head
Can not sleep for several months, no, but sleepless in
Ã.tminstone too many days
Has stepped up too early
With tension headaches [unverified]
Has sold out tickets

Credit Due Department: Photo by Ann Larie Valentine – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia

________________________

  1. Movits! is a Swedish music group from Luleå that plays swing mixed with hip hop. []

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Ballad Of Len Performed By Sylvie Simmons & Heidi Clare

ballladlen is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. Today’s offering is a homegrown ditty, The Ballad Of Len.

The Ballad Of Len By DrHGuy

“The Ballad Of Len,” featuring lyrics by DrHGuy and set to music not unlike that of the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies, was performed August 4, 2012 by Sylvie Simmons, the renowned music journalist who authored the Leonard Cohen biography, “I’m Your Man,” and Heidi Clare, widely acknowledged as the best, most powerful old-time fiddler performing today, at the Madison Leonard Cohen Event held in Madison, Wisconsin.

No, I have no idea what Ms Simmons and Ms Clare were thinking – or smoking – when they agreed to this.

But, if you’ve always craved hearing a parody of “The Ballad Of Jed Clampett” commemorating the 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour sung in a British accent accompanied by ukelele and exquisite fiddling well, friend, this is your big chance.

Sylvie Simmons & Heidi Clare – The Ballad Of Len
Video by Maarten Massa

Ballad Of Len – Lyrics

Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Len
Up on Mount Baldy he was contemplatin’ Zen1
Then one day checking his retirement stash,
He found out that he was plumb out of cash2
(Swindled that is, cleaned out, busted)

Well, Our Man’s3 future was looking insecure
Rob Hallett4 said “Len, you’ve gotta go on tour,”
Said on the road is the place you oughta be
So he bought a fedora and signed with AEG5
(Worldwide that is, Europe, North America, Down Under)

Well the concerts were a hit right from the kickoff show
Fredericton6 welcomed him with a standing O
The Tour earned big bucks and even more esteem
Not too bad for a kid with a crazy dream7
(
White man dancing, cheerfulness breaking through, dum, dum, dum, da, doo, dum, dum)

In Vegas three years later the tour was finally done8
When Leonard told the crowd, “God bless us every one”
Now Cohenites9 are happy from Manhattan to Berlin10
Leonard’s going back on tour11 – here we go again
(Presales, VIP packages, Y’all buy that I’m Your Man biography now, ya hear?)

____________________________________________

  1. Leonard Cohen resided at the Mount Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles from 1994 – 1999. During his stay, Cohen was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk, taking the Dharma name Jikan. For more information, see 10 Years Ago – Leonard Cohen Comes Down From The Mountain []
  2. Cohen sued his former manager for stealing $5m from his retirement fund while he was at the Zen Buddhist monastery. []
  3. “Our Man” is one of Leonard Cohen’s many nicknames. See Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames, Item #50 []
  4. Rob Hallett is a concert promoter for AEG, who among other accomplishments, is held to have coaxed Leonard Cohen out of retirement for the 2008-2011 World Tour. Source: Praise Be… Or How “Hallelujah” Man Leonard Cohen’s Comeback Actually Happened by Johnny Black (Rock’s Back Pages, Jan 9,. 2009) []
  5. The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is a sporting and music entertainment presenter and managed Leonard Cohen’s 2008-2010 Tour []
  6. Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, was the site of Leonard Cohen’s first concert of the 2008-2010 Tour, performed on 11 May 2008. []
  7. A recurrent schtick in Leonard Cohen’s 2008-2010 concert routine was noting that when he last performed at a given venue when he was 60 years old, “just a kid with a crazy dream. []
  8. The 11 Dec 2010 Leonard Cohen Las Vegas show closed out the 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour []
  9. Cohenites is the preferred term for Cohen followers []
  10. As in “First We Take Manhattan … []
  11. The 2012 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour begins Aug 12, 2012 []

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: That Song About The Midway By Joni Mitchell

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While Leonard isn’t specifically named in today’s entry, That Song About The Midway by Joni Mitchell, this excerpt from Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell – Just One Of Those Things, an examination of the liaison between the two Canadian singer-songwriters, offers support for a connection:

Judy Collins comments on Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and That Song About The Midway in her book, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes – My Life In Music [bolding mine]:

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.

Excerpted Lyrics:

I met you on a midway at a fair last year
And you stood out like a ruby in a black man’s ear
You were playing on the horses, you were playing on the guitar strings
You were playing like a devil wearing wings, wearing wings
You looked so grand wearing wings

You were betting on some lover, you were shaking up the dice
And I thought I saw you cheating once or twice, once or twice

Joni Mitchell – That Song About The Midway
From Clouds

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen’s Never Gonna Bring My Groceries In By Nancy White

Remember me, I brought your groceries in

First We Take Manhattan
By Leonard Cohen

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. Today’s offering is Nancy White’s funny, heartfelt homage to the Canadian singer-songwriter.

From the Soundcloud description:

From the cd “Momnipotent: Songs for Weary Parents”, recorded at Inception Sound in 1990. This track was produced by Rick Whitelaw. Sometimes, when a woman is expecting her second child, she feels as if the glamorous part of her life is over. This song expands on that theme! There are a few of Cohen’s phrases and chord progressions in this homage. I got permission! -nw

Credit Due Department: Original photo taken by Bob Faggen and adapted by DrHGuy. Photo contributed by Leonard Cohen.