Videos: All Six Songs From 1988 Leonard Cohen Live At Roskilde TV Broadcast

Dance Me To The End Of Love, Everybody Knows, First We Take Manhattan, Take This Waltz, Hallelujah,  Suzanne

On July 2, 1988, Leonard Cohen appeared  at the 1988 Roskilde Festival, held south of Roskilde, Denmark. Six of those songs were broadcast on TV2 Denmark. a1000kissesdeep (aka Tom Sakic to ongoing readers) has uploaded these to YouTube. Although all six suffer from color distortion, these videos are fascinating, not only because of the impressive performances by Leonard Cohen and his musicians but also due to the exuberant, banner-waving audience. Worthy of special note is Everybody Knows, which offers a precursor to one of Leonard Cohen’s signature moves during the 2008-2013 tours – kneeling beside John Bilezikjian on the oud  as he would later kneel beside Javier Mas to establish face to face contact as he sings and Mas plays.

1. Dance Me To The End Of Love
2. Everybody Knows
3. First We Take Manhattan
4. Take This Waltz
5. Hallelujah
6. Suzanne

Embedded below is  a representative performance, Take This Waltz.

Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz
Roskilde: July 2, 1988

Note: Originally posted Aug 6, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Toward An Understanding Of Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz

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Notes On And Recommended Analyses Of Take This Waltz

The Unrealized Potential of Cohen’s Take This Waltz in The Gin Game, a two-part discussion1 published earlier this year triggered interest among reader about the song itself. Now, in my personal edition of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the “need to analyze Take This Waltz” falls somewhere between the “need to distinguish between sierra gold and amber sunshine” and the “need to catch a bowling ball dropped from a five story building in ones teeth.” I can, nonetheless, offer some notes and direction toward an understanding of Leonard Cohen’s 1986 tribute to  Federico García Lorca.

Leonard Cohen On Lorca

Take This Waltz is an especially important song in the Leonard Cohen canon, in large part because the lyrics derive from Pequeño Vals Vienès  (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca (pictured on right).

Cohen has commented on his discovery of Lorca’s poem and its significance in numerous concerts and interviews. These quotations are representative.

I was fifteen when I began to read Federico Garcia Lorca. His poems perhaps have had the greatest influence on my texts. He summoned up a world where I felt at home. His images were sensual and mysterious: “throw a fist full of ants to the sun.” I wanted to be able to write something like that as well. A few years ago I wrote a musical adaptation of Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz .” Then I noticed what a complex writer he was: it took me more than a hundred hours just to translate the poem. Lorca is one of those rare poets with whom you can stay in love for life.2

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  1. See Part 1: The Basics Of The Play & Its Add-on Dance Scene and Part 2:The Tragedy Of Love Touched But Not Grasped []
  2. From ‘Gesprek met Leonard Cohen, de boeteprediker van de popmuziek; Het Oude Testament is mijn handboek’ [Talk with Leonard Cohen, the philosopher of pop music; the Old Testament is my guide] by Pieter Steinz, NRC: December 4, 1992. translated by Anja Deelen []

An Examination Of Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz In The Gin Game – Part 2: The Tragedy Of Love Touched But Not Grasped

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Introduction: The Gin Game & The Dance Scene

Part 1 of this post, The Basics Of The Play & Its Add-on Dance Scene, provided background on D.L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game” and its dance scene as groundwork for an inspection of the role Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz plays in that production.

Part 2 will focus on the specific functions of the dance scene and its music as well as my argument that the music could have been used to greater effect.

I contend that (1) the use of this specific song is key to the dance scene, which itself, though not part of the original script, exponentially enhances the drama and pathos of the play and serves as catalyst for the audience’s investment in the fate of the characters and, by the way, (2) the scene’s full potential is not realized because of the manner in which the music is implemented in the orthodox, playwright-sanctioned production of the play.1

The Significance Of The Outcomes Of The Card Games

At the center of “The Gin Game” is the cosmic joke that we humans cling tenaciously and desperately to the very flaws that can destroy us – even when those faults are made all too apparent. Psychiatrists call the tendency of individuals to repeat a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over again “repetition compulsion.” Fonsia and Weller are the elderly poster children for repetition compulsion.

In “The Gin Game,” Weller, who cajoles Fonsia into playing gin and teaches her the rudiments of the game, becomes increasingly frustrated to the point of apoplexy as Fonsia wins hand after hand, all the while maintaining her veneer of sweetly innocent decorum to the point of apologizing for winning, further antagonizing Weller.

This repeated scenario of Fonsia’s victories over the pompous and laughably over-reactive Weller is initially pleasing and genuinely funny to the audience, providing false cues for anyone familiar with movies or TV to infer that “The Gin Game” is a romantic comedy with the familiar Katherine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy story line in which the sweet but shrewd – and a tad shrewish – female wins the the crusty male curmudgeon’s heart, which on analysis, turns out to be composed of gold.

The sense of hope is boosted in other scenes as well. An easily spotted example is the transformation in appearance of Fonsia and Weller before and after their first meeting. When first seen, Weller wears “terry-cloth slippers, khaki pants, a pajama top and an old brown wool bathrobe” while Fonsia is clothed in “faded pink slippers, an old housecoat, and a cardigan sweater.” Encouraged by their first contact, Weller next appears in “a jacket and tie, khaki pants and loafers,” and Fonsia “looks like a different woman [in] a print dress, a rose-colored cardigan, and open-toed sandals.”

What was comical and hopeful, however, turns threatening and tragic as Weller proves unable to tolerate the assault on his brittle ego caused by ongoing losses at gin. His increasingly lurid language and escalating violence (e.g., throwing over the card table after yet another loss) drive Fonsia (and likely the audience) into a psychological retreat.

Fonsia, however, cannot ultimately withdraw from the battle, even when it is clear that the only victory she can win will be Pyrrhic. She is herself rigidly insistent, because of her embedded history of unfulfilled hopes, on protecting her own facsimile of self-esteem at all costs and consequently approaches every interaction with the presumption that others, especially men, will attempt to attack, cheat, or abandon her.

This combination of traits prevents Weller and Fonsia from achieving more than a momentary connection and ultimately dooms their chance of forming an enduring relationship.

Because both characters are locked into their self-sabotaging personalities, conditions deteriorate until the final game turns into a furious no-holds barred battle that leaves both contestants dismayed, mortified, and – rightfully – frightened.

The Waltz As Redemption

The counterpoint to the mutually assured destruction, to use an especially appropriate Cold War term, of the card games is the dance Fonsia and Weller perform which offers the sole glimpse of genuine joyousness and selfless human connectedness in the universe created in “The Gin Game.”

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  1. The only production of “The Gin Game” I’ve seen is the video of the PBS version of the play. Since the PBS TV screenplay was adapted from the script by the playwright, D.L. Coburn, my working assumption, until shown otherwise, is that the staging of the dance in this production is in line with his intentions and instructions. []

“Lorca is one of those rare poets with whom you can stay in love for life.” Leonard Cohen On Federico Garcia Lorca

quoteup2
I was fifteen when I began to read Federico Garcia Lorca. His poems perhaps have had the greatest influence on my texts. He summoned up a world where I felt at home. His images were sensual and mysterious: “throw a fist full of ants to the sun.” I wanted to be able to write something like that as well. A few years ago I wrote a musical adaptation of Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz .” Then I noticed what a complex writer he was: it took me more than a hundred hours just to translate the poem. Lorca is one of those rare poets with whom you can stay in love for life. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From ‘Gesprek met Leonard Cohen, de boeteprediker van de popmuziek; Het Oude Testament is mijn handboek’ [Talk with Leonard Cohen, the philosopher of pop music; the Old Testament is my guide] by Pieter Steinz, NRC: December 4, 1992.

Credit Due Department: Contributed & translated by Anja Deelen

An Examination Of Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz In The Gin Game – Part 1: The Basics Of The Play & Its Add-on Dance Scene

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Introduction

Although Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz is heard only briefly as the musical accompaniment for a dance sequence in D.L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game,” a careful consideration of its role enhances the understanding of both the play and the song. I contend, in fact, that the use of this specific song is key to the dance scene, which itself, though not part of the original script, exponentially enhances the drama and pathos of the play and serves as catalyst for the audience’s investment in the fate of the characters.

It’s helpful to review some basic information about the play, especially the addition of the dance sequence.1

The Gin Game On Stage

Written in 1976 by D.L. Coburn, “The Gin Game” is a two-act, Pulitzer Prize winning play that first appeared on Broadway in 1977 starring Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn and directed by Mike Nichols. In 1997, Since its first Broadway production, “The Gin Game” has been a stalwart in the repertoire of amateur and professional theater groups and has been produced extensively in the U.S. and scores of other countries.2

Cast & Plot

The cast consists of two characters, Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin, who are residents of Bentley, a ramshackle nursing home for the elderly.

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  1. “The Gin Game” falls into the category of Classic, Frequently Produced American Plays With High Name Recognition About Which Few People Know A Darn Thing. Consequently, it seems risky to assume  there is a widely shared database of basic knowledge about this work, []
  2. Charles Durning and Julie Harris appeared in a Charles Nelson Reilly directed Broadway revival of the play. In 1999, a major production of “The Gin Game” in London featured Joss Ackland and Dorothy Tutin. []

Video Of Leonard Cohen’s Performance Of Take This Waltz With Disco Ball Effect – Munich 1993

dancedisco500In times past, I have longed for a video of a Leonard Cohen performance that displays disco ball effects. Now, sharp-eyed reader Phillip Smith has pointed me to such a recording. That video is embedded at the end of this post following a summary of the back story..

Leonard Cohen’s Disco Balls: 1979

Readers of the lamentably departed DrHGuy.com site may recall mention of a photo by Jean-Pierre Leloir1 that shows Leonard Cohen performing beneath four disco balls at his October 22, 1979 Paris concert.

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  1. Photo found in a 15 page feature on the Canadian singer-songwriter by Jacques Vassal in the French monthly magazine Paroles & Musique [Words and Music], No. 33, Oct 1983. Contributed by Dominique BOILE []