Video: Leonard Cohen Performs I Can’t Forget With Lines From “Dover Beach” & “À La Claire Fontaine” – Ghent 2012

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“I Can’t Forget” – The Ghent Version

The 2012 Ghent concerts have produced a bounty of delectations that have surprised even long-time followers of Leonard Cohen. To this set of delights that have included a new and powerful arrangement of “Dance Me to The End Of Love,” a cover of the 1960s Drifters’ hit, “Save The Last Dance For Me,” and Leonard Cohen’s first live performance of “Light As The Breeze,”  can now be added this version of “I Can’t Forget” with verses from two poems, one in English and one in French, expertly woven into the music to produce a rapturous effect.

Leonard Cohen – I Can’t Forget
Ghent: Aug 14, 2012
Video by

Yep, just another Leonard Cohen masterpiece.

The Recitations

While Cohen has frequently incorporated poems, both his own work and those written by others into his act, they are typically spoken as stand-alone pieces (such as “A Thousand Kisses Deep”) or as introductions to songs. This excerpt from a post about the October 7, 2010 Moscow concert, provides some examples of Cohen’s use of poetry:

“The Darkness” is, by my assessment, especially striking and is significantly enhanced by Leonard Cohen’s recitation of “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley as prologue. This is at least the third time Leonard Cohen has quoted from the works of other poets on the 2010 Tour. At Lissadell House, where Yeats, who spent his childhood in Sligo, lived and wrote during his stay there in 1894 and 1895, Cohen quoted the opening verse of “In Memory Of Eva Gore-Booth And Con Markiewicz” by William Butler Yeats.1 In Stuttgart, apparently in response to civil unrest triggered by protests over the destruction of an area of trees, Cohen introduced “Born In Chains” with words from Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach.” … Cohen recited “Dover Beach” prior to “Born In Chains” at the Moscow concert as well.

In this case, Cohen recites a verse of “Dover Beach” in this rendition of  “I Can’t Forget” – but the words of the poem are interlaced with the song itself rather than serving as its prologue.

Cohen also weaves into “I Can’t Forget” words from “À La Claire Fontaine” [At The Clear Spring], a classic French children’s song.  The lyrics, in French and in English, can be found at Wikipedia. I’ve included the first lines (the line spoken by Leonard Cohen) below:

À la claire fontaine m’en allant promener
J’ai trouvé l’eau si belle que je m’y suis baignée.
(refrain) Il y a longtemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai

As I was walking by the clear fountain,
I found the water so lovely I had to bathe.
(refrain) I’ve loved you for so long, I will never forget you

Note: Originally posted Aug 17, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Leonard Cohen On Memories

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lcmemThis is the second post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen Talks/Sings About His “Most Irrelevant And Banal Adolescent Recollections”

The end of the first Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine post, Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man, featured a sampling of the mostly negative criticism of the Leonard Cohen-Phil Spector collaboration, Death Of A Ladies’ Man, and both the studio and live versions of “Memories.”

It turns out that the  apparent leader of this chorus of discontent and disgust is one Mr. Leonard Cohen, who famously explained to the July 8, 1994 BBC Radio 1 audience,

My most bizarre experience with a producer was with Phil Spector, with whom I worked in 1977 or 78, and we produced that grotesque album called Death of a Ladies’ Man.1

To be fair, he did seem to mean “grotesque” in the best possible way, and, in an interview some years later, he has called the album “semi-virtuous.”2

Similarly, Cohen stops short of outright condemnation in his comments from Leonard Cohen Obscured… A Haunting by Spector by Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone, January 26, 1978:

When I heard the final mix, I thought he [Spector] had taken the guts out of the record, and I sent him a telegram to that effect,” Cohen recalls. “I asked him to go back in the studio. I could have delayed its release. But I couldn’t have forced Phil back in the studio, and it might have taken another year. I view it now as an experiment that failed. But even within the failure there are moments. I think the album has real energizing capacities.”

As for the “Memories” track itself, these excerpts from Cohen’s concert tour introductions of that song are self-explanatory:

  • This is a song I wrote a couple of years ago with the great genius of darkest Hollywood:Phil Spector. And it’s a song based on my extremely boring and pathetic life at Westmont High School in Montreal. It’s called Memories.(München 31/10/79)
  • It brings me from the exulted and sublime considerations of these musicians and technicians to an extremely banal experience which I have put into a song frozen like a fly in amber and somewhat less important. But this is a song into which I’ve placed my most banal adolescent recollections and I think this song will probably live forever. It’s called Memories. (London 06/12/79)
  • In this song we placed all our most irrelevant and banal adolescent recollections. (San Francisco 1985)
  • Unfortunately, for my last song, I must offend your deepest sensibilities with an entirely irrelevant and vulgar ditty that I wrote some time ago with another Jew in Hollywood, where there are many. This is a song in which I have placed my most irrelevant and banal adolescent recollections. (Tel Aviv 24/11/80)
  • Long time ago, in my distant middle age, I sat down with Phil Spector on a mahogany piano bench and collaborated with him, one of the most dismal periods of my entire creative life. I wrote a song into which I have placed my most banal adolescent recollections. A song of profound and abiding irrelevance, which will probably last forever. Oh, how I long for the day when upon these shabby balustrades of the Concertgebouw, you will erase one of the lesser names of Wagner, of Stravinsky and in its place, in bright and shiny gold letters, inscribe the name…(laughs). Forgive me great gods of music. I am but a tiny worm groveling in the bright illumination of your memories. That reminds me the name of the tune, it’s called “Memories.” (Amsterdam 30/10/80)
  • The next song is one of my least significant songs. In it I have placed as though it were data in a tiny time capsule which is fired at a distant star and actually dissolves in the colder reaches of space, far before its ultimate destination……In this tiny song I have placed all the irrelevant material concerning my extremely dismal adolescence. It is a song called “Memories,” (Bonn 03/12/79)

Happily, my training and experience in the fields of English literature and psychiatry enable me to proceed, unburdened by the errant beliefs artists may maintain about what they think they think. (If they want to know what they think, they can make an appointment with me like everybody else.)

When Leonard Cohen derides “Memories,” he isn’t, of course, apologizing for the song. If Leonard Cohen is apologizing for anything, it’s for his own enjoyment of a performance that is a spoof.

I suspect a significant factor in my fondness for “Memories” is that I harbor a special affection for instances of Leonard Cohen having fun.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Now, it’s showtime.

Leonard Cohen Performs Memories – 1979

This is a particularly tasty performance despite some lyrics being hoarsely shouted. Featured are Paul Ostermayer on sax and backup singers, Jennifer Warnes & Sharon Robinson, on vocals & synchronized dance moves. Also on display are glimpses of Leonard dancing.

Leonard Cohen – Memories
From The Song of Leonard Cohen: 1979 Tour3
Video from messalina79

Down Memories Laine Posts:

  1. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man
  2. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Leonard Cohen On Memories
  3. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & I Am A Hotel
  4. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The 1979 ZDF-TV Droll, Deadpan Version
  5. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Live Performances Of Memories Online

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  1. My favorite Leonard Cohen quote about his experience with Spector is from Leonard Cohen Obscured… A Haunting by Spector by Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone, January 26, 1978, “Phil couldn’t resist annihilating me. I don’t think he can tolerate any other shadows in his own darkness.” []
  2. Beautiful loser, beautiful comeback. by Judith Fitzgerald in The National Post, 24 March 2001. []
  3. Rasky filmed concerts in Antwerp, Paris and Frankfurt []

The Marianne Variations: Leonard Cohen’s Recurring Revisions Of So Long, Marianne – Introduction

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mariannebkcover

So Long, Marianne Redux

The Marianne Variations is a series of posts devoted to the major versions of “So Long, Marianne” by Leonard Cohen. This introduction and links to all published posts in this series can be found at The Marianne Variations Summary Page.

Since its release on Leonard Cohen’s first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), “So Long, Marianne” has been on the setlist at hundreds of concerts and, as is true of many of Cohen’s songs, has been performed with many variations from the original album rendition. Often these are minor additions, deletions, or substitutions such as “I climbed this whole mountainside” being sung as “I climbed this goddamned whole mountainside” or “pretty” being replaced with “beautiful.” In some shows, verses have been skipped, either intentionally or in error.

In other cases, however, the changes are clearly deliberate. The first line, for example, of the printed lyrics of “So Long, Marianne” from Songs Of Leonard Cohen is “Come over to the window, my little darling” while the first line of the lyrics of the version from Field Commander Cohen is “Won’t you come over to the window, my little darling.” (There are several such minor variations between the two album renditions.)

Moreover, the musical arrangements and Cohen’s own singing style fluctuate. During the 1988 and 1993 Tours, for instance, Cohen often rendered the song in a raspy voice, sometimes shouting out the words while most performances during the 2008-2013 Tours were melodious, sometimes almost sweet sounding.

Cataloging every variation and permutation is, in any case, beyond the scope of these posts. Instead, the focus is on the different versions that are both significant enough to alter the experience of this classic and are clearly not only intentional but planned alterations as evidenced, for example, by lyrics printed in a Leonard Cohen songbook or album liner notes or by a number of performances in which a specific set of lyrics have appeared. At least four distinct versions meet these criteria:1

  1. The “If You Leave Where Will I Keep You Then?” Version
  2. The “Your Eyes” Version
  3. The “Here Comes The Morning Boat” Version
  4. The “Here Comes The Morning Boat” + ‘“Your Eyes” Version

Each of the next four posts in this series will focus on one of these versions and provide a recorded example of that variation. Today, a recording of the first released version is provided for future comparisons.

The Original Version Of So Long, Marianne From Songs Of Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne
Songs Of Leonard Cohen

Note: Originally posted Jul 14, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. The names used to designate these versions have been arbitrarily based on the first line of the added lyrics. []

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs So Long Marianne & Talks About Money, Music, Motivation In 1979

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ma-hydra

Leonard Cohen Sings So Long Marianne; Irving Layton Reads Death Of A Lady’s Man; Marianne Is Haunting

This clip from Harry Rasky’s “The Song Of Leonard Cohen”1  opens with Cohen’s mentor and friend, Irving Layton, reading the younger poet’s  “Death Of A Lady’s Man”2 and then segues into a particularly wrenching performance of “So Long Marianne” with many photos of Leonard Cohen and Marianne interspersed throughout the song. Finally, Leonard Cohen responds to a query about the motivation for his music, speaking ruefully about exchanging his beatific life in Hydra3  for “dark hotel rooms” because “the song seized me and the appetite for reaching many people seized me.”

Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne With Poem 1979
Uploaded by

Note: Originally posted May 11, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. “The Song Of Leonard Cohen” was produced in 1980. The performances shown here took  place during the 1979 Field Commander Cohen Tour that was the subject matter of Rasky’s film. []
  2. Death Of A Lady’s Man by Leonard Cohen

    The man she wanted all her life
    was hanging by a thread.
    “I never knew how much
    I wanted you,” she said.
    His muscles they were numbered
    and his style was obsolete.
    “O baby, I have come too late.”
    She knelt beside his feet.

    “I’ll never see a face like yours
    in years of men to come,
    I’ll never see such arms again
    in wrestling or in love.”
    And all his virtues burning
    in the smoky holocaust,
    she took unto herself
    most everything her lover lost.

    Now the master of this landscape
    he was standing at the view
    with a sparrow of St. Francis
    that he was preaching to.
    She beckoned to the sentry
    of his high religious mood.
    She said, “I’ll make a space between my legs,
    I’ll teach you solitude.”

    He offered her an orgy
    in a many-mirrored room;
    he promised her protection
    for the issue of her womb.
    She moved her body hard
    against a sharpened metal spoon,
    she stopped the bloody rituals
    of passage to the moon.

    She took his much-admired
    oriental frame of mind,
    and the heart-of-darkness alibi
    his money hides behind.
    She took his blonde Madonna
    And his monastery wine.
    “This mental space is occupied
    and everything is mine.”

    He tried to make a final stand
    beside the railway track.
    She said, “The art of longing is over
    and it’s never coming back.”
    She took his tavern parliament,
    his cap, his cocky dance;
    she mocked his female fashions
    and his working-class moustache.

    The last time I saw him
    he was trying hard to get
    a woman’s education
    but he’s not a woman yet.
    And the last time that I saw her
    she was living with a boy
    who gives her soul an empty room
    and gives her body joy.

    So the great affair is over
    but whoever would have guessed
    it would leave us all so vacant
    and so deeply unimpressed.
    It’s like our visit to the moon
    or to that other star:
    I guess you go for nothing
    if you really want to go that far. []

  3. For more about Cohen’s home in Hydra, see today’s DrHGuy post, Leonard Cohen Describes His Home In Hydra. []

Leonard Cohen Concert Video: Sharon Robinson’s Sumptuous Performance Of Boogie Street – Lisbon 2009

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boogieSo come, my friends, be not afraid
We are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made
In love we disappear

Give “Boogie Street” A Chance

“Boogie Street,” a Sharon Robinson – Leonard Cohen collaboration, is often listed by some Cohen fans in the – well, let’s call it “less beloved” category.1 Even if you fall into this Boogie-me-not group, however, I urge you to watch this albertnoonan video of Sharon Robinson performing a luscious arrangement of “Boogie Street” at the 2009 Lisbon concert.  If you don’t enjoy this, you can rest assured that you just don’t like the song and can time your trip to the concession stand or the rest room to coincide with it’s appearance in the setlist.

But I warn you, you may find yourself getting off on “Boogie Street.”

Leonard Cohen, featuring Sharon Robinson – Boogie Street
Lisbon: July 30, 2009
Video by  albertnoonan

Note: Originally posted Aug 4, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. I confess there was a time when I would have opted for “Boogie Shoes,” the 1975 KC and the Sunshine Band hit, over “Boogie Street.” Happily, I’ve matured a tad – although I still get off on “Boogie Shoes.” []

Leonard Cohen On His Show Business Principle “I wanted to get paid for my work, but I didn’t want to work for pay”

How does it feel to have weathered 30 years in the business?

quoteup2
It’s a long time, my child. I’ve had a blessed kind of renown, though it waxes and wanes. I’ve been able to satisfy a principle I established for myself early in the game, which was that I wanted to get paid for my work, but I didn’t want to work for pay.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen by Neva Chonin (Rolling Stone: December 11, 1997). Originally posted Dec 26, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Writes – Elegantly – From Montreal To Friends In Hydra 1963

quoteup2
Autumn here, the one I always remembered, red trees and sunlight, a bright wind swirling the leaves and skirts, the buildings more solid for all the fragile movement of the trees and walkers.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s elegant writing style is evident not only in his poems and songs but also his personal correspondence. This Leonard Cohen epistolary except is from his Oct 6, 1963 letter to Redmond Wallis, a writer from New Zealand, who was Cohen’s friend as well as his fellow resident on Hydra. At the time this letter was written, Leonard Cohen was working in Montreal, and Wallis was at his home on Hydra. This letter is archived at the National Library of New Zealand – Wellington. Originally posted Mar 24, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric