“Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox


Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.


“Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles

When people ask me, ‘What’s your favorite song?’ I say “Blueberry Hill.”1 “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill / The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill.” That’s as good as it gets, as far as I know. You know everything about that moment. You know, you’re continually see-sawing back and forth between the secular and the spiritual until from time to time you hit it right. It’s there on “Blueberry Hill,” or “Old Man River” from Ray Charles. And what is that? What is that about? Is it about work? Is it about God? Is it about love? It’s impossible to say; it’s been transmuted into the world, and the song doesn’t invite you to examine your achievements in the realm of piety or religiosity or even love, but the song itself is embracing all those elements!
Leonard Cohen2

Ol’ Man River, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, was written for the 1927 musical Show Boat. Ray Charles released his version of the song on his 1963 album, Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul.

Video: “Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles

Note: Originally posted Oct 23, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. See “Blueberry Hill” By Fats Domino Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox []
  2. Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman. Details for Men, January, 1993. [emphasis mine] []

2 Replies to ““Ol’ Man River” By Ray Charles Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox”

  1. Ali Andreae Wagemaker

    ik was 14 toen ik een film over het leven van George Gerwins zag, het raakte me diep. Veel muziek betekende leren dansen bij dorps jukebox. Later vond ik de teksten van Nina Simone heel mooi. het vreselijke, wat kleur van huid kan betekenen. In mijn oorspronkelijke dorp, had ik een Surinaamse buurvrouw en een Javaanse. Over de rassen strijd heb ik later geleerd.

  2. Violeta

    Ray Charles’s voice is a legend ,in the Old River Man is evident the great talent even if I tangled up in the blue, in Blueberry hill because I’m very fond of this song.