How Leonard Cohen’s “amazing reading” of Necropsy of Love in Al Purdy Was Here came about


Update: Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Al Purdy’s “Necropsy of Love”

This excerpt is from Q&A: Brian D. Johnson offers a refresher course in the work of Al Purdy by Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun: Jan 29.2016)

Q: Another impressive moment is when we hear Leonard Cohen.

A: It’s kind of the piece de resistance. It’s an amazing reading of what is really my favourite Al Purdy poem, Necropsy of Love, which is about sex and death. Which is right in Leonard’s wheelhouse. I didn’t send him that poem right away. I sent him a much more canonical poem, The Country North of Belleville, to read, thinking that would be historic. Leonard sent me back a message saying that he didn’t quite understand the poem, and he couldn’t pronounce all of these Scottish names. He said, “Maybe if you sent me a recording of Al reading it, I could figure out how to pronounce the names.” And I wrote him back and said, “Leonard, if the poem doesn’t speak to you I’m not going to ask you to read it.” I said, “I’ll find something else.” The reason I didn’t send him Necropsy of Love in the first place was I thought it was a little too close to home. I though it sounded exactly like a Leonard Cohen poem. But sometimes the obvious thing is the best thing. And he responded, “Yeah, I think I can take a crack at this.”

Leonard Cohen’s Music Makes A Scene: 8 Excellent Cinematic Moments Set To Leonard Cohen Tunes


8 Excellent Cinematic Moments Set to Leonard Cohen Tunes by Monika Bartyzel (Film School Rejects: Sept 25, 2014) considers the impact of Leonard Cohen’s contributions to the soundtracks of not only the usual suspects such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Pump Up The Volume, and Natural Born Killers but also a number of less frequently examined specimens, including Secretary, True Love and Chaos, and Beware of a Holy Whore. Highly recommended. The following is excerpted from the opening of the article:

Nearly half a century since he sung about Suzanne, Cohen’s career has been beautifully long, spanning vastly different worlds, and evolving through the years without being felled by the indecipherable mumbles of his contemporary, Bob Dylan. His poetic lyrics ruminate on everything from love and passion to religion and politics, sold through the man in the suit and fedora, but extending far beyond his shadow’s reach, especially in the realms of cinema. Where other artists enjoy surges and disappearances, their music only returned to when the passage of time makes then wildly affordable, Cohen’s presence in film has been almost constant, spanning everything from silent foreign films to bloody Hollywood blockbusters. It’s music and sentiments that might seem straightforward superficially, yet have an uncanny knack of seamlessly sliding into any scenario it faces, regardless of the format or generation. What follows are eight of the best uses of his work in film – one for every decade of his poetic life.

The The full article, which can be accessed at 8 Excellent Cinematic Moments Set to Leonard Cohen Tunes, reviews scenes from Beware of a Holy Whore, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Pump Up The Volume, Natural Born Killers, Exotica, True Love and Chaos, Secretary, and Take This Waltz with commentary and videos.

Note: Originally posted September 26, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” Featured In “Transparent”

Excerpted from The Best Music Moments of ‘Transparent’ by Wondering Sound Staff Contributor (Wondering Sound: Nov 3, 2014)

Leonard Cohen, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” (Episode 9)

In a ranking of best-named songs to fit plot points, this is easily the most brilliant. In Episode 9 (Looking Up), Shelly’s second husband Ed (Lawrence Pressman) is in a coma and Shelly is in agony waiting for him to die, as her kids are all too selfish to realize she needs help and is lonely, and Maura is the only one there to comfort her. While the Pfeffermans are in the kitchen plotting to off him with Percoset (save for Ali, who’s disgusted and the only one who’s shown any concern for Ed), we see Ed pull himself out of his bed and plunge toward the front door to escape. Then we cut to a scene early in Ed and Shelly’s relationship, where he tells a joke involving Alzheimer’s and the clap, and he says with a smile, “I’m just here to make you happy.” Ed raises his glass with a toast of “l’chaim” (“to life” in Hebrew), and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” by Leonard Cohen plays through the credits. It’s a sweet ode to Ed, who, while unable to speak in the present day, has always come across as endearing (when he escaped early in the show, he returned with a caricature and cotton candy), even though Shelly wrote him off as a pain in her ass. “Yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new/ in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,” Cohen sings, “But let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie/ your eyes are soft with sorrow/ Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.” — L.L.

Leonard Cohen – Hey That`s No Way To Say Goodbye


Leonard Cohen’s So Long, Marianne On 2016 Pete’s Dragon Soundtrack

Petes-Dragon-PosterWhile not a musical like the original Pete’s Dragon (1977), the 2016 Disney reboot offers a massive soundtrack with offerings from a talented set of musicians, including So Long, Marianne by Leonard Cohen.

Check out the full track list below:

“The Dragon Song” Performed by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
“Something Wild” Performed by Lindsey Stirling featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
“Nobody Knows” Performed by The Lumineers
“Something On Your Mind” Performed by St. Vincent
“So Long, Marianne” Performed by Leonard Cohen
“Gina Anne” Performed by Bosque Brown
“An Adventure”
“Are You Gonna Eat Me?”
“Brown Bunny”
“Tree Fort”
“North Star”
“Bedtime Compass”
“Gavin Knows What He’s Doing”
“You Are Not Alone”
“Elliot Gets Lost”
“It’ll Be Just Like It Used To Be”
“Follow That Dragon”
“Elliot at the Bridge”
“Go North”
“Saying Goodbye”
“The Bravest Boy I’ve Ever Met”
“The Dragon Song Revisited” Performed by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
“Candle On the Water” Performed by Okkervil River

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Piotr Wilczewski, who alerted me to this item.

The Absolutely Fabulous TV Series Version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire

birdabThe inclusion of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire on the soundtrack of the recently released Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has prompted the republication of this 2007 post about the Bird On The Wire soliloquy from the Absolutely Fabulous TV series.

Featuring Edina As The Drunk In A Midnight Choir – And Wherever

In yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen BBC Interview: “I’d like to go out [on tour] again”, the BBC interviewer alluded to the use of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire”1 in an episode of the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous. And, it turns out that, although “Bird On The Wire” has been covered by everybody from Joe Cocker to Jennifer Warnes to The Bobs, the Ab Fab version is, I believe, uniquely memorable.

The Scene: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

Jealous: Series 3, Episode 4 (First broadcast 27 April 1995)
Edina (AKA Eddie, AKA Eddy), has expectations of winning the PR Person of the Year Award over her rival, Claudia Bing, but, despite rigging the vote, loses instead and wants revenge. Later, at an industry luncheon, Edina loses her prepared remarks but proceeds unabated to give a drunken speech, one portion of which consists of the lyrics of “Bird On A Wire.”

The Dialog: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

From IDMB (with “Bird On A Wire” lyrics placed in bold by me):

[Edina (Eddie) has lost her speech which she has to present to the PR meeting]

Eddie: Yeah I was gonna’ make a-

[taps microphone]

Eddie: Testing. Testing. -Yeah I was gonna’ make a speech, but I just can’t be bothered anymore. I mean, this used to be like fun you know; yeah it used to be fun, but I’m getting bored of all the ‘fun’ bits now. You know, your endless bloody lunches and launches, you know, no-career celebrities and party desperates. And what for, huh? Some colony of crap tags and mags! Well I’m sorry there has to be a little more than that doesn’t there?

[slams her handbag down]

Eddie: Hmmm? You know I had a speech, you know, my… my integrated-projected-global-tele-network system bloody system-system. But you know, if that’s what the worlds coming to I don’t want to be in it. No I don’t want that. I don’t want to be in some sort of cyber-space-hypervirtual bloody reality. I don’t want that- exchanging e-mails with some old age bloody hippies with more information at their fingertips than is safe to know about. I don’t want that! What kind of reality is that, huh, you know, with a thirteen-amp plug on the end of it? Huh? Huh?… That can be un-plugged like that? Come-on I’m going.

[She turns to leave, but… ]

Eddie: No I’m not going yet! No, you!

[points to her competition, Claudia Bing]

Eddie: You, you, just sit there like your velcroed to some bloody add-man! You know those crap-head add-men over there, you know, those kings of bastardization that have just taken everything that was ever real and genuine and honest and original and attached it to a toilet cleaner! Whereas I, I… Like a bird on a wire… Like a drunk in a midnight choir… I have tried in my way to be free.

[Then she sings]

Eddie: Like a bird, on a wire.

Patsy: Go for it Eddy.

Eddie: [singing] … Like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way to be free.

[Claudia Bing and her colleagues are laughing]

Eddie: Yeah you can laugh, but you know something- I don’t want more choice I just want nicer things! And you, you can take that look off your face, sitting there with your… with your wheels and AIDS and starvation. You know, skimming a neat profit of the whole of human misery. Labeling us all with this- with this global guilt. Well it may not be all great and good but it ain’t that bad, so cheer up world it may never bloody happen!

[slams her bag down again]

Eddie: Come on I’m going.

[Edina walks off making rude farting sounds at everyone in the room]

Audio Only: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

Edina – “Bird On A Wire”
Spoken word portion

Edina – “Bird On A Wire”
Singing portion

Video: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

This clip (may not be available in all countries) comprises the final third of Absolutely Fabulous Series 3, Episode 4: Jealous (First broadcast 27 April 1995). The pertinent portion begins at 4:35


Note: Originally posted July 17, 2007 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Yes, I know that the name of the song on Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room album is “Bird On The Wire.” In the Ab Fab episode, it’s “Bird On A Wire” – as it is in The Essential Leonard Cohen album. []

Watch 1996 Film Homage To Leonard Cohen: “Leonard, Light My Cigarette” (Bravo!)

In 1996, the Bravo! Channel broadcast Leonard, Light My Cigarette,1 a Canadian experimental film that examined the cultural impact of Leonard Cohen. The poem that serves as narration is Leonard, Light My Cigarette by Tony Babinski, who wrote

You must understand that the film is a love letter to one man and as such the lexicon is perhaps a bit obscure to those not from the same milieu. Leonard Cohen saw the film in October 1996 and pronounced it “…brilliant…excellent…”

The imagery was very familiar to Leonard – he called me after viewing it to tell me how much he liked it – liked it is a mild word – but I don’t want to sound immodest. Our conversation was short but you can imagine my joy. He mentioned Beautiful Losers and his desire to see it made as a feature film. Look for more news about that in the very near future. 2


  1. Leonard, Light My Cigarette, a film by J. Jacob Potashnik. Poetry and music by Tony Babinski (also starring Darkman). Produced by Jacob Potashnik and Tony Babinski for mtl/ART, in association with Bravo!Fact, a foundation to assist Canadian talent, supported by Bravo Network. Running time 6:22 minutes. Canada, 1996. []
  2. From Leonard, Light My Cigarette at LeonardCohenFiles []

Video: Hunt for the Wilderpeople Soundtrack Features Leonard Cohen Performance Of “The Partisan”


The role of Leonard Cohen’s rendition of “The Partisan” in the positively-reviewed Hunt for the Wilderpeople is described in this excerpt from Deep Focus: Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Michael Sragow (Film Comment: June 23, 2016):

We know we’re in good hands from the opening moments, when the New Zealand greenery undulates across the screen while an otherworldly choral chant fills the soundtrack. Even Child Welfare’s Paula seems to tap her pen in counterpoint to the music. The whole movie has an eccentric rhythm because this director is confident enough to let scenes sit and breathe before accelerating his narrative with peppy deadpan montages. In one charged sequence, timed to Leonard Cohen’s “Song of the French Partisan,” Waititi unfolds the action in the cinematic equivalent of a mural. Via some optical and/or digital wizardry, the camera doesn’t stop moving from left to right as we see Hec, Ricky, and Tupac disappear into the snowy forest while bounty hunters, cops, and guardsmen trail them and Paula huffs and scowls eloquently, at different times and without a cut. It’s startling when the paths of heavily armed lawmen and Paula intersect. It’s as if time and space have merged kinetically. [bolding mine]

Update – 23 September 2016: Video now online

Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” Featured In The Fundamentals of Caring

fundamentals-of-caring-poster quoteup2
Well if we’re going to replace [Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”], we’re just going to take that scene out, because it’s the only reason it’s there.quotedown2

Rob Burnett

Note: A synopsis of this movie’s plot can be found at The Fundamentals of Caring: EW Review by Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment: June 23, 2016)

In this excerpt from Paul Rudd and filmmaker Rob Burnett on The Fundamentals of Caring by Edward Douglas ( June 21, 2016), Rob Burnett talks about the significance of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” to the movie and to himself personally:

CS: I have to imagine that a movie like this would always be difficult tonally, but I’ve been reading that as far as music, you have some Leonard Cohen in there, so what was your approach to using the music to help create that tone.

Burnett: We had a music supervisor, Joe Rudge. We tried to come up with stuff that fit the mood but didn’t lean too heavily into things. The Leonard Cohen song (“I’m Your Man”) and the Kishi Bashi song (“Bright Whites”) are an exception. We actually found that female lyricists were better, because it didn’t feel like they were singing from Craig’s point of view, so a lot of my taste in music, I do like a lot of indie music, and when you start to put some of that stuff on some of this, it starts to feel really old-fashioned, in a way. It’s just in that constant effort to stay away from sentimentality. The Leonard Cohen song, that scene I wrote because of that song. I adore that song, it’s always resonated with me for some reason. If you listen to the lyrics of that song, the vulnerability of what he’s saying, but with the virility of his voice, the two of those things—not too corny—can almost make me weep if I’m in the right mood. That scene exists in the movie because of that song. It wasn’t dirt cheap but at one point they said, “Well, can we replace it?” and I said, “Well if we’re going to replace it, we’re just going to take that scene out, because it’s the only reason it’s there.” [bolding mine]

And this excerpt from Sundance 2016: ‘The Fundamentals of Caring’ balances sweetness with biting black humor by Lane Scarberry (PopOptic: February 3, 2016) elaborates on the function of the song in the film:

There’s a visual romanticization of these girls that goes along with how removed Trevor is from normal physical life. When we meet Dot for the second time, the camera lingers on her for quite some time while Trevor stares and Leonard Cohen’s passionate “I’m Your Man” plays. This smartly redirects the looking behavior back to Trevor, implying that he would do anything to be with her if he could. While Dot’s body is a passive object, so is Trevor’s for his lack of courage. It’s not exactly progressive, but the choice means more than a song that would have more explicitly dissected her looks.

Fundamentals of Caring Trailer

Credit Due Department: A tip of DrHGuy’s Cohenesque fedora goes to Sara Lyke, who alerted me (via the Duchess) to the Leonard Cohen song on this movie’s soundtrack.