Leonard Cohen’s Tonight Will Be Fine – Two Variations By Leonard Cohen + Versions By Teddy Thompson & Allison Crowe

Leonard Cohen Sings Leonard Cohen’s “Tonight Will Be Fine”

“Tonight Will Be Fine” was originally released on Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room (April 1969). Cohen’s 1970 Isle of Wight performance of “Tonight Will Be Fine” was later included on his 1973 compilation, Live Songs and then published again as part of the CD/DVD set, Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970.

While both renditions reflect Cohen’s embrace of country music, the Isle of Wight version is significantly further toward the Grand Ol’ Opry/Hootenanny pole of the spectrum. It features a distinctively slower yet almost bouncy tempo and prominent fiddle (Charlie Daniels), banjo (Elkin “Bubba” Fowler), and harmonica parts in contrast to the more modulated studio production found on Songs From A Room, on which Cohen is accompanied only by guitar and Jew’s harp. The Isle of Wight performance also includes two verses not found on the “Tonight Will Be Fine” track from Songs From A Room and a more aggressive singing style with Cohen shredding his voice and shouting sections of the song.

The lyrics are less adorned and complex than in many of Cohen’s songs but no less striking. Cohen’s metaphor for both his music and his personal strategy, for example, is evident in the following couplet:

I choose the rooms that I live in with care
The windows are small and the walls almost bare

The last line of the last verse (the last verse of the original studio version) is a poignant manifestation of the concept of bittersweet:

Oh sometimes I see her undressing for me,
she’s the soft naked lady love meant her to be
and she’s moving her body so brave and so free.
If I’ve got to remember that’s a fine memory. [emphasis mine]

I am also taken by the penultimate line, “and she’s moving her body so brave and so free,” the last phrase of which, an elementary but effective anaphora, is echoed in the second line of “Chelsea Hotel #1:”

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
You were talking so brave and so free.
[emphasis mine]

Leonard Cohen – Tonight Will Be Fine
Songs From A Room version

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Hear Leonard Cohen Read “My Poor Top Ten” From Beautiful Losers – 1966

Leonard Cohen’s reading took place at The 92nd Street YM-YWHA (The Young Men’s-Young Women’s Hebrew Association) Hotel, New York City, New York on February 14, 1966. The recording below begins at the first of the excerpt. There are some minor variations between Leonard’s reading and the text of his novel.

What bravado impelled me to come here without my radio? Three months without my radio, humming the obsolete Top Ten, my Top Ten removed so abruptly from history, cut off from the dynamic changes of jukebox stock market, my poor Top Ten that no thirteen-year-olds energize by slippery necking on the carpet beside the hi-fi, my over-serious Top Ten goose-stepping through my head like the generals of a junta who do not know the coup d’etat has been staged the very night of the formal ball, my dear old Top Ten like a battalion of gold-sleeved tramway conductors patiently steering for seniority and retirement while the subway has been decreed in a board room and all the streetcars are in museums, my awkward Top Ten of electric echoes and longing puberty voices crying down my heart like a squad of bare-thighed cheer-leaderettes turning cartwheels before the empty benches, their delicate bra-straps bunching the skin ever so sweetly, their shiny fluorescent underwear flashing out of little upside-down pleated skirts as they pivot on their friendship fingers, their school-spirit satin-clad gym-trained firm little rah rah bums describing unutterably lovely and brief rainbow-shaped streaks of mauve and orange, the round metal mouthpieces of their megaphones warm with Alma Maters and smelling of white lipstick, and for whom these moist Technicolor acrobatics? for whom these inflammatory arcs of unskirted exhibition panties gleaming through the cheers like so many expertly peeled fresh figs, yes, a million seedy secrets in each sealed purse, wheeling down the damp sidelines into the stumpy mouth of time? for whom do you sail, little bums of the Top Ten? The Leader of the Pack lies mangled under his Honda in a wreck of job prospects, the ghostly Negro fullback floats down the wintry grid-iron into Law School prizes, and the lucky football you autographed takes pictures of the moon. Oh, my poor Top Ten, longing to perish in popularity, I have forgotten my radio, so you languish with the other zombies in my memory, you whose only honor is hara-kiri with the blunt edge of returned identification bracelets, my weary Top Ten hoping to be forgotten like escaped balloons and kites, like theater stubs, like dry ball pens, like old batteries, like coiled sardine keys, like bent aluminum partitioned eaten tv dinner plates–I hoard you like the stuff of my chronic disease, I sentence you to National Anthem hard labor, I deny you martyrdom in tomorrow’s Hit Parade, I turn you into boomerangs, my little Kamikazes, you long to be the Lost Tribes but I burn arm numbers, I pour miracle drugs in the Death House, from bridges I hang suicide nets. Saints and friends, help me out of History and Constipation. Make the birds sing slower, make me listen faster. Remove yourself from this treehouse, Pain, you tree-climbing frog, large as industry.”

DrHGuy Note: The line, “The Leader of the Pack lies mangled under his Honda in a wreck of job prospects” from this excerpt was brought to mind by my recent post, I’ll Never Forget Him – The Leader Of The Pack.

“This is a monogamous song” Leonard Cohen describes I Tried To Leave You as a song in which lovers are “condemned to each other for eternity”

Malka Marom: In so much of your poetry and songs your lovers are forever parting.

Leonard Cohen: That’s true.

Malka Marom: Do you know why?

Leonard Cohen: I don’t remember the songs I wrote a long time ago. They are all saying goodbye.

Malka Marom: Well they are leaving each other.

Leonard Cohen: Well I have some here in which they are condemned to each other for eternity. On my new record, for instance, I have this sang that goes like this:

“I tried to leave you, I don’t deny
I closed the book on us, at least a hundred times.
I wake up every morning by your side.

The years go by, you lose your pride.
The baby is crying, so you do not go outside,
And all your work is right before your eyes.
Goodnight, my darling,
I hope you’re satisfied,

The bed is kind of narrow, but my arms are open wide.
And here’s a man still working for your smile.”

This is a monogamous song.

Malka Marom: You still use the word, “condemn.”

Leonard Cohen: Lovers condemned like mated beasts to the same cage with a long embrace and fighting over scraps of freedom. There is an aversion to the thing, which is very unattractive. I think anyone who has lived with anyone else knows what I mean.

Leonard Cohen CBC interview by Malka Marom (1970s).

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs One Of A Kind Version Of A Thousand Kisses Deep – Mt Baldy Zen Center 1996

Scene from the French documentary “Leonard Cohen Spring 96”, shot in Leonard Cohen’s cabin at Mt. Baldy Zen monastery by Armelle Brusq. Leonard Cohen is recording song A Thousand Kisses Deep, using Technics KN 3000 synthesizer. The track is apparently an early, demo version to different lyrics and complete different melody than one composed in collaboration with Sharon Robinson, for 2001 album Ten New Songs. Also, the poem included in the 2006 Book of Longing, recited during 2008 Tour, doesn’t have some of lyrics from this demo.

Video and text posted by Tom Sakic aka a1000kissesdeep


Video: Leonard Cohen’s Moving Performance Of Born In Chains – Oakland 2010


Featuring Sharon Robinson, Hattie Webb, Charley Webb & Dino Soldo

Leonard Cohen – Born In Chains
Oakland: Dec 6. 2010
Video from arlenedick15

Note: Originally posted Dec 7, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.com