Hear Leonard Cohen Sing To Troops In 1973 Yom Kippur War

In 1973, Leonard Cohen flew to Jerusalem to fight for Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The following excerpt is from Various Positions by Ira Nadel. (Random House of Canada, 1996):

Shortly after moving to the hotel, he went to see the singer/promoter Sholomo Semach, who was attached to the air force. Cohen wanted to volunteer, and Semach immediately lined him up with an entertainment group in the air force. Before he started, however, the Israeli singer Ilana Rovina invited him to perform one night at an air base near Tel Aviv, which he did. He then joined her group for performances in the Sinai, flying on a Dakota aircraft.

Now, an Israeli  website claims to have discovered an archival tape of artists performing for the soldiers during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The tape includes Leonard performing “So Long, Marianne.” The following excerpt is via Google Translate:

The Army Radio Archive presents: What happened a long time ago – 28.09.17

In honor of Yom Kippur this week, we bring you the program of Yaakov Agmon “The Night in Egypt” in which he brings the voices of IDF soldiers from the field during the Yom Kippur War and the rare performances of Oshik Levi, Ilana Rubina, Popik Arnon and none other than Leonard Cohen Private to Israel in order to volunteer for the IDF and raise the morale of the soldiers.

Update: The following helpful explanation is from the comment by Tamar [with minimal colloquial English editing by me]:

After the song and the applause, the narrator says something like:

The applause was of course for Leonard Cohen. And had you seen the way the soldiers welcomed him, you would have witnessed genuine excitement. Before him [LC] Ilana Rovina sang; they performed on a short break, while the soldiers rest.

And at around 46:39 (after an interview in Hebrew) LC speaks 🙂 and then starts singing again, probably Suzanne. It seems that the recording then switches to the studio version of Suzanne, not the live show, and returns to the live show for the applause.

To hear this recording,

Go to this link and scroll to the second video. Leonard’s performance begins about 33:20.

Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Ballad Of The Absent Mare (1980)

Leonard Cohen recites the first four verses of Ballad Of The Absent Mare. This excerpt is from a 1980 interview with Nigel Russell (University Radio 5UV, Adelaide – accessed at State Library of South Australia).

Note: Information about the “old Chinese text” to which Leonard Cohen refers and on which the song is based is available at

Thanks to Gordana Stupar, whose post alerted me to this recording

Quality Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Lover, Lover, Lover – Brooklyn 2012

And may the spirit of this song
May it rise up pure and free
May it be a shield for you
A shield against the enemy

Leonard Cohen – Lover, Lover, Lover
Barclays, Brooklyn: Dec 20, 2012
Video by Wirebirds

Note: Originally posted Dec 23, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Recites “The Sound Of Silence” In Tribute To Paul Simon

sofsilLeonard Cohen paid homage to Paul Simon through a poetic reading of Simon’s “Sound Of Silence.” The striking cadence and the precise enunciation delivered in Leonard’s unique voice resonates with the lyrics and the listener.

Leonard Cohen – Sound Of Silence (By Paul Simon)
From Tribute To Paul Simon: Take Me To The Mardi Gras Album

Tribute To Paul Simon: Take Me To The Mardi Gras is a 2007 live album “featuring Canadian and international artists reinterpreting the magical songs of Paul Simon. Recorded live at the Montreal Int’l Jazz Festival in 2006, this collection features Simon & Garfunkle and solo Paul Simon classics performed by Elvis Costello, Holly Cole, Jamie Cullum, Colin James, Zachary Richard, Allen Toussaint and many others.”

Note: Originally posted September 10, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s “Catastrophe” Concert – Montreal 1970


Not every Leonard Cohen concert has gone smoothly nor has every Montreal moment glorious, as evidenced by this excerpt from The Trials Of Leonard Cohen by Jack Kapica (Montreal Gazette: Aug 25, 1973)”

Photo Credit: Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174

Leonard Cohen Takes Berlin But Not Without Struggle – Tour Tales 2009

But love is not a victory march,
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!

Leonard Cohen’s Battle For Berlin

As noted by concert-goers, Leonard Cohen’s July 2, 2009 Berlin concert was not an automatic triumph. This report from LeonardCohenForum by brinberlin limns the situation:

… the Webbs and Sharon Robinson came on unsmiling, stony-faced, morose, and despite the obligatory standing ovation LC looked ill at ease to say the least. One problem must have been the audience. What a lack of vibe. Mostly over 50 (as I am, but not like them!) and looking as if they just came for an evening out, provincial in the most pejorative sense of the word, they could have been watching anyone really. They marched up and down the aisles with wines and beers as he sang, talked amongst themselves, clapped and whooped each time they (wrongly) thought a song had ended… really embarrassing. … They were only waiting for Suzanne, and the rest seemed to pass them by as they hysterically took mobile phone footage of each other and the screens…

While others who attended disagree about the appearance of the performers and the extent of the philistinism rampant in the crowd, the consensus is nonetheless that the Berlin show was challenging in a way that many other stops on the World Tour have not been.

Many previous Tour concerts (including the one I attended at the Beacon Theatre) have been as much worship services of gathered Cohen  acolytes as they are entertainments.  The greatest risks posed in such circumstances has been competitions by audience members to demonstrate who is most appreciative of, knowledgeable about, and emotionally intimate with Cohen and crew.

From both the reports of those in attendance and the press, there is little doubt that, by the end of the Berlin show, Cohen had won over the audience. What is striking is that this was a victory accomplished by the overwhelming display of professionalism and grace by Leonard Cohen, the backup singers, and the band.

Keep in mind that this is the grown-up version of the Leonard Cohen who walked off the stage in frustration in a 1972 concert. Of course, this is also the Leonard Cohen who thoughtfully considers his responsibilities as a performer:

You definitely go into a concert with a prayer on your lips. There’s no question about that. I think that anything risky that you do, anything that sets you up for the possibility of humiliation like a concert does … you have to lean on something that is a little better than yourself I feel I’m always struggling with the material, whether it’s a concert or a poem or a prayer or a conversation. It’s very rarely that I find I’m in a condition of grace where there’s a kind of flow that is natural. I don’t inhabit that landscape too often. … Well, I mean this in a kind of lighthearted way. When you walk on the stage and 5,000 people have paid good money to hear you, there’s definitely a sense that you can blow it. The possibilities for disgrace are enormous.1

Leonard Cohen’s 2009 Strategy For Taking Berlin

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  1. From An Interview with Leonard Cohen” by Robert Sward. A Side. Montreal, Quebec. 1986 []

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Bird On The Wire – German TV 1979

Leonard Cohen’s October 31, 1979 performance of a set at the ZDF-TV Studio in München, Deutschland was taped for later broadcast. Many, if not all, of the songs he played that day have been previously posted individually. Eight of the songs are available at Dec 2, 1979 ZDF-TV Rock-Pop Special

Bird On The Wire, however, was broadcast on the November 10, 1979 edition of the same show.

Thanks to Milan Zivancevic, who alerted me to this video.

Pitchfork Looks At Leonard Cohen Live Rarities

I’m a fan of Leonard Cohen’s improvisations, one-off performances, unreleased music, and all those songs often subsumed under the title “rarities.” Consequently, I approached 8 Leonard Cohen Live Rarities That Show His Onstage Evolution by Tyler Wilcox (Pitchfork: 21 September 2017) with guarded optimism.

Here’s the breakdown: The selections are interesting. If, however, you are a hardcore Cohenite, especially one that follows Cohencentric, you’ve probably already heard these selections – as well as several others. There is at least one factual error (see below). More to the point, I don’t comprehend how these eight Leonard Cohen performances  “show his onstage evolution.” Of course, that may be why I post on my own blog rather than at Pitchfork. I’ve excerpted one selection to give a sense of the article (and point out an error):

“Hallelujah” at the Montreal Jazz Festival, 2008

Even its author grew tired of lukewarm “Hallelujah” covers, as the song became a soundtrack perennial and go-to vehicle for any singer in search of readymade gravitas (for this writer, John Cale’s is the only cover worth hearing). “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told the CBC with a chuckle. “But too many people sing it. I think people ought to stop singing it for a while.” Fortunately, Cohen didn’t include himself in that assessment. He performed “Hallelujah” at most of his latter-day concerts, giving the song an appropriately dramatic reading that often saw him falling to his knees, his eyes tightly shut with emotion. In his hands, it was still a song that cut to the quick, right up to the end.

First, I’m not sure how this qualities as a “live rarity.” It is one of the earliest performances of Hallelujah in the 2008 tour, but Leonard sang this classic hundreds of times during the 2008-2013 Tours. And, it was not performed live at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival, as is explained in this excerpt from Video: Leonard Cohen’s Splendid Performance Of Hallelujah – Halifax 2008 posted Nov 20, 2015 at Cohencentric:

Shot by Lian Lunson, Director of the Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man documentary, this black and white video of Leonard Cohen’s performance at Halifax early in the 2008 Tour (the video was screened at the Montreal Jazz Festival on June 23, 24, and 25, 2008) was one of the first professionally shot recordings made available on mass media (this video aired Nov 9, 2008 on CBC).

P.S. Re “Do I Have to Dance All Night?” in Paris, 1976

Do I Have To Dance All Night (1976) is a great choice for this listing, but the title does not include a question mark, and I immodestly suggest that my own video is preferable to the one employed by Pitchfork.

Note: The graphic atop this post is from Cohencentric’s own collections of Leonard Cohen rarities: