“He kept saying, ‘Maybe we can do just a couple more concerts.’ There was never a sense of ‘I finally triumphed,’ just a sense of gratitude. Leonard genuinely felt privileged to have the opportunity to share his music every night.” Robert Kory On Leonard Cohen During His Final Decline

His final performance was in Auckland, New Zealand, on Dec. 21, 2013. He wrapped things up with a cover of the Drifters classic “Save the Last Dance for Me.” But according to Kory, even in his final decline, Cohen would talk about wanting to get back onstage. “He kept saying, ‘Maybe we can do just a couple more concerts.’ There was never a sense of ‘I finally triumphed,’ just a sense of gratitude. Leonard genuinely felt privileged to have the opportunity to share his music every night.”

Alan Light

From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016).

DrHGuy Note: Alan Light is the author of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”

“Leonard Cohen felt that everybody’s cog in the machine was as valuable as his. So, with that grace, he’d go about the day making everybody feel important, but in the most gentle, discreet way.” Charley Webb

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His politeness and grace with people is other worldly now.  I think we miss that in today’s society, although you wouldn’t want to turn the clock back wholesale to when he was growing up, because so many people in the 1930s/’40s/’50s were subjugated. Leonard encapsulates the best of both eras. He defended humanity. If there was somebody who appeared to be suffering an injustice he would delicately readjust the balance with a gentlemanly firm hand, and people would listen. That’s why we had, at times, groups of 60 people on the road who felt it was the best working environment of their careers. Leonard felt that everybody’s cog in the machine was as valuable as his. So, with that grace, he’d go about the day making everybody feel important, but in the most gentle, discreet way. I adored his humour and unexpected jokes and his love of chocolate and chicken soup, and how when you went to his modest, but extremely beautiful apartment, he’d carefully prepare a smoothie or a few vitamins or a hot drink and make sure you were warm and looked after.quotedown2

Charley Webb

 

From Leonard Cohen Tribute: The Webb Sisters On “Our Friend And Teacher” Hot Press: Dec 20, 2016. Photo of Charley Webb taken at the Mar 2, 2013 Leonard Cohen Oakland Concert by Soheyl Dahi

How Sharon Robinson Came To Sing On As Well As Co-Write Ten New Songs With Leonard Cohen

The path of Ten New Songs had veered mightily from the original plan. When they started, Cohen, Robinson and Ungar planned to hire musicians and background singers and complete the project in a conventional manner in a regular recording studio. Initially, “My vocals were supposed to be just sketched out ideas, to be sung in sessions by others,” Robinson says. But then a curious thing happened: Cohen fell in love with the sound of the sampled instruments and Robinson’s layered vocal parts. “We decided that bringing in musicians and singers would actually be a compromise,” Robinson explains. “When Leonard heard the first completed track, ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep,’ he was enthralled,” adds Ungar.

Leanne Ungar is a sound engineer and producer, who worked on several Leonard Cohen albums, beginning with New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

Leonard Cohen by Eric Rudolph (Mix: Feb 1, 2002)

Baby, I’ve Been Here Before: Leonard Cohen Is Back On Crescent Street – Revisited

 

When Cohencentric published Baby, I’ve Been Here Before – Leonard Cohen Is Back On Crescent Street six months ago, the primary goal was to spotlight Marie M’s discovery that Crescent Street, the site of Montreal’s (second, then in process) Leonard Cohen mural, was also featured in the cover art for the Field Commander Cohen album. In other words, that entry was a premier example of the How About That? kind of post for which Cohencentric is notorious. The secondary agenda, however, was to counter the disparaging remarks from a few critics implying that Crescent Street was an inappropriate setting for the mural because that avenue is not the sort of place Leonard would have frequented. Consider, for example, this excerpt from Leonard Cohen and a tale of two Montreal murals by Robert Everett-Green (Globe and Mail: September 29, 2017):

The residential tower receiving this image is right across Crescent Street from a Hooter’s restaurant, in the midst of a strip of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Cohen’s gaze seems to rest on the Sir Winston Churchill Pub and the Copacabana Discothèque, neither of which seems particularly germane to his legend… It succeeds mainly in making Cohen look out of place, as he seldom did in life.

Now that the mural is complete, it’s time to revisit the Leonard Cohen On Crescent Street issue in order to make three points:

1. If the social media is any indicator, the Crescent Street mural is incredibly popular.

2. No one has challenged the assertion that Crescent Street, the site of the mural, appears on the cover of the Field Commander Cohen album. In fact, at least one other group has taken note of this – albeit without crediting either Marie M or Cohencentric (see Leonard Cohen Montreal Crescent St Mural – The Big Finish: Inauguration, Facts, Field Commander Cohen, & More).

The Le Fuzz Factor

3. Re the question, would Leonard Cohen have visited places like the Sir Winston Churchill Pub or the Copacabana Discothèque? Well, I don’t know about Copacabana Discothèque, a dance club which opened in 1999, some time after Leonard’s era of nightly club tours had passed. On the other hand, according to Poetry and Poppyseed by Tim Elliott (Taveller: Oct 22, 2011), Leonard frequented The Sir Winston Churchill:

The Sir Winston Churchill, a pub where Cohen drank so often that they put a plaque on his favourite chair, is no longer a hang-out for bohos but homesick Brits. When I ask the manager about Cohen, he says they removed the plaque five years ago in a renovation

Given that “front-row seats at the [Sir Winston Churchill] bar … were most frequently occupied by the likes of Nick Auf der Maur, Mordecai Richler and his friend/sparring partner Richard Holden, the latter’s former political comrade-turned-foil Gordon Atkinson, and radio icons George Balcan and Ted Blackman, among other local luminaries,”1 it would hardly be surprising to discover that Leonard showed up on occasion.

Now, there is credible evidence that Leonard did indeed hang out on Crescent Street. The following excerpt from Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016) is Stephen Lack’s account of meeting his cousin, Leonard Cohen, at an “upscale hipster restaurant” on Crescent Street [underlining mine].

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When I started to manifest artistic leanings in that upper-middle-class Montreal environment, the family kept saying, ‘If you’re going to be such an artist, you have to go downtown and meet your cousin Leonard.’ We’re 12 years apart, and I didn’t meet him until I was about 20. We were actually both members of the same fraternity, but I quit it and he was the president back in the day. Right at the beginning of my downtown existence, there were Leonard sightings in the distance. At first I just didn’t feel comfortable imposing myself on him. Then one day, I was at this place Le Fuzz on Crescent Street—the first upscale hipster restaurant I had ever been in. I remember the hamburger: It was thick, and $3.50! This was a huge commitment for a meal. All the downtown folks who were somewhere in between intelligentsia and outlaws went there—Leonard, writer Mordecai Richler, the film producer Derek Lamb. The day I met Leonard, I was sitting there right next to him as he was being interviewed. I leaned over and gave him a handshake and said, ‘I’m your cousin Stephen.’ And he looked over and said, ‘Oh, yes,’ meaning he had heard of me. That was it.quotedown2

Stephen Lack

 

Yep, Crescent Street wasn’t the kind of place Leonard Cohen would visit – except he did.

Credit Due Department: Mural photo by Michael Loftus.

_______________________

  1. Sir Winston Churchill Pub marks 50th anniversary — minus some characters who made it a landmark by Bill Brownstein, Montreal Gazette: February 14, 2017 []

“The roar of the [2008 Fredericton] crowd was… ferocious adoration… Up until that moment it was just another job to me.” Leif Bodnarchuk On Working For Leonard Cohen

Your experience of working with him

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In 2008 the tour was savage. Even by the final rehearsal in S.I.R., nerves were frayed. But the very first gig in Fredericton was special, and set the tone for the challenges ahead. Leonard took to the stage for the first time in years, and the roar of the crowd was… I don’t know… ferocious adoration. Deafening like a jet engine, warm like a campfire. Up until that moment it was just another job to me, but that reception made me realise how much pressure we’d be under to help Leonard live up to the expectations put on him.quotedown2

Leif Bodnarchuk

 

Leif Bodnarchuk served as guitar technician on the 2008-2013 Leonard Cohen tours.

From Leonard Cohen – a few memories by Leif Bodnarchuk (Leif Bodnarchuk: Nov 16, 2016). Photo taken at the Sept 20, 2013 Leonard Cohen Amsterdam Concert by Leif Bodnarchuk.

Update: A remarkably similar description of the Fredericton show from a different perspective can be found at Charley Webb On Leonard Cohen’s 2008 Fredericton Show.

Find more about the Fredericton concert at In The Beginning … Photos & Videos Of Leonard Cohen’s First 2008-2013 Tour Show: Fredericton, May 11, 2008.

“Leonard told me once that the most important person in your life might not be your significant other, or your parent, but a special teacher. There is no doubt in my mind that Leonard came to teach.” Jennifer Warnes On Leonard Cohen “that beautiful Canadian teacher, lover and revolutionary”


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You would see the line of women standing at the hotel door, and I didn’t want to join that line. I wanted a piece of Leonard’s heart, which he didn’t give away casually. So I dug in my heels and I tended to the music whenever he wanted me there. That sustained our friendship for nearly 50 years. Leonard told me once that the most important person in your life might not be your significant other, or your parent, but a special teacher. There is no doubt in my mind that Leonard came to teach. He heard his inner voices clearly. One thing he always said was that he writes and writes and then discards the slogans. Isn’t that nice? That’s probably the way to get to your truth: Look for the difficult answers. Peel all the artifice away from yourself and your writing, and what remains is the news you need to bring forward. No matter how long it takes to heal ourselves and our country, Leonard Norman Cohen, that beautiful Canadian teacher, lover and revolutionary, has left us with tools we can really use. If only we could hear the song within him, now.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

 

From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016). The photo was a gift from Jennifer Warnes.

Book Review: “Leonard Cohen And Philosophy” Plus Q&A With Editor Jason Holt

lc-philos

“Leonard Cohen And Philosophy” is the 84th entry in The Popular Culture and Philosophy Series, a collection of books which, according to its website, “present essays by academic philosophers exploring the meanings, concepts, and puzzles within television shows, movies, music and other icons of popular culture.”

The same website also describes “Leonard Cohen and Philosophy” and the book’s editor, Jason Holt:

Want to know what Cohen and Kierkegaard have in common? Or whether Cohen rivals the great philosophical pessimist Schopenhauer? Then this book is for you. It provides the first thorough analysis of Cohen from various (philosophical) positions. It is intended not only for Cohen fans but also undergraduates in philosophy and other areas. It explores important neglected aspects of Cohen’s work without attempting to reduce them to academic tropes, yet nonetheless it is also useful to academics — or anyone — beguiled by the enigma that is Leonard Cohen.

Jason Holt is a published poet and a philosopher who specializes in aesthetics and the philosophy of mind. He’s an associate professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He is the editor of numerous books, including The Daily Show and Philosophy, and he is the author of Blindsight and the Nature of Consciousness.

“Leonard Cohen And Philosophy” is a collection of 20 essays, written by different authors and varying in style, theme, and, especially, accessibility. They deal with a wide range of issues, including the metaphysical world created in “Suzanne” (Can You Touch Someone’s Body With Your Mind by Rachel Haliburton), the poetics of relationships (Leonard Cohen On Romantic Love by Simon Riches), and the phenomenology of time (The End Of The World And Other Times In The Future by Gary Shapiro).

Of these entries, the most impressive, by my lights, are Babette Babich’s Hallelujah and Atonement and Is Leonard Cohen a Good Singer? by Jason Holt.

Hallelujah and Atonement uses philosophical instruments to discover and analyze rarely considered aspects of the ideas and concepts embedded in and evoked by Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  Babich writes knowledgeably of the shadings of meaning introduced by Nina Simone’s cover of “Suzanne,” insightfully examines second person referents (“you”) in “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne,” and explains why Psy’s “Gangham Style” works for listeners regardless of gender in terms of a precept set forth by Simone de Beauvoir. This is intriguing, gratifying reading.

Is Leonard Cohen a Good Singer? is a delight, in part because it is straightforwardly  comprehensible and in part because it takes an epistemological approach to a question that has repeatedly appeared in critical and casual writings about the Canadian singer-songwriter and has been the central point in multiple confrontations between fans and non-fans of Cohen. Holt offers a unique contribution by employing formal philosophical methodology to redefine the argument. (Spoiler Warning: He arrives at the correct conclusion.)

Portions of “Leonard Cohen And Philosophy” are a bit of a slog for someone like me whose academic experience with philosophers and philosophical concepts consists of a single sophomore course taken to meet a humanities requirement (Art History was already full) at commuter college in the Ozarks; heck, there aren’t even any photos (in my review copy, at least). The effort is, however, rewarded; this volume presents perspectives not to be found elsewhere and offers readers a fuller resonance with Cohen’s work.

jasonholt

Q&A With Jason Holt

1. The Popular Culture and Philosophy Series comprises an eclectic group of subjects, including, among others, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Simpsons, Bob Dylan, Mel Gibson, The Atkins Diet, Harley-Davidson, U2, and Bullshit. What were the reasons that led to the 84th book in the series being devoted to Leonard Cohen?

It was high time to do a book on Leonard Cohen, especially considering the wide range of topics already covered in the series. I guess many of us involved in the book thought, “How has this not been done already?” I mean, no one disputes the quality, depth, or significance of Cohen’s work. Perhaps it’s that the series focuses on popular culture and, in his way, Cohen challenges the very distinction between high and popular art (and culture) itself.

2. Who do you see as the primary audience for Leonard Cohen and Philosophy?
Continue Reading →

Asked & Answered: Why The 2008-2013 Leonard Cohen World Tours Opened In Fredericton, NB

On May 11, 2008, Leonard Cohen inaugurated his 2008-2010 World Tour1 at The Playhouse, a venue with a seating capacity of 709, in the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick, which, in 2005, had a population of just over 50,000.

Update: See In The Beginning … Photos & Videos Of Leonard Cohen’s First 2008-2013 Tour Show: Fredericton, May 11, 2008.

So, why would the first Cohen concerts (the other stops on the first leg of the Tour included Glace Bay, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton and St. John’s) take place in a relatively isolated geographic area and in much smaller venues than those already scheduled at later dates (e.g., Toronto, Dublin, Manchester, Montreal, Oslo, Amsterdam, Rome)?

Why Fredericton?

Well, in a March 14, 2008 post, I noted that it was difficult to distinguish between the first 2008 Cohen Tour concert sites and the sort of parody I might have published. A couple of months later, I listed …

Possible Reasons Why Leonard Cohen’s Tour Begins In Fredericton

  • Leonard Cohen lost a bet.
  • The tour really is a DrHGuy parody that got way out of hand.
  • Cohen’s booking agent is from Fredericton and he wanted to make sure the girl who wouldn’t go to prom with him realized what she had missed out on.
  • Cohen scheduled Fredericton and similar tour stops just to mess with DrHGuy’s head.
  • “Fredericton, NB” is Canadian for “Chicago, IL.”
  • A longstanding Fredericton closing time tradition has it that the women tear their blouses off & and the men they dance on the polka-dots.

My official Best Guess, however, was that the Cohen Tour opened in Eastern Canada for the same reason a musical comedy opens off-Broadway or in the Poconos – to work out the kinks and polish the performance before moving it to Broadway – or to bigger stadiums, i.e., Fredericton was Leonard Cohen’s off-Broadway.

Now, a lot of folks thought these speculations were pretty darn funny although a significant minority were, well, let’s go with strident in their objections. On the other hand, my blog had never before received so many views from the Maritime provinces.

Note: The above material was originally posted May 10, 2008 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Let’s jump ahead to Nov 28, 2008, when I posted Revisiting Why The 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour Opened In Fredericton:

The following is an excerpt from an interview with AEG concert promoter Rob Hallett,2 who played a significant role in making the current Leonard Cohen Tour a reality:3

[Interviewer:] Leonard Cohen is finishing his UK arena tour – how did you talk him out of retirement?

[Hallett:] It took some time. Leonard was trying to make some of the money back that had been stolen. [Cohen’s manager stole $9.5m (£6.2m) in the 1990s.] At first he said, ‘I don’t know if anyone wants to see me. You must be joking’. We went back and forth over a couple of years. In the end, I offered to finance the rehearsals and said, ‘we’ll do some warm-up dates in Canada, and lets see what we’ve got’. So we were about $3m (£2m) in and 16 shows in Canada and we knew that we had a monster on our hands. When I first put an O2 show on sale everyone said, ‘what? Leonard Cohen in the O2?’ And we sold out three. It’s been a fantastic success. Everyone who’s seen the show almost without fail is saying this is the best show they’ve ever seen in their lives. [emphasis mine]

Readers may recall that DrHGuy was criticized for hazarding, in Why The 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour Is Opening In Fredericton (a post published the day before the first concert of the Tour) this guess:

… my bet is that the Cohen Tour opens in Eastern Canada for the same reason a musical comedy opens off-Broadway or in the Poconos – to work out the kinks and polish the performance before moving it to Broadway – or to bigger stadiums. Fredericton is Leonard Cohen’s off-Broadway.

DrHGuy submits that “warm-up dates in Canada” and “Fredericton is Leonard Cohen’s off-Broadway” are equivalent responses to the question, why did the 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour open in Fredericton?

Ahem

Contrary to the old saying, some of us can take it and dish it out.4

Credit Due Department: Photo of Playhouse by Rbcb – Own work, CC by 3.0. via Wikipedia. Photo of city limits sign by Jimmy Emerson, DVM. Skyline photo of Fredericton by Knoxfordguy at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia. Photo of Cohen & Hallett by J.S. Carenza III.

Note: All posts about this concert are collected at

________________________________

  1. Of course, at the time no one knew it would be a three year tour, let alone that it would be followed by tours in 2012 and 2013 []
  2. Bringing the stars to the stage by Ian Youngs (BBC News: , 27 November 2008) []
  3. Rob Hallett was also, according to the article, responsible for “stag[ing] Prince’s 21-night London run, … bringing Britney Spears to Britain, and taking Damon Albarn’s Monkey opera to China.” []
  4. DrHGuy notes that his supposition about the reasons behind the decision to begin the Cohen Tour in smaller venues is hardly an insult to Fredericton or the other towns in the first leg of the Tour. DrHGuy does, on occasion, indulge in hyperbole in hopes of achieving comedic effect and apologizes if that was not evident. In any case, given that DrHGuy resides in a town smaller than Fredericton and that he would be willing to cut off the right arms of numerous other inhabitants of this town if it would result in a Leonard Cohen concert being held here, the only negative he associates with Fredericton Canada is his own ill-concealed jealousy. []