“His devotion was to encourage people to be happy in what they do – it’s how you heal the world.” Tour Crew Member Leif Bodnarchuk On Leonard Cohen

What he was like

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Humble. Appreciative. Strong. Smart. Funny. Attentive. Warm. Supportive. I think he had a special relationship with everyone in the crew. There were many of us, and he’d join in any stirring conversation or quick chat. He gave me confidence. He often asked me ‘How’s the real work coming?’ He encouraged me to write. In late 2013 I left one of my books in his dressing room, and (cheekily) signed it to him: ‘To my number one fan.’ In the New Year I sent him another work, and he praised it, signing his email off with: ‘L (your NO. 1 fan).’ I couldn’t believe a giant like him would bother supporting someone like me. But then it makes sense, because I think his devotion was to encourage people to be happy in what they do – it’s how you heal the world.quotedown2

Leif Bodnarchuk

Leif Bodnarchuk (second from the right in the photo) served as guitar technician on the Leonard Cohen tours.

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

“Not only were the marathon, three-hour-long concerts received rapturously by critics and fans, but the tour was also a commercial juggernaut.” Alan Light On 2008-2013 Leonard Cohen Tour Revenues

cohen-100-bill7

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Cohen’s intensity and joy onstage were evident—he would skip on and offstage, kneel and doff his fedora in tribute to his musicians and visibly tear up at climactic moments. Not only were the marathon, three-hour-long concerts received rapturously by critics and fans, but the tour was also a commercial juggernaut. According to Billboard Boxscore, Cohen grossed $85.7 million from 147 dates he played in North America, Europe and Australia from 2008 to 2010 (about 60 percent of the tour’s itinerary); and from 2012 to 2013, his Old Ideas Tour grossed $63.4 million from 87 dates (approximately 70 percent of his total performances). In 2010 alone, Cohen’s tour was bigger than outings by Elton John, Carrie Underwood and Rod Stewart, with an average nightly gross higher than that of John Mayer or Justin Bieber.quotedown2

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 & I] were working on…an extension of You Want It Darker’s reprise of ‘Treaty.’ We had 10 arrangements written and half of them recorded already—beautiful melodic arrangements—without his voice on them. Maybe they will see the light of day. I don’t know.” Patrick Leonard

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I wasn’t with Leonard when he died, but I’m certain that until he couldn’t hold a pen in his hand, he was working. That’s the way Leonard was. He had been weak and ill for a while, but he was working all the time. The hours in a day that he could work were narrowing, but the determination was still there. I think it was clear that the end was in sight, but I don’t think his October [2016] release You Want It Darker is him leaning toward mortality: Go back and listen to his first album [1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen]—there are mortality issues there. The songs we were working on before he died were really light R&B, beautiful Leonard Cohen love songs. Another project we were working on was an extension of You Want It Darker’s reprise of ‘Treaty.’ We had 10 arrangements written and half of them recorded already—beautiful melodic arrangements—without his voice on them. Maybe they will see the light of day. I don’t know.quotedown2

Patrick Leonard

 

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

Leonard Of The Laundromat – Leonard Cohen Cleans Up

As the above clipping indicates, on July 28, 1993, the Cohen caravan had a stopover at Kamloops1 en route from Calgary to Vancouver, affording Leonard Cohen the opportunity to hit the laundromat on Seymour Street.

Acting on a tip, a young Kamloops Daily News reporter approached him and asked if he was willing to talk for a few minutes. Today, she remembers him as a pleasant man, who chatted amiably with her as he folded his laundry. They continued chatting as she walked back toward the newspaper office and he hung a left up 4th Avenue and returned to his hotel with his bag of clean clothes… Peter vander Leelie, another journalist I worked with even longer ago, remembers meeting the same man, also in a laundromat, in Winnipeg.

From Rothenburger – Hanging Out In The Laundromat With Leonard Cohen by Mel Rothenburger (Armchairmayor.ca: Nov 12, 2016)

While Leonard’s music and fortunes changed somewhat between his 1993 and 2008-2013 tours, his on the road laundry habits didn’t. The photo below if from Sharon Robinson’s On Tour With Leonard Cohen.

Bonus: I Am A Hotel Laundry Room Scene

The only other laundry-related graphic associated with Leonard Cohen I’ve discovered is the hotel laundry room dance scene in the Memories segment of I Am A Hotel.

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  1. Kamloops is located in south-central British Columbia at the confluence of the two branches of the Thompson River near Kamloops Lake.

    Kamloops had a population of 90,280 residents in 2016. Photo of downtown Kamloops taken in 2007 by David Wise

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Chef Naz – Leonard Cohen’s Caribbean Connection In Fredericton, New Brunswick

“Leonard Cohen, most humble soul I’ve ever met.” Chef Naz of Caribbean Flavas – Fredericton

On May 11, 2008, Leonard Cohen inaugurated his 2008-2010 World Tour (although no one knew it would be a three year tour, let alone be followed by tours in 2012 and 2013 then) at The Playhouse in Fredericton, NB, a venue that seated about 700.

During that trip, he was so impressed with a local restaurant, Caribbean Flavas, that he signed up owner, Chef Naz, to join the Unified Heart Touring Company on the road. As Chef Naz recounts it:

“He’s like, ‘okay I like this lunch … what are you doing for the rest of the week?”

It turns out that Chef Naz, who has catered to a number of music industry stars, was impressed with Leonard Cohen as well:

“He would sit with us, with us! The working folks…And eat, chat, make jokes. I’ve never seen that before.”

The full story can be found at Leonard Cohen’s return to the stage started with a flavourful stop in Fredericton by Jeremy Keefe. Global News Canada: Nov 11, 2016.

The 1958 Canada Council Grants That Changed Leonard Cohen’s Life & How He Repaid The Debt

 

“The truth is without the help and encouragement of the Canada Council I would never have written The Favourite Game or The Spice Box of Earth. I am profoundly grateful.” Leonard Cohen

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I was working in a factory in Montreal at the time and writing, having these wonderful evenings that would go late, and then I had to be at work at seven. It was a good hour drive, so [I was] sleeping very, very little and playing all night and working all day. Then I applied for and was awarded a grant by the Canada Council. A very generous grant at the time, it was about three grand, which was worth a lot in ’59,1 and also a ticket to visit the ancient capitals, because on the basis of Let Us Compare Mythologies, I said I wanted to visit Rome, Athens, Jerusalem. So, I had a round-trip ticket from Montreal to Tel Aviv. I went to England first, and I wrote the first draft of The Favorite Game, and I finished the book which later became Spice-Box Of Earth, and then I went to Greece with my guitar, and I finished another draft or two of The Favorite Game. Then I locked into this living style that would carry me through the next seven or eight years.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From The Stranger Music of Leonard Cohen by William Ruhlmann. Goldmine, February 19, 1993

DrHGuy Note: Some sources report Mr Cohen’s first grant from Canada Council for the Arts was in 1959, but the official Government of Canada News Release and The Roots of Culture, The Power of Art: The First Sixty Years of the Canada Council for the Arts by Monica Gattinger (McGill-Queen’s Press: Dec 15, 2017) give the date as 1958.

The Canada Council for the Arts

In 1960, still only 25, [Leonard Cohen] lived in London and made his way to Greece and Jerusalem, the first steps in a lifetime of travel. It was not the random wandering of a beatnik, it was a course of study he had proposed to the Canada Council for the Arts, an immersion in the old ways of ancient capitals, for which the Crown corporation had given him the first of two grants he would receive, totalling $3,000. Of course those trips changed his life and art forever. What struck me is that in 1959, when he received the first grant, the Canada Council was only two years old. It’s as though the thing just came along in time. The Council’s creation was recommended, to a skeptical Louis St. Laurent, in the 1951 report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, chaired by the patrician Methodist diplomat Vincent Massey. The Massey Commission report opens with an excerpt from St Augustine’s The City of God: “A nation is an association of reasonable beings united in a peaceful sharing of the things they cherish; therefore, to determine the quality of a nation, you must consider what those things are.

From Even Leonard Cohen’s lewd verse touched on vulnerability by Paul Wells. Toronto Star: Nov. 11, 2016.

DrHGuy Note: The 1951 report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (aka the Massey Commission) is available online at The Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences 1848-1951.

Leonard Cohen Gives Back

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  1. According to the Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator, $3,000 in 1958 had the buying power of $26,340 in 2018. []

“The ‘secret chord’ and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me” Bob Dylan On Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

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That song ‘Hallelujah’ has resonance for me. There again, it’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves, and slips back, all in quick time. But this song has a connective chorus, which when it comes in has a power all of its own. The ‘secret chord’ and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me.quotedown2

Bob Dylan

 

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016)

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at