“I was starting to sweat because I just didn’t hear anything to sing” Anjani Thomas On The Process Of Recording Morning Glory With Leonard Cohen


Most of the songs on Dear Heather were recorded in Leonard’s home studio. Could you describe the working process? For instance, when recording the background vocals, were the arrangements and lead vocals already done or did the process move back and forth between the leads and backings?

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The music tracks were complete but there was some flexibility between the recording lead and bgs [background vocals]; and one may have influenced the other. Leonard has always given me complete creative freedom on vocals. And although I’ve heard a rough track before the session, it doesn’t mean I know what I’ll do when I step up to the mic. This was especially true on Morning Glory. On several occasions we sat for an hour or two listening to the track and he’d say, ‘This is going to be so great! We’ll just chant, ‘morning glory’ and maybe sing a few lines about how beautiful the morning glories are.’ Meanwhile, he hadn’t written or recorded his speaking part yet, so all I knew about the song was that a 7-foot high wall of morning glory vines in his backyard inspired it. He never knew this, but the more he played the tune the more bewildered I became. It was so slinky and quirky that I had no clue what to do on it. I avoided that session for months until it was one of the last things on the record to complete. By then I thought I’d just give it a shot and it wouldn’t be usable, but at least I did some other good work on the record. So we rolled the tape and a minute of his monologue went by and nothing came to mind. Another two minutes passed and I was starting to sweat because I just didn’t hear anything to sing. Leonard was sitting in a chair four feet away from me with his eyes closed and he didn’t seem perturbed; but I felt like I was really blowing it. As his monologue ended I thought, ‘oh, whatever’ and I started singing, ‘oh, the morning glory.’ When it was over I gave him a look like, how horrible was that? He nodded and said it was just what he had in mind. So I tripled that line, added the harmonies, threw in some ‘glorias’ and by then it really was rather beautiful. quotedown2

Anjani Thomas

 

From Interview With Anjani at Dear Heather

That Don’t Make It Junk – Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen: His Scientology Phase

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Introduction

As discussed in the preceding entry from this series, That Don’t Make It Junk: Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen, certain unequivocal biographical facts about Leonard Cohen have proved overwhelmingly and uniformly unpopular with readers, more than a few of whom have reacted with vehemence that extends beyond, for example, the strident comments that “nobody should cover Leonard’s songs” or “Jazz Police is probably Cohen’s worst song.”

Leonard Cohen & Scientology

Many, many fans are vexed by the fact that Leonard Cohen had a brief connection with Scientology, an artifact of which is his employment of a single Scientology reference (“go clear”) in a single song, Famous Blue Raincoat. I emphasize that Leonard’s association with Scientology is not an opinion, conspiracy theory, or extrapolation but something we know because Leonard – repeatedly and straightforwardly – reported it in interviews. Going Clear: Leonard Cohen & Scientology, offers Leonard Cohen’s own words, as quoted by reliable sources, about his participation.

My best guess is that most readers who find the mention of Leonard Cohen’s brief involvement with this belief distasteful are those who find Scientology itself repellent. They may also view such posts as attempts to proselytize, lack of evidence notwithstanding. While one supposes that a case can be made for simply omitting those portions of Leonard’s life that could upset fans, even benign historical revisionism is not without cost. If those who admire artists are interested in understanding their backgrounds, rewriting those histories defeats the intent. Ignoring, let alone attacking biographical data is dangerous.

In this case, I submit that it’s worthwhile to know that Leonard Cohen, the descendant of a long line of rabbis, a frequent attendee at his nanny’s Catholic church, an ordained Buddhist monk who spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, a student of Hinduism with a guru in India, a chanter of the Hare Krisna mantra, and a reader of the Bible and the Bhagavad-gita, was fleetingly involved with Scientology.

More Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen

All posts in this series are collected at

Credit Due Department: Photo by PictorialEvidence – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons

Video: Life On The Leonard Cohen Tour – A Conversation With Leif Bodnarchuk

Leif Bodnarchuk wrote a blog about his experiences as a guitar tech on the Leonard Cohen World Tour, which later became a book, “No Ideas.” In this interview with Tony Clayton-Lea, he proves an entertaining, informative, and witty purveyor of tales o life on the road with the Canadian singer-songwriter.

Leif Bodnarchuk – Touring With Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen Dublin Event: August 2014
Video by Albert Noonan via Leonard Cohen Event Dublin 2014

Note: Originally posted Dec 30, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen, Philosopher By Prof Philipp W. Rosemann

Features Exegesis Of Steer Your Way

Professor Philipp W. Rosemann’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture
Maynooth University: April 18, 2018

Also See “Cohen’s art does not gloss over the difficulties of contemporary life, but throws them into sharp relief—mercilessly, but also beautifully.” The Curious Phenomenon Of Leonard Cohen By Philipp W Rosemann.

That Don’t Make It Junk: Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen

Introduction To Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen

Cohenites are a tough crowd for a blogger. Oh, it’s true enough that posting anything that includes the words “Leonard Cohen” will garner a certain number of hits and positive comments, but predicting which entries will be popular or disliked at a given time is, as T.S. Eliot characterized poetry, “a mug’s game.”

Update: For the other side of the story, see  Is This What You Wanted: Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen

Consider these examples. After a decade of writing about Leonard on my own sites and turns posting on LeonardCohenForum, Facebook fan groups, YouTube, and the official Leonard Cohen Facebook page, I’ve detected1 the following:

1. Videos of Leonard Cohen concert performances (e.g. Best Of 2012 Leonard Cohen Tour Video Setlist and Best Of 2013 Leonard Cohen Tour Video Setlist) that were in demand prior to Leonard’s  death are much less popular now.

2. Comparisons of Leonard Cohen to anyone else, even as a joke, are anathema. The sample below from the GIF Guide: Ascertaining If You Are At A Beyoncé Or Leonard Cohen Show triggered vehement comments.
3. A few years ago, Rebecca De Mornay, the movie star who was Leonard’s fiancée, was persona non grata, universally criticized if not loathed. In the past months, however, responses to entries featuring her have been enthusiastically positive.

4. Testimonials about Leonard from the right people (e.g., Sharon Robinson, Jennifer Warnes, Webb Sisters) are incredibly well received. Testimonials about Leonard from the wrong people (e.g., Prince Charles, Bono) – not so much.

Now, a portion of the criticism leveled against the posts falling in these sample categories can be legitimately ascribed to the readers’ evaluations of the choices made and the authorial skills employed by the blogger (that would be me), but our primary interest lies in specific Leonard Cohen biographical issues, uncontaminated by a journalist’s perspective, that routinely earn the disapprobation of fans.

The Big Three Leonard Cohen No-Noes

Three Leonard Cohen topics, all unequivocal facts from Leonard’s history, have proved overwhelmingly and uniformly unpopular with and, frequently, antagonistic to readers. These issues will be featured in the next That Don’t Make It Junk – Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen posts.

More Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen

All posts in this series are collected at

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  1. “Detected” connotes observations on my part that lack rigid, scientific statistical verification but which I am am convinced – and on which I would wager significant sums of cash – are accurate. []

Leonard Cohen Cares For His Lovers – Even When They Are No Longer Lovers

There are the cheques [from Leonard Cohen] to Marianne “to help her out because she’s a fine lady”; the payments to support Suzanne [Elrod], the children and smooth over whatever Suzanne’s latest contretemps may be. In the semidetached house Leonard’s mother willed to him, a sweet moon-faced girl lives with her illegitimate baby who thinks Leonard is her father. (He isn’t, but the real father is already married to two other women.) “I ought to sell the house,” says Leonard, “but where will she go?”

From Leonard Cohen Says That to All the Girls by Barbara Amiel. Maclean’s: Sept 18, 1978.

“It’s singing on poetry. It’s an elegant and wonderful event that I feel fortunate I could do year after year.” Jennifer Warnes On Performing Leonard Cohen Songs

How did you decide which songs to put on Famous Blue Raincoat?

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The ones that suited my voice, and they had to hang together. I wanted it to be a whole album. Roscoe [Beck] and I had been in Leonard’s band for the Field Commander Cohen tour, so we knew the songs. It wasn’t like we casually cherry-picked a few – we knew exactly which ones had to be and delivered a kind of musical payoff. Leonard is not known for his great melodies, but he actually is a great melody writer. If you take the words off and just listen to the melodies, he’s really, really good. It’s just not known, because we’re so distracted by the poetry.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

 

Jennifer Warnes by Carl Wiser (Songfacts: April 13, 2018) is an informative and entertaining interview with Jennifer Warnes about working with Leonard Cohen, her musical history, and her impending album, Another Time, Another Place. The entire piece, available at the link, is a highly recommended read.

“I am as constant as the Northern Star” From Leonard Cohen (& Shakespeare) To Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You

No lover gave her poetry like Leonard, and even after their affair ended, she continued to communicate with him in song; most memorably in “A Case of You.” She recalled that Cohen told her, “I am as constant as the Northern Star.” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar says this to Brutus, and it’s not far from there to “Et tu, Brute.” “I knew it was from Julius Caesar,” Cohen recalled, “but I didn’t say it with Shakespeare’s irony. I think I actually meant it in relation to her.”

“When I played ‘A Case of You’ for him, he said, ‘I’m glad I wrote that,’” Joni recalled. The song begins: Just before our love got lost you said, “I am as constant as a northern star.” And I said, “Constantly in the darkness Where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.” It was a tension that spoke to a schism in their songwriting …

Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life – it’s up for grabs, right?

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

DrHGuy Note: Included in Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things: is a discussion of songs Mitchell wrote which have been identified by some as having been inspired by her relationship with Leonard Cohen: “Rainy Night House,” “That Song About The Midway,” “The Gallery,” and “A Case Of You.”

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