Leonard Cohen On Bob Dylan And Bob Dylan On Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s comment about Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize, “It’s like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain,” is a notable but hardly exclusive manifestation of the interface between the preeminent bards of contemporary music. Since the 1960s, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan shared what Larry “Ratso” Sloman has called “a relationship of tremendous mutual respect.”

A collection of posts about the interface between Leonard Cohen & Bob Dylan, including their opinions of each other, their interactions, and their occasional differences can be found at ce

Credits: Leonard’s evaluation of Bob Dylan is from a 1994 Q Magazine interview (photo courtesy of Leonard Cohen); Bob Dylan’s assessment of Leonard is from the 2016 New Yorker Leonard Cohen profile by David Remnick (photo by Alberto Cabello via Wikipedia Commons).

Leonard Cohen’s First Rehearsal With Jenny & Donna (AKA Jennifer Warnes & Donna Washburn)

First LC tour-H.P. Schmid photo-2 2900Jennifer Warnes & Donna Washburn weren’t the first to audition for the roles of backup singers for the 1972 Leonard Cohen Tour. This is the story of their first rehearsal with Leonard:

It’s all coming down to the wire now. Home to roost. It’s Tuesday night and this is the first rehearsal with Jenny and Donna, the two new singers, who’ve just got in from LA. The excitement is so strong in here you can touch it. The tour begins in two days. The lights are low and the garbage can is stuffed with ice, wine and champagne. These girls have got to work.

Jenny is tall, with straight blond hair down to her shoulders. She stands holding her body straight but easy, a feeling of calm to her. She came from playing the lead in Hair in Los Angeles. Donna is a bit shorter, with a fuller more sexual body, long light blond hair falling in natural curls over her shoulders. She’s less calm than Jenny, more in need of reassurance.

The singing is going well. The first song. If it’s going to come together, it’s got to be now. Leonard is looking truly adolescent. Worn brown sneakers, favorite black slacks, old favorite grey sweater hanging loosely from his shoulders. He’s listening to the girls and smiling as he sings. Standing at the mike, shoulders in their slight hunch, feet together, tapping, swaying slowly from side to side. *Oh you are really such a pretty .little one / I see you’ve gone and changed your name again. Peter, on electric bass, is tapping away smiling, David looks happy, too. Just as I’ve climbed this whole mountainside / To wash my eyelids in the rain. The music takes off. Ron starts smiling, Bob too, *Oh so long Marianne / It’s time that we began / To laugh / and cry / and cry / and laugh /about it all again.

The new girls respond beautifully and they sing the last refrain again. The song finished, Leonard turns to the girls, he’s smiling, delighted. “Fabulous . . . fabulous . . . just fabulous,” he can’t get over how well the song went. He’s shaking the girls’ hands saying, “Congratulations.” He’s just like a kid, he’s so happy. People break to get some drink, but Leonard is too excited. Com’on, let’s keep going. Hey seriously that was fabulous. I’m so excited I’ve lost the capo from my guitar.” He is stumbling around through the mike booms and chairs looking on the floor and table and chairs for his capo. “Hey, anyone seen my capo . . .?” The girls are giggling they’re so happy it’s come together. Leonard is still stumbling around: “Those sounds were so beautiful I couldn’t sing, like music to my ears . . . I’m so happy there are voices out there, the voices came.” He’s standing still now, overcome.

They get back together, Leonard saying, “Let’s do Thin Green Candle . . . no, no, let’s do Joan Of Arc.” They begin and suddenly in mid-verse Leonard stops: “I’m sorry we might as well cool this right now, I can’t sing. It’s too beautiful.” They look at each other. “The reason I need girls to sing with me is that my voice depresses me.” Donna protests, “No . .. no,” but Leonard goes on, “No, seriously, that’s the truth. I need your voices to sweeten mine. No really, that’s the truth. So please try to sing something simple in harmony with my voice.” And they swing back into another song . . . and it works.

From Famous last words from Leonard Cohen by Paul Saltzman (Macleans: June 10, 1972). The photo of Jennifer Warnes & Donna Washburn taken by Sherry Suris at the April 19, 1972 Tel Aviv soundcheck was a generous gift from Jennifer Warnes..

Video: Allison Crowe Covers Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat

From Heavy Graces Album

This choral rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic is the first of two versions recorded by Allison Crowe for her album “Heavy Graces,” to be released Oct 15, 2013.

From the YouTube description:

“Famous Blue Raincoat”, its composer, Leonard Cohen, says, reflects on the “tyranny” of possession — of the kind that enslaves us as women and men.

It’s territory covered here by musician Allison Crowe. (Crowe’s previously celebrated the Cohen songbook via renowned interpretations of “Hallelujah”, “Joan of Arc” and other tunes from the master songsmith.)

Impressionistic visual accompaniment comes via film scenes from “The Blue Angel” (“Der blaue Engel” first released in Europe in 1930 saw its full North American release the following year.)

Video: Adrian22

Note: Originally posted Oct 11, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I understand what the blues is now… It’s just talking to your baby.” Leonard Cohen After Stevie Ray Vaughan Performance

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Roscoe [Beck] and I took Leonard to hear Stevie [Ray Vaughan] one night at the Hollywood Bowl, and Leonard was silent for a good half-hour after the show. We were walking in silence to the car. And finally Leonard said: ‘I understand what the blues is now.’ I said, ‘What is it you understand?’ And he said: ‘It’s just talking to your baby.’ In other words: It’s intimate. It’s as close to the truth as possible.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

 

Let’s Go To The Well by Brad Buchholz (Austin American-Statesman: 2002). Accessed at Jennifer Warnes website. Photo by Paul Lannuier. Originally posted July 18, 2010 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Talks About How Bob Dylan Did And Did Not Impact His Musical Career

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From Lenny Plays It Cool by Bud Scoppa (Music Connection, April 6-19, 1987)

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

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

Tom Petty – Free Fallin’: 1950-2017

Tom Petty’s death yesterday, October 2, 2017, devastated rock fans and music stars alike.  Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone,

It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.

Ongoing readers may know that The Webb Sisters – or, as Leonard Cohen habitually introduced them during his  2008-2013 tours, The Sublime Webb Sisters –  served as backing vocalists for Tom Petty during his 40th anniversary tour, which concluded at the Hollywood Bowl last week.

Petty saw them play with Cohen and said, “it’s been a dream of mine” to work with them and that taking them on the tour “really makes the boys behave”1

It was only three days ago that Charley & Hattie Webb wrote fans

We wanted to write to say hi. It’s been a ball touring this year with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. An amazing journey with this wonderful family of crew and band…Of course, Leonard has very much been on our minds and in our hearts. Forever engraved. We miss him terribly.

On a personal note, Free Fallin’ was one of Julie’s favorite songs and still reminds me of our time together.

Now, it makes me miss Tom Petty, too.

Tom Petty’s Final Performance Of Free Fallin’
Hollywood Bowl: Sept 25,  2017

Photo by Larry Philpot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons

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  1. Webb Sisters’ Roles On Tom Petty Tour: Dream Fulfillers & Behavior Modulators []