Examining Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat Album Of Leonard Cohen Songs

Ann Powers’ [Greatest Albums by Women] list is incomplete without Famous Blue Raincoat, which brought both fierce intelligence and the gorgeous sound of Jennifer Warnes’ voice to us, one more time.quotedown2

Robrt L. Pela

From The One Record That’s Missing from NPR’s Greatest Albums by Women List by Robrt L. Pela (New Times: August 2, 2017). This essay offers insights into the significance of Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat album. Highly Recommended.  Excerpts follow:

More than 30 years after its initial release, Famous Blue Raincoat — particularly in its original vinyl Cypress Records version and its more recent Impex 45-rpm wax reissue — remains an aural benchmark among audiophiles, who cite its pristine engineering and mastering by studio legend Bernie Grundman.

Raincoat speaks also to listeners who care less about sonic quality than they do about good, solid pop music. Its centerpiece is Warnes’ own “Song of Bernadette,” co-written with Cohen on a bus during his 1979 European tour. An exquisite composition since covered by Judy Collins, Bette Midler, Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt, and Aaron Neville, among many others, “Bernadette” recalls the sainted woman who “saw the queen of Heaven once,” a vision she steadfastly refused to deny. The song’s proto-feminist message alone ought to have secured its parent disc a place on Powers’ list.

Zen’s 10 Oxherding Pictures & Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”

In Let The Grief Inform Your Throat (JenniferWarnes.com), Jennifer Warnes offers, among other matters, her account of how Leonard Cohen introduced “Ballad of the Absent Mare” to her.

After being away on a silent retreat, Leonard Cohen came over to my house wearing an old beige MacGregor jacket, and his face was radiant. There was a little leap inside him. It’s impossible to be sad around Leonard when he is filled up like this because his smile comes from deep places. He came over to share a brand new song, called The Ballad of the Absent Mare. Not every day this happens

… Leonard had found some old pictures somewhere. They were called The Ten Bulls, old Japanese woodcuts symbolizing the stages of a monk’s life on the road to enlightenment. These carvings pictured a boy and a bull, the boy losing the bull, the bull hiding, the boy realizing that the bull was nearby all along. There is a struggle, and finally the boy rides the bull into his little village. “I thought this would make a great cowboy song”, he joked.

A scholarly examination of the relationship of these images, used for centuries to illustrate “the stages of a practitioner’s progression towards the purification of the mind and enlightenment, as well as his or her subsequent return into the world while acting out of wisdom,”1 can be found at Green, R., (2017). Teaching Zen’s Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts. 24(1), pp.29–58. The abstract follows:

This paper describes how to teach Zen’s famous Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s song “Ballad of the Absent Mare.” It also explains how instructors can contextualize these pictures within the history of Buddhist visual culture and thereby frame Cohen’s adoption of them as a cowboy ballad motif. The essay begins by describing the metaphor of the ox. It then reviews three theories about the origin of the pictures, contextualizing them within the history of Buddhist visual culture. Finally, it provides a PowerPoint presentation that connects each of the Ten Oxherding Pictures to verses of Cohen’s song and offers comments for instructors’ use in class.

Credit Due Department: Graphic atop post by Tenshō Shūbun – Shokoku-ji Temple website, Public Domain, Via Wikipedia Commons


  1. Wikipedia []

One More Special Photo From Jennifer Warnes: Leonard Cohen Soundcheck – Israel 1972

First LC tour-H.P. Schmid photo-2 2900In addition to the images featured in yesterday’s post, Singular Photos From Jennifer Warnes: Leonard Cohen Soundcheck – Israel 1972, we have received this shot of Jennifer Warnes & Donna Washburn as backup singers at the April 19, 1972 Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv soundcheck.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Sherry Suris

Note: Originally posted Oct 4, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Singular Photos From Jennifer Warnes: Leonard Cohen Soundcheck – Israel 1972


Jennifer Warnes Contributes Rare Images

These singular photos1 from Jennifer Warnes’ private stash were taken by Sherry Suris at either the April 19, 1972 Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv soundcheck or the April 20, 1972 Jerusalem soundcheck.

Update: One More Special Photo From Jennifer Warnes: Leonard Cohen Soundcheck – Israel 1972

3-12Musicians: 1972 Leonard Cohen Tour

  • Leonard Cohen: Guitar, Vocals
  • Ron Cornelius: Guitar
  • Bob Johnston: Keyboards
  • Peter Marshall: Bass
  • David O’Connor Guitar
  • Jennifer Warnes: Vocals
  • Donna Washburn: Vocals

Source: Is This What You Wanted? by Jim Devlin



2-1`2Credit Due Department: These photos are posted here exclusively through the generosity of Jennifer Warnes. Special thanks go to David Rubin, without whose assistance this posting would not have taken place.

Note: Originally posted Oct 3, 2013 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. OK, in this case, “singular” means “I don’t recall seeing, these photos previously []

Hear, Download Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat” LP Showcase – Munich 1987

Because I may not know music, but I know what you should like
… and where to find it

This is a very good audience recording.of Jennifer Warnes’ “Famous Blue Raincoat” LP Showcase, Park-Café, Munich, West Germany; April 15, 1987. “Famous Blue Raincoat” is, of course, an album of Jennifer Warnes’ performances of  songs by Leonard Cohen.

From the download site:

In January 1987, Jennifer Warnes released her sixth studio album, Famous Blue Raincoat, a tribute to Leonard Cohen, with whom she had toured as a backup singer in the 1970s. The idea for the album originated when Cohen assisted Warnes with the lyrics of “Song of Bernadette” while on tour in 1979. Warnes is probably best known for her duet with Joe Cocker on Up Where We Belong, which appeared in the 1982 movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.

The recording includes Leonard Cohen’s introduction of Jennifer Warnes, in which he sardonically informs the audience they can continue to laugh and talk as well as expressing his discontent with his record label.

Track 01. introduction 1:54
Track 02. Cohen talk 5:49
Track 03. Bird on the Wire 5:41
Track 04. Coming Back to You 6:36
Track 05. Famous Blue Raincoat 6:55
Track 06. The Hunter 4:31
Track 07. Ain’t No Cure for Love 4:36
Track 08. I Can’t Hide 6:07
Track 09. First We Take Manhattan 7:05
Track 10. Song of Bernadette 5:02

The files are already in MP3 format available for download directly from the site, thus avoiding the need to enter codes, decompress the files, or deal with the hassles of services such as Rapidshare. The files are also tagged (correctly, as far as I can determine) with the name of the song, the artist, and “Leonard Cohen – Birmingham 1979” listed as the album name. Only the cover art, available on site, need be added post-download.

This bootleg can be downloaded at ROIO – Jennifer Warnes’ “Famous Blue Raincoat” LP Showcase

Leonard Cohen on Jennifer Warnes “Her voice is like the California weather, filled with sunlight. But there is an earthquake behind it.”

Her voice is like the California weather, filled with sunlight. But there is an earthquake behind it. It is that tension that I think defines Jennifer’s remarkable gift.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel. (2007)

“Never question where love comes from …” Leonard Cohen

Jennifer Warnes: I phoned Leonard on the day that my mother – who in many ways was my ‘significant other’ – died. ‘Was that somehow strange, devoting one’s life to one’s mother?’ I asked. His response was impeccable.

Never question where love comes from. We have no control over these things. From a stranger, a mother, a dog, or that perfect mate, it comes from wherever it comes. You were lucky, in fact – everyone hopes to find love in the place that you found it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen, quoted by Jennifer Warnes in Leonard Cohen – as remembered by Jennifer Warnes by Marcus Webb (Slow Journalism: 7 November 2016).