More Weirdness From The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour
The final piece of the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour Backup Singers puzzle is the role Donna Washburn played as backup singer that year.
It should surprise no one who has been following the Heck Of A Guy account of the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour to discover that, notwithstanding reports found on the official Leonard Cohen site, LeonardCohenFiles, LeonardCohenForum, and 1800+ other sites – including the usually astute Heck Of A Guy – declaring that she served as backup singer at the most famous of Leonard Cohen’s 1970 concerts, the number of times Donna Washburn sang backup to Leonard Cohen in 1970 was zero, zip, zilch, nada, …
She was, however, a backup singer during the Leonard Cohen 1972 tour although she is overshadowed by Jennifer Warnes, Cohen’s other female vocalist that year. And, Washburn had an interesting professional career prior to 1972. But, first, let’s clear up the mistaken notion that she sang backup for Cohen in 1970.
Another Cautionary Tale About Internet-abetted Press Releases
The problem arises from the official blurb for the 2009 release of the Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle of Wight 1970 CD/DVD put out by Columbia/Legacy:
This excerpt is taken from the copy of the press release from LeonardCohen.com but is identical to that found on hundreds of other sites:
The CD (and double-LP) of ‘Live At The Isle of Wight 1970’ represent the 77-minute concert set as performed by Cohen and his backup band: Bob Johnston (Cohen’s Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer), and Nashville musicians Charlie Daniels (electric bass, fiddle), Ron Cornelius (lead guitar), and Elkin ‘Bubba’ Fowler (bass, banjo). They were joined by backup singers Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno, and Donna Washburn. [emphasis mine]
As noted above, that same phrase,”backup singers Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno, and Donna Washburn,” is found by Google at the official Leonard Cohen site, LeonardCohenFiles, LeonardCohenForum, and 1800+ other sites – including this one.
While my attempts to discover through official channels why Donna Washburn was credited as a backup singer on the Leonard Cohen Live At The Isle of Wight 1970 CD/DVD were unrequited, Aileen Fowler aka Susan Musmanno (backup singer, along with Corlynn Hanney, on the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour) offers helpful information:1
… there’s a third girl onstage in the Isle of Wight video; that was the only time I ever saw her. She was a friend of Ron Cornelius’s. I don’t recall ever seeing Donna except at the Isle of Wight. I am assuming that she is the girl sitting behind Ron in the video. She doesn’t appear to be miked, and looks like she is just jamming along. We never rehearsed with her. I can’t think that she would have been paid. And that was the only time she showed up on my watch. Why she got a backup singer credit for that performance at IOW is a mystery to me.
- Aileen and her husband, Elkin Fowler, guitarist during the 1970 tour have been especially useful in filling in the blanks about the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour. See “It was a crazy, crazy time” Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Backup Singers. [↩]