Jennifer Warnes: “It wasn’t love at first sight between Leonard [Cohen] and me.”

jennifer warnes image De Telegraaf December 24 1992 pixels_low

No, it wasn’t love at first sight between Leonard and me. I already knew his work well when I first met him in a hotel elevator in Hartford, Connecticut, where I was singing at the local university auditorium and he was performing in the concert hall. I had always pictured that, whenever we met, I would start an intellectual discussion about life and work, from which he would deduce that I am a sophisticated person. But at the actual moment, of course, I behaved like any fan – not to say like a groupie – and I was treated accordingly. So, I was surprised when, two years later, I was asked to join his band as a background singer. Although I came to the audition with trepidation, I was hired – without Leonard recognizing me. During the tour we have shuddered over this many times: imagine if we had remained two ships that sailed past one another in the night! To make a long story short: we are friends for life. I’m convinced that Leonard has loved all his singers, but Laura Branigan and I are, if he is asked for favorites, always mentioned. quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes


Jennifer Warnes “Ik heb een ego als de Eiffeltoren” [Jennifer Warnes ‘I have an ego as big as the Eiffel Tower’] door Jip Golsteijn (De Telegraaf: December 24, 1992)

Contributed and translated by Anja Deelen

Hear Jennifer Warnes BBC Interview About Leonard Cohen, Roscoe Beck, New Album …

jwifJennifer Warnes is interviewed by Spencer Leigh at BBC Radio Merseyside – March 20, 2016. The broadcast will be available for 21 more days.

Jennifer’s fans assess this as one of her best interviews (and I agree).

Linda Sturgess, who alerted me to this interview, writes:

She talks of many things and, of course, about her long relationship with Leonard Cohen – with comments like “he brings the excitement of the written world to music” and he “speaks to the soul.” The interview is interspersed with a lot of good music. I loved this – her mention of how there used to be “road records” – listening to an album while on a road trip in a car – the love of “the hour spent with an artist that was unbroken.”  She mentions the upcoming the upcoming album that she is working with Roscoe Beck and others – a “collection of tunes that resonate with her life.”

The interview can be heard at BBC Radio Merseyside – Jennifer Warnes

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Linda Sturgess who alerted me to this interview

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Sisters of Mercy With Donna Washburn & Jennifer Warnes – 1972


Backup singers Donna Washburn & Jennifer Warnes are positioned to share Leonard Cohen’s microphone after sound system problems caused theirs to malfunction.

Leonard Cohen – Sisters of Mercy
From Bird On A Wire Documentary: 1972 Tour

Jennifer Warnes Reissues The Well, Works On New Project With Roscoe Beck, Sings On Leonard Cohen’s Forthcoming Album

well2These are pertinent excerpts from Jennifer Warnes reissues ‘The Well’ while recording new material (The Examiner: March 21, 2016), but the entire article is worthwhile reading:

“My fans keep asking for new material,” she told him. “I can’t keep reissuing Famous Blue Raincoat!.” But since The Well had never been released in Europe, it’s come out now ahead of a new album she’s working on for release by BMG International later this year… She’s reteamed with her Famous Blue Raincoat co-producer Roscoe Beck. “We really know how to do this, though we haven’t done it together in 30 years!” she says, then turns contemplative…

But “the truth is,” she concludes, “a bunch of us are pushing forward because we were meant to do this—and we really don’t need a cultural movement to believe in ourselves.”  To this end, she sang with Leonard Cohen in December for his recording project, and is working on her own book project. [bolding mine]

“Singing with Leonard Cohen was a big adventure” Jennifer Warnes

jennifer warnes image De Telegraaf December 24 1992 pixels_low

Singing with Leonard Cohen was a big adventure. These days no artist of any importance starts touring without having rehearsed for six weeks. A premiere audience typically sees a show that already has been performed thirty times in a desolate factory hall or airplane hangar. After another thirty rehearsals everyone can play his or her part in their sleep. But rehearsing with Leonard came down to participating in three long group discussions about music and receiving a cassette to take home. Once we were touring, every evening we were summoned to Leonard’s dressing room to play and sing for half an hour. Leonard then decided who made the most powerful impression, and that person would get the leading part that evening. And every evening the band and vocalists looked forward with excitement and anxiety to the moment when Leonard would perform for the first time another new version of a song he was working on. The audience loved it as much as he did, but we were wiped out afterwards, that much emotion was invested in such an improvisation. One evening, we discovered that we had been working on the same song for some time. So that was no throw-away song! Every day another brilliant couplet was added. Finally it boiled down to “Chelsea Hotel,” still a milestone in Leonard’s oeuvre.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer Warnes “Ik heb een ego als de Eiffeltoren” [Jennifer Warnes ‘I have an ego as big as the Eiffel Tower’] door Jip Golsteijn (De Telegraaf: December 24, 1992)

Contributed and translated by Anja Deelen

“Leonard will set a song aside until it grows deep roots & huge wings. Ten years maybe. To sing these songs is a great privilege.” Jennifer Warnes on Leonard Cohen’s Songwriting

Leonard lyrically opens the fearful boundaries of my heart, so that the big natural thoughts can blow around within me like leaves on an autumn day, so that the beautiful nameless thing enters me. I wonder sometimes if he has learned how to harness GRACE. No I guess not. But he does position himself with open arms. Whatever spiritual positioning might be required to write like Leonard does, it is probably better left unsaid. Most songwriters allow their songs be born prematurely, before the songs are fully ripe and fleshed out; before they are accurately complex, like the human heart is complex. They let the old cat out of the bag too soon. Impatience causes this slippage. Leonard will set a song aside until it grows deep roots and huge wings. Ten years maybe. To sing these songs is a great privilege.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

Let The Grief Inform Your Throat by Jennifer Warnes (JenniferWarnes,com: October 25, 2004)

From Jennifer Warnes Sings "Way Down Deep" To Leonard Cohen Recites "A Thousand Kisses Deep"


The Alpha And Omega (So Far) Of “A Thousand Kisses Deep”

As is true of many Leonard Cohen songs, “A Thousand Kisses Deep” has a complex history. Tom Sakic and I thought it would be interesting to present the earliest performed precursor of this song  juxtaposed with the most recent version.

The result is a video with Jennifer Warnes singing the gorgeous but routinely overlooked “Way Down Deep” (by Jennifer Warnes, Leonard Cohen, and Amy Latelevision) from her 1992 album, The Hunter, followed by Leonard Cohen’s July 20, 2009 recitation of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” in Dublin.

Between these end points, “A Thousand Kisses Deep” – both the song and the poem, both in print and as performed – has undergone changes in specific lyrics and the addition, subtraction, and rearrangement of stanzas.

The closest we have to a definitive manuscript of all verses is dated September 21, 1998 and is available online at Blackening Pages: A Thousand Kisses Deep.1 From that point on, the versions are combinations and permutations of these verses with occasional changes in lines and phrases.

The Video: Jennifer Warnes’ “Way Down Deep” To Leonard Cohen’s “A Thousand Kisses Deep”

Despite being romantics at heart, neither Tom nor I planned this as a Valentine’s Day commemoration – but, just as sure as there ain’t no cure for love, it is a suitable treat for those with a Cohenesque perspective.

Video from DrHGuy

Bonus: Leonard Cohen’s 1996 “A Thousand Kisses Deep”

This video clip is from Armelle Brusq’s movie, “Leonard Cohen Spring 96,”2 shot at the Mt Baldy Zen Center.

Leonard Cohen – A Thousand Kisses Deep
1996 Demo
Video from a1000kissesdeep (aka Tom Sakic)

Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post is a gift from Jennifer Warnes.

Note: Originally posted Feb 12, 2010 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Leonard Cohen’s 1996 demo from Armelle Brusq’s movie at Mt Baldy referenced at at Blackening Pages: A Thousand Kisses Deep is also available on YouTube and can be viewed below in the embedded player near the end of this post. []
  2. See Superb Video Of Leonard Cohen At Mt Baldy Zen Center – Armelle Brusq’s 1996 Film Now Online []

Leonard Cohen On The Difficulty Of Translating Edith Piaf’s Songs

Interviewer: I’ve heard that you have worked on a translation, an adaptation to English, of Edith Piaf’s songs?

It was an idea I proposed for Jennifer Warnes, not for me. I would like to translate certain Piaf songs for Jennifer, but it is very difficult. I tried a few lines. It’s difficult. A phrase such as ‘C’est l’amour qui fait qu’on s’aime”, now, what does this French sentence mean? That love is responsible? That love is a separate force? (a force apart) That love exists? C’est l’amour qui fait qu’on s’aime. It (the meaning) is not exact. You see the problem!quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Rencontre avec Leonard Cohen, video interview with Leonard Cohen by Jean-Louis Sbille. Rock On TV! (Belgian TV): March 16, 1988. Translated from French to English by Coco Éclair.

Note: Originally posted March 31, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric