“I took it as an omen” Jennifer Warnes on getting smashed with Leonard Cohen on New Year’s Eve 1985

I sang at the City [Restaurant] on New Year’s Eve, 1985-86 … That night Leonard [Cohen] showed up and we just got smashed. I took it as an omen quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

From Jenny Takes A Ride by Bud Scoppa (Music Connection, April 6-19, 1987). The photo was a gift from Jennifer Warnes.

Note: Originally posted December 31, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s 5 Best Collaborations According To The Houston Post


Cohen Collaborators: Jennifer Warnes, Sharon Robinson, Phil Spector, Webb Sisters, Bob Dylan & Alan Ginsberg

Read the full story at Leonard Cohen’s Five Best Collaborations by Corey Deiterman (Houston Press: Sep. 17 2014). Be aware that The Houston Post subscribes to a broad definition of “collaboration.” .

Note: Originally posted September 17, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Jennifer Warnes On Leonard Cohen’s Lyrics

Leonard will say, ‘Look at the shreds of my heart; you pulled it out with a pair of prongs.’ … He’s acknowledging that the whole act of living contains immense amounts of sorrow and hopelessness and despair, and also passion and high hopes and deep and eternal love. His complex lyrics speak of complex mixtures of God and sex and spirituality and myth and forgiveness and lostness.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes

Leonard Cohen, Pain Free by Sheldon Teitelbaum. Los Angeles Times: April 5, 1992.

“[Leonard Cohen] carried our bags & lit my cigarettes. He saw to it that everyone in the band was fed.” Jennifer Warnes On The 1972 Tour


Leonard Cohen passing out sandwiches to crew & friends backstage during the 1972 Tour (screenshot from Bird On A Wire documentary)

The Jennifer Warnes quotation is from Leonard Cohen Tour A Smash by Mike Jahn (The Palm Beach Post: May 14, 1972)

Note: Originally posted Oct 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Jennifer Warnes On Leonard Cohen’s “One Great Love”

He has investigated a lot of deities and read all the sacred books, trying to understand in some way who wrote them as much as the subject matter itself. It’s for his own healing that he reaches for those places. If he has one great love, it is his search for God.quotedown2

Jennifer Warnes


On the Road, for Reasons Practical and Spiritual by Larry Rohter (New York Times: February 24, 2009). I received the photo as a gift from Jennifer Warnes.

Who Put The “Dum-Dum” In The “Do Dum Dum Dum, De Do Dum Dum?” – Non-Lexical Vocables In Leonard Cohen’s Songs

dudumEchoing Barry Mann’s metaphysical query, “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp),”1 is the question of the origin of the “Dum Dum” – an essential component in the key “Do Dum Dum Dum, De Do Dum Dum” refrain of Leonard Cohen’s Tower Of Song. While the above photo, taken in Montreal by Leslie Py Wener, makes a case for a confectionery theory of the genesis of those syllables,2 Mr Cohen himself attributes that phrase to another singer-songwriter. More about that in a moment.

Introduction: Nonsense Syllables In Leonard Cohen’s Songs

This is the first of a series of posts investigating the use of nonsense syllables, known in musicological circles as non-lexical vocables, in the songs written by Leonard Cohen.

Nonsense syllables have long been a part of music, having been used in second century AD Greek and Byzantine music3 and manifesting more recently in such forms as yodeling, scat singing, beatboxing, and doo-wop.

A few examples of popular songs featuring nonsense syllables follow:

  • Little Richard: Tutti- Frutti (“a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bop-bop”)
  • Edsels: Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong
  • Manfred Mann: Do Wah Diddy Diddy
  • Marcels: Blue Moon (“Bomp bomp ba bomp, ba bomp ba bomp bomp” and “dip-de-dip-de-dip”)
  • Van Morrison: Brown Eyed Girl (“Do you remember when we used to sing Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah”)
  • Gene Vincent: Be-Bop-A-Lula
  • The Crystals: Da Doo Ron Ron
  • Police: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
  • Paul McCartney: Life Goes On (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”)
  • Traditional: Deck The Halls (“with boughs of holly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la”)

Leonard Cohen, among the most elegant and precise of songwriters, follows in this tradition with a number of tracks in which he or his backup singers sing La La, Dum Dum, and other (ahem) non-lexical vocables.

Tower Of Song: Do Dum Dum Dum, De Do Dum Dum

The Leonard Cohen nonsense syllables most familiar to contemporary audiences is the “Do Dum Dum Dum, De Do Dum Dum” refrain sung by the backup singers in Tower Of Song.

In a 1993 interview,4 Cohen explains the effect of those syllables as well as naming the musician with whom they originated:

When Jennifer [Warnes] came up with that part [“Do Dum Dum Dum, De Do Dum Dum” in Tower of Song], I knew we’d nailed the song … That really gave the song the perspective of real humor. Real lightness.

In some instances, Cohen has, in fact, elevated the significance of this phrase to cosmic levels. The pertinent passage, transcribed below, begins at 6:33 in this video (the video should automatically begin at the beginning of the pertinent portion)

Leonard Cohen – Tower Of Song
London: 2009

[Background singers start singing: “Do dum dum dum, de do dum dum.”]

I’m so grateful to you because tonight it’s become clear to me, tonight, the great mysteries have unraveled, and I’ve penetrated to the very core of things. And I have stumbled on the answer, and I’m not the sort of chap who would keep this to himself.

[Background singers keep singing: “Do dum dum dum, de do dum dum.”]

Do you want to hear the answer? Are you truly hungry for the answer? Then you’re just the people I want to tell it to. Because it’s a rare thing to come upon this, and I’m going to let you in on it now. The answer to the mysteries: Do dum dum dum, de do dum dum.

Other Posts About Nonsense Syllables In Leonard Cohen’s Songs

This is the first post in the series; this and future posts can be accessed at Nonsense Syllables In Leonard Cohen’s Songs


  1. And yes, I know Jan and Dean, Bobby and Jerry, Frankie Lymon, and others have released songs setting forth their claims to having themselves been the bomp-putters, but the question remains unsettled []
  2. Note: The preceding text and the graphic atop this entry were originally posted Dec 3, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric []
  3. Nonsense Syllables in the Music of the Ancient Greek and Byzantine Traditions by Diane Touliatos. The Journal of Musicology. Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring, 1989), pp. 231-243 []
  4. Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight, WFUV-FM: June 13, 1993 []

Leonard Cohen on delivering a song “so that it touches the person you’re speaking to”

But I don’t think that [the quality of a voice] has anything to do with delivering a song. A song, a message, a laundry list, a salutation – there’s a way to deliver the thing so that it touches the person you’re speaking to. Now there are lots of good singers who couldn’t do my stuff – couldn’t penetrate it, would have no interest in it. I can do my songs better than most people. Very rarely someone like Jennifer Warnes comes along, who has all the emotional equipment and can bring musical qualities to the song that I can’t even approach. This superb sound that issues from her throat. Now maybe that can get in the way of a song too.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland. Musician: July 1988.