“It was a crazy, crazy time” Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Backup Singers


The Women Of Leonard Cohen’s Army1

In a previous 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour posting, Corlynn Hanney Talks About Singing Backup On The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour, I note the following:

When researching Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival concert2 made me unavoidably aware of ongoing confusion about not only dates, venues, and even the existence of certain 1970 concerts but also who sang backup – and more research in secondary sources succeeded in further  muddying the waters – I finally succumbed to the obvious: I sought out someone who was there.

As it turned out, this was an especially fruitful strategy, the notion of unanticipated consequences about which one reads so much bad press notwithstanding. Both of Leonard Cohen’s 1970 backup singers, in fact, provided not only factual data about that enterprise but also intriguing perspectives of the tour.

The initial goal of today’s post was, in fact, simply to clarify who did – and did not – sing backup for Leonard Cohen during the 1970 Tour. A funny thing, however, happened on the way to this goal. In the process of looking for an accurate roster of female vocalists for Leonard Cohen concerts that took place over 40 years ago, I found instead a story of love, music, danger, celebrities, marriages, an irresistibly charming auberge, an irresistibly charming Leonard Cohen, revolution, a horseback ride through the French countryside, and even a specimen of that elusive, much-longed-for happily ever after ending.

Yep – just another Leonard Cohen Tour.

That romantic tale starts but by no means ends in today’s post – which also begins the original task of delineating Leonard Cohen’s backup angels of the 1970 adventure.

Leonard Cohen and Backup Singers 1970 (venue unknown)

The Boys In The Band

The male membership of the band is clear: Bob Johnston (who was also Cohen’s Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer) and Nashville-based musicians Charlie Daniels (electric bass, fiddle), Ron Cornelius (lead guitar, harmonica), and Elkin “Bubba” Fowler (guitar, banjo).

Susan Musmanno, Corlynn Hanney, & Aileen Fowler – Leonard Cohen’s 2 Great Backup Singers In 1970

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  1. The band for the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour nicknamed themselves “The Army.”  More about that in a later post. []
  2. See Leonard Cohen At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival – Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem []

1970 Leonard Cohen Shows That Weren’t


Strawberry Fields Fornever

A change of the venue for the Sept 8 & 9, 2012 Leonard Cohen concerts from Hop Farm to London’s Wembley Arena has triggered a significant brouhaha in the local press and among fans. Similarly, the cancellations of the Sept 4, 2010 Honolulu and Nov 27, 2010  Phnom Penh shows set off fusillades of critical and sometimes angry responses.

Reschedulings, postponements, venue changes, and cancellations of entertainment events are not, of course, unusual. The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour, which was delightfully and  sometimes dangerously weird in general, was no exception in this regard.

One such 1970 no-show, the August 7, 8, and 9, 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival held at Mosport, Ontario, at which Leonard Cohen was listed as an act but did not perform, is relatively well known and was featured in 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival: 3 Days Of Love, Sun, & Sound In Canada – But No Leonard Cohen.

It turns out that The  Strawberry Fields Festival wasn’t the only scheduled Leonard Cohen event that didn’t take place that year.

Unknown, Unperformed 1970 Leonard Cohen Concerts

I came across this excited report of an August 3, 1970 concert to be held at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford Connecticut in “Oakdale Lines Up Stars For ’70 Rock Schedule” in the June 1, 1970 Bridgeport Sunday Post:

 The article goes on to note that in 1970 the “Bobby Sherman phenomenon will blow into the Wallingford tent” as would  Melanie, who “has the kind of sound that the Sirens of Greek mythology must have possessed.” That year the same theater would also host “Soul Brother No. 1,  James Brown.”

While Bobby Sherman, Melanie, and James Brown apparently made it to Wallingford that year, we can safely assume that the “radically enlightened” Cohen, who on the date scheduled for the Oakdale Theater performance (Aug 3, 1970) would have been one day post-concert – in France, having completed the tumultuous show in Aix-en-Provence on Aug 2nd, did not appear.

And, there is also this report from the August 7, 1970 Bennington Banner of Bennington, Vermont:

Cohen Concert at Saratoga Canceled

Saratoga Springs, N.Y. — Illness has forced cancellation of the Aug. 10 concert by Canadian poet-singer Leonard Cohen at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Cohen’s was hospitalized in Europe after he was severely chilled during a performance at a music festival in Aix-en- Provence, France, according to his management. Those holding tickets to the concert may exchange them or obtain refunds at the S.P.A.C. main box office on Route 50.

SPAC Poet-Singer Concert Canceled Due to Illness, a short article in the August 8, 1970 Glen Falls, NY Post-Star provided the same information in almost exactly the same words, adding that “Mr Cohen’s management had sent word that the singer was currently hospitalized in Europe and would be unable to fulfill his next three weeks of scheduled engagements.”

Happily, the Canadian singer-songwriter was healthy enough by August 14, 1970 to perform on French TV.  And, he was, of course, still a continent removed from these scheduled North American commitments when he appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 31, 1970.

The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour August Choice: Europe Vs North America

These three concert cancellations in August 1970, especially given that I serendipitously found news of the Wallingford and Saratoga Springs cancelled shows (concerts that are unlisted on any of the databases I’ve checked), raise the possibility that even more shows in Canada and the US were scheduled and cancelled in order to extend the European leg of Cohen’s Tour, including the now legendary Isle Of Wight appearance.

Note: Originally posted Sept 3, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Must See Video: Leonard Cohen Performing In Paris – 1970

paris70Jo Meul alerts us to the online appearance of a video clip that is new to Jo & me, titled only “Leonard Cohen at Paris Olympia – 1970” featuring Leonard Cohen and his band playing portions of Partisan, Lady Midnight, & Tonight Will Be Fine.

Note: The images are reversed (unless Leonard & his band were showing off by playing left-handed)

Leonard Cohen:  Partisan, Lady Midnight, Tonight Will Be Fine
Olympia, Paris: May 12, 1970

Photo: Leonard Cohen: “I left my suit home in honor of this occasion” – “My first concert ever” Hartford 1970


Interviewer: “You did a concert in Connecticut and you walked out in this long trench coat and jeans and said ”I left my suit home in honor of this occasion’”

Leonard Cohen: “That was my first concert ever. I remember it. It was Hartford, Connecticut. You’re right. The trench coat and everything.”

Less than two weeks after posting the above photo, one of four included at Historic Images: Only Known Photos From Hartford Concert That Opened 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour, I serendipitously discovered this reference to that occasion. The quote is from Life On The Ledge With Leonard Cohen by Jon Marlowe. The Miami News: Nov 9, 1977

Note: Originally posted Sept 6, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen, Rebecca De Mornay, & Lorraine Sexton In The Streets Of Glenside PA

Lorraine Sexton’s Friend Gets Grief From His Girlfriend, Signs Autographs Nonetheless

Leonard Cohen signed these autographs for Lorraine Sexton on July 15, 1993 while standing in the street in Glenside PA1 before his concert at Keswick Theatre (part of the “Future Tour).  Lorraine reports what took place:

He was with Rebecca De Mornay,2 who was much annoyed that he was spending time with fans. When I asked him to sign his poetry books and Future CD, she said

Leonard doesn’t have time…he hasn’t eaten yet and has to perform in an hour.

He kindly replied that he had time to do this for his ‘”friend” and was amazed I had brought his old poetry books, such as Energy of Slaves. I asked him to pick his favorite and he said he would sign all of them! (see photos above)

I even asked if I could shake his hand…just to touch him.

Lorraine’s And Leonard’s Shared Memory

I told him that the first time I saw him was in early 70’s in Bryn Mawr PA, at Main Point Cafe, a small venue with maybe 100 seats, and he remembered the place. Just him, his guitar, and two backup singers. Heaven.

The Main Point

Lorraine on The Main Point:

Lots of performers got their start there.3  I saw Leonard Cohen there twice or three times. It was small store where you bought fresh baked goods and went through a curtain into big room to sit at old fashioned wooden school desks with the stage was right in front of you. I could have reached out and touched him. He was so humble and kind. I fell in love with him when I saw Songs Of Love And Hate at the store and bought it because of the album cover and notes. That was all it took to get me hooked for life.

For more about the Main Point, see Remembering the Main Point, 1964 – 1981

 Back To Glenside

Rebecca held onto him as if he were gold that night. I knew immediately it was her, knowing he was seeing her. I think she was pissed because the fans – and there really weren’t that many, I was maybe the third or fourth to approach him – didn’t pay any attention to her. This was not too long after she made “The Hand That Rocked The Cradle.” After they continued walking down the street, I met the guy I was going to the concert with. As we walked past a Chinese restaurant…..there was Leonard Cohen and & Rebecca De Mornay having dinner.


Note: Originally posted Jan 13, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Glenside is a suburb of Philadelphia []
  2. At the time, Leonard Cohenand Rebecca De Mornay were dating.  Cohen, in fact, has reported that this, among all of his relationships, was the one that brought him a closest to taking wedding vows. For more information, see Picture Leonard Cohen With Rebecca De Mornay []
  3. Performers included Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Son House, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Velvet Underground, … See long, long list at Main Point Performers []