“Thank you for sitting in the cold and damp to listen to my melancholy ditties.” Leonard Cohen Performs Bird On The Wire & Everybody Knows – Dublin 2012

Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire & Everybody Knows
Includes Leonard’s Permitted to drink inside, Permitted to sleep inside, Made to sing outside, Is that why the Irish voice is so strong and sweet? stage banter
Dublin: Sept 11, 2012
Video by

Originally posted Sep 12, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Was A Joni Mitchell Painting The Inspiration For Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire?

And Joni was convinced that “Bird on the Wire” was inspired by a painting she showed Cohen, an eccentric statement about not fitting in with her husband’s family. She thought Cohen would appreciate it.

I had this painting I did for the Mitchells. I was such a misfit in that family, and I did painting, which I showed to Leonard. In this painting, there are these sparrows sitting on a wire. It’s got a hot-pink background, and there are sparrows with peacock tails. There are all these fictitious birds. And there was one for each Mitchell, and one of them was hanging upside down. Guess who? I think that had some input on ‘Bird on the Wire.’ I showed it to Leonard. It was something I did on a Sunday about how I how I didn’t fit in. They were the first Yuppies that I met. They were pedigreed consumers. They all had the same education. They were brand-name people. A suit had to be Brooks Brothers. No, you don’t drink Canada Dry, you drink Vernors. Ice cream has to be Häagen-Dazs. Cars have to be a Chevy Corvair. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and Danish modern furniture.They were so materialistic in such an unfamiliar way to me, and I didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

Also see “If the bird can get used to the wire, I told him, you can get used to the wire.” Marianne Ihlen On Why, Of All Leonard Cohen’s Songs, She Felt Closest To Bird On The Wire

“I started the guitar and I heard myself sing that first phrase, ‘Like a bird on a wire,’ and I knew the song was going to be true.” Leonard Cohen

I’m not sure of exactly what I want to say next. It has to do with maybe an image you may have formed of yourself. That has something to do with this business of coming of age. But maybe it changes, all the way through, maybe the next record will be the epitome of simplicity and will be absolutely out of the hole.

Well, I understand what you mean. I’ll try to relate it to something particular: this song ‘Like a Bird on a Wire’ which I was telling you about. I tried many versions and in a way the history of that song on the record is my whole history. I tried it in many different ways. At about four in the morning I sent all the musicians home except for my friends Zev who plays Jew’s harp, Charlie McCoy who was playing the bass, the electric bass, and Bob Johnston who’s the A & R man; I asked him to just sit at the organ from time to time. And I just knew that at that moment something was going to take place. I’d never sung the song true, never, and I’d always had a kind of phony Nashville introduction that I was playing the song to and by the time I came around to start my own song I was already following a thousand models. And I just did the voice before I started the guitar and I heard myself sing that first phrase, ‘Like a bird on a wire,’ and I knew the song was going to be true. I knew it was going to be true and new and I sang it through and I listened to myself singing, and it was a surprise. Then I heard the replay and I knew it was right. I’d never sung it true and I didn’t think I could ever sing it true again because I’m not a performer. But there is one moment and it happens to coincide with the huge mechanical facilities of Columbia Records, that’s what I call magic. And it did, it happened that way. I suppose a master, a master of chance and someone who deeply understands phenomena, could see the method and technique. I learned a lot from it, I’d like to apply it right now, we may get to that moment.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel, Winter 1969.