Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire
Bratislava: Oct 13, 2010
Video by albertnoonan
Note: Originally posted Oct 17, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Cohencentric is featuring the Best of the 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour. Today’s offering is the Oct 22, 2009 performance of “Bird On The Wire” at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia.
While Leonard Cohen was a remarkably consistent performer throughout the 2008-2010 World Tour, “Bird On The Wire” is one of his songs that did seem to vary in caliber from one concert to the next. My sense is that the difference in quality is a function of Cohen’s timing. I once listened to a recording of several takes of the same song during a Sinatra rehearsal and was struck by the impact that barely perceptible fluctuations in his timing had on his work. I think that principle may also hold true for Cohen’s “Bird On The Wire.” Hitting the phrases a fraction of a moment too late or too early would diminish the song.
Regardless, the performance of “Bird On The Wire” from the Oct 22, 2009 Philadelphia concert strikes me as precisely on the mark.
The video also features exemplary solos by Bob Metzger on guitar and Dino Soldo on saxophone, but it is clear that those efforts are an extra, a delectable bonus that is attendant upon the essence of the song provided by Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire
Tower Theatre, Philadelphia: Oct 22, 2009
Video by sturgess66
Note: Originally posted June 19, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.
– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)
Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.
Gzowski: [The recording of Bird On A Wire to be played next] isn’t the best version and neither is yours.
Leonard Cohen: That’s right
Gzowski: Whose is?
Leonard Cohen: Tim Hardin’s is pretty good. … Tim Hardin did a very beautiful version of it. … Shortly before he died, he did that …
Gzowski: … He used to be one of my favorites … He was drugged up all the time
Leonard Cohen: Yeah, I met him shortly before he died. He was all bloated up and swollen. I did get a chance to tell him how much I loved his songs.
– From the Nov 18, 1992 CBC Radio Morningside interview with Peter Gzowski
The photo of Tim Hardin was taken by Joel Davis aka BuckarooBob on on Flickr, who writes
It was the WOW (Workers of the World) hall in the Eugene, a town both Tim Hardin and I considered home. From the stage, he joked about the photographer in the pit and some of the social purists in the crowd began to boo my presence…apparently feeling that photography would infringe upon their enjoyment of the music. “Why would you booo the photographer?” Hardin asked, “he’s just working hard, doing his job.” I’d liked him before, I loved him now. Yeh. Yeh, boo birds.
So it was with sadness that I learned he died shortly after that show, in Los Angeles, California of a heroin and morphine overdose. Hardin’s songs are classics, “If I were a Carpenter”, “Reason to Believe”, “Red Balloon”, “Black Sheep Boy”, many gaining their greatest success when covered by other artists. Ironically, Hardin’s biggest hit may have been his own cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.”
From Joel’s description and Leonard Cohen’s account of meeting Hardin, it seems that the two events took place with the same time period shortly before Tim Hardin’s death and that this photo of Hardin is a close approximation of his appearance when he and Cohen met.
Tim Hardin – Bird On A Wire
Note: Originally posted July 4, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentrich
Yesterday someone brought up Johnny Cash’s version of Bird On A Wire. Today I bought the record it’s on, ‘American Recordings,’ in a small import shop here in Amsterdam. I didn’t believe my ears. Only the man’s voice and guitar. I was blown away! Those are moments that I think: what am I actually doing here in this business! But if a concert hall full of people – let alone a sports stadium full of people – thinks I can sing then I can sing, isn’t that so?
From Nieuwe live cd gedeeltelijk in Stopera opgenomen [New live cd partly recorded in Stopera] by Jip Golsteijn (De Telegraaf: July 30, 1994)
Contributed and translated by Anja Deelen
This program includes performances of “Suzanne” and “Chelsea Hotel #2” and music videos of “Closing Time,” “Take This Waltz,” “First We Take Manhattan,”and “Dance Me To The End Of Love.”
RTVE Blub: Tomás Fernando Flores, Que Actualmente Presenta Siglo 21 En Radio 3, Realiza Un Programa Especial Dedicado Al Cantante Y Compositor Leonard Cohen En El Que Se Incluyen Varios Videoclips Y Fragmentos De Actuaciones
Google English Translation: Tomás Fernando Flores, Who Now Presents Radio 3 Century 21, Performs A Special Program Dedicated To The Singer And Songwriter Leonard Cohen In Which Are Included Several Video Clips And Snippets Of Performances
The video may be viewed at RTVE: Monográfico De Leonard Cohen
Credit Due Department: Thanks are herewith extended to CHEMA, a member of the Spanish Cohen Brigade stationed in Barcelona, who recommended these videos.
Note: Originally posted Apr 14, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
I’ve told various stories about that, but I don’t even know what the truth is anymore. “Bird On The Wire”… let me see what I remember. I remember that I tried to revise “Bird On The Wire,” I remember driving down the west coast of America, down the coast in the rain, thinking, there is something wrong with the lyric, there is something wrong, it’s very close to being a good song, but there is something wrong with it. And I rewrote it many times, and there are different versions around that I sang, and I remember driving and I was trying to figure out what was wrong with it.
I don’t remember the stories I’ve told about it now, and I don’t even know if they were true, they may have had some germ of truth, but I don’t remember most of my stories anymore. I read them in interviews or in books, and they sound familiar, and I kind of appropriated them from my own, not really knowing if they ever happened that way, but it was at Hydra, and they had put these telephone wires up, or electric wires that hadn’t been there before. And one went right across the window that I used to sit at and work at, and you know, I had come there with some myth of having lost, abandoned, the modern world, I thought I was living a much more authentic life, and suddenly there was this symbol of modernity straight across my window. My window looked out at a beautiful lane where there was an almond three in full bloom, and suddenly there were these horizontal violations of my perfect window, and of course, you know, I was angry and disappointed, but I knew there was no point in entertaining these kinds of emotions because it was useful and we could have light and telephones And while I was staring and having these conflicted feelings about the destruction of the perfection of my view, a bird came, and probably the wire’s first bird, because I think it had just gone up over night. And the bird just perched on the wire, as if they had been strung there for that specific purpose. And I believe, if I’m going to believe the stories I have read, because I don’t know whether it’s true anymore, I believe that that was the genesis of the song “Bird on the Wire.”
Leonard Looks Back On The Past (unedited interview for Norwegian Radio) by Kari Hesthamar, Los Angeles, 2005. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles