Passing Through Performed By Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Pointer Sisters, Roger McGuinn & Billy Joel

The Passing Through track on The Earl Scruggs Revue Anniversary Special Vol 1 (1975: Produced by Bob Johnston) features Leonard Cohen’s arrangement with vocals by Leonard, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and the Pointer Sisters with instrumental support from Roger McGuinn (Byrds) on guitar and Billy Joel on piano.

Leonard Cohen Video Of The Day: Passing Through – Warsaw 1985

warsawPassing through, passing through.
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue,
Glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

Leonard Cohen – Passing Through
Warsaw: March 22, 1985
Video uploaded by messalina79

Note: Originally posted Mar 2, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen At 1985 Elixir Festival, Guéhenno With Video Of “Passing Through” Performance

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“Breton Woodstock” – RockScène/Elixir Festival, Guéhenno: July 13, 1985

Woodstock was the model and inspiration for many rock festivals. The Brittany version was the Elixer Festival (aka RockScène as of 1985) in Guéhenno, and its opening act in 1985 was Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen. Sur scène à Guéhenno en 1985  (Le Télégramme: Nov 11, 2016) notes the 1985 Festival was attended by 20.000 fans.and goes on to explain [via Google Translate]

That year, Leonard Cohen launched the festivities. What we said at the time, in the following terms: “Leonard Cohen had the ungrateful role of opening the show around 2 pm. No surprise in his repertoire. The amateurs of Protest songs of the Sixties languishly lulled by their favorite ballads.”

While the environment was perhaps not as brutal as the 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival at which Leonard Cohen and The Army performed while Maoists were said to be taking potshots, it was, as one fan described the Clash’s Guéhenno show, “rough and muscular.” The first person account offered at The Clash : Last Gig In France, while not mentioning Leonard Cohen, does provide a sense of the prevailing atmosphere:

The Clash and Depeche Mode at the time on the same bill, it is not easy to accept for us young punks, this curious mix of musical genres. The two groups live in Vannes in the same hotel, and their respective stage technicians cordially hate each other …  It will later be said that the baseball bats were out backstage at the arrival of the 2 tour bus on the site and for a few minutes a general brawl broke out between the two parties. The concert was in Dante himself, with a place in the 1 st rank dearly defended. At 10:45 pm The Last Gang In Town takes the scene of assault. Joe Strummer tries to French between the pieces with a picturesque English accent. That evening, we ate dust for 1:25. Superb concert rough and muscular. I will spend a week getting rid of this damn ocher dust that made the site look like a gigantic battlefield.

Photos: Leonard Cohen at Guehenno

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3 Leonard Cohen Videos: Joan Of Arc, Passing Through & Bird On The Wire – Munich 1993

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The audience recording of the 1993 Leonard Cohen Munich Concert from which these videos were excerpted is not pristine. The camera is a bit shaky and not quite in focus. And the sound is imperfect. Nonetheless, the vitality of the performance and the enthusiasm of the audience is readily apparent. This is, in short, a Good Enough Video.1

Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire
Circus Krone, Munich: May 28, 1993
Video from SighsNorth (aka Linda Sturgess)
YouTube Description: Leonard Cohen at Circus Krone, Munich, Germany – May 28, 1993. Bird On The Wire. “I have tried in my way to be free … ” Before singing, Leonard goes to the edge of the stage to receive a bouquet of flowers from an audience member. Lovely solos by band members Bob Metzer (guitar) and Paul Ostermayer (saxophone).

Leonard Cohen – Passing Through
Circus Krone, Munich: May 28, 1993
Video from SighsNorth (aka Linda Sturgess)
YouTube Description: Leonard Cohen at Circus Krone, Munich, Germany – May 28, 1993. Leonard and band come back on stage for a second encore – Passing Through. (A very enthusiastic audience – and there were 7 encores that night.) Solos by Paul Ostermayer – Saxophone; Bob Furgo – violin

Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc
Circus Krone, Munich: May 28, 1993
Video from SighsNorth (aka Linda Sturgess)
YouTube Description: Leonard Cohen at Circus Krone, Munich, Germany – May 28, 1993. Leonard and Julie Christensen sing Joan Of Arc. Bob Furgo – violin

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  1. The Good Enough Video is a notion that I, of course, derived from Donald Winicott’s Good Enough Mother. Just as Winicott used Good Enough Mother to indicate “the ordinary and devoted mother who provides an adequate and good enough environment for the growth of the infant’s ego to be able to express its true self,” (Source: Psychological Dictionary) I employ Good Enough Video to describe videos that are less than immaculate but are of sufficient caliber to convey the quality of the performance to the viewer. []

The Tangled Credits Of Passing Through On The Leonard Cohen Live Songs Album

creditlc3Although many fans believe Passing Through to be the work of Leonard Cohen, the song was actually written in 1948 by Richard Blakeslee. Dominique BOILE explains the credit issues with Leonard Cohen recordings of Passing Through. These notes were first published (in French) Feb 9, 2010 on the French Leonard Cohen site administered by Patrice Close.1

Passing Through (sometimes called Passing Thru), released on the Live Songs album, holds a special place among the songs of Leonard Cohen.

On the original 33 rpm vinyl Live Songs LP (Holland: 1973), the 45 rpm vinyl record (Germany), and the 45 rpm promo, only Leonard Cohen is credited for the song.

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On the 33 rpm vinyl Live Songs LP (Israel: 1973), however, we find Passing Through “Composed by R. Blakeslee – Arranged by L. Cohen.” More precisely, we find “Composed by R. Blakeslee – Arranged by L. Cohen” listed beneath the list of six songs on Side 1 without an indication of which song those credits reference.

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  1. Passing Through (ou Passing Thru) que l’on trouve sur l’album Live Songs est une chanson particulière dans l’oeuvre de Leonard Cohen.  Sur le disque vinyle 33 tours original de 1973 – Made In Holland – Leonard Cohen est crédité comme étant l’auteur et le compositeur de cette chanson.

    Sur le même vinyle 33 tours de 1973 Made In Israël on peut lire : Composed by R. Blakeslee – Arranged by L. Cohen.

    Par contre, sur le 45 tours vinyle de cette même époque, il est indiqué sous le titre (R. Blakeslee – Arr. L. Cohen).

    Dans le livre The Lyrics Of Leonard Cohen : Passing Through (words and music by Leonard Cohen).

    Dans The Complete Guide To The Music Of Leonard Cohen il est noté “Passing Through was written by Richard Blakeslee, although Cohen
    claims an arranger’s credit for this version”.

    C’est effectivement une chanson écrite en 1948 par Richard Blakeslee.

    Elle a été chantée par Pete Seeger (album Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry at Carnegie Hall – Folkways Records – 1958)
    ou encore Cisco Houston (The Folkways Years 1944 – 1961).

    On peut entendre une très belle version de Passing Through sur le 33 tours vinyle The Earl Scruggs Revue Volume One Anniversary Special
    produit par Bob Johnston (référence CBS 80821 – 1975 – Printed In Holland).
    Les couplets de cette chanson sont interprétés, tour à tour et dans l’ordre, par :
    Joan Baez – Leonard Cohen – Buffy Sainte Marie – Ramblin’ Jack Elliott et The Pointer Sisters !

    A noter : c’était, en 1975, la première apparition de Leonard Cohen sur un disque autre que le sien (si on exclut les disques de poèmes). []

How Leonard Cohen Discovered “Passing Through” + Video Of His 1985 Live Performance Of The Song

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Passing Through by Dick Blakeslee

Passing Through was written by Dick Blakeslee. ‘Passing Through’ (1948): Song of Political Engagement by Richard Silverstein is a heartfelt account of the history of the song, an excerpt from which follows:

In the late 1940s, Dick Blakeslee, then a student at the University of Chicago, wrote Passing Through, an exceedingly simple, hopeful and politically committed song. The lyrics breathed the heady atmosphere of political liberalism and optimism that followed Allied victory in World War II and preceded the McCarthy era and Cold War freeze. In 1948, a hundred flowers bloomed and Passing Through epitomized this:

I saw Jesus on the cross on a hill called Calvary
“Do you hate mankind for what they done to you?”
He said, “Talk of love not hate, things to do – it’s getting late.
I’ve so little time and I’m only passing through.”

Passing through, passing through.
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue,
glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

I saw Adam leave the Garden with an apple in his hand,
I said “Now you’re out, what are you going to do?”
“Plant some crops and pray for rain, maybe raise a little cane.
I’m an orphan now, and I’m only passing through.”

I was with Washington at Valley Forge, shivering in the snow.
I said, “How come the men here suffer like they do?”
“Men will suffer, men will fight, even die for what is right
even though they know they’re only passing through”

I was with Franklin Roosevelt’s side on the night before he died.
He said, “One world must come out of World War Two” (ah, the fool)
“Yankee, Russian, white or tan,” he said, “A man is still a man.
We’re all on one road, and we’re only passing through.”

The entire post and the comments, including one from the daughter of Dick Blakeslee, is an enlightening read. In it a final verse about Abraham Lincoln (never sung by Cohen) is revealed to have been added to the song later by another author and a distinction is made between the original words, “Men will suffer men will fight, die for what they think is right,” and those used in Cohen’s lyrics, “Men will suffer, men will fight, even die for what is right.” Again, that post can be found at ‘Passing Through’ (1948): Song of Political Engagement

Leonard Cohen & Passing Through

Guehenno2 Continue Reading →