Leonard Cohen Addresses Audience
Toronto: June 6, 2008
Video by CamarynF
Leonard Cohen Addresses Audience
Below, Sharon has inscribed her name on the sleeve of a promo CD of her Everybody Knows album.
Before the concerts, we had these rituals that Leonard sort of designed. A half hour before the show, the band would gather in the green room and he would put essential oil on our wrists. Sometimes there were beverages, smoothies passed around. And we would do a chant as we walked to the stage, singing this Latin folk song as a round. We walked slowly, as if we were monks. But it was all designed to bring us together for the performance. Leonard always encouraged me not to look to other people for guidance, but to do what I felt in my heart. He told me, ‘You know what to do.’
From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016), Video posted on Sharon Robinson’s Facebook page.
There was definitely a special rapport between him and Ireland. Leonard and myself often spoke about the beautiful events that took place there: the dancing in the rain at Lissadell and being close to where his hero, W.B. Yeats, is buried. That was definitely one of his favourite concerts. He was aware of how much his music was loved, and he appreciated it.
Quotation from Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen by Abby Steward. Hot Press: Sept 2017.
As soon as I met Leonard at that Field Commander Cohen audition, we seemed to hit it off. There was a really nice chemistry. He was extremely gracious and hospitable and warm. He seemed to like me right off the bat, so it was very comfortable. He hadn’t made an album for six years before Ten New Songs and was looking for a way to express these lyrics he’d written that would feel like a whole body of work – that’s how we ended up doing the whole project together. He was interested in soul and blues and R&B, all of that. We often referred back to the blues greats and to the Muscle Shoals stuff. Working with Leonard was a dream. In terms of the man/woman thing, he always respected you fully as an equal. Discussing all sorts of things that were on his mind was part of the friendship, part of the interaction. Leonard had an immeasurable wisdom and intellect, and was able to access it and put it into his work. He spent a lot of time on these words. Working and then re-working them brought another level of depth that probably even he couldn’t predict. That’s why his songs are so timely – and so timeless. He worked on it so much. Leonard would send me a lyric, and I’d go to my piano and try to understand where the verse was and what the chords should be, and just shape it into less of a poem and more of a song lyric, if you will, without changing any of the words. Sometimes I would change the order, or I’d decide, ‘Okay, this stanza should be the chorus.’ And I would build a melody and chord changes based on my interpretation of the lyrics. I’d present a couple of ideas to Leonard and then we worked through the rest of it together.
Quotation from Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen by Abby Steward. Hot Press: Sept 2017. Photo by Dominique BOILE.
The path of Ten New Songs had veered mightily from the original plan. When they started, Cohen, Robinson and Ungar planned to hire musicians and background singers and complete the project in a conventional manner in a regular recording studio. Initially, “My vocals were supposed to be just sketched out ideas, to be sung in sessions by others,” Robinson says. But then a curious thing happened: Cohen fell in love with the sound of the sampled instruments and Robinson’s layered vocal parts. “We decided that bringing in musicians and singers would actually be a compromise,” Robinson explains. “When Leonard heard the first completed track, ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep,’ he was enthralled,” adds Ungar.
Leanne Ungar is a sound engineer and producer, who worked on several Leonard Cohen albums, beginning with New Skin for the Old Ceremony.
Leonard Cohen by Eric Rudolph (Mix: Feb 1, 2002)
Our writing process in general applied to almost everything we worked on. He’d present lyrics to me, I’d work on some music, then I’d go meet him at his house in Los Angeles. He’d make me something to eat first; tuna salad, or he’d scramble up some eggs, or egg salad. He made a great egg salad. Oh, and a roasted chicken! He loved roasted chicken and cauliflower. He’d done a lot of cooking at the Zen monastery. He had a certain very refined sense of hospitality, and he enjoyed when people would come by. Then there would be some discussion of his latest ideas that he was investigating about life and religion and philosophy. Or we’d talk about family and friends. There were these long periods of sort of setting the tone for the work. And then he’d listen to the music, several times, before deciding whether it was something we wanted to move forward with. We studied Zen together, and there were often just quiet moments, with incense and no words. He called me his ‘dharma sister.’ We toured for so long together, and sometimes it felt like we were soldiers preparing for battle. But traveling with Leonard, there’s a quiet, monastic tone to the whole thing. You’re just respectful of his space and his sense of contemplation. He would carry his own guitar; sit in the front of the bus, or the middle of the plane; sometimes he would write, but there wasn’t a lot of hoopla going on. We benefited from his aura. Still, he would always tell jokes—some were pretty corny, pretty dry and always with a twist. Even though his image is that of the very dark, solemn poet, Leonard loved to laugh.
From He Called Me His Dharma Sister by Sharon Robinson (Texture)
Credit Due Department: Photo by Marc Roed