“I was suddenly taken seriously as a poet, when all I was really was a kind of stud – not a very successful one either” Leonard Cohen

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I must have looked extremely absurd because I wrote all my poems to ladies thinking that was the way to approach them. Anyway,  for some reason or other, I put them all together in a book and I was suddenly taken seriously as a poet, when all I was really was a kind of stud – not a very successful one either, because the successful ones don’t have to write poems to make girls.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen by Ray Connolly. Evening Standard, July 1968

“It was a crazy, crazy time” Leonard Cohen’s Backup Singers’ Account Of The 1970 Tour

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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.

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 []

Leonard Cohen Upon Being Asked If He Followed “Bob Dylan’s Credo, ‘Just because you like my music doesn’t mean I owe you anything'”

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I feel the exact opposite. These people created my life. It’s a modest one, but I’ve been able to live and send my kids to school and lead this charmed and lucky existence. At least, that’s the cover story – I’m not talking about my own inner turmoil. I was never a punk, you know? It isn’t my style to be ungrateful to people who buy my records and come to my concerts.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, responding to the interviewer’s query, “So you don’t follow Bob Dylan’s credo,’Just because you like my music doesn’t mean I owe you anything’?” in Leonard Cohen by Neva Chonin (Rolling Stone: December 11, 1997)

Note: Originally posted Dec 28, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Surprising Response When Asked What He Would Say To A Young Nazi

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Could you imagine if you were alone with a young Nazi and, like, arguing with him, what would you say?

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I would probably have a great deal in common with a young Nazi. Ya know. I believe in a life of discipline, I believe in a life that is…convicted, in other words, in a life that is contracted to a certain kind of end, a life that is…imbued with a certain significance. I believe in those aims. I believe it’s unfortunate that the fascists are the only one producing this kind of appeal and I urge the intuitions of the center, the liberal, the conservative intuitions that we believe represent the highest ideals of the west, I urge them to produce rhetoric and invitation to the youth that has the same kind of vitality and significance that the right wing is beginning to be able to present.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen’s unconventional, insightful answer to a softball question, “Could you imagine if you were alone with a young Nazi and, like, arguing with him, what would you say?” From a 1990s Paris TV interview (once but no longer available on YouTube). This transcript found at Leonard Cohen on young Nazis, posted Jan 2, 2010 at America Departed.

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Esther Park who alerted me to the French TV interview, triggering an unrequited search for the video that did result in the discovery of the above transcript.

Why Leonard Cohen Got A Violinist In 2012 Instead Of 2008, The Chinese Tour Proposal & More

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Alex Bublitchi Interview: Recruitment, Rivals, Tour Plans, His Violin, …

„Trăiesc unul dintre cele mai minunate momente ale vieții“ Interviu cu Alexandru Bublitchi by Larisa Turea, Valeriu V. Turea is a lengthy interview with violinist, Alex Bublitchi, who joined the Leonard Cohen Tour in 2012.  The interview was published in the Nov 2012 issue of Observator Cultural. The interview was conducted and posted in Romanian. The excerpts below were generated by first processing the text with Google Translate and then editing the result into vernacular English.  The headings were not part of the original article but were created and added by me for reading convenience. Finally, much of the original interview, including, for example, content about  Bublitchi’s violin, his training, and Cohen’s personal praise of his work, is not included below but is accessible at the link.

“Who is the boy with the violin?”
The Recruitment Of Alex Bublitchi

Interviewer: Tell us how you Cohen recruited you.

mario-mas

Mario Mas

Alex Bublitchi: Well, life is interesting. I played in the theater orchestra but always wanted to do something special, especially something other than classical music. I played ​​in Barcelona with a friend by the name of Mario Mas. We played the Flamenco song he wrote, that is to say world music. I made ​​a little demo for Mario and his father, Javier Mas, an exceptional musician.

Interviewer: One of the most famous guitarists in the world.

Alex Bublitchi: Right. Javier listened and wondered “Who is the boy with the violin?” Mario said, ” A friend ” and Javier asked for my phone number. He contacted me and told me he has two projects with music by Leonard Cohen. [Javier Mas was the musical director and arranger of Leonard Cohen’s tribute concerts in Barcelona in both 2006 and 2007.] He asked me if I know who Leonard Cohen is. I answered honestly that I have no idea. This happened in 2005-2006. Then he asked me to meet and bring my violin. He spoke about his Cohen project, and I talked about music. He asked me if I can improvise. I said yes, and he asked me if I could help him with the project. And I accepted, even though it meant that he had to lie to the service because the theater had me under contract. I was on vacation, I had a program to perform … But I wanted very much to participate in Javier’s project so I told them that I am worn out. It took a bit of theater, but I finally got out of the situation. They gave me two weeks off, said hurry back. I said good-bye, got into a car, and we went straight to rehearsal …

Interviewer: The theater later found out?

Alex Bublitchi: No … Maybe they found out, but they did not say anything. The project was well publicized. I was trying to hide. In many photos, everyone else smiles but I’m just a dude standing to the side with his hand over his face. No one from the theater said anything to me about it, but it’s curious that the day after the project, I got a call, asking “Feeling better?” “Yes …” “Good, come to work.”

Alex Bublitchi Meets Anjani Thomas Who Mentions Leonard Cohen’s Unrequited Search For Violinist

Anjani Thomas

Anjani Thomas

At that project, I was introduced to Anjani Thomas, Cohen’s faithful collaborator, who arrived with his son, Adam Cohen. We did a rehearsal and Anjani said, “You know, Leonard has been looking for a violinist for many years, but he can’t find one.” I, believing these stories are molded from a glass of wine, said yes, yes … But she continued, “Look, could it be …” To which I replied that, in principle, in theory, yes, I would be interested. Afterward, it seemed a nice thought, a kind word as an excellent project ended with everybody happy. That was in the summer.

The next winter, we launched a project again, a kind of Spanish Tour with Cohen’s music sung by Spanish stars, using arrangements by Javier Mas, our musical director. This gave Cohen’s original songs a Mediterranean flair, so to speak – The Gypsy ‘s Wife in a gitano flamenco singing style. It was intriguing and interesting. Master liked it very much, I realized.

Anjani and Adam Cohen said Leonard would like to go on tour and more than likely the original members of the band would accompany him on tour …

My life continues; it’s business as usual. Javier is gone.

Auditions For Tour Violinist: Christine Wu

Christine Wu

Christine Wu

Cohen began rehearsals and auditions for a violinist in the U.S. Many came and played. The audition was won by a very talented lady, Christine Wu,1 a great classical violinist. but perhaps not given to improvisation. Here you have to be very flexible. For example, when you start to play, they tell you, play something, look, in the middle of this song, come on, play something, but play it like this, you know … And clearly , if you did not improvise like a jazz player, you lose … I mean, I never played jazz seriously, but I listened to it all the time. I was always a jazz enthusiast, but if you are not trained this way, then you don’t know how to do it … Unfortunately, many musicians practicing classical music just read the notes. However, they accept it. But after two weeks when it seemed they were satisfied with her performance, Cohen said, “Thanks, but we won’t need you … ” It was a tremendous blow. She had already signed a contract and, I believe, then sued. Finally, it was resolved.

Auditions For Tour Violinist: Rafi Hakopian

They called a famous Armenian violinist, Rafi Hakopian, who played with Cohen in the ’70s and ’80s. Curiously, he does not speak a word of English although he has lived in Los Angeles for about 40 years. He came with his son, who translated, and played what he wanted. Cohen said, “Look, we have an arrangement. Please play here and do not play here.” He said, “Yes, yes” and played everywhere. Again, after two weeks, it was “Thanks, but this is not what we need.”

Call The Guy From Moldova

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  1. An interesting video featuring an interview with Christine Wu along with samples of her performances can be viewed at Christine Wu Video. []

“I was unaware of the techniques of collective enterprise” Leonard Cohen On The Making Of Songs Of Leonard Cohen

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I had some trouble with my first record in getting the kind of music I wanted because I hadn’t worked with men for a long time. I had worked by myself and I forgot what was necessary to work with men. I forgot how to make your ideas known to other people. The fault was completely mine. I was unaware of the techniques of collective enterprise, I just didn’t know then. I’m a little more aware of them now.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

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

“I am as constant as the Northern Star” From Leonard Cohen (& Shakespeare) To Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You

No lover gave her poetry like Leonard, and even after their affair ended, she continued to communicate with him in song; most memorably in “A Case of You.” She recalled that Cohen told her, “I am as constant as the Northern Star.” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar says this to Brutus, and it’s not far from there to “Et tu, Brute.” “I knew it was from Julius Caesar,” Cohen recalled, “but I didn’t say it with Shakespeare’s irony. I think I actually meant it in relation to her.”

“When I played ‘A Case of You’ for him, he said, ‘I’m glad I wrote that,’” Joni recalled. The song begins: Just before our love got lost you said, “I am as constant as a northern star.” And I said, “Constantly in the darkness Where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.” It was a tension that spoke to a schism in their songwriting …

Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life – it’s up for grabs, right?

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

DrHGuy Note: Included in Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things: is a discussion of songs Mitchell wrote which have been identified by some as having been inspired by her relationship with Leonard Cohen: “Rainy Night House,” “That Song About The Midway,” “The Gallery,” and “A Case Of You.”

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“Sometimes he’d reveal that the new song he’d brought to rehearsal was derived from an old idea… It was very exhilarating to be part of that evolutionary process.” Charley Webb On Working With Leonard Cohen

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Even if it wasn’t new material, it would have a freshness, There were many songs he would rework and then re-evaluate. He wrote 50 verses for ‘Hallelujah’ and then distilled them to what they are now. Leonard was always scratching away in a notebook with that impeccable handwriting of his. If you asked him what he was working on, he’d give only a little detail away. It seemed to be a private process, and I respected that. Sometimes he’d reveal that the new song he’d brought to rehearsal was derived from an old idea. Often, they’d change shape as we worked on them. You could still hear the essence, but it was a totally different presentation of the song. It was very exhilarating to be part of that evolutionary process.quotedown2

Charley Webb

 

Quotation from Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen by Abby Steward. Hot Press: Sept 2017. Photo taken at Ghent on Aug 14, 2012 by J.S. Carenza III & posted at Webb Sisters Facebook Page

Sylvie Simmons, Rock Journalism, Leonard Cohen, & More

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I was living in Leonard Cohen’s mind for a good long time. I told him, he wore me out, living in his head. He gave his little smile and said, ‘I know darling.’quotedown2

Sylvie Simmons

 

Sylvie Simmons talks music, journalism and the exhaustion of exploring Leonard Cohen’s mind by Joshua Peacock (DoSavannah: Mar 29, 2018) offers interesting, entertaining information about Sylvie’s work with Leonard Cohen and other artists and a taste of her own musical talents.

Prince Charles Recommends Leonard Cohen Songs To Sons, William And Harry

After grumbling about William’s and Harry’s taste in music, Prince Charles raved about his own preferences, including Leonard Cohen:

Prince Charles: I tell you who I also think is wonderful is a chap called Leonard Cohen, do you know him?

Prince William: Is he a jazz player?

Prince Charles: He’s remarkable. I mean the orchestration is fantastic and the words, the lyrics and everything. He’s a remarkable man, and he has this incredibly, sort of laid back, gravelly voice. It’s terrific stuff.

Also see “The Queen [Of England] Is A Secret Fan Of Leonard Cohen” According To The Telegraph

Credit Due Department: Photo by Dan Marsh – Flickr: Prince Charles, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Hear TLV1 Podcast: Malka Marom’s Great Canadian Songbook: Joni, Leonard and I

When Malka Marom, a Canadian-Israeli musician and broadcaster, walked into a destitute Toronto night club in 1966, she was swept off her feet. The music, played by Joni Mitchell, mousy-looking and still unknown, was unlike anything she had heard before. Soon thereafter, they became lifelong friends; Marom’s book Joni Mitchell in Her Own Words is a compilation of conversations they had over a 40-year period. She is now working on another book, featuring conversations with another great Canadian singer-songwriter: Leonard Cohen.

From podcast description

The April 23, 2018 podcast can be heard at Malka Marom’s Great Canadian Songbook: Joni, Leonard and I