“Come Spend The Morning” – A Leonard Cohen Song Never Performed By Leonard Cohen

Bob Johnston (left) with Leonard Cohen in 1972. Photo credit: Ilpo Musto

The Bob Johnston – Leonard Cohen Songwriting Team

In 1972 or 1973, Leonard Cohen wrote the lyrics to and Bob Johnston composed the music for “Come Spend The Morning,” a song performed  by Lee Hazlewood on “Poet, Fool Or Bum” (1973) and by Engelbert Humperdinck on “Don’t You Love Me Anymore”  (1981).

While little is known about how this collaboration between Cohen and Johnston came about, the most puzzling issue may be why the two as a team produced only one such song. Most Heck Of A Guy readers are familiar with Leonard Cohen’s credentials as a songwriter. And Bob Johnston, while best known as the producer responsible for Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison” and “San Quentin” albums, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookends,” several Willie Nelson records, and Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Blonde On Blonde,” “John Wesley Harding,” “Nashville Skyline,” “Self Portrait”, and “New Morning,” he also wrote  for Mac Curtis and others, recorded a few of his own rockabilly singles (1956 to 1961), did freelance arranging for Dot Records, and served as a songwriter for music publisher Hill and Range.

Further, Johnston and Cohen were familiar with, respected, and liked each other.  Johnston  produced three of Leonard Cohen’s albums: Songs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971), and Live Songs (1973) and, as described in these excerpts from  First We Take Berlin by Louis Black1,  toured with Cohen:

… First they [Leonard Cohen and Bob Johnston] recorded Songs From a Room, and following its release, they embarked on their first world tour together. After they recorded and released Songs of Love and Hate, Cohen’s third album, they undertook their second world tour. …

After working together on Songs From a Room, Cohen asked Johnston to put together a band for the world tour. Then Cohen suggested – insisted, actually – that Bob should join the band

“Bob Johnston put the band together for me,” Cohen recalled, “and it was a good little band, very modest sound, very modest approach, very nice people. I had a good time. Mostly on Mandrax at this point.”

Discographer Martin Strong lays out the chronology: “… the follow-up Songs from A Room … [was] another opus cloaked in melancholic intensity and an aching sense of loss. … The record reached No. 2 in Britain and Cohen set off for Europe on an extensive round of touring that included an appearance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. Following the release of Songs of Love and Hate (1971) the singer embarked on another sojourn to foreign shores, even playing for Israeli soldiers at various military bases.”

Cohen always insisted on giving Johnston full credit for his work with him. Not quite but almost unique among the many artists and albums Johnston produced, when discussing Cohen’s albums, reviewers almost always note Johnston’s contribution.

“He created a hospitable atmosphere in the studio,” Cohen notes. “He is a very forceful and very hospitable man. He wasn’t all that naive and all that primitive in terms of what he was doing. Southerners [are] often very deceptive in their personal style. They invite you to think of them as country bumpkins. They’re very far from that. Bob Johnston was very sophisticated. His hospitality was extremely refined.”

… Although Songs From a Room was released March 1969, the tour didn’t get under way until August 1970. …

Europe was ready for Cohen, who was just as ready for the continent, though in a far more perverse way. Seven capitals of European countries were stops on the tour as was the Isle of Wight Festival on Aug. 30, where they played to an audience of 100,000. The last European stop on their first tour was the Olympia in Paris, after which the tour continued on in the States. Cohen was finally warming to his role as a performer.

“I had been out on the road with these Texans and Southern boys,” he offers as explanation. “Yeah I was stretching out a bit, having quite a lot of fun out there.”
Johnston on Joining Cohen’s World Tour

I was touring worldwide with Leonard Cohen. I loved Leonard! He’s one of my favorite people in life! I loved Dylan; he’s one of my favorite people in life! But I loved Leonard, and it was so much fun.

I ended up on the tour almost by accident. He asked me to manage him; then he asked me to get his band together. Getting ready, I had said to Cohen, “Man, I’ll get you the best piano player in the world.”

“No, I want you,” Leonard insisted

I protested: “I can’t play piano. I can bang around, but I can’t play, and you’ve got great musicians here. They’re wonderful people.”

“Either you come and play, or I won’t go” was Cohen’s response.

I thought, “Hell, I’m not gonna miss this.” So we started off.

I just played piano and guitar and organ, whatever. I couldn’t play very well, but he couldn’t sing very well.

I did two world tours working and playing with him.

Regardless, only one song is attributed to Cohen and Johnston jointly – and Leonard Cohen has never performed it.

“Come Spend The Morning” Lyrics As Performed By  Engelbert Humperdinck

We took the night as it came to us
And it came like the tide from the sea
Long legged, dusty eyed, satisfied woman
Come spend the morning with me

We took the night as it came to us
Both of us hungry and free
Long legged, open eyed, satisfied woman
Come spend the morning with me

Wake up my lady, the darkness is gone
Whatever will be, let it be
Long legged, dusty eyed, satisfied woman
Come on, spend the morning with me

“Come Spend The Morning” Lyrics As Performed By  Lee Hazlewood

Long legged, dusty-eyed, satisfied woman,
Come spend the morning with me.

We took the night
As it came to us
Both of us hungry and free
Long legged, dusty-eyed, satisfied woman,
Come spend the morning with me.

Go tell the saints on their crosses
Go tell all the brave, young
Captains at war
To come back and find them such a peaceful morning
Then they’ll go killing no more.

Come spend the morning,
Come spend the morning,
Come spend the morning with me.

Wake up my lady
The darkness is gone
Once again, I guess we’re both free
Ah you, long legged, open-eyed, satisfied woman,
Come on, spend the morning, Spend the morning with me.

A Performance Of “Come Spend The Morning”

This is not, to my ears, a great Cohen song – or for that matter, a great Johnston, Humperdinck or Hazlewood2 song although  Lee’s laid back, urbane cowboy approach comes closest to redeeming it for me.

The song does, however, have its defenders.  A significant number of approbative YouTube comments are in the vein of “Leonard Cohen is one of the best poets in the world of music, and Lee is the coolest “Cowboy” ever to have set foot here in ****” and  “What a gem. so beautiful it gives me shivers. I can hear Cohen in this. . ..”

And, on reflection, “Come Spend The Morning” does offer a certain sweetness and dignity in the dawning of a new day.  I’ve come, in fact,  to think of “Come Spend The Morning” as the anthem of the morning after that night spent with “Winter Lady:”

Trav’ling lady, stay awhile
until the night is over.
I’m just a station on your way,
I know I’m not your lover.

Lee Hazlewood – Come Spend The Morning

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  1. Austin Chronicle, Nov 16, 2007 []
  2. It is telling that “Poet, Fool Or Bum,”  the Hazlewood album on which “Come Spend The Morning” appears, is best known as the straight line for  NME’s Charles Shaar Murray, who answered the question implicitly posed by the title with a one-word review – “bum.” []

3 responses to ““Come Spend The Morning” – A Leonard Cohen Song Never Performed By Leonard Cohen

  1. Thanks, Doc! Great post as always.
    But the link to Louis Black’s article doesn’t work. One can use this link:

    • Thank you for the link correction (which I’ve inserted into the post). I used an old link from my notes that is, it turns out, no longer operational. I appreciate the help.

  2. just finished reading Black’s artikle. Now I’m sure I have to buy the DVD “Bird on a wire” (even though there are large parts of it on youtube) Heck of a guy, Dankeschön