Corlynn Hanney Talks About Singing Backup On The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour

Backup singers for Leonard Cohen at Leeds University - 1970

The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour

When researching Leonard Cohen’s  1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival  concert1 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, disproving the notion that those unanticipated consequences about which one reads so much bad press are always catastrophic. 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.

Today’s post features Corlynn Hanney (the next 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour post will focus on the experiences of her companion vocalist, Susan Musmanno).

Backup Singers for Leonard Cohen at Isle of Wight - 1970

Corlynn Hanney

In addition to serving as backup singer on the 1970  tour, Corlynn Hanney (the blond woman wearing glasses in the1970 photos) is credited as a vocalist on Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room, Songs Of Love And Hate, and Live Songs albums.

She still sings, maintains a web site, and a MySpace page which includes music from her 2007 album Shine and other songs in a genre characterized as Christian/Gospel /Healing & Easy Listening.

Corlynn Hanney has been good enough to personally provide information about the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour and her role in it. The following excerpts (in red) are taken from her emails (the questions that prompted her replies are in blue):2

How did you became a backup singer for Leonard Cohen?

I was a young singer living in LA, trying to make a living as a studio singer. I had been singing with The Jimmy Joyce singers. We had sung on the Smothers Brothers Show, things like that that were singer/dancer things sometimes. I was called to audition!

I had been a Cohen fan for awhile. Never went anywhere without a book of his poetry or his novel in my purse. It was a dream. Leonard’s then manager (name forgotten but he stayed manager through the making or the Songs of Love and Hate CD) heard me sing with my guitar. It was something original.

They offered me the job immediately……I asked to have the night to think about it After all, I was just beginning to get calls as a session singer. When I awoke in the morning I had my answer! A perfect job for me! Needless to say, I said YES. No looking back after that!

Susan and I had been singing together in a group called the GROOP. We auditioned a couple of other girls but Susan and I had always had a fabulous blend and musical rapport. She got the job, too. Next stop, Nashville.

This is an especially silly query: Leonard Cohen and the band famously rode horseback to the Aix-en-Provence Festival concert. Since hearing that story, I’ve wondered – did you and Susan Musmanno travel to the show the same way?

I still have no super-clear memories about horses . I am afraid of horses, so I could have blocked it out. I do have a clear memory of the landscape. It was surreal! And a bit scary. so many people in one place! So many tiny lights. I remember the Isle of Wight better. The horse memory is taking shape.

The place we stayed for this concert was amazing. It was very old, had two streets and had a very old Church on the hilltop. Every hour the church bell would ring the hour. The town was surrounded by fields of various crops. People drove their produce etc, in horse drawn carts.

We ate at the hotel…..amazing food! Everything was made right there. Great local wine. Fresh produce. I have gone back to try to find it again. The place was tiny and I can’t remember the name. So my search has been fruitless.

You mentioned that you had been a Cohen fan prior to your audition for the Tour. How did the real Leonard Cohen (the one you worked with on tour) differ from the Leonard Cohen you had envisioned from his poetry, prose, and music?

When I met Leonard, he was even more gentle, more wise and more gracious than I had expected. When it came to music, he was incredibly generous.

What makes working with Leonard Cohen so unique is his generosity of spirit. In rehearsals Leonard is very positive. He appreciates the creativity of the band and backup singers. He is so humble, you feel unafraid to try new ideas. He is always grateful for the suggestions. His willingness to try different musical ideas makes the other musicians feel valued.

 Coming Attractions: The next 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour post will feature the experiences of Susan Musmanno, including the story of “Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno,  Aileen Fowler, Donna Washburn, and Michelle Phillips –  Leonard Cohen’s Two Great Backup Singers In 1970.”

Credit Due Department: Joe Way, who had been in contact with Corlynn Hanney for some time, provided my introduction to Corlynn and paved the way for our email exchange. The photo of Leonard Cohen and his backup singers are the Isle Of Wight was contributed by Dominique BOILE. The photo of the backup singers at the Leeds University Concert was found at the Leeds Alumni Archives.

  1. See Leonard Cohen At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival – Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem []
  2. I have edited Corlynn’s answers to the extent of rearranging her comments to fit a chronological flow. None of the content has been changed. []

3 Responses to Corlynn Hanney Talks About Singing Backup On The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour

  1. Nice job Alan. What a joy to read an inteview with someone who was on that tour with him.

  2. Talk about serendipity – The Isle Of Wight was recently on TV here and as I was watching I wondered as to where Leonard’s backup singers were theses days and what they were doing.

    Thanks Allan for reading my mind!
    Bev

  3. That interview seem to put me right there! I was surprised at how abruptly it ended. I was caught up and …it just ended! Great reading while it lasted. Thanks for the chance!