Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.
- Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)
Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a handful of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Heck Of A Guy feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.
“Ray Charles The Singer I Would Never Be” – Leonard Cohen
Typically, candidates for the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox feature are discovered in his interviews. And, indeed, Cohen has often told interviewers about listening to Ray Charles albums when he and Marianne lived in Hydra:
I had a little record player that ran on batteries. I would work outside on my terrace [of the house in Greece], and if I would forget how fast the sun was moving and forget to move, the record would melt, right over the turntable. I used to play Ray Charles all the time and I lost a couple of Ray Charles records, I still have them, they’re just like Dali watches,1 just dripped over the side of the turntable.2
Sometime before beginning the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series over three years ago, I began an unrequited (until now) search for the names of those Ray Charles albums Leonard Cohen played (until they melted) at his house in Hydra.
The answer was revealed, however, not in an interview or in an entry in a biography or even as a bit of oral history passed along from the Cohen cognoscenti I questioned but from a serendipitous reading of Leonard Cohen’s poignant poem, Much Later, published in Book Of Longing.
Ray Charles singing You Win Again
in the sunlight
twenty years ago
Ray Charles the singer I would never be
and my young wife
‘the wife of my youth’
smiling at me from an upstairs room
in the old house
Ray Charles and Marianne
dear spirits of my Greek life
now in the sunshine of every new summer
Marianne coming down the steps
‘the woman of the house’
ray Charles speaking fiercely
for our virgin humanity
Twenty years ago
and again in this Hollywood summer
still companions of the heart
as I measure myself once more
against the high sweet standards
of my youth
– Los Angeles 1978
From Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen
You Win Again is found as a track on Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, the ABC-Paramount Records album Ray Charles released in April 1962. It was #1 on the Billboard Pop Album chart for 14 weeks and remained on that chart for two years.
The poem’s text and the conjunction of Cohen’s years of residence on Hydra and the release date of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music make, I submit, a strong presumptive case for this being one of those albums the Greek sun fashioned into vinyl replicas of Dali watches.
The album track’s follow:
“Bye Bye Love” (Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant) – 2:09
“You Don’t Know Me” (Eddy Arnold, Cindy Walker) – 3:14
“Half as Much” (Curley Williams) – 3:24
“I Love You So Much It Hurts” (Floyd Tillman) – 3:33
“Just a Little Lovin’ (Will Go a Long Way)” (Eddy Arnold, Zeke Clements) – 3:26
“Born to Lose” (Frankie Brown, pseudonym of Ted Daffan) – 3:15
“Worried Mind” (Ted Daffan, Jimmie Davis) – 2:54
“It Makes No Difference Now” (Floyd Tillman, Jimmie Davis) – 3:30
“You Win Again” (Hank Williams) – 3:29
“Careless Love” (Traditional, Arranged by Ray Charles) – 3:56
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” (Don Gibson) – 4:13
“Hey, Good Lookin’” (Hank Williams) – 2:10
And, Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen’s upstairs neighbor in the Tower Of Song, wrote You Win Again.
Is all this great or what?
Ray Charles Sings You Win Again By Hank Williams To Leonard Cohen And Marianne_____________________
- The reference, of course, is to Dali’s “Soft Watch.”
- Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul William. Crawdaddy, March 1975. [↩]
- LeonardCohenFiles [↩]