Category Archives: Anjani Thomas

Backstage Banter Starring Anjani, Directed By Dominique Isserman. Leonard Cohen, Cameraman

Musical Of Backstage Lives Of Artists On Tour Opens Off-Broadway To Mixed Reviews

This teaser features Leonard Cohen as videographer, Anjani Thomas in pseudo-rant, and Dominique Issermann directing. An unrecognized (by me) cast member provides comic relief. The scene deteriorates when, in  a room full of musicians, no one knows the words to “Dominique.”

From German Documentary ‘Halleluja in Moll’ (1985)

Video from messalina79

An alternative version of “Dominique” follows:

Soeur Sourire Plays And Sings Dominique (1963)

Video from riccardobruero

Bonus: More Behind The Scenes Action – Rehearsing & Mopping

Leonard Cohen And Band – Rehearsal Of Tonight Will Be Fine and If It Be Your Will (From German Documentary ‘Halleluja in Moll’ 1985)

Video from messalina79

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Credit Due Department: I was alerted to these videos by a link on LeonardCohenForum by ladydi.

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Appear On TV Talk Show

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More Leonard Cohen, Anjani Videos From Kaare Johnsen

Another group of  outstanding historical videos featuring Leonard Cohen and Anjani came online at YouTube yesterday through the auspices of kaarekjohnsen,1 who was responsible for the videos of the 1985 Leonard Cohen concert in Kalvøya that were the topic of Baby, Baby, Baby – Leonard Cohen & Anjani Sing The Blues In Norway.

While I will address several of these in upcoming posts, today’s focus is on the three videos (total time: 17 minutes) comprising the appearance of  Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas as guests on the March 30, 2007 edition of “Først & sist” (“First & last”), the Norwegian talk show hosted by Fredrik Skavlan.2

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Left to Right: Al Gore, Leonard Cohen, Fredrik Skavlan ( host,) Anjani Thomas, and Gro Harlem Brundtland

Leonard Cohen On His Ordination As A Zen Monk, The Pilfering Of His Money, Al Gore, and Anjani

My recommendation of this interview segment is based in large part on Cohen’s low-key explanations of the reasons he devoted a few years to living in a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy and the events surrounding the pilferage of his retirement fund, both of which demystify the circumstances without denying the significance of the episodes.

As always, Cohen is well-spoken, poised, and witty, especially in regard to his loss of his retirement fund of several million dollars.

Money has a way of disappearing if you don’t watch it very, very closely.  That’s a certain wisdom I acquired. I wasn’t absolutely certain of this [before the loss], but now I am. It’s enough to put a dent in your mood.

[Responding to the host's observation that Cohen seems "quite happy" despite having very little money following the loss:]  Well, I don’t recommend this as a spiritual exercise, …

As I’ve pointed out, beginning with the first Heck Of A Guy post that addressed a Cohen interview,

Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her [the interviewer's] words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:

Leonard Cohen: I always thought I would change my name and get a tattoo

Beryl Fox: Where?

Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.

The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.

As one might expect, Cohen has, in the 39 years that separate the two interviews, become more subtle and sophisticated in his technique, but he still shepherds the conversation into the path he chooses, content to follow the lead of the interviewer only if it fits his needs.  This is, I hasten to add, invariably a benefit to the quality of the interview.3

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Two brief Cohen expositions are worthy of special note:

1. In a few sentences, he makes Al Gore, who is also a guest on the show, sound principled rather than ponderous and spiritual rather than self-righteous. Mr Gore, unfortunately, proves himself equally efficacious in undoing this rehabilitation when he responds to Cohen’s comments.

2. An interesting contrast exists between Cohen’s characterization of his relationship with Anjani in this interview and that contained in his introduction of her in the video of the 1985 Kalvøya, Norway performance of “I Tried To Leave You.”The  1985 introduction follows:

Now we come to the girl I love, even though she has a mean streak. She translates that mean streak into passion and fire. That’s why I love her. The Pearl of the Pacific, from Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms Anjani Thomas.

Compare that with his response to the host’s phrase, “This is a long love story,” which was spoken simply as an invitation for Cohen to provide the history between Anjani and him. Instead, Cohen first finds it necessary, with notable stuttering and stops and starts,  to correct the improper application of  “love story” to the relationship:

It wasn’t always a love … It was an affectionate story for a long time, and it ripened into something deeper. But I found it’s best not to name a relationship.

It is important to acknowledge that this shift does not seem the consequence of any change in Cohen’s relationship with Anjani, to whom he appears deeply attached during the interview. In fact, just prior to his halting pronouncements on the nature of the connection, Cohen had spontaneously segued from Anjani as his backup singer to Anjani as his romantic partner:

I depended on that [Anjani's] voice, I leaned on it, I slept on that voice.

Instead, the difference appears the result of Cohen’s insistence, which has intensified with age, of speaking in a knowledgeable manner only about matters concerning which he is indeed knowledgeable.

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 (1 of 3)

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 (2 of 3)

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Anjani Sings “Thanks For The Dance”

Reflecting the power of ratings, the lion’s share of the interviewer’s attention is on Cohen. The primary question asked Anjani is, in fact, “How is it to work and live so close to Leonard Cohen?”

It turns out that “It’s a lot of fun.”

On the other hand, Anjani does a star turn on the show, performing “Thanks For The Dance.”

Update: As is apparent below, Part 3 of Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 has been removed by the YouTube user. I have sent a message asking that the segment be restored but have received no response. As far as I can determine, the video is not available elsewhere.

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 (3 of 3) Includes Anjani Performing “Thanks For The Dance”

  1. When treasures like these become available from 25 years ago, my fantasies tend toward scenarios such as the discovey of a cache  of tapes stored in  mislabeled box at an abandoned TV studio.  The actual explanation is less dramatic but perhaps more impressive.  The 1985 Cohen performance (as well as songs sung by Donovan and Joni Mitchell) were recorded from TV by a colleague of Kaare Johnsen while the other material was recorded from TV broadcasts by Kaare Johnsen herself.  (A few items, not among those discussed in this post, were found on DVD). That Kaare and her colleague had the foresight to record these performances and the orgnization to find them again 25 years later is a formidable – and a bit intimidating – accomplishment. []
  2. The other two guests are American environmental activist and former vice president Al Gore and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who from 1984-87 was chairman of the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (also former prime minister of Norway and director-general of the World Health Organization). []
  3. One of the several reasons I desperately long to interview Leonard Cohen is my conviction that, if I can muster the presence of mind to stutter out a discernible query of any sort (currently, I’m thinking of going with “So, Leonard, how’s tricks?”), the interview will be a pristine, elegant discussion of whatever Cohen wanted to talk about – which would be the same result regardless of what I had asked, so it is, as they say, all good. []

Baby, Baby, Baby – Leonard Cohen & Anjani Sing The Blues In Norway

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Leonard Cohen in stylishly scruffy mode – Norway 1985

3 Videos Of 1985 Leonard Cohen Norway Concert Surface

Two days ago, three videos, “I Tried to Leave You,” “Heart With No Companion,” and “Story of Isaac,” taken from a TV broadcast of a 1985 performance by Leonard Cohen in Kalvøya (“Isle of Calf” – near Oslo),  Norway appeared on YouTube, courtesy of kaarekjohnsen. While all three are interesting and well worth watching, the most entertaining and intriguing of the lot is “I Tried To Leave You.” (Because of YouTube’s 10 minute limit, the song requires two videos, the second of which is just over 1 minute long.)

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Anjani And The Mean Streakin’ Pearl of the Pacific Blues

Then as now, “I Tried To Leave You” is used as a showcase for the band members’ talents. Unlike the contemporary rendition of “I Tried To Leave You,”1 however, the 1984 version is performed as a blues number.2

Nowhere is this more evident than in the solo by Anjani (identified as “Angie Thomas” on the TV caption) beginning at 2:36 with the salutatory appeal, “Baby, Baby, Baby,” following which Anjani  channels Ruth Brown for a few bars lamenting good love gone bad.3

Cohen’s introduction of Anjani is itself a treat:

Now we come to the girl I love, even though she has a mean streak. She translates that mean streak into passion and fire. That’s why I love her. The Pearl of the Pacific, from Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms Anjani Thomas.

Also Starring …

The video of “I Tried To Leave You” also features an impressive display of guitar skills by band members, Leonard Cohen in stylishly scruffy mode4 improvising lines and being crowned with a wreath of laurels, and a huge crowd of incredibly wholesome-looking, uniformly well-behaved Norwegians.

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The Boys In The Band

“I Tried To Leave You” also serves as background for Cohen’s introductions of the band members which are generous and laudatory as those he performs in concerts now. He creates a couple of titles congruent with those he has used for band members in the World Tour. His 1984 drummer, for example, is designated the “Master of Surfaces” while his 2009 counterpart, Rafael Gayol, is labeled the  “Prince of Precision”  or “Our Timekeeper.”

Only The Lonely

And then as now, he has a special concern for those alone. In 2009, it usually takes the form of this blessing, “May you be surrounded by friends and family, and if none of these is yours, may the blessings find you in your solitude. ” In 1984, he urges his audience to remember him and his band “… even  when you find yourself alone in your room making passes at yourself.”

Update Feb 21, 2012: The original videos referenced in this post and at least two sets of replacements  have been removed because of copyright issues.

Leonard Cohen – Story Of Isaac (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Removed
Leonard Cohen – Memories (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Removed
Leonard Cohen – Heart With No Companion (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Rmoved
Leonard Cohen – I Tried to Leave You (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Removed
  1. For a recent example, see the Belfast performance “I Tried To Leave You,” which is the first video in the post, Leonard Cohen – Best Of Belfast. []
  2. None of the many versions of “How To Sing The Blues” found on the Internet (see example of these rules below) address the likelihood of a Canadian crooner and his Hawaiian back-up singer, with the non-blues name, “Anjani,” being qualified to sing the blues. The reader is thus left to his own devices. I offer the following only as a convenience in this effort:

    How To Sing The Blues

    1. Most Blues begin “woke up this morning.”

    2. “I got a good woman” is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in right away:
    I got a good woman—with the meanest face in town.

    3. Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of.
    I got a good woman—with the meanest face in town.
    I got a good woman—with the meanest face in town.
    She got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weighs 500 pounds.

    4. The Blues are not about limitless choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.

    5. Blues cars are Chevies, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Other acceptable Blues transportation modes include Greyhound buses and southbound trains. Walkin’ plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or SUVs. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running.

    6. Adults sing the Blues. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. In the Blues, “adulthood” means old enough to get the electric chair when you shoot that man in Memphis.

    7. You can have the Blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont, Tucson, or North Dakota are just depression. The best places to have the Blues are still Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. You cannot have the blues in any place that don’t get rain.

    8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg while skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg when your broken-down pickup truck rolled over on it is.

    9. The following colors do not belong in the Blues: violet, beige, mauve (unless you’re truly desperate for a rhyme).

    9. You can’t have the Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is just plain wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

    10. Good places to have the Blues: the highway, a jailhouse, an empty bed, the bottom of a whiskey glass. Bad places to have the Blues: ashrams, gallery openings, weekends in the Hamptons, golf courses, Tiffany’s, and Ivy League institutions.

    11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man—and it’s an old black suit.

    12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?
    Answer “Yes” if:
    a. your first name is a southern state—like Georgia
    b. you’re blind
    c. you shot a man in Memphis.
    d. you can’t be satisfied.
    e. you’re older than dirt
    Answer “No” if:
    a. you once were blind but now can see.
    b. you’re deaf
    c. the man in Memphis lived.
    d. you have a trust fund or an IRA.
    e. you have all your teeth
    f. you were once blind but now can see

    13. Blues is not about color, it’s about bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues; Gary Coleman could. Ugly old white people got a leg up on the blues. Julio Iglesias and Barbra Streisand will never sing the Blues.

    14. If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: wine, whiskey, muddy water, beer, black coffee. Blues beverages are NOT: mixed drinks, kosher wine, sparkling water, Snapple, Starbucks Frappuccino, or Slim Fast. Although Rubber Biscuits and the Wish Sandwich are famous blues snacks, better stick to common blues grub like Greasy Bar-b-que, Fatback and beans, and Government cheeze. Blues food is never: Club sandwich, Sushi, or Crème brule.

    15. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is a Blues death. So is substance abuse, the electric chair, or being denied treatment in an emergency room. It is not a Blues death to die during liposuction or from tennis elbow.

    16. Excellent names for female Blues singers: Sadie, Big Momma, Bessie, or Fat River Dumpling. Excellent names for male Blues singers: Willie, Joe, Little Willie, Lightning, or Big Willie. Singers with names like Muffy, Sierra, Auburn, Alexis, Gwenyth, Sequoiz, Brittany or Rainbow are not permitted to sing the Blues, no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

    17. The Build Your Own Blues Singer Name Starter Kit:
    a. Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, Asthmatic)
    b. First name (from above lists) or name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi)
    c. Last name of a U. S. president (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
    Examples: Blind Lime Jefferson, Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Okay, maybe not “Kiwi”…)

    18. I don’t care how tragic your life; if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.
    You’d best destroy it. Fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or shotgun.
    Maybe your big ass woman just done sit on it. I don’t care

    19. Hey there, you can READ! This too be a big ol’ problem. Most folks singin’ the
    Blues ain’t never had much a chance for education. In the Blues… the three R’s stand
    for Railroads, Runnin’ and Rehab.

    20. It gots to be dark to sing the blues, preferably after midnight. Singin’ da blues at noon is forbidden.

    21. If none of the above works, try one last, pathetic stab at authenticity: name your guitar. Remember, Lucille is taken.

    22. Epitaph on a blues musician’s tombstone: “I didn’t wake up this morning” []

  3. I think she’s singing about good love gone bad. I can’t follow all the words but if one is singing about a love that, for example, only gets sweeter with each passing day, one is not singing the blues, is one? []
  4. Think “Miami Vice,” a 1986 episode of which would feature Cohen. See Leonard Cohen, Miami Vice Guest Star []

The Sacred Names Album – Music By Anjani, Cover Art By Leonard Cohen

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Ask Anjani1

Yep, it’s another episode of your favorite game show, Ask Anjani.

Today’s contestant, Arlene (bridger15) from LeonardCohenForum, asks,

What is the origin of the cover art on The Sacred Names album?

Anjani answers:

I didn’t want my photo on the front cover, so we were searching for an idea that felt celestial and soft. After looking through many images of angels, Leonard came across a beautiful old painting (sorry, don’t remember the origins), scanned it, and worked with Photoshop to get the cover.  He made many versions with different colors and stronger lines; and he also added the Hebrew letters and more iconology.


  1. Anjani and Anjani Thomas are, for the purposes of the Heck of a Guy blog, synonymous names, both of which refer to the exotically lovely, dulcet-voiced singer best known for her Blue Alert CD and her long-term relationship with Leonard Cohen. []

Anjani Exquisite On "Innermost Door" Video

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Anjani Thomas Stars On Jools Holland Show

Although Anjani sang “Innermost Door” on the Jools Holland Show as part of the promotion of the Blue Alert album two years ago, this video only recently surfaced online.1

Anjani On Jools Holland, The White Stripes, And Anjani

When asked about about this performance, Anjani responded,

I was so honored to do on this show.  Jools’ love for music and musicians is so real and supportive, and he’s a such a versatile artist that he played keyboards for The White Stripes in the same show!

This was filmed in a cavernous studio that was refrigerator cold. I could actually see my breath in the dressing room and had to wrap myself up in a towel and jump up and down to stay warm.

I was really happy that Jools’ played piano for me so I could focus on the vocal and not worry about my shivering hands.

When Meg and Jack came on the decibel level went off the charts. I have never heard a band make so much music out of guitar, bass and drums…

There was so much energy in the room it seemed to encourage the other bands on the show to play even louder to make an impression.

Talk about feeling old — I had my fingers in my ears for most of the filming! But it was a thrill and definitely the highlight of that tour.

Best Of Anjani

In light of the production values of the recording and, frigid environs notwithstanding, the quality of Anjani’s own performance, this may be  the best video (so far, at least) of her work.

Anjani-The Innermost Door (Jools Holland Show 2007)

  1. Unsurprisingly, the video I found was uploaded by a1000kissesdeep, AKA Tom Sakic of A Thousand Kisses Deep. who has a knack for finding and contributing extraordinarily rare and extraordinarily wonderful videos. []

Happy Birthday, Anjani

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A Gift For Everyone On Anjani’s Birthday

To celebrate Anjani’s  birthday, I’ve put together segments of a few of her performances (especially her work with Leonard Cohen on the Blue Alert album) as well as some photos of her and screenshots from Heck Of A Guy posts about her.

Anjani, thanks for the dance.

Anjani’s Birthday Montage