“It was not only an act of supreme generosity on
[Leonard Cohen's ] part but a flawless reading of the song“
Those hearing reports of unprecedented beaming emanating from the vicinity of Durham, North Carolina needn’t be concerned that, say, a local nuclear power plant has gone Chernobyl. The phenomenon is instead the consequence of DrHGuy finding this message from Don Was, world class musician and Grammy-winning record producer,1 in his inbox:
hi allan -
just stumbled upon your video for our song “Elvis’ Rolls Royce”….i really love it! It’s exactly what I visualized when we wrote the song and seeing your video 20 plus years after we recorded the track gave me a renewed sense of how surreally awesome it was that leonard agreed to do the vocal for us…it was not only an act of supreme generosity on his part but a flawless reading of the song…thanks for putting so much work into the video….i hope everyone on earth gets to see it!
OK, let’s make that “Don Was, world class musician, Grammy-winning record producer, and one heck of a guy.”
Leonard Cohen, Was (Not Was), Elvis’s Rolls Royce, & The VIdeo
In 1990 Was (Not Was) published the album, Are You Okay?, which included the song, “Elvis’s Rolls Royce” with Leonard Cohen as lead vocalist (and Iggy Pop contributing backing vocals). One suspects that it was fun to produce, and it’s clearly fun to hear. It seemed only fitting that it should have a fun video as well. That’s where DrHGuy, master of the cut and paste flick, came into the picture.
Considerable poetic license was involved in the composition of “Elvis’s Rolls Royce.” Elvis owned many cars, a significant number of which he gave away to friends and family. He did own a Rolls Royce:
January 1961 Elvis signed a 5 year contract with Hal Wallis. To celebrate he went out and bought a Rolls Royce Phantom V from a Beverly Hills dealer only to bring it home and have his mothers’ chickens peck away at their reflections in the elegant finish. Most people would have just shot the birds but Elvis just chose to have the car repainted four or five times.2
That Rolls Royce is the one featured in the extraordinarily rare3 photo of Elvis, Leonard, & the Rolls atop this section of the post.
Elvis also owned a 1966 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, pictured below.
In any case, images in the accompanying video are likewise “inspired by” rather than “based on” Elvis’s cars. Viewers are advised to rev up their “willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith;”4 a literal-minded perspective may result in significant cognitive whiplash.
Don Was has produced every Rolling Stones album since 1993, co-led the 1980s group Was (Not Was), was appointed president of the jazz record label, Blue Note Records, in 2012, served as music director for a batch of movies (e.g., Thelma and Louise, The Rainmaker, Hope Floats), and has recorded with – well, just about everyone, including Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Ziggy Marley, Bob Seger, Al Green, Lucinda Williams, Garth Brooks, Ringo Starr, Iggy Pop, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Joe Cocker, Hootie and The Blowfish, Amos Lee, Willie Nelson Elton John, Stevie Nicks, George Clinton, Randy Newman, The Black Crowes, Carly Simon, Travis Tritt, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne, The Barenaked Ladies, Old Crow Medicine Show, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Richie Sambora, The Presidents of the United States of America, B.B. King, Paul Westerberg, Kurt Elling, Poison, Cheb Khaled, The B-52′s, Zucchero, Todd Snider, Elizabeth Cook, Jill Sobule and Solomon Burke. [↩]
Leonard Cohen’s conventional live performance of First We Take Manhattan requires 6+ minutes to perform.1 Who has that kind of time? By eliminating textual redundancies (How many times do you need to hear someone tell you “I’d really like to live beside you, baby?”) and the singing, the condensed content of the song can be presented in PowerPoint format in less than 2 minutes – without the need for backup singers, a band, or wear and tear on Mr Cohen’s knees.
PowerPoint Version Of First We Take Manhattan by Leonard Cohen
Note: An earlier version of this post was published here on May 21, 2010
Backup Singers Charley Webb, Hattie Webb, & Sharon Robinson Stage Right at Leonard Cohen Concert – Toronto: Dec 4, 2012
On The Side Of The Angels – But Which Side Is That?
The onstage arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s angels, aka backup singers, has been constant at the 2008-2013 concerts: Charley Webb on the audience’s far left, then Hattie Webb, and then, nearest Leonard Cohen’s center stage position, Sharon Robinson. It’s not unusual, in fact, for Cohen fans attending a concert to identify their seats as being on the “boys’ side” (the same side as the band members – on Cohen’s left) or the “girls’ side” (the same side as the backup singers – on Cohen’s right).
As Alan Mawhinney points out, however, this was not always the case.
When Anjani Thomas was in the band in 1985 she was to Leonard’s right, albeit on the keyboard. All the videos I can recall from earlier times show the lady singers to Leonard’s left.
When Perla and Julie were touring, they were on Leonard’s right, but usually with Julie closer to him. In Barcelona, Perla was closer to Leonard, in contrast to most other performances I have seen. Perla is also adjacent to LC in the San Sebastian 1988 concert. Could it be because he used her as an interpreter par excellence in the concerts in Spain? My guess is that Julie usually stood closer to Leonard due to her featuring in “Joan of Arc” and “Take This Waltz”. Also re Perla and Julie there are a number of occasions where Leonard stood between them, but I don’t recall seeing any vision of him standing adjacent to any of the others, with the occasional exception of being to Sharon’s left on the recent tour.
In the, unfortunately now ended 2008 – 2013 World Tour, Sharon, Hattie and Charlie were always on Leonard’s right.
As Alan and I exchanged email about who stood where when during Leonard Cohen shows, this bit of stage business grew more and more interesting, resulting in this post and an associated gallery of photos illustrating the onstage positions of the backup singers for the various tours at Various Positions Onstage: The Gallery – DrHGuy.com.1
Help Complete This Project
This is by no means an exhaustive listing2. Nor is it intended as the last word on the subject. Beyond the speculations contained in Alan’s email, no reasons are offered explaining why the singers are on the right or left or why one backup singer stands further from Leonard Cohen (e.g., Sharon Robinson in 1979) or closer to Leonard Cohen (e.g., Sharon Robinson in 2013). I am, in fact, hopeful that readers will contribute other variations in the placement of Cohen’s singers as well as knowledge of or ideas about such stage positioning in general or specific to Leonard Cohen.
Stage Positions Of Leonard Cohen Backup Singers By Tour
In 1970 and 1972 the backup singers were stage right. In 1974, the angels moved across the stage to Leonard Cohen’s left and remained there in 1976, 1979, and 1980. In 1985, the backing vocals shifted back to stage right, where they have remained since.
The Leonard Cohen Slip & Slide Realignment Between Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla
One specific stage maneuver pertinent to the backup singers seems worthy of spotlighting. Cohen has used this move, as far as I can determine, only with backup singers Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla. While singing, Cohen slips back from his solo position center stage, loops around behind the backup singers on stage right, and slides between them where he continues the song.
Leonard Cohen Moves Between Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla
Lorri Zimmerman sang backup along with Erin Dickens during the Leonard Cohen USA tour in late 1975.1 None of the standard books about Leonard Cohen or the websites focusing on Leonard Cohen offer a photo of or more information of this vocalist. There are several reasons that might explain Lorri Zimmerman’s obscurity in the Cohen literature, whether online or print:
Lorri Zimmerman sang backup for Cohen only a few times. She, along with Erin Dickens, was a vocalist for only the seven2 US concerts Leonard Cohen played in November 1975 in support of The Best Of Leonard Cohen.3 (There were also 17 North American concerts from Jan 27-Mar 4, 1975 in support of New Skin For The Old Ceremony. The backup singers during this period were Emily Bindiger and Erin Dickens.)4
There are currently few available photos of Leonard Cohen performing in 1975,5 and none showing him performing with any of his backup singers that year. Similarly, there are few reviews of the 1975 concerts, none of which address the November shows.
Little is known about Lorri Zimmerman in general these days and that small amount is scattered hither and yon, in large part because she was known at various times as Lorri Zimmerman, Lorraine Nidgelski, Lorraine Nied, Laurie Niedzielski, Lauri Nigelski, and a few other names. In addition, much of the information about her is available only in French.
Update 03 April 2014: I have just discovered a previously photo shows Leonard Cohen and Lorri Zimmerman working together in 1975 (kinda sorta). The image below is also included in Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life by Anthony Reynolds along with this pertinent information contained in the caption:
At the Sound Ideas Studio in New York during the aborted Songs For Rebecca sessions of 1975. Backing singer Lori Zimmerman can be seen behind Cohen. [Photo by] John Miller
Regardless of the reasons for the obscurity, that ain’t how we treat Leonard Cohen backup singers in these parts. This post comprises the organized bits and pieces about Lorri Zimmerman I have been able to unearth.
Lorri Zimmerman & The 1975 Leonard Cohen Tour
Erin Dickens, Cohen backup singer during the entire 1974-1975 tours, explains how Lorri Zimmerman was chosen for the late 1975 shows:6
She was a singer from Montreal with whom John Lissauer and I worked regularly. We toured with her in our own band in Japan in 1976. A wonderful girl and great singer. I think John simply chose her for those reasons.
Emily Bindiger, who sang backup for the 1974 Cohen tour and the early 1975 shows, offers her best guess that she was unable to take part in the Nov 1975 concerts because at that point she was performing in “Shenandoah” on Broadway.
Lorri Zimmerman Biography
The only organized biography for “Lorri Zimmerman” is the following posted by Jason Lymangrover on AllMusic:
One of the lesser-known femme-psych singers, Lorri Zimmerman got her start when she auditioned for a TV talent show called The Like Young and was extended an invitation to participate in an album the show released featuring several of the performers. Two years later, in 1968, Lorri met up with a band called the Munks and the members performed under the moniker Sweet Loraine & the Munks for nearly a year before going their separate ways. She soon joined up with Life, a Montreal-based psychedelic band on Polydor that had some chart success with their single “Hands of the Clock.” In 1969, the group disbanded and Zimmerman began making some demos for music publishers Chappell & Co. Ltd, which led to the recording of her only solo album for Crescent City, an obscure underground pop/rock record (with elements of psych) that remained an underground gem until it was reissued by Fallout Records in 2007.
4 monks in robes of Montreal with Rick St-Jean René Boileau, Tagg Hindsgaul and Ed Kaye. Their first single was released in September 65 as The Exit 4. This will be their third 45s most popular Long waiting time moving up on some local English charts. Lorraine Nied aka Sweet Loraine aka Lorri Zimmerman will join the group in 1967 and the end of 1968, St. John Kaye and leave to form the Freedom group … soon renamed Freedom North.
Lorri Zimmerman – ‘Cause the world is mine (Crescent Street, 1971) She began her career under the name Sweet Loraine in the second version of the group of Verdun The Munks before joining the Montreal Life. Later, she would form a third bilingual and disco trio Toulouse. Along with Mari-Lou Gauthier (itself later Toulouse more), it would choirs on the single album Emerald City group.
Another addition to two of the album’s songs was Zimmerman’s wife Lorraine Nidgelski (aka Neid), who had been working with Montreal band, The Munks. As Simon recalls, Neid sang the chorus on “Ain’t I Told You Before” and contributed joint lead vocals on the band’s cover of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
Canada’s disco scene was fronted in Montreal as much as it was in Toronto, full of world beats set to a danceable rhythm. When sisters Heather and Mary Lou Gauthier and Judi Richards decided that singing backup for various local groups wasn’t cutting it, they formed their own trio in 1975 called Toulouse.
They were signed by Steve Grossman at Magique Records, and were teamed up with producer/songwriter Peter Alves. With him helping write the material, they released their self-titled debut album in the fall of 1976. Although no singles were released, the album as a whole was a hit with the francophone dance market, warranting an English re-release of the album to cater to the rest of Canada and hopefully break out in the US. While they were in the studio, management teamed them up with another French group called Boule Noire, who together released POTION MAGIQUE, half one group and half the other. Tracks from their catalogue also began appearing on numerous K-Tel specials, helping the band get name recognition.
By this point Laurie Zimmerman had replaced the recently departed Mary Lou Gauthier. The revised version of Toulouse’s debut album was called EXPORT, released in ’77 with totally revamped lyrics, written largely by Richards while at Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, Alabama. The lead single, “It Always Happens This Way” (“C’est toujours à recommencer”) was an instant hit in Quebec, and although it only contained two lines in English, it managed to crack Canada’s top 40 dance chart, and peaked at #29 in Toronto while also getting some airplay south of the border. “APB” (which made the American top 40 and #1 in several markets across Canada), “Funkysation,” and “What Would My Mama Say” followed it into the charts while the ladies rode the disco train. This trio of singles made Toulouse the first French Canadian group to have substantial airplay in the American disco market.
By the time TAXI POUR UNE NUIT BLANCHE was in the stores in the spring of 1978, Yves Lapierre was the new producer. Five singles found their way to the charts over the next year, starting with the instrumental “Lindbergh II,” followed by “Prends-moi Je Veux T’aimer,” “Don’t Play With My Heart,” “Je N’ai Jamais Pense,” and “Comme La Lumiere.” A series of mini-tours ensued, following which Heather Gauthier was gone and was replaced by Liette Lomez.
With the band now on CBS Records, Lapierre was brought back for DANGEROUS LADIES in 1980. For the first time the album featured a joint-writing process, but with everyone else leaving the disco train, only “Je N’ai Jamais Pense” and “Rock My Love” found their way to single, though both were re-worked a few times over as 7″ extended mixes for the clubs.
They recorded their final studio album a year later, and although TROIS DIMENSIONS attempted to bridge the gap between disco and ’80s pop, the singles “11 AM ‘n Rainin’,” “Tendre Doux,” and the duet with Robert Charlebois called “Que c’est, quest c’est?” all missed the mark. They carried on the scene for a few years doing special appearances and backing up other artists in the studio, making their final appearance together in 1985. Present and past members joined the one-off project called Foundation Quebec-Afrique, Quebec’s counterpart to their English counterpart Northern Lights’ African relief effort, recording the song “Les yeux de la faim” (“Eyes of the famine”).
Unidisc compiled enough predominantly English material for the BEST OF TOULOUSE album in 1993, including instrumental versions of “What Would My Mama Say” and “It Always Happens This Way.”
This is a surprise because it was not planned. It all began when the trio made an appearance on the show was not all evening in tribute to Georges Thurston in 2007. It was he who wrote the bilingual song It’s always again, their greatest success. Toulouse was then temporarily reformed to sing this song.
Judi, we can say that it is partly thanks to Thurston you reformed Toulouse?
[Judi Richards] Absolutely. I then invited Liette and Laurie to join me for some shows that I gave after the release of my Cd From seventh heaven on. We found that we had a lot of fun together.
Yvon was found also and he said you are ripe for reform Toulouse. You will probably go on tour … And it is not true that I will stay at home. Find me a place in your show! (Laughter)
[Judi Richards] We will be together with Yvon. It will be special, because Liette and Laurie are friends since adolescence. Yvon and I met 17 years. It will be all my life to be on stage at the same time. It is unusual is not it!
Toulouse was formed in 1976. Judi was then teamed with sisters Gauthier. Laurie and Liette have replaced successively. The most famous of our Quebec trios ceased operations in 1986.
22 years after the end of Toulouse, Judi has never stopped practicing his art. Laurie Niedzielski became a teacher in English, but she found her voice without problem, 22 years after she stopped singing professionally.
Toulouse already has commitments until May 2009
Toulouse: Liette Lomez, Laurie Niedzielski, & Judi Richards. March 4, 2009 (Photo by Patrick Woodbury, Le Droit)
This is the most recent reference I’ve found to Lorri Zimmerman/ Laurie Niedzielski.
The actual number of concerts during this tour may differ. 1975 was apparently not a stellar year for record-keeping. The most authoritative source, Cohen Live includes several shows with uncertain dates and excludes a relatively well known Feb 25, 1975 Milwaukee concert. It would not be surprising if other later 1975 concerts turn up as well. [↩]
In at least one of these November 1975 concerts (The Main Point in Bryn Mawr on November 23, 1975), Cohen played five of the songs he and John Lissauer had co-written for Songs for Rebecca, an abandoned album. [↩]
Sources: Cohen tour information accessed at Cohen Live 02 April 2014. Identities of backup singers from Is This What You Wanted by Jim Devlin [↩]
Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1
This video features the first version of the song Leonard Cohen would later revise into "Chelsea Hotel #2" along with images of Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin - whose liaison with Cohen at the Chelsea Hotel led to the creation of the song, the Hotel itself, and other associated people & places.
Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen had a fling in the 1960s that, for unspecified reasons, was short-lived, with Cohen instigating the parting.
It was then and is now a complex connection. In 1988, Cohen said, I'm still very friendly with Joni - I had dinner with her before the tour, and I have the same admiration for her as you do. But I think it was Noel Harrison who came up to me in the LA Troubadour and said "How do you like living with Beethoven?"
Do I Have To Dance All Night Surpasses 70,000 Views
"Do I Have To Dance All Night" was performed many times in concerts but was never released in the US.
As part of my crusade to popularize this song, I've cobbled together 2 videos - one for the semi-funky 1976 version with Laura Branigan and one for the 1980 more gypsy, less disco version - that kinda sorta fit the music.
As of Dec 19, 2012, the video of the 1976 version of Do I Have To Dance All Night has been viewed 70,152 times.
This Heck Of A Guy compilation includes unreleased Leonard Cohen performances over a 30+ year period.
Track List: Vol 1
1. Feels So Good (The Other Blues Song)
2. Book Of Longing
3. The Darkness
6. Do I Have to Dance All Night (1976)
7. Blues By The Jews
Track List: Vol 2
1. Red River Valley
2. Never Got To Love You (Duet with Anjani)
3. Can't Help Falling In Love
4. Ride Around
5. The Union Makes Us Strong
6. We Shall Not Be Moved
7. To Love Somebody
8. The Hypnotist (Poem)
9. Chelsea Hotel #1
10. There's No Reason Why You Should Remember Me
11. Streets Of Laredo
12. Do I Have To Dance All Night (1980)
Now, Another Other Leonard Cohen Album, the second collection of unreleased Leonard Cohen songs joins the popular The Other Leonard Cohen Album to offer fans of the iconic singer-songwriter a total of 3 CDs of musical treats. Another Other Leonard Cohen Album includes the following tracks plus liner notes by Sylvie Simmons.
1. Je Veux Vivre Tout Seul
2. Kevin Barry
3. Die Gedanken Sind Frei
4. Store Room
5. As Time Goes By
6. Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-on
7. Blessed is the Memory
8. Silent Night
9. Dead Song
10. Another Saturday Night
11. Ballad of the Absent Mare
13. The Butcher
14. Un As Der Rebbe Singt
15. Song to the Machines
16. If It Be Your Will
17. Thirsty for the Kiss
18. A Thousand Kisses Deep
19. I Tried To Leave You
20. Whither Thou Goest
21. Mr Cohen Must Be Going
Photos of or related to Leonard Cohen that fall into specific themes have been among the ongoing features at DrHGuy, HOAG's sibling site. Galleries displaying collected images of 3 of these themes are now available at
And We’re Still Making Love In My Secret Life – Julie’s Story & Video
... I never had a chance. I was - and this is the only word that fits - smitten. I still am.
She was smart and quick-witted, although it would take me 3 years to recognize that she was, in fact, much smarter than me, and then another 2 years to forgive her for that. She was also good-looking and unabashedly sexy.
And, we fell madly, irredeemably, unflinchingly in love.
Complementing the unlikely story of how Julie and I met, fell in love, and - 9 years, 2 husbands, 1 wife, and 2 careers later - got together to spend an outrageously wonderful 20 years together before her death, a video, set to the poignant "In My Secret Life" by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson, is now available that evokes the role Julie, who died 10 years ago, continues to play in my life.