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 number 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.
Leonard Cohen Writes The Favourite Game, Plays Favorite Ray Charles Album In Hydra
Leonard Cohen told his interviewers and biographers about playing Ray Charles records continuously while he was writing The Favourite Game on the terrace of his house in Hydra:1
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,2 just dripped over the side of the turntable.3
Both Sylvie Simmons’ I’m Your Man and Ira Nadel’s Various Positions identify the Ray Charles album to which Cohen listened as The Genius Sings the Blues (released Oct 1961)
Nadel goes on to immediately identify Cohen’s favorite song:
[Cohen] would work … aided by amphetamines and a Ray Charles record, The Genius Sings the Blues. His favorite song, played over and over, contains the line “Sometimes I sit here in this chair and I wonder.”
Well, it turns out that no song on The Genius Sings the Blues includes that line in its lyrics. Those words are actually from a Gant & Leveen song called “I Wonder,” which was performed by Ray Charles, among many others, and released on his 1962 Greatest Hits album.4
I suspect the confusion about the album’s identity arose from the song, “I Wonder Who,” on the tracklist of The Genius Sings the Blues.
Further, I suspect that there were, as Cohen reported, “a couple of Ray Charles records” that he played until they warped in the Greek sun: The Genius Sings the Blues, named the Cohen biographies by Simmons and Nadel, and Ray Charles Greatest Hits, named by – well, DrHGuy.
Ray Charles – I Wonder
Video from samWilckersson
- An earlier post featuring DrHGuy’s inspired but inaccurate speculation about the identity of the Ray Charles record can be accessed at Ray Charles Singing “You Win Again” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- “I Wonder” was also included on a four song French EP issued in the 1960s, but it seems unlikely Cohen would have owned this version rather than the much more easily available Greatest Hits. [↩]