Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s Favorite Song He Played While Writing The Favourite Game: “I Wonder” By Ray Charles Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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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.

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Leonard Cohen Writes The Favourite Game, Plays Favorite Ray Charles Album In Hydra

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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)

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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

Ray Charles Greatest Hits

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

  1. 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 []
  2. The reference, of course, is to Dali’s “Soft Watch.”


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  3. Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul William. Crawdaddy, March 1975. []
  4. “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. []

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Underappreciated Performance Of I Can’t Forget – Barcelona 1993

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Perhaps because of the understated style, this rendition of I Can’t Forget taped at the May 15, 1993 Barcelona Concert at Palacio Municipal De Deportes for broadcast by Televisió de Catalunya, has never received the attention it deserves.

The visual and audio elements are good to excellent and the performance itself sublime.

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In addition to Leonard Cohen, backup singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen are prominent as is Bob Metzger on the pedal steel guitar.

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Leonard Cohen – I Can’t Forget
Barcelona: May 15 1993
Video from a1000kissesdeep

Video: Leonard Cohen & 1976 Backup Singers Laura Branigan & Cheryl Barnes – Lover Lover Lover

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Rare 1976 Performance Video

Ongoing readers may recall that photos of Leonard Cohen with his 1976 backup singers Laura Branigan & Cheryl Barnes have been difficult to find. In fact, posts on this site have been dedicated to the few such shots discovered:

Today’s featured video, however, is not only an excellent rendition of Lover, Lover, Lover, but also displays the three 1976 vocalists performing live.1

Leonard Cohen – Lover Lover Lover
French TV: June 1976
Video by a1000kissesdeep

  1. In fact, this same video was featured on this site February 25, 201  in a post noting “The 1974 date given in the YouTube blurb, however, appears erroneous.  The date came on the DVD containing this song but, as can be seen in the screen capture below, the backup singers resemble the vocalists on the 1976 Tour, Laura Branigan and Cheryl Barnes rather than  Erin Dickins and Emily Bindiger,  who were backup singers on the 1974 Tour.” The YouTube data for this video has since been corrected. []

Dominique Issermann Reportedly Publishing Collection Of Her Photos Of Leonard Cohen

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Dominique Issermann,at the January 16, 2012 Old Ideas event in Paris. Photo by Dominique BOILE

A reliable source who has been in contact with Dominique Issermann reports that the well known photographer plans to publish a collection of her photos of Leonard Cohen. No details, including the date of publication, are known.

Given Issermann’s skill and reputation as a world-class photographer and her 30 year relationship with Leonard Cohen1 which began as a romantic liaison and has endured to this day,2 such a work would have the potential to be a must-have book for Cohen fans.

In addition to photographing Leonard Cohen over the years on both public occasions and behind the scenes, Issermann directed videos for Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas, First We Take Manhattan, and Dance Me To The End Of Love.

Issermann’s book would add to an already rich field of forthcoming Cohen-focused volumes, including Leonard Cohen On  Leonard Cohen by Jeff Burger,  On Tour With Leonard Cohen – Photography By Sharon Robinson, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows” By Harvey Kubernik, Leonard Cohen and Philosophy by Jason Holt, Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record, A Broken Hallelujah by Liel Leibovitz, and the English Translation Of So Long, Marianne by Kari Hesthamar.

For other posts about Dominique Issermann, including many of her already published photos of Leonard Cohen, click on

  1. Leonard Cohen and Dominique Issermann met on Hydra in 1982 []
  2. An inscription on Cohen’s I’m Your Man album reads “All  these songs are for you, D.I.” []

“I think [Leonard Cohen's new album] should be done in the…next couple months” Patrick Leonard

Key Speakers At Bloomberg's The Next Big Thing Summit

The following Patrick Cohen quote is excerpted from Madonna Producer Patrick Leonard Talks ‘Like A Prayer’ at 25 By Keith Caulfield (Billboard: March 21, 2014) [bolding mine]:

My day-to-day right now is that I’m in the most luxurious, lucky, gifted, human-in-the-world position in that I’m writing and making a record with Leonard Cohen every day.

You’ve worked with him previously, correct?

I worked on his last record. We did four songs together and it did very very well, and now I’m doing all of it. So, I’m writing with Leonard Cohen. (Laughs.)

And when might we expect that album?

I don’t know, but we’re working very quickly. I think that it should be done in the next relatively quick period of time, the next couple months, it will be finished. And I think it will come right out.

Patrick Leonard & Leonard Cohen

Patrick Leonard, a  songwriter, keyboardist and music producer who has worked with many artists (including Boz Scaggs, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Elton John, and Rod Stewart) but is best known for his longtime collaboration with Madonna on many different projects, partnered with Leonard Cohen on some of the songs on the Old Ideas album. The following excerpt is from Final Reckonings, a Tuneful Fedora and Forgiveness By Jon Pareles (New York Times: January 27, 2012):

[Leonard Cohen] wrote and recorded part of “Old Ideas” with an unexpected partner: Patrick Leonard, best known as Madonna’s producer on albums including “Like a Prayer” and “Ray of Light.” He met Mr. Cohen while producing an album for his son, Adam Cohen; they got to talking about music, and Mr. Leonard spotted potential in a poem that would become “Going Home,” easing into further collaboration.

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Richard M, who alerted me to the Billboard article. The photo of Patrick Leonard was found in the same article without attribution.

The Essence Of Leonard Cohen’s Songs’ Universality In 8 Words

I can’t believe that my predicament is unique. 1

  1. From Stolen Moments: Leonard Cohen by Tom Schnabel. Acrobat Books, 1988. Found at Speaking Cohen. []