The Lou Reed-Leonard Cohen Mutual Admiration Society
The recent death of Lou Reed called to mind his many connections with Leonard Cohen, beginning with their meeting in New York in the 1960s. Cohen summarizes their early relationship:
[Lou Reed] was an early reader of Beautiful Losers which he thought was a good book. In those days I guess he wasn’t getting very many compliments of his work and I certainly wasn’t. So we told each other how good we were. I liked him immediately because Nico liked him.
And it was Reed who introduced Leonard Cohen At Cohen’s 2008 Induction Into Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
In fact, earlier this year (April 7, 2013), Lou Reed was in the audience at the Leonard Cohen Radio City Music Hall Show.
Less well known, however, are Reed’s appearances, both as a spectator and a participant, at many Cohen-related shows. Dick and Linda Straub recall, for example, seeing Lou Reed at at Joe’s Pub where Anjani was promoting the Blue Alert album on which Cohen collaborated.
The “Came So Far For Beauty” Leonard Cohen Tribute
Lou Reed also took part in “Came So Far For Beauty: An Evening of Leonard Cohen Song,” a Cohen tribute which took place Oct 5 & 6, 2006 in Dublin. Produced by Hal Willner, it featured 24 star performers, including, in addition to Reed, Anjani Thomas, Jarvis Cocker, Nick Cave, Teddy Thompson, Mary Margaret O’Hara, The Handsome Family, Antony, Laurie Anderson, Beth Orton, and Gavin Friday.
“Memories” – The Came So Far For Beauty Finale
The finale of the show was “Memories” from the Death Of A Ladies’ Man album. Closing the show, this number was also used an opportunity for the performers to showcase their skills one last time.
And, as it turned out, Lou Reed and Anjani were paired in an exchange of the song’s lines.
An eye-witness, who writes on the LeonardCohenForum under the arbitrarily truncated designation, Born With The Gift Of A G, describes the scene in his posting, Thoughts On Came So Far For Beauty in Dublin: Part 2:
… on the second night, The Handsome Family’s third contribution was omitted; Teddy Thompson’s splendid rousing The Future was the penultimate song and the collective rendition of Memories was the closing song. Everybody seemed to have great fun with the latter, particularly Lou Reed who relished flirting with and saying the words “your naked body” to a somewhat flustered Anjani! Lucky old bugger!
Or, as Anjani commented when I asked about her duet with Lou Reed,
That was a hoot, alright
Frankie Lane, he was singing Jezebel
I pinned an Iron Cross to my lapel
I walked up to the tallest and the blondest girl
I said, Look, you don’t know me now but very soon you will
So won’t you let me see
I said “won’t you let me see”
I said “won’t you let me see
Your naked body?”
Just dance me to the dark side of the gym
Chances are I’ll let you do most anything
I know you’re hungry, I can hear it in your voice
And there are many parts of me to touch, you have your choice
Ah but no you cannot see
She said “no you cannot see”
She said “no you cannot see
My naked body”
The recording of this delight is admittedly an imperfect offering – but, heck, it’s Lou Reed and Anjani singing Leonard Cohen’s “Memories.” What’s not to like?
Memories – Came So Far For Beauty Tribute (Dublin, Oct. 5, 2006)
Note: Lou Reed begins singing at about 3:14
Credit Due Department: The photo of Lou Reed and Anjani as well as the audio recording are from Linda Straub. Thanks to Guy Minnebach for clarifying the point at which Lou Reed begins singing.