Robbie Fulks, the outstanding Chicago alt-country singer-songwriter1 perhaps best known for “Fuck This Town,” his nuanced musical assessment of the country music industry represented by Nashville, somehow decided to put together the “Leonard Cohen Vs Lynyrd Skynyrd”2 show, which he performed at The Hideout in Chicago on February 6, 2012. A video of one number, “The Ballad Of Leonard Cohen,” has just appeared in YouTube (2 viewings at time of this posting).
Mr Fulks himself offers this description of the show:
Lynyrd Cohen, a/k/a Leonard vs Skynyrd, as two 1970s icons duke it out via my quintet’s sensitive musical channeling. The kind of clever club programming that bored, frozen Chicagoans thrive on.
Robbie Fulks & his band - Feb 6, 2012 (screen capture)
Now, the content of any imaginable alt-country music program called “Leonard Cohen Vs Lynyrd Skynyrd” is, by definition, sufficiently outré, arcane, and downright inexplicable to limit its appeal to a tiny elite of fans.
Incredibly enough, it turns out that the group of folks who would be into something labeled “The Lynyrd Cohen Show” have a 0.91 demographic correlation with Heck Of A Guy readers.3
Consequently, Heck Of A Guy is happy to have booked the off-YouTube internet video premiere of …
Robbie Fulks – Ballad of Leonard Cohen
The video will automatically start at the point the song itself commences. Aficionados of stage banter may wish to adjust their dials back to the beginning of the video to hear Mr Fulks introduce the show.
According to Peter Applebome of the New York Times, “Mr. Fulks is more than a songwriter. He’s a gifted guitarist who has taught for years at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, he’s a soulful singer with an expressive honky-tonk tenor, and he’s a natural performer. It rings true when he says he’s only truly comfortable when he’s onstage or when he’s totally alone. But what really sets him apart is his songwriting, which is one part artful country, one part artful sendup of country and one part a little of everything else.” [↩]
Sometimes referenced as “Lynyrd Skynyrd vs. Leonard Cohen” [↩]
If Robbie Fulks had gone ménage à trois on us and added Leonard Bernstein to the program, the correlation would have been 0.96. Adding Lenny Kravitz instead of Leonard Bernstein would have pushed it to 0.975, but no one, with the possible exception of his mother, calls Mr Kravitz “Leonard.” [↩]
[Note: This post was originally published Feb 4, 2012 but was vaporized in a server glitch. I’ve reconstituted the post, but the comments are, like the Robinson family and Dr. Zachary Smith, lost in space.]
Lana, Lana, Lana – We Don’t Really Hate You
Here’s the problem, neatly encapsulated by this story by Robin Murray from today’s edition of ClashMusic.com:
Lana Del Rey Heading To Number One With Leonard Cohen In Hot Pursuit
Lana Del Rey is racing to number one on the UK charts with her debut album ‘Born To Die’.
It’s one of the most unlikely chart face offs you can imagine. In one corner, Lana Del Rey: a perfectly sculpted pop princess whose expert control of web based hype turned her into one of 2011′s most high profile newcomers.
In the other corner: Leonard Cohen. The legendary Canadian songwriter returned with his new album ‘Old Ideas’ this week, proving that the seven years since his previous album ‘Dear Heather’ have been well spent.
Widely hailed by fans and critics as yet another milestone in a rightly celebrated career, Leonard Cohen is set to make a big impression on this week’s charts. ‘Old Ideas’ currently sits at number two, with the Official Chart Company placing Lana Del Rey in pole position.
‘Born To Die’ looks set to grab the number one slot, with pre-order sales pushing Lana Del Rey into the lead. If Leonard Cohen were to over-take the singer, ‘Old Ideas’ would become his first UK number one.
iTunes Top Ten Albums - screen capture Feb 2, 2012
So, it’s only natural that Cohen fans are asking …
Who is Lana Del Rey? The ‘net nearly imploded in 2011 with bloggers trying to figure that out. And judging by her debut, even Lana (born Lizzy Grant) seems perplexed. Born to Die attempts to cast her as the sultry seductress, ever lusting after fame and the boy with the “cocaine heart.” But past that pretty-girl pout is nothing but a lost and lovesick ingénue: Think Nancy Sinatra sans the boots. But this juxtaposition works, mostly in the top half [of the Born To Die album] (“Born to Die,” “Video Games,” “Blue Jeans”), as she rolls her smoky pipes around symphonic strings and trip-hop beats, like one of Tricky’s sirens.
Elizabeth “Lizzy” Grant (born 21 June 1986), better known as Lana Del Rey, is a singer-songwriter from Lake Placid, New York, United States. Del Rey is known for embellishing her songs and music videos with an eerily nostalgic vibe heavy on Americana themes, including images of surfing, Coney Island, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe. She has also listed a large number of her artistic influences, including Allen Ginsberg, Elvis Presley, Britney Spears, Nina Simone, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Antony and the Johnsons, actor and filmmaker John Waters, artists Mark Ryden and Marilyn Minter, and photographers Juergen Teller and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Grant released her first professionally produced body of work in 2010, an EP entitled Kill Kill, as Lizzy Grant via Five Points Records with producer David Kahne. It was available for purchase on iTunes for a brief period before being withdrawn for unknown reasons. Soon after, Del Rey released a self-titled collection of songs, Lana Del Rey, for electronic download. In June 2011, Del Rey was signed with Stranger Records and issued the “Video Games” single, and in October 2011 she signed with Interscope Records. [emphasis mine]
I had planned to focus on the inclusion of Leonard Cohen among Ms Del Rey’s influences, but not only is the above listing extensive enough to dilute the Cohen reference, but when BBC 6 Music asked which musicians have inspired her, the response, according to Snipe, was “All the great masters of every genre.”
Pouty music star1 Lana Del Rey has a coy, indie persona but is owning up to a love for one pop’s iconic princesses — Britney Spears. The “Born To Die” singer says she’s not very taken with many lady artists (which we’re not exactly buying), but Spears has always fascinated her. “I’m not really interested in a ton of female musicians but there is something about Britney that compelled me — the way she sings and just the way she looks,” she told UK radio station Magic 104.5.
Let’s see, Leonard Cohen admires Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Nina Simone, … and Lana Del Rey is fascinated by – Britney Spears.
Perhaps we should move on to …
I’ve paired a few thematically comparable excerpts from the lyrics of songs performed by Ms Del Rey and Mr Cohen.
National Anthem – Lana Del Rey
Money is the anthem Of success So before we go out What’s your address?
I’m your national anthem God, you’re so handsome Take me to the Hamptons Bugatti Veyron
Chelsea Hotel – Leonard Cohen
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel you were famous, your heart was a legend. You told me again you preferred handsome men but for me you would make an exception.
Dark Paradise – Lana Del Rey
And there’s no remedy for memory your face is Like a melody, it won’t leave my head Your soul is haunting me and telling me That everything is fine But I wish I was dead
Ain’t No Cure For Love – Leonard Cohen
I see you in the subway and I see you on the bus I see you lying down with me, I see you waking up I see your hand, I see your hair Your bracelets and your brush And I call to you, I call to you But I don’t call soft enough There ain’t no cure, There ain’t no cure, There ain’t no cure for love
Lucky Ones – Lana Del Rey
Bugging into my car, got a bad desire You know that we’ll never leave if we don’t get out now, now, now You’re a crazy con and you’re a crazy liar But baby, nobody can compare to the way you get down, down, down
Crazy To Love You – Leonard Cohen
Sometimes I’d head for the highway I’m old and the mirrors don’t lie But crazy has places to hide in That are deeper than any goodbye
Lana Del Rey Performs
Born To Die – Official Video
Note: Album title song
Leonard Cohen Performs
Darkness – Las Vegas November 12, 2009
Note: A different version of “Darkness” appears on the Old Ideas album
DrHGuy Final Assessment
OK, I don’t hate Lana but I’m certainly perplexed and maybe just a tad miffed.
Credit Due Department: Photo of Lana Del Rey by Nicole Nodland
On reviewing the entire list of Leonard Cohen Nicknames , I can assure readers that Mr. Cohen has never been referenced as “Pouty Music Star.” [↩]
This is, to my ears, Joni Mitchell at her best – when her voice was exquisite, and she was mature enough to allow herself to feel vulnerable now and again but still young enough to devote herself primarily to music. She performs an excellent selection songs from her first three albums and some material that would become part of her 1971 Blue Album.
The concert, played in intimate surroundings before a small audience was recorded September 3, 1970 at BBC Television Center – Shepherd’s Bush, London, England. It was originally broadcast October 9, 1970.
I’ve included “The Gallery” below as an example. The introduction is as interesting as the song, involving Scientology and the problem of being “a lady to an artist” – especially if the artist has dumped the lady. The lyrics themselves are – well, let’s go with “bittersweet.” Viewers experiencing difficulty in identifying the artist/infidel lover may wish to consult Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things.
Soundaboard has ripped the audio from the video files, in Flac, MP3, and M4A (note that audio is 2 channel mono), making them available for download in any of these formats at Joni Mitchell – England 1970.3
Left to right: Willie Greene Jr., Terry Evans, Bobby King
Why Jennifer Warnes Sent Me A Photo Of Willie Greene Jr
Just before Christmas, the Heck Of A Guy mailbag included the photo seen above accompanied by this message from Dee:
Ms Jennifer Warnes asked me to send this photo to you at your website…so here you go.
left to right: Willie Greene Jr.. Terry Evans. Bobby King
Photo by Roscoe Beck
So, why did Jennifer Warnes send me a photo of Willie Greene Jr?
The short answer is “I asked her for a photo of Willie Greene Jr.”
No one who has read more than three Heck Of A Guy posts will be surprised to discover that we won’t be going with the short answer.
The Famous Blue Raincoat Album
That photo of Willie Greene Jr., Terry Evans, and Bobby King can indeed be found at the official Jennifer Warnes site in the Famous Blue Raincoat: 20th Anniversary Edition Photo Gallery. At that location, the legend includes, in addition to the names of the singers and the Roscoe Beck photo credit, the explanation
Recording vocals, “Coming Back to You”
Willie Greene Jr contributed backing vocals on three tracks of Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat album,1 which was released 1987: Coming Back To You, A Singer Must Die, and Bird On A Wire.
It was his efforts on that 1987 cover of Bird On A Wire that led to a concatenation of events culminating – 24 years later – in the posting of this photo today.
Famous Blue Raincoat As Audio Equipment Testing Instrument
When listening to Bird On A Wire with a very high resolution sound system you can hear what sounds like a deep guttural humming along with Warnes’ vocals. On anything less than that is does not turn up at all, or sounds like a partially blown woofer. Is that Leonard Cohen humming along?
Knowing my correspondent was not one given to hallucinations or the mid-day ingestion of intoxicating doses of legal or illegal substances, I investigated, only to discover that Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat, or as the vinyl-philes affectionately call it, Cypress 661 111-1, has a second career as a test LP for audio equipment. In tech circles, in fact, the Bird On A Wire hum is quite well known.
The review of the Origin Live “Advanced” power supply and DC-100 Motor at Vinyl Asylum, for example, describes it in this manner,
On Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat” the song “Bird On a Wire” has a low background humming by a bass. [With the equipment being reviewed,] This humming is more distinct, with greater weight and greater extension. Musically, the humming is more integrated with the melody. The integration between octaves is tighter, vocal transitions between chest and throat are clearer and more natural sounding.
A few straightforward web searches revealed substantial information about the technical aspects of the recording, a summary of which is available at the Audiophile Addendum post. At that time, however, those web sites did not identify, as far as I was able to determine, the singer of the extraordinarily low tones on the Warnes version of Bird On A Wire.
Since there was a tie-in with with Leonard Cohen, I sent a few emails to members of the Cohen cognoscente. I only received one positive response; on the other hand that same source had been correct about obscure details on a handful of other queries. So, …
I wrote that I had received
… information from that usually reliable source1 that the referenced hum in Jennifer Warnes’ Bird on a Wire is the sound of Leonard Cohen’s voice doubling behind and an or octave below Warnes.
The original post included a caveat in the form of a footnote:
This source has been 100% correct about such matters in the past, but I have no way to double-check this tidbit so if anyone has information that confirms or conflicts with the answer I’ve reported, I’d appreciate an email.
At this point, a year passes, …
… after which, word arrives from Jennifer Warnes:
Hi Dr. Hguy;
While doing some research on Jennifer’s behalf, I came across your column from Aug 6 of last year in which your usually reliable source named Leonard Cohen as the source of low humming on Jennifer’s version of “Bird on a Wire”.
I sent the article to Jennifer; she asked me to send you the true details, straight from the diva’s keyboard:
“Will you write back for me and say that this low voice is Willie Greene Jr. He sings also on Ry Cooder’s records. His bass can reach lower than the lowest note on an acoustic piano. We proved it. Ask Billy Youdelman who was the recordist or my co producer, Roscoe Beck, for proof. Leonard’s voice dropped down after many years chanting during Zen practice.”
There you have it. The ultra-low voice belongs to Willie Greene Jr. Searches for Willie Greene Jr. turn up batches of credits, including work with Lyle Lovett and the afore mentioned Ry Cooder, but, alas, no photos in which he is unambiguously identified. I did find this brief but compelling mention of Mr. Greene at the July 28, 2008 entry in Jack Bog’s Blog in a description of a Lyle Lovett performance:
But all of the side men were upstaged by the background singers who stood to the star’s immediate right. What to my wondering eyes did appear — two of them were from the earth-shaking front line of Was (Not Was), who knocked our socks off (as we knew they would) at the Wonder a while back. Sure enough, it was Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens! Next to them was bass singer Willie Greene Jr., whose voice knows no bottom and whose bottom, along with the rest of him, moved smooth as silk in synchronicity with Sweet Pea and Sir Harry. (Emphasis mine)
I extend my apologies to Mr. Greene and Mr. Cohen for the error and my thanks to Mr. Kramer and Ms Warnes for the correction.
And that was that – until three more years pass,
… at which time I received the photo of Willie Greene Jr displayed near the top of this post, which is, I assume, the response to my request for a shot of Mr Greene that I included with my thank-you note written just before that 2008 post correcting the misidentification of the humming source.
The Willie Greene Jr Gallery
Happily, with the photo Jennifer Warnes forwarded and additional help from the webmaster of the aforementioned Jack Bog’s Blog, I’ve been able to identify a few other online images of Willie Greene Jr.
The two photos below are identified as Willie Greene Jr at Discogs.com:
And finally, Willie Greene can be viewed as supporting vocalist in this Lyle Lovett performance of I’m Going to Wait at Chastain Park in Atlanta on July 6, 2008.
I hope Willie Greene Jr, my sound & TV installer, Jennifer Warnes, and Heck Of A Guy readers are now satisfied with the completeness of the answer to the original question about the source of the humming on Bird On A Wire from The Famous Blue Raincoat album if not the length of time required for that answer.
I even more fervently hope the information now offered is correct. If not, I’m sure I will (eventually) be notified, occasioning another post on the topic.
In respect to the four year lag between this post and and the first entry in this series, I have chosen to interpret it as an indicator of the tenacity and persistence characteristic of both Jennifer Warnes, who has recently been back on Tour and who performs on Leonard Cohen’s forthcoming Old Ideas album, and yours truly, who keeps blogging along for reasons as unclear to him as it is to others. I suspect, in both case, it has to do with the trait also shared by and exquisitely expressed in the lyrics of Leonard Cohen:
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags that Time cannot decay, I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet3
For the three Heck Of A Guy readers who don’t recognize this album by name, Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat consists entirely of covers of Leonard Cohen songs and is attributed by Cohen for the revitalization of his reputation as a singer-songwriter. It was also the first record produced by Roscoe Beck [↩]
For the record, I confess that I did not pursue, as suggested, confirmation from either Mssrs Youdelman or Beck, choosing inst instead to trust both the accuracy and integrity of Ms Warnes. [↩]
Allison Crowe’s resonant, rich, gorgeous voice seems as much a manifestation of Christmas as an instrument for singing holiday songs.
Indeed, a Christmas season at Heck Of A Guy without an Allison Crowe post would be like Christmas without – well, without a performance by Allison Crowe.
Visions Of Boney M. Dance In Allison’s Head
Allison, who is currently in the midst of her annual Christmas Concert Tour,1
responded to my request for a Christmas-specific memory:
For my whole life, as far back as I can remember, to me the sound of Christmas has been Boney M. On Christmas morning or decorating the tree before Christmas – I hear Mary’s Boy Child and the entire album.
I have one memory in particular of decorating the tree, (I needed a step-stool then and I still do now), in my Scottie dog pajamas and pink satin princess hat with lavender crepe train, and my initials in purple sequins, (part of my Halloween costume made by Mom), and putting up white pearly sparkly musical instruments and notes ornaments near the top of the tree and listening to Boney M.
That album is so totally ingrained for me that I can’t even tell you now if I was actually listening to it at that moment, or if that’s just the mental soundtrack that’s permanently in my head for Christmas.
Yep, a very young Allison Crowe, clad in Scottie dog pajamas and pink satin princess hat, decorating the tree to music from the Boney M. holiday album – now that’s Christmas.
Allison Crowe Christmas Videos
Allison Crowe has published a holiday album called “Tidings,” the songs from which have been broadcast live as a TV special, so she has a batch of Christmas songs from which to choose. These are a couple of my favorites (today):
O Holy Night – Performed by Allison Crowe
River by Joni Mitchell ~ Performed by Allison Crowe
It’s A Springsteen Merry Christmas From Asbury Park
Once again Heck Of A Guy is pointing readers to this nifty composite of Springsteen songs at the bigO audio archive. While that site typically carries its offerings only for a limited time, a quick check this morning verifies that this compilation is indeed available for download now.
As for the content, the goal of mchuck22, who put this program together, follows:
My goal was to create a one-disc sampler of the best tracks from the Asbury Park Convention Hall holiday shows – structured loosely along the lines of a typical show. I tried to include a good mix of Christmas favorites and essential Springsteen tracks.
And, mchuck22 has succeeded. Check out the tracks (the date refers to the Springsteen concert at which the song was recorded):
Deck The Halls (12/08/01) (894k)
Incident On 57th Street (12/08/01) (12.6MB)
Blue Christmas (12/17/00) (5.9MB)
Christmas Day (12/06/01) (9.0MB)
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) (12-08-03) (6.1MB)
Shine Silently (12/17/00) (8.9MB)
The Wish (12-08-03) (7.7MB)
Kitty’s Back (12/17/00) (14.3MB)
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (12/06/01) (4.6MB)
My City Of Ruins (12/17/00) (8.7MB)
I Don’t Want To Go Home (12/17/00) (5.4MB)
Rosalita (12/17/00) (10.3MB) (10.3MB)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (12/17/00) (7.9MB)
WMMR Christmas Message (831k)
The tracks are MP3s with a sample rate of 192 kbps. The downloads are directly from the site (rather than through a service such as Rapidshare) and require no decompression or use of codes or passwords. According to the site, “As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.”
The Artful Albeit Uncredited Heck Of A Guy Contribution
Ever wonder where they find the cover art for bootlegs?
1. The Cover Art: Immediately below is a screenshot from the BigO website with the cover art for Bruce Springsteen – Merry Christmas From Asbury Park around the time it was first posted in Dec 2009:
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.