Thank-you for an amazing website on Leonard Cohen’s work incredibly comprehensive and alerted me to films that I did not even know existed.
I had the good fortune to see Leonard’s concert at the A Sydney Entertainment centre last week (28 Jan 09) which was absolutely sensational. Very inspiring to see him in such magnificent voice, humour and with an amazing band. I also was lucky enough to see him in 1979 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. A tour that also included Sharon Robinson. That concert too was incredible and Leonard did 8 encores I remember.
My own relationship with Leonard Cohen’s music started when at the age of 14 (1969) I heard “You know Who I Am” on the local folk program in my native New Zealand. Until then I had been an ardent Beatles fan and a writer of tiny poems about icicles and frost. My father (a jazz pianist and pharmacist) had insisted that my voice was not meant for public consumption and was rather convinced that I had inherited my musicality from my mothers side (who where all tone deaf). Leonard’s songs; sparse , lyrical, pared down to their essence, spoke to me so strongly that I deluded myself that I might be able to follow in his footsteps writing poetic songs that would connect with others without the need of amplified guitar licks, drums or a vocal range over half an octave..
I became obsessed with songwriting I got a guitar and worked may way through the Leonard Cohen songbook. I went overseas and busked Leonard Cohen songs in the Subways of Paris. I visited Hydra on a pilgrimage to see where Cohen had lived with the mythical Marianne and written those songs that had changed my life.
Several years later I returned to New Zealand from Europe armed with songs inspired by that journey including “Ten Francs” - the story of a busker in Paris who never thanked an unknown patron who gave him Ten Francs for singing “That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”. (Perhaps it was Leonard himself I surmise)
I found some sympathetic musicians and recorded a self-financed album Wayward Son and made the finals of the NEW Zealand music awards in 1984 also winning an APRA songwriting award that year for the song Away With You.
The critical success of this album lead me to being signed to CBS/Sony records in NZ (Leonards own label!!) and producing two albums for them, New Locations (produced by Fairport Convention’s the late Trevor Lucas) and Living in Exile. Also opening shows for Suzanne Vega and the late Chris Whitley.
Critical successes but unfortunately lacking commercially viable sales. However a number of these songs began to be covered/recorded by other artists in New Zealand and I started releasing records independently whilst studying for a psychology degree. My research on the “Personality of Musicians” being published in the UK Journal; Psychology of Music.
For the last 12 years I have been writing and recording original songs for a 6th album with Drummer Rob Grosser. Finally this project is nearing completion and I have called the band “Famous Blue Raincoat” in tribute to the man whose music changed my life 4 decades ago. Now 40 years later I am humbled and ferociously inspired again after seeing his majestic performance as a 75 year old “kid with a crazy dream”. This old disciple has been newly invigorated by the vigor and wisdom of his performance as a septegarian at the peak of his game.
I would love to share some of this music we are making with you and other Cohen fans.