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Leonard Cohen bio and Leonard Cohen/Jeff buckley sing Hallelujah

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Leonard Cohen

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Leonard Cohen Biography

Poet, Songwriter, Singer (1934–)
Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is known for his poetic lyrics and baritone voice. He’s received acclaim for such songs as “Hallelujah” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”

Synopsis

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934. An early writer and guitarist, Cohen began to compose and release folk-rock and pop songs by the mid-1960s. One of his most famous compositions is “Hallelujah,” a song released on 1984’s Various Positions. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and he received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2010.

Early Life

Leonard Norman Cohen was born on September 21, 1934 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. As a teenager, Cohen learned to play guitar, and around the same time, he began writing poetry and novels. Not long after graduating from McGill University, in 1955, Cohen decided to move to New York City.

By the mid-1960s, Cohen had become intrigued by the Greenwich Village folk scene and, with his background in music and writing, music composition was a natural step. He soon began to compose and release folk-rock and pop songs, and in 1967, made his musical debut at the Newport Folk Festival. The event spurred Cohen’s fame, and he continued to perform publicly, at concerts in New York City, as well as on the television program Camera Three, a cultural affairs program that aired weekly on CBS at the time.

Musical Career

Also in the mid-1960s, Cohen began receiving praise for songs made popular by other singers. In 1966, folk singer Judy Collins released her album In My Life, which included two singles that were written by Cohen: “Suzanne” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag.” In 1967, Noel Harrison released his own, pop rendition of Cohen’s “Suzanne.” By the end of that year, Cohen had released his first album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen, which included his version of the song “Suzanne.” The album also included the popular songs “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” and “Master Song,” among others.

Two years later, Cohen released Songs from a Room (1969), featuring the now-famous single “Bird on a Wire.” That album was followed by 1971’sSongs of Love and Hate, which included the singles “Avalanche” and “Famous Blue Raincoat.” Cohen produced three other albums before the end of the decade.

After co-writing the soundtrack to the musical film Night Magic, with fellow songwriter Lewis Furey, Cohen released 1984’s Various Positions. The album included one of Cohen’s most popular songs to date: “Hallelujah.” The song has been covered countless times, including by John Cale and Jeff Buckley, whose renditions—both considered to be smoother, vocally, than Cohen’s—received wide acclaim.

From the late 1980s to 2012, Cohen released a handful of albums, includingI’m Your Man (1988), The Future (1992), Ten New Songs (2001) and Dear Heather (2004). In 2010, Sony Music released Songs from the Road, an album of songs that were performed live by Cohen in 2008 and 2009.

In January 2012, at the age of 77, Cohen released Old Ideas. In his late 70s, Cohen continues to write music and tour, most recently with a 2012 concert series.

Legacy

Leonard Cohen—whose musical style has been deemed straightforward, prophetic and, at times, seemingly expressionless—has been compared to folk-rock musician Bob Dylan. Though some listeners have strayed away from Cohen’s baritone voice and deadpan delivery, he has enjoyed wide critical and commercial acclaim. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. He received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2010.

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Leonard Cohen: ‘I have no appetite for retirement’

As Leonard Cohen returns to play London’s O2 Arena, his biographer Sylvie Simmons reveals how the former recluse fell back in love with touring – and how wants to take up smoking again on his 80th birthday.

The singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen

The singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen Photo: AP
 By Sylvie Simmons

Who else could this be but Leonard Cohen, at a recent concert in Kentucky, confiding with a large audience his plan to resume smoking on his 80th birthday. I first heard him talk about it – before it became honed and polished into one of his droll, Rat Pack-rabbi lines – a year and a half ago in the kitchen of his Los Angeles home – a remarkably modest duplex in an unremarkable neighbourhood that he shares with his daughter Lorca and her daughter (by the musician Rufus Wainwright) Viva. Cohen, dressed off stage as on in a dark suit and fedora, was rustling up a couple of lattes on an espresso machine, which he served, in the most elegant manner, in two of those cheap, promotional coffee mugs that companies give out – in this case promoting Cohen’s 1993 album The Future.

He had just finished work on a new album – Old Ideas, which was released in January 2012. And I was close to completing his biography – I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, published last November. I had assumed, as many did, that my book would have ended in Las Vegas, with the last triumphant concert of Cohen’s 2008-10 tour. But Cohen had moved the goalposts, and I was there to interview him for the final chapter. He was on a roll – midway through writing and recording another album in the studio above his garage. Nearly three years solid of three-hour plus concerts had clearly had an effect.

Cohen’s own theory – the same theory he had to explain how he was finally cured of a lifetime’s depression – was that it all came down to age. He was in the latter half of his seventies and on the “homeward stretch” and, when it came to his work, his writing, he had no time to waste. This was plausible enough, except that Cohen was saying the same thing about mortality and knuckling down in his late fifties – not long before deciding to quit the music business and LA and live in a hut on Mount Baldy as a servant to his old Rinzai Buddhist teacher Roshi Joshu Sasaki. In truth, Cohen the septuagenarian seemed in much better shape than he was then. Certainly in better shape emotionally. And one major cause was this tour that he had begun, with the deepest reluctance, having been forced back on the boards after finding himself broke, his savings having been famously, and ironically, misappropriated while he was living as an ordained Zen monk.

Cohen hadn’t toured in 15 years – which was fine with him; he’d had never much liked touring. A creature of habits and a shy man, he also worried for his songs, afraid their purity would be soiled by being dragged before a paying crowd every night. He was also concerned that if he did tour, there might not be an audience – crazy though that sounds now after Cohen notched up one of the biggest-grossing tours of the new millennium. His return was greeted with a tidal wave of love that he’s been riding ever since, circling the world several times over, playing to the biggest audiences of his career.

Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell (Photo: copywright of David Gahr 2012)

Not only did he restore his missing funds, he’s added to them, considerably. He has no need to get on a plane and play another concert ever again, and no-one could have blamed him if he’d taken a final bow and slipped back into a life of stillness and (give or take the occasional female companion) solitude. Instead, Cohen decided – much as Dylan did – to play out his life on a never-ending tour.

When I asked him why, he sat at the little wooden kitchen table and thought about it, as if the question hadn’t occurred to him before. Quite possibly it hadn’t; he had previously told me that he didn’t examine his motivations much. “Before the pesky little problem of losing everything I had,” he said finally, “I had the feeling that I was treading water – kind of between jobs; a bit at loose ends. When the money problem arose, what bothered me most was that I was spending all my time with lawyers, accountants, forensic accountants… I thought, if God wants to bore me to death I guess I have to accept it.” It was a full-time job and “an enormous distraction”, spending day after day going through old emails and mountains of paperwork. Now and again he would, as he put it, remember he had had been a singer once. This long succession of concerts re-established Cohen as a singer and as “a worker in the world”.
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah on MUZU.TV.

Although he had gone on the road because he didn’t have the money to retire, he found that he had “no sense of or appetite for retirement”. And though he’d spent a good deal of his life craving solitude, he had grown to love and miss the band and the crew, this community of fellow travellers. When the tour ended, they had all stayed in touch; and with very few exceptions, they eagerly signed up again when Cohen decided that the new album was a fine excuse for another tour.

“I like the life on the road, because it’s so regulated and deliberate,” Leonard said. “Everything funnels down to the concert. You know exactly what to do during the day and you don’t have to improvise” – as you would if you were at home, composing or recording. He thrived on the strict regime of tour; he had always been drawn to an almost military discipline. Even as a young boy he had asked his parents to send him to military academy (his mother said no), and he’d named his first touring band – the one he played with at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival – The Army. Not without pride does he describe Rinzai monks as “the marines of the spiritual world”.

The road reminded him of the monastic life sometimes. “Once you get the hang of it,” he said, “you go into ninth gear and kind of float through it all.” You can tell he’s floating now by the way he skips on stage and jokes and flirts with the fans. As for the falling to his knees and the bowing – to the musicians who do him the honour of delivering his words, and to the audience who do him the honour of accepting them – they seem to satisfy an equally deep need in him of service and ritual. More than one reviewer likened Cohen’s concerts to religious gatherings, with a few going so far as to compare them to papal visits.

One thing conspicuous by its absence since 2008 has been the sacramental wine. Nowadays, Cohen rarely drinks. After a show, he goes back to his hotel room alone; he still has that need for solitude and quiet. As for drugs, the strongest substance I could find backstage on his US tour was a suitcase full of PG Tips – and his touring partners the Webb Sisters may have been to blame for that. But it’s nice to imagine Cohen backstage at the 02 Arena, sitting cross-legged under a pyramid tea bag, meditating on how that pack of cigarettes is only one year and three months away.

Leonard Cohen returns to the 02 Arena on June 21st. I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons is out now in paperback (Vintage), £9.99

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I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons

 

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COOL PEOPLE – Leonard Cohen on Longevity, Money, Poetry and Sandwiches

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Leonard Cohen on Longevity, Money, Poetry and Sandwiches

“I was always like a bear in a honey tree, just trying to get something without getting stung to death”

Leonard Cohen performs in Australia.
Graham Denholm/WireImage
Leonard Cohen performs live in 2013. The Canadian icon talks about his songwriting secrets in a new Q&A.

BY | September 19, 2014

Leonard Cohen is our leading poet of love, wisdom, and sorrow – and according to the lyrics of Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea,” the guiding spirit in Kurt Cobain’s afterworld. We sat down with the singer-songwriter on the occasion of his 13th studio album, Popular Problems, in a formal dining room at the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles (he primarily lives in L.A. and mostly recorded the album in his home studio, but he hails from Montreal). He discussed producer Patrick Leonard (“It was an unusually fraternal collaboration”), his fedora (“I’ve got about 20 of these”) and the aging process (“My high jump is definitely degraded”). Cohen turns 80 on Sunday, and Popular Problems will be released two days after that.

RELATEDLeonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen Offers Rare Peek Into His Writing Process

When you finish something like this record, are you proud of it?
It’s the done-ness of it that I really like. It nourishes me. Some guys don’t know how to open a door.

What are the pros and cons of working at home?
I don’t know if there are any cons. It’s very nice to go into your backyard and climb up into your studio. We had some good mics there, and both Pat and I had our keyboards, so we were able to flesh out these songs.

Patrick said that part of the process of working together was stripping out any excesses or fripperies.
Yes, both in the music and in the lyric. We were both, I think, quite compassionately savage about our vision. Pat, because he has such an abundance of musical ideas, he’ll sometimes overproduce. But he’s quite aware of that. So sometimes we’ll just say we don’t need a chorus here, we don’t need horns here, you know, we need to break it down here. And same with the lyric: If something’s obscure or just on the wrong side of accessible, then Pat will mention that and I’ll happily redirect.

How do you know when a song’s working?
You can pretty well tell. We play it for select people, like my daughter – there’s a few people who aren’t afraid to tell you that it isn’t working. We had another song on the album, which was called “Happens to the Heart,” which will be on the next album. It’s a very good lyric, a very good tune, but we didn’t nail it. So we didn’t put each other on about it – not for more than a week or two. “You know, this song really doesn’t make it.” “Thank God you said that, Pat, because I can’t stand it.”

Has your approach to making music has changed over the decades?
I never had an approach. I was always like a bear in a honey tree, just trying to get something without getting stung to death.

Is financial necessity is good or bad for art?
I think it levels the ground. I never had huge amounts of money when I was young. I had huge amounts of fame, and I always had the sense of labor and recompense. I always said I don’t want to work for pay, but I want to get paid for my song. Financial necessity of course arose in a very acute manner a few years ago. [His then-manager stole over $5 million from his retirement account.] I thought I had a little bread, enough to get by. I found I didn’t – for which I’m very grateful because it spurred a lot of activity.

I was curious about a lyric on “Nevermind,” “There’s truth that lives and there’s truth that dies.”
“There’s truth that lives and truth that dies. I don’t know which, so never mind. There is no need that this survive, there’s truth that lives and truth that dies.” It’s one of those phrases that resonates in some corner of the heart. And I don’t think it serves us well to explain it or to analyze it or to interpret it. It sounded right to me. There are certain truths that are in a dormant stage that you can’t always locate or be nourished by. But they’re there.

When you’re writing a song, are you aware that you’re tapping into something that you may not have a conscious handle on?
Well, I think that sometimes when you’re in ninth gear, or when you’re really skiing down the slope – you’re right on top of the snow, you don’t want to go any deeper. As someone said, you learn to stop bravely at the surface. If you hear something that really resonates, you just fold your hands in gratitude and try to incorporate it into the song. Sometimes those obscurities are just bullshit and they have to be excised; they have to be ruthlessly removed even if they sound good. Because they produce a disconnect in the song that every listener feels unconsciously. If you feel somebody’s trying to put you on, you really feel it.

Do you write much poetry that isn’t suitable for lyrics?
Oh, yeah. And sometimes I think, “What the hell am I doing? It doesn’t mean anything, it’s deeply irrelevant. Not just to everybody else but to myself.” But what else are you going to do? Everything else has gone away. Most of the things that I’ve liked to do, for one reason or another, it’s often inappropriate to do them.

At age 80, are there things you can’t do that you used to be able to?
There’s a lot of things that you can do that you couldn’t do when you were younger. You depend on a certain resilience that is not yours to command, but which is present. And if you can sense this resilience or sense this capacity to continue, it means a lot more at this age than it did when I was 30, when I took it for granted.

What are you good at that has nothing to do with music?
I can make a couple of good sandwiches: tuna salad and chopped egg salad. And Greek bean soup. I was a cook for my old Zen master for many years. So there were two or three dishes that he liked, you know. Teriyaki salmon, a few things. I wouldn’t call myself a good cook by any means. My son is a very good cook. My curries are not bad.

Do you write songs faster or slower than you used to?
There’s always a group of songs that I’m working at. Some of them are 10 years old, and some of them are just a few weeks old. I’m always trying to adjust these songs to some position where I can bring them to completion. There’s a few songs that I would like to finish before I die. One in particular, it’s a lovely melody that I can’t find any words for. I’ve been trying for a good 15 years. I’ve tried many, many versions. And God willing, maybe something will happen.

After you’re gone, what would you want people to remember about you?
I never give that much thought. Some people care about their work lasting forever – I have little interest in it. You probably know that great story about Bob Hope. His wife came to him and said, “There’s two plots available at Forest Lawn. One looks at some beautiful cypress trees, one looks over the valley. Which do you think you’d prefer?” He said, “Surprise me.” That’s the way I feel about posterity and how I’m remembered. Surprise me.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/leonard-cohen-on-longevity-money-poetry-and-sandwiches-20140919#ixzz3DsKV0y8m
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THE SUBLIME JUDY COLLINS

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THE SUBLIME JUDY COLLINS

“SOME DAY SOON” JUDY COLLINS ON THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW 1969

“SEND IN THE CLOWNS” JUDY COLLINS

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“I AM A MAID OF CONSTANT SORROW”

Judy Collins has inspired audiences with sublime vocals, boldly vulnerable songwriting, personal life triumphs, and a firm commitment to social activism. In the 1960s, she evoked both the idealism and steely determination of a generation united against social and environmental injustices. Five decades later, her luminescent presence shines brightly as new generations bask in the glow of her iconic 50-album body of work, and heed inspiration from her spiritual discipline to thrive in the music industry for half a century.

The award-winning singer-songwriter is esteemed for her imaginative interpretations of traditional and contemporary folk standards and her own poetically poignant original compositions. Her stunning rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” from her landmark 1967 album, Wildflowers, has been entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Judy’s dreamy and sweetly intimate version of “Send in the Clowns,” a ballad written by Stephen Sondheim for the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, won “Song of the Year” at the 1975 Grammy Awards. She’s garnered several top-ten hits gold- and platinum-selling albums. Recently, contemporary and classic artists such as Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, Arlo Gutherie, Joan Baez, and Leonard Cohen honored her legacy with the album Born to the Breed: A Tribute to Judy Collins.

Judy began her impressive music career at 13 as a piano prodigy dazzling audiences performing Mozart’s “Concerto for Two Pianos,” but the hardluck tales and rugged sensitivity of folk revival music by artists such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger seduced her away from a life as a concert pianist. Her path pointed to a lifelong love affair with the guitar and pursuit of emotional truth in lyrics. The focus and regimented practice of classical music, however, would be a source of strength to her inner core as she navigated the highs and lows of the music business.

In 1961, she released her masterful debut, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, which featured interpretative works of social poets of the time such as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and Tom Paxton. This began a wonderfully fertile thirty-five year creative relationship with Jac Holzman and Elektra Records. Around this time Judy became a tastemaker within the thriving Greenwich Village folk community, and brought other singer-songwriters to a wider audience, including poet/musician Leonard Cohen – and musicians Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. Throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and up to the present, she has remained a vital artist, enriching her catalog with critically acclaimed albums while balancing a robust touring schedule.

bohoBased on the success of the CD/DVD Judy Collins Live At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, which aired on PBS, Judy Collins filmed another spectacular show in Ireland, on September 29, 2013 at Dromoland Castle. The show features some classic Judy Collins songs like Chelsea Morning, Cat’s In The Cradle, Bird On A Wire as well as some of her favorite Irish tunes … Wild Mountain Thyme, She Moved Through the Fair (featuring the amazing Mary Black) and of course, Danny Boy. JUDY COLLINS LIVE IN IRELAND will air on PBS nationwide in early 2014.

Judy has also authored several books, including the powerful and inspiring, Sanity & Grace. For her most recent title, the memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music, she reaches deeply inside and, with unflinching candor, recalls her turbulent childhood, extraordinary rise to fame, her romance with Stephen Stills, her epic victories over depression and alcoholism, and her redemption through embracing a healthy and stable lifestyle and finding true love with Louis Nelson, her partner of 30 years. In addition, she remains a social activist, representing UNICEF and numerous other causes. She is also the co-director, with Jill Godmillow, of an Academy Award-nominated film about Antonia Brico, the first woman to conduct major symphonies around the world–and Judy’s classical piano teacher when she was young.
Judy Collins, now 74, is as creatively vigorous as ever, writing, touring worldwide, and nurturing fresh talent. She is a modern day Renaissance woman who is also an accomplished painter, filmmaker, record label head, musical mentor, and an in-demand keynote speaker for mental health and suicide prevention. She continues to create music of hope and healing that lights up the world and speaks to the heart.

SPOT LIGHT ON:LEONARD COHEN,HIS LIFE AND MUSIC VIDEO

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Leonard Norman Cohen was born in 1934. He is a winning singer songwriter and excellent poet. He has Been inducted into The American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Hall of Fame.He also received an award for literature. He, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon have been recognized as one of the most influential musical persons. He is a poet, writer, and song writer and is considered a Renaissance man who pushes all boundaries.

Check out this video on YouTube:http://youtu.be/DmEsfsUoUys