Every folkie knows … Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen at Centennial Vineyards

Leonard Cohen at Centennial Vineyards, 2009

I recently wrote about the National Folk Festival in relation to Australian stories and history, but I can’t resist also writing a little post about “the man” because he was, it seemed, everywhere. I’m exaggerating of course but he – Leonard Cohen, of course – did seem to keep popping up.

There were performers who sang his songs, such as Ami Williamson who commenced her show with “Hallelujah”. You might think that is a little cliched but nothing about Ami is cliched … she put her own stamp on the song and got us in the mood for an energy-packed show that ranged through pop, folk, country and opera, both covers and her own original creations. Her “Daughter-in-law’s lament” is a hoot. She is a versatile gal.

Ruth Roshan, with Tango Noir, also did a Cohen song, though her choice was “Everybody knows”. The ambience was more 1930s French salon, and the dusky, sensual mood of the tango, but somehow Cohen fit right in there and Ruth pulled it off, despite her gentle voice and inviting smile.

Other performers though struck out into something different – into songs inspired by and/or featuring Cohen. Margret RoadKnight sang a whimsical song by Canadian singer songwriter, Nancy White, titled “Leonard Cohen’s never gonna bring my groceries in”. In case you don’t know it, here are a few lines to give you a flavour:

I’ve a husband and a baby, there’s another on the way.
And, like Leonard, I am aching in the place I used to play.
But really, I’m enjoying all this domesticity.
Hey, I never have to deal with Warren Beatty’s vanity.
But there is one thing I regret, and my regret is genuine.
Leonard Cohen’s never gonna bring my groceries in.

Since RoadKnight – and most of her audience – were of a certain age, this song went down very well!

And finally, it wasn’t only Australian performers who paid homage to the man. There was also (the rather lovely, I must say) English performer, Martha Tilston. She spoke of her envy of Cohen’s songwriting ability and said his line from “The stranger song”, “He was just some Joseph looking for a manger”, made her feel like hanging up her songwriting hat”. Instead though, she wrote a song about her inspiration, “Old Tom Cat”. Its opening lines are:

The tilt of your hat
Old tom cat
You wear truth like a necklace
It hangs around your poetry.

… and it includes references to Suzanne, Maryanne, Hallelujah and, of course, Joseph.

Funny how all these performers all women! That’s how it goes …

6 thoughts on “Every folkie knows … Leonard Cohen

  1. Speaking of women performing Leonard Cohen songs, are you familiar with the “Famous Blue Raincoat’ album from the 1980s which has Jennifer Warnes singing all Leonard Cohen song?. Great album.

    • Hi Tony, I’ve heard of it but haven’t heard it, well not all of it, just snippets. Will check itnout on iTunes. I have seen the tribute, I suppose you’d call it, movie titled I’m your man. Plan to buy that one day … It has musicians from various countries performing Cohen songs.

  2. Very interesting. I was just the right age to appreciate Cohen when he came to fame and spent much time sitting in friends bedrooms passing a guitar around and singing Sisters of Mercy etc. I occasionally come back to him to find out what he’s up to and am usually pleased with what I hear. On the whole though, the mood of his songs doesn’t suit me all that much these days. But what a heritage of tracks he’s leaving for posterity.

    • Funny how we change … I do know what you mean about the mood of the songs being of a certain age or, perhaps, period in our lives, but he was/is good at what he does isn’t he, and that lasts I think.

    • Yes, I thought so … I guess some male performers may have too, but I just didn’t see them (though I hasten to add I dod go to male performers as well. I’m not that one-eyed).

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