Leonard Cohen – First He Took Manhattan


Leonard Cohen’s upcoming tour kicked off last week with his first U. S. performance in 15 years, at the newly restored Beacon Theatre in New York. You can read all about it here, in Nate Chinen’s excellent New York Times review. The entire concert-all three hours of it- will begin streaming on NPR’s website tomorrow.

Tomorrow, tickets for the first three shows of Mr. Cohen’s tour go on sale at his website. The tour begins in Austin, Texas on April 2 and ends on June 2 in Denver.

In my last post, I wrote that Bob Dylan’s music was the soundtrack for much of my life in the 1960s. It took me a lot longer to understand what Leonard Cohen was up to. I listened, sure, but I never really connected. It was Johnny Cash’s version of Bird On The Wire (on the classic American Recordings) that took me back to Cohen’s own records, and when I went back I found a wealth of wisdom I’d missed the first time through. I’m Your Man, the documentary/tribute concert film released a couple of years ago, brought me even closer to the heart of Cohen’s great work.

One of my favorites of Cohen’s early songs is Sisters of Mercy, from 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen, his debut album. As Cohen tells it, he met two young women during a snowstorm in Edmonton and took them back to his hotel room, where all fell chastely asleep. He awoke in the night, wrote the song for them as they slept, and presented it to them in the morning: “one of the few bonuses,” he said, “of being a poet.” The song appeared in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller – that’s where the video comes from. Please enjoy.


One Response to “Leonard Cohen – First He Took Manhattan”

  1. Duncan Walls Says:

    I was 16 and a young fool and folk-rocker whose repertoire ranged from 1960s Pop song I could cobble together from Lyrics in Hit Parader MAgazine and songbooks I bought and songs that were presented in Sing Out! Magazine, which is where I first discovered Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. I loved the almost sacriligious biblical imagery, pulling Jesus out of the context I was used to and his songs were simple enough to figure out, even with my limited ability. Thanks to Judy Collins I soon became well versed in his melodies until his first LP hit the local ‘underground’ radio station’s rotation and soon enough my own collection.He became part of the soundtrack of my life in as deep a manner as Dylan, Paul Simon, Donovan, Phil Ochs and soon also Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne through the singing of Tom Rush and to a lesser extent Hedge & Donna (there’s one not many remember…regulars on the Smothers Brothers and one of the first acts to cover Bob Marley in the early 1970s). I always loved Joe Cocker’s version of Bird on a Wire and of course, Jennifer Warren’s Famous Blue Raincoat LP is an astounding document of Cohen’s music.

    I still follow Leonard, his life, his writing & his music though his songs are not a part of my repertoire anymore. I’ve enjoyed his success as of late with ‘Hallelujah” becoming such a big international hit (especially in the UK where their UK Idol went to number one at the beginning of this year with an over the top rendition), though I prefer the versions by John Cale, Rufus Wainwright and most of all, Jeff Buckley whok I saw perform it one night on his first tour to a house of 35 paid customers here in Rochester, NY at the Red Creek Inn. I’ve read Various Positions, his biography and heard him on NPR a couple of years back discussing this and that. I love that he is a Buddhist Monk now and suddenly inundated with all these royalties. I imagine him laughing at the irony of it all. I know he will use the windfall well and that there will be good use made of his bounty.

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