November 16, 2016
Will this madness of 2016 never end.
While I was never a big fan of the way Leonard Cohen phrased his own tunes, I was a huge fan of the many covers of his classics. I believe I first was turned onto the brilliant songwriting of Mr. Cohen through the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen version of “Bird on a Wire”. I was hooked from that moment on the storytelling and eagerly sought out other covers. Easily my favorite cover of his was “Hallelujah” by the late, great Jeff Buckley. “I’m Your Fan” is a great tribute record to Cohen, which was released in 1991, featuring REM, Nick Cave, The Pixies, and John Cale. Check it out!
Leonard Cohen died November 7th of cancer at the age of 82. I appreciate that he was buried in a simple Jewish ceremony next to his parents in Montreal.
The piano player on the Mad Dogs record was none other than my other featured player for the night: Leon Russell. Russell’s stride piano playing and exaggerated vocal style helped him stand out from others during his high profile era of the 1970s. Starting with the Mad Dogs record I spent many hours enjoying his early 70s solo efforts. Though he wasn’t as often covered as much as Cohen, Russell made a profound impact on many songwriters that followed him. His birthplace, Tulsa, Oklahoma, named a street after him in 2010. He died this past Sunday after a few years of failing health. He was 74.
Listening to music is supposed to be a joy. Even when the artist we love and respect has passed to the great beyond we have their songs to carry us through to our own old age. I’ve told my friends and family if I ever get to a point where they have to prop me up in a corner just place some headphones on me and place my iPod on shuffle. Losing Cohen and Russell is indeed sad, but it also will lead to a renaissance of their music. Perhaps your favorite band will cover their songs. Maybe, like after Jerry Garcia died, there will be a huge outpouring of new versions of some of their deeper album cuts that you never knew they wrote. From loss comes inspiration. Through grief comes resilience and vision.
At this writing Mose Allison has passed away at the age of 89. I can’t host enough shows to pay tribute to all the musical greats who we have lost this somber year.
Take heart my friends, and hold each other closer. We’re going to need all the good love and strength we can muster.
Girl From North Country: Leon Russell (02-05-1971 – Baarn, NL)
The Partisan: Leonard Cohen
Bird on a Wire: Joe Cocker
This Masquerade: Leon Russell
Hummingbird: B.B. King
Dream a Little Dream of Me: Cass Elliott
Chelsea Hotel No 2: Lana Del Rey
A Song for You: Donny Hathaway
Everybody Knows: Leonard Cohen
Who By Fire: Coil
Avalanche: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Back to the Island: Toots and the Maytals
First We Take Manhattan: REM
Roll Away the Stone: Leon Russell (11-20-70 Fillmore East, NYC)
I Can’t Forget: Pixies
The Partisan: Eric McFadden
Delta Lady: Joe Cocker
Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley