My first tour with Leonard was in 1972. Looking into his audience, I saw a sea of beautiful faces not unlike the ecstatic ones you see in old religious paintings, where the men and women were openly weeping—and even though I was only 22 years old, I knew I was not in Kansas anymore. This was the tour when famously the audience sang to him in Jerusalem [after Cohen walked offstage mid-performance, overwhelmed by the crowd’s applause]. I was onstage when it happened; we were crying, and it was this moment when I understood the depth of his commitment and their commitment to him. I think somebody had given him some windowpane acid, and it was coming on as they were singing to him. He thought a miracle was happening, and you could see it on his face. He just sat down on the stage and listened to them sing. It was a Jewish chant, and it was heart-rendingly beautiful. I’m just this sunshine girl from Orange County! And when I encountered such depth and richness and spiritual power—when I finally understood that kind of intimacy within music was possible—I came home changed. I refused to go out on tour with an opening act for Neil Diamond, not because I disliked Neil Diamond, but because I was still reverberating from that impact. Leonard shattered my relationship with pop music, and now I’ve had this career that kind of vacillated between pop and music with meaning.
From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016).
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Apr 6, 2018.