The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
Biggest Influence on My Music
The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. There was “The Great Pretender,” “Cross Over the Road.” I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.
Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen mentioned a number of specific songs he favored. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.
Leonard Cohen Writes The Favourite Game, Plays Favorite Ray Charles Album In Hydra
Leonard Cohen told his interviewers and biographers he repeatedly played Ray Charles records while writing The Favourite Game on the terrace of his house in Hydra:
I had a little record player that ran on batteries. I would work outside on my terrace [of the house in Greece], and if I would forget how fast the sun was moving and forget to move, the record would melt, right over the turntable. I used to play Ray Charles all the time and I lost a couple of Ray Charles records, I still have them, they’re just like Dali watches,2 just dripped over the side of the turntable.3
Both Sylvie Simmons’ I’m Your Man and Ira Nadel’s Various Positions identify the Ray Charles album to which Cohen listened as The Genius Sings the Blues (released Oct 1961).
Nadel goes on to identify Cohen’s favorite song:
[Cohen] would work … aided by amphetamines and a Ray Charles record, The Genius Sings the Blues. His favorite song, played over and over, contains the line “Sometimes I sit here in this chair and I wonder.”
Well, it turns out that none of the songs on The Genius Sings the Blues includes that line in its lyrics. Those words are actually from a Gant & Leveen song called “I Wonder,” which was performed by Ray Charles (among many others) and released on his 1962 Greatest Hits album.4
I suspect the confusion about the album’s identity arose from a song with a similar name, “I Wonder Who,” but without that line in its lyrics, on the tracklist of The Genius Sings the Blues.
Further, I suspect that there were, as Leonard reported, “a couple of Ray Charles records” that he played until they warped in the Greek sun: The Genius Sings the Blues, named the Cohen biographies by Simmons and Nadel, and Ray Charles Greatest Hits, named by – well, DrHGuy. In any case, any song Leonard names as “His favorite song, played over and over, contains the line ‘Sometimes I sit here in this chair and I wonder'” merits inclusion on Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox.
Ray Charles – I Wonder
Video from samWilckersson
Credit Due Department: Photo by Rob Bogaerts (ANEFO) – GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia
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 Mar 26, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
- Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994 [↩]
- The reference, of course, is to the “Soft Watch” in The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí. [↩]
- Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul William. Crawdaddy, March 1975. [↩]
- “I Wonder” was also included on a four song French EP issued in the 1960s, Ray Charles… On Stage, Vol. 2 (Live in Paris, 1962), and BD Music Presents Ray Charles, but it seems likely Leonard would have owned the more available Greatest Hits. [↩]