DrHGuy Introduction: Judy Scott is best known to readers of this site as the author of “Leonard, Marianne, and Me: Magical Summers On Hydra,” a delight for those interested in Leonard Cohen and Marianne. (See Leonard Cohen, “Two Very Different Mariannes,” & Suzanne Elrod On Hydra – Excerpts & Photos From Leonard, Marianne, and Me: Magical Summers On Hydra By Judy Scott.) In this guest post, she offers a unique perspective on Leonard’s appearance at 2009 Coachella – including a rarely seen inside look at pre-concert negotiations.
Leonard Cohen’s Profound 2009 Coachella Performance & Robert Kory’s Profound Contribution
A Guest Post By Judy Scott
I was at Coachella. I always considered myself one of Leonard’s biggest fans. But I was lucky enough to also call him a friend. I even wrote a book about the summer of 1973 I spent hanging out, talking, and singing with him on the Greek island of Hydra. We stayed in touch ever since. I attended several of his performances beginning with the 1974 Bottom Line show in New York (I went backstage to share with him my photos of him, Marianne, Axel, and other friends taken the year before). I also attended other concerts in the ensuing years, including those at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles in 1984, and Caesar’s Palace in 2010.
And then there was Coachella — the best, most magical, and spiritually uplifting musical experience of my life.
It was sunset in the small town of Indio in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The extreme heat of the day had dissipated. The ambiance and mood of the 3000 people standing in front of the stage embraced us all. We were oblivious to anything except the man and the band on the stage. And it was completely quiet as only the silence of the desert can be while Leonard worked his magic. It culminated in the entire group joining in the chorus of a magnificent rendition of Hallelujah. Tears were streaming down my face (and I was not alone). The stillness of the desert and the absence of any intrusive background sounds made the moment absolutely perfect.
“I didn’t come to Coachella to fool you” Leonard Cohen Performs Hallelujah – Coachella 2009
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Coachella: April 17, 2009
Robert Kory Prepares The Way
It was only later that I discovered the key to the performance’s ambiance and its effectiveness. At a lunch to discuss edits the family requested I make in my memoir, Leonard’s executor and lawyer, Robert Kory, told me that Leonard (ever the perfectionist) had refused to perform at Coachella if other bands would be playing at the same time as him.
DrHGuy Note: Before Coachella, Leonard expressed his misgivings:
We’d played festivals in the past, and I’m not crazy about the setup. You’re on a roster with a whole lot of other people. You don’t have the evening. I like to be in a room with people for three hours, have a beginning, middle and an end. We can’t do our whole set, it’s not our rhythm. But we have heard it’s a special hospitality there. We’ll play our best and look forward to it.1
Robert told me it was a difficult negotiation, but the Coachella management were heavily invested in Leonard appearing at the festival, so, they agreed to this stipulation.
Thus it was that Paul McCartney received top billing at Coachella 2009.
- Video: Leonard Cohen’s Raspy, Ominous Performance Of Everybody Knows – Coachella 2009
- “Here is Leonard Cohen! He is super old. I love him. He was so incredible.” The Kids, Cohen, & Coachella 2009
- “An object lesson in performance manners.” Franz Nicolay On Leonard Cohen At Coachella – 2009
Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post by Fred von Lohmann. The photo of the Wiltern Theatre was taken by Carol M. Highsmith, who has stipulated it part of public domain. It was found at Wikipedia. Robert Kory photo by Dominique BOILE.