Leonard Cohen and His Women

SXSW panel reviews

Ballroom Dancing
by Gary Miller

Leonard Cohen and His Women

Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 14

The impact of the XX chromosome carriers on Leonard Cohen splays out in his lyrics and the occasional tabloid-style story about his life. Qualifying exactly what it is about women that sparks his art proved a challenge. With moderation from biographer Sylvie Simmons, singers Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla (Cohen's touring partners since the I'm Your Man era), plus Ronee Blakley (his duet partner on the infamous Phil Spector-produced Death of a Ladies' Man), worked through their own experiences. After noting that Cohen was raised by women following the death of his father and that Judy Collins was his biggest early evangelist, the trio related what Cohen had told them. "The female presence allows me to speak more clearly," he told Batalla. Simmons quoted him as saying, "The female presence onstage is very important for a variety of reasons. One reason is because they're very spiritually evolved creatures." Ultimately, the panel was about the impact Cohen had on these women who clearly adore him, from the spiritual to the profane. And for all the stories told, that impact still comes through best in the songs that are his life's work, which the ladies underscored with renditions of "Anthem" and (using a ukelele provided by audience member Colin Gilmore) "Famous Blue Raincoat."

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