Leonard Cohen’s powerful performance of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ on German TV is essential viewing
There aren’t many people who can walk up to a mic as nonchalantly and yet utterly captivating as Leonard Cohen. The folk singer and purest poet has a halo of otherworldliness that sets him apart. No more greatly is this seen than in this sirenic performance of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’.
We’re taking a look back to one of Cohen’s more poignant TV appearances as he graces German television for a rousing performance of Songs of Love and Hate track. It’s a song which has gone on to typify the iconic singer-songwriter and is drenched in melancholy and utterly flaming with intent, the song is a distillation of everything that made Cohen great.
The clip is of a breathtaking performance of Cohen’s track. It takes place on German TV on October 31st, 1979, and sees Cohen at his clarifying best. About to fully immerse himself in the Smokey Life world tour in support of Recent Songs he still had time to perform one of his hits from the past.
While some of Cohen’s back catalogue can be easily pushed into two camps: iconic and obscure, one song has been cited by some noteworthy people are easily Cohen’s best, ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’. While other musicians always pursued some version of a rock star dream, Cohen seemed purer, more honest, a real poet troubadour. To put it simply, Leonard Cohen was 100% the real deal. One such artist to name the track and the singer as a big influence on him was Nick Cave.
Speaking with ABC’s Richard Kingsmill in 1994, the singer revealed the impact Cohen’s 1971 track had on him. “I remember listening to this song when I must have been 11 or 12,” he said. “I lived in Wangaratta and I had a friend called Anne Baumgarten, she was quite a morbid kind of creature,” explains the equally morbid creature, Cave. It shows just how influential Cohen was on Cave’s career.
“She used to play Leonard Cohen in her room with burning candles and all that sort of stuff. She’d listen to Songs of Love and Hate over and over again. I started to that myself and became kind of infatuated with the lyric at that point. I saw how powerful that could be.”
“This song [‘Famous Blue Raincoat’] to me just seemed like a true kind of confessional song. It just seemed to be so open and kind of honest in some way. Whether it is or not, I don’t really know.”
“It just had that effect on me and it really kinda changed the way I looked at things. He had a tendency to air his linen in public in a way. I thought that was all very impressive at the time. I still do, of course.”
When you look back at this brilliant performance of the song in 1979 on German television it’s easy to see the impact Cohen could deliver with the heartening track. Watch Leonard Cohen performing the Songs of Love and Hate track ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ below.