For Leonard, Forever Ago
Today on Tablet, Liel Leibovitz looks at an iconic collaboration
Today on Tablet, Liel Leibovitz writes on the 35th anniversary of Death of the Ladies’ Man, Leonard Cohen’s oft-overlooked masterpiece, whose hypnotic strangeness was born from a collaboration with Phil Spector.
Its creators, Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector, couldn’t have been more poorly matched: one, the audacious composer of teenage pop symphonies who had by most accounts gone entirely crazy, the other the singer of small and sad songs accompanied by grim guitars. What they created, after many nights of writing in Spector’s Los Angeles mansion and many days of recording in a studio dense with musicians, guns, and backup singers like Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, was grotesque but also supremely interesting. All there is to know about the history of American pop music, about the place of Jews in American culture, about Cohen, about Spector, is there in Death of a Ladies’ Man. And it all boils down to one moment: One night, at around 4 in the morning, as another recording session cascaded to an end, Spector stumbled out of his booth and into the studio. In one hand, he held a .45 revolver; in the other, a half-empty bottle of Manischewitz sweet kosher wine. He put his arm around Cohen’s shoulder and shoved the revolver into the singer’s neck.
You must read the rest here.