Some think Leonard Cohen must’ve been a brooder. There were plenty of serious times, and then there were times that revealed a deep, creative sense of humor. Take for instance one of the times he forgot the words to a song. Leonard Cohen’s improv skills were definitely delightful.
When You Forget the Words
We all know the struggle. You’ve been here before, seen this room, walked this floor. You’re in the middle of singing a song you’ve sung a thousand times before and suddenly, you can’t remember the next line.
Worse, the entire song seems to have slipped your mind and even with prodding from friends and the audience, you just can’t seem to get it back.
Okay, maybe you haven’t been exactly there, but some place similar, right? It happens. We’re human. And so, as it turns out, was Leonard Cohen.
For Cohen, one of those times was caught on tape, during the filming of Bird on a Wire in 1972. Ron Cornelius, author of The Guitar Behind Dylan and Cohen, was on tour with him then and as he recounts, things didn’t always go as planned while they were on that tour.
Leonard Cohen’s Improv
Cohen wrote the song Suzanne and, as you can imagine, he knew it better than anyone. That is until that one time on stage that he didn’t seem to know it at all.
So what’s a guy to do when he’s standing on stage in front of a large crowd with a film crew following him around and he forgets the words? Laugh and do a little improv, of course!
As you can tell from the video above, those aren’t really the words to Suzanne. Rather than lose it, Leonard chose to have a little fun at his own expense.
His improv lyrics are funny and self depreciating. They’re also endearing. They show us another side of Cohen only his band members and close friends got to see.
So the next time you’re singing along to the radio and forget the words, just improv! At least you’ll get a laugh out of yourself. Leonard and his band sure did!
If you’re looking to compare, you can read the actual Suzanne lyrics here. If you’re looking for more great stories from the road, you’ll love Ron Cornelius’ new book.