Famous Blue Raincoat

Songs of Love and HateIn a conversation, Leonard Cohen came up—in particular, his song Famous Blue Raincoat. It is my kind of song. It is written as a letter to a brother. It recounts the story of the brother cheating with the writer’s wife: “So you treated my woman to a flake of your life / And when she got home she was nobody’s wife.” Famous Blue Raincoat is filled with the kind of resignation and tired bitterness that seems to define adult life.

Leonard Cohen came up in a discussion of Jacques Brel. In discussing him and having to defend my high opinion of him, I have come to see that what I most connect with is the sadness, anger, and bitterness of his songs—both in writing and in singing. See if you can spot these elements in this recent performance of Famous Blue Raincoat:

“Thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes / I thought it was there for good, so I never tried.” Wow.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “Famous Blue Raincoat

  1. Excellent post Frank!

    I’ll only add that this performance is totally identical to when I saw him perform; notice the ‘turtle’ like appearance in close-ups-he was just like that. He skipped off stage when he was through looking like some chimera; half man/half. . .gnome? I don’t think that’s a true definition of a chimera, but you get the drift.

    A brilliant performance, one of the best I’d seen.

  2. As a result of our conversation, I went looking for videos and was very pleased to find this. You can always find songs ripped from records; it is nice to find live performances–especially ones as good as this.

    By "turtle" are you referring to the way he looks out from under the hat? I hadn’t thought about it, because I see him in that fedora and all I can think is that he is channeling William S. Burroughs. There’s nothing cooler than that.

  3. Yup, I agree! The best vids on YouTube on those showing live footage, absolutely. As you say, it’s specifically fantastic to find footage as good as this. It really was like being at the show all over again.

    Yeah, I just remember thinking he looked a little ‘turtle-like’ when I saw him live, didn’t get quite see the same kinda ‘close up’ as they have here on the vid-and it isn’t so much the fedora he’s sporting (I’m totally with ya, *anybody* willing to channel William S. Burroughs is AOK in my book!) but mainly it was his ‘cinched’ neckline with his head poking out. For some reason or other I was reminded of the turtle in the old MGM cartoons; ah, maybe It’s just me? It wasn’t meant to be critical, i adore Mr. Cohen.

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