The Flame-discussion thread

Everything about Leonard Cohen's new book
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Joe Way
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The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Joe Way » Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:14 am

I posted the following to a group of University of Wisconsin sports fans who I consider friends. It contains some personal history of my love of Leonard and his works, but I thought it might be a good start to a discussion of this wonderful book of poems and notebook entries.

Just received the book today. It is terrific-even though I saw the electronic copy, the one you can hold in your hand is the best.

It was 1968 when I went with my great Aunt Laura, who was governess to the Uihlein family girls back in the 50's & 60's. She took me to Wausau and I bought Leonard's book, "Selected Poems, 1956-1968" at a book store. I was either a sophmore or junior in high school. I loved that book! It changed my life and opened me up to so many ideas that I wouldn't have been exposed to in our small town. I also puked on the book-which I still have without the cover-I cleaned it up some but I had to buy another one to replace it from some collector in Toronto, I also still remember reading a poem, in our childhood bedroom to my brother in our little room with two single beds who had just come back from Viet Nam. Bill said he had perused the book and this was his favorite poem.

"Travel"

Loving you flesh to flesh, I often thought
Of traveling penniless to some mud throne
Where a master might instruct me how to plot
My life away from pain, to love alone
In the bruiseless embrace of stone and lake.

Lost in the fields of your hair I was never lost
Enough to lose a a way I had to take;
Breathless beside your body I could not exhaust
The will that forbid me contract, vow,
Or promise, and often while you slept
I looked in awe beyond your beauty.

Now
I know why many men have stopped and wept
Half-way between the loves they leave and seek,
And wondered if travel leads them anywhere--
Horizons keep the soft line of your cheek,

The windy sky's a locket for your hair

Now so many years later with so many connections to Leonard and his death still so present in my life, I peruse his last book of poetry. I'm struck by his poem "Lambchops" as we ate at Moishes the last time we were in Montreal.


Lambchops

thinking of those lamb chops
at Moishe's the other night

we all taste good to one another
most bodies are good to eat
even reptiles and insects

even the poisonous lutefisk of Norway
buried in the dirt a million years before serving
and the poisonous blowfish of Japan
can be prepared
to insure reasonable risks
at the table

if the crazy god did not want us to eat one another
why make our flesh so sweet

I heard it on the radio
a happy rabbit at the rabbit farm
saying to the animal psychic

don't be sad
it's lovely here
they're so good to us

we're not the only ones
said the rabbit
comforting her

everyone gets eaten
as the rabbit said
to the animal psychic

2006


But my favorite, is the exchange between Peter Dale Scott (b. 1929). a poet and scholar, who is a Professor Emeritus at UC-Berkley. He is the son of F. R. Scott who was Leonard's tutor at McGill. Scott sent Leonard an inscribed copy of his most recent volume of poems, "Walking on Darkness." The subsequent email exchange is recorded with the final text message relayed by Rebecca De Mornay, the night before Leonard's death.

Leonard (from "You Want It Darker." Sept. 21 2016)

"You want it darker, we kill the flame."

Peter (Inscription "Walking on Darkness, " Oct. 1, 2026)

"If you want it darker
This book is not for you
I have always wanted it lighter
And I think God does too.

Leonard (October 3rd, 2016)

who says "i" want it darker?
who says the "you" is "me"?
god saved you in harbor
while millions died at sea

you and god are buddies
you know his wishes now
here's broken Job all bloodied
who met him brow to brow

there is a voice so powerful
so easily unheard
those that hear may hate it all
but follow every word

if you have not been asked
to squat above the dead
be happy that you're deaf
not something worse instead

he will make it darker
he will make it light
according to his torah
which leonard did not write


Peter (October 4, 2016)

Who says I know God's wishes?
I've not met brow to brow
never had a chance to glimpse him
and never hope to now

But we who were raised in harbors
while others burned from war
have been free to choose which voices
made us what we are.

Leonard (October 4, 2016)

That was great fun
Be well, dear friends.
Much love,
Eliezer

Leonard (November 6, 2016, 3 p.m. in response to a photo of Peter and Sophia De Mornay-O"Neal):

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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ScottM
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby ScottM » Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:30 am

Thanks for this personal insight Joe. Poignant, funny and moving. For me, you’ve captured your enthusiasm for this publication, and you admiration for Leonard’s work perfectly. Your highlighted choices here have further whetted my appetite for more of “The Flame”.

See you down the road….
2008: Dublin/London (O2)-Jul 17/London (O2)-Nov 13/London (RAH)/Brighton
2009: Liverpool/Madrid/Barcelona
2010: Sligo x2/Lille/Las Vegas x2
2012: Ghent/Amsterdam/London x2/Dublin Sep 11&12/Paris Sep 28
2013: London (O2) Jun 21/Brighton/Manchester/Cardiff/Birmingham/Amsterdam
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Joe Way
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Joe Way » Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:01 am

Thank you, Scott-that was very touching.

I'm struck now by Leonard's poem, "Antique Song"

"Too old, too old to play the part,
Too old, God only knows!
I'll keep the little silver heart,
The red and folded rose.

And in the arms of someone strong
You'll have what we had none.
I'll finish up my winter song
For you. It's almost done.

But oh! the kisses that we kissed,
That swept me to the shore
Of seas where hardly I exist,
Except to kiss you more.

I have the little silver heart,
The red and folded rose,
The one you gave me at the start,
The other at the close.

He waited for you all night long.
Go run to him, go run.
I'll finish up my winter song,
For you, it's almost done."

I'm seventeen years younger than Leonard (and my mother was seventeen years older than him). Between the two of them, it has given me a blessed perspective on age and aging. Although I didn't discover him until his early 30's, I still feel like I've followed the major part of his career. His early poems and songs made me so want to be like him to be successful with the opposite sex. Now as I go into my later years-these poems and songs about the touching aspects of the aging process, strike me very hard.

As Leonard always said, he never found that singular lover-and I think he was thinking of Yeats and Maud Gonne which directed so much of Yeats' poetry through his entire life. I read recently that the lines in Joni Mitchell's, "A Case of You"-

"Go to him, stay with him if you can,
But be prepared to bleed."-

was a direct quote from Leonard's Mom to her.

I've been blessed to have a "love of my life" and it does make me a little sad that Leonard never found his. On the otherhand maybe we are blessed that we have the poems about the lack of it.
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby blonde madonna » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:48 am

Joe, I appreciate your perspective on Leonard’s writing. I am waiting for my copy of The Flame but looking forward to sharing my impressions with others.

It’s interesting you mention Yeats and Maude, maybe Leonard didn’t recognise his Maude, or saw her too late, or the timing wasn’t right? Then again, work and relationships are a tricky thing, time spent with Maude is time away from writing that love song, the one that will be an anthem of forgiving, a manual for living with defeat, a cry above the suffering, a sacrifice recovering, that the world needs.

“the art of longing’s over and it’s never coming back”
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Cihan » Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:26 pm

I think it says a lot about the contents of this disappointing book that there has been little aim to discuss in the time it has been out.

I understand that other factors limited what Leonard could produce for this book, but it unfortunately does not rise anywhere near to the heights of Book of Longing. Also, the inclusion of the lyrics was a waste as we all have those and access to them at will. The scrapbooks also just seemed to be a bunch of unfinished poems with a few diamonds in there.

Disappointing but still a must read for any Cohen fan.
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby lizzytysh » Thu Dec 13, 2018 4:09 am

I've just read through this thread, and appreciate all you've written, Joe. I have not begun to read it. I'm surprised to see it referred to as disappointing.

From what I understand, Leonard didn't intend for this book to be one of the sort that preceded it, but rather a final gathering of assorted thoughts, ideas, drawings, lyrics, and even some finished poems.

That is all I hope to find when I read it. Fragments of Leonard's life and thought processes. I'm used to reading and hearing his finished products. I continue to mourn the unknown, of all inside his mind that never made it to paper and that he took with him to his grave, not even by intent. I'm grateful to have the smatterings; as now, that's all that I have.

I'm also very happy to know the lyrics can easily be found, even if the electric is out, or I have no cell service.

That there is no active discussion about the contents of this book here is, to my mind, not a reflection of the book's value or any of our levels of gratitude for having it. We are all quite busy in our lives. Facebook, Twitter, and the like have a major presence in the day-to-day of many lives. Events, elections, and the gross decline of civility and decency the world over has tainted much and absorbs a lot of thought and attention.

As I read Joe's entries with Leonard's words, I felt that same aching sadness of knowing Leonard is gone and won't be back. It means so much to me that I can still look forward to glimpses of his mind. This site is where I *instinctively* wanted to come and be when I thought about The Flame, as I did about half an hour ago.
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Henning » Mon Dec 17, 2018 8:18 pm

Joe Way wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:14 am
I posted the following to a group of University of Wisconsin sports fans who I consider friends. It contains some personal history of my love of Leonard and his works, but I thought it might be a good start to a discussion of this wonderful book of poems and notebook entries.

Just received the book today. It is terrific-even though I saw the electronic copy, the one you can hold in your hand is the best.

It was 1968 when I went with my great Aunt Laura, who was governess to the Uihlein family girls back in the 50's & 60's. She took me to Wausau and I bought Leonard's book, "Selected Poems, 1956-1968" at a book store. I was either a sophmore or junior in high school. I loved that book! It changed my life and opened me up to so many ideas that I wouldn't have been exposed to in our small town. I also puked on the book-which I still have without the cover-I cleaned it up some but I had to buy another one to replace it from some collector in Toronto, I also still remember reading a poem, in our childhood bedroom to my brother in our little room with two single beds who had just come back from Viet Nam. Bill said he had perused the book and this was his favorite poem.

"Travel"

Loving you flesh to flesh, I often thought
Of traveling penniless to some mud throne
Where a master might instruct me how to plot
My life away from pain, to love alone
In the bruiseless embrace of stone and lake.

Lost in the fields of your hair I was never lost
Enough to lose a a way I had to take;
Breathless beside your body I could not exhaust
The will that forbid me contract, vow,
Or promise, and often while you slept
I looked in awe beyond your beauty.

Now
I know why many men have stopped and wept
Half-way between the loves they leave and seek,
And wondered if travel leads them anywhere--
Horizons keep the soft line of your cheek,

The windy sky's a locket for your hair
Joe, I am singing this one since 2004. I never performed in public. The melody and the words take me away to a strange place I can't describe.
IT'S DARKER NOW
1979: Frankfurt | 1980: Frankfurt | 1985: Wiesbaden - Munich | 1988: Munich - Nuremberg | 1993: Frankfurt
2008: Dublin - Manchester - Amsterdam - Loerrach - Berlin - Frankfurt - Oberhausen - London
2009: Cologne - Barcelona | 2010: Wiesbaden - Dortmund
2012: Ghent - Moenchengladbach - Verona - Lisbon | 2013: Oberhausen - Mannheim - Pula
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Joe Way » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:36 am

Henning, please practice and have it ready for the Walking Weekend! I love that poem.

Cihan, sorry that you are disappointed by it. I feel that it, like much of Yeats late work is spare and devoid of some of the lyricism of his earlier work, but very genuine, very heartfelt and effective. Most of the reviews I've read seem to agree with me more than your take.

Joe
Last edited by Joe Way on Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Joe Way » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:44 am

blonde madonna wrote:
Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:48 am

It’s interesting you mention Yeats and Maude, maybe Leonard didn’t recognise his Maude, or saw her too late, or the timing wasn’t right? Then again, work and relationships are a tricky thing, time spent with Maude is time away from writing that love song, the one that will be an anthem of forgiving, a manual for living with defeat, a cry above the suffering, a sacrifice recovering, that the world needs,

Blonde Madonna, I recently read Eric Lerner's memoir of his friendship with Leonard, "Matters of Vital Interest" and Mr. Lerner seemed to feel that Dominique Issermann should have been the one. They reconnected very late in life and she was one of the few who attended his buriel in Montreal.

Warm wishes in this holiday season to you and your family,

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby mat james » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:03 pm

I received "The Flame" for Christmas, from my flame. :)
I enjoyed reading all the comments above in this thread, positive and negative and neutral...and all are valid for this Leonard Fan 8)
I have noticed a few other "things" also, but I am still mulling and sauntering through it all, ruminating, I suppose which is relevant to the poem you quoted, Joe, on animals and eating ;)

When the mud in my mind settles, and the threads of thought dry up, and spin... from dust to dust to tangled up matter and Ghost, then I'll come back and have some fun and, of course, make a case for the Mystic.
For me, there is much in this book so far that is interesting due to the things, as usual for Leonard, that are not said; but are rather interestingly alluded to.
...but I need more time...

MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby B4real » Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:26 am

Hey Mat, I look forward to your Magical Mystery Tour ;-)

I have finished my first straight through read of The Flame and found myself slowing down through the notebook section. I’m not surprised by this because as many of you know I enjoy solving puzzles and making discoveries :) So I have to consider that these snippets may give more of an insight as to when and how LC thought, amongst other things, about some of his polished poems and songs before they were published. Leonard has called them “scraps” – well I’m happy to accept the scraps from his kitchen table which has been witness to where many of them were originally created. I’ll leave the previous sections alone for now and talk about these crumbs that weren’t really brushed from the table but were just waiting patiently there on the page for the master recycler to fashion them into maybe more digestible morsels. Befittingly, he was pretty handy in the kitchen as well ;-)

I’ve looked at the notebook section in two different ways –
1. From the perspective of those written words that were used in the same, slightly different or altered form than in the official published version.
2. Simply because the words move me in a manner that cannot be denied.

Baby I can’t speak (talk) about
The above title/line reminds me of this line, “It’s just that I can’t speak” from the song Coming Back To You.
“I’ve never seen the sky so blue/ the grass so green the day so new”
Those two lines are the same as the ones from an early version of I’m Your Man which was then called I Cried Enough For You. Plus the last verse from this same poem above is an early verse from So Long Marianne -
“Here come the morning boat/ here comes the evening train/ here comes Marianne, now/ to say goodbye again”.

Saturday Morning
… “Saturday Morning/ and I’m sitting at the table/ where I wrote/ The Tower of Song”…
Well here’s proof this song left the table intact but there are a few tiny verbal scraps left behind.

When I studied with the serpent
...“And now that you’re planning/ to follow the sun/ like a shadow of birds/ or a crook on the run”....
From the prior verse of and including this one here a goodly portion of the rest of the lines found their way into Everybody’s Child, officially released as Blessed Is The Memory. Some words were changed e.g. “planning” became “decided”, “crook” became “King” and “killers” became “kittens” - now those last two are a couple of interesting comparisons to contemplate, for more than a couple of reasons, ha!
The first “broken” became “remember” then this, “you’ve broken the promise/ you swore through your teeth/ when you saw your words end” became “and the vow of compassion/ that you swore through your teeth/ when the war began to end”, “glass (& round) paper-weights” became “German paper-weights” and “sound of a storm” became “cargo of snow”. Though “photographs” made it officially into the song “pictures” and “paragraphs” were left here on the page. Overall, it’s interesting to see how words were moved around, altered, added or left out.

I’ll try to come home
This line, “Never Gave Nobody Trouble” is also the title of a song on the official live album Can’t Forget: A Souvenir Of The Grand Tour 2015.

Field Commander Cohen is wounded
This line, “from a swarm of flies” seems to have found its way as “this swarm of flies” into the song published as Nevermind but not in the poem published as Never Mind.
I’m also noting that the second line from the song FCC states that he was “wounded in the line of duty”.
As included in my list below, I like this whole poem.

Aug 21, 1989 Mt. Baldy
This line, “In My Secret Life” is also the title of the song on the official album Ten New Songs. About a year before the date of this poem LC recited a verse in concert with a couple of different lines to the song and ending with, “of my secret life”.

like David bent down
This line, “beyond all repair” is the same as one in the song Ballad Of The Absent Mare.

to V.R. Jan 19, 2006
I know I’ve commented on this before somewhere but just to keep it altogether, all the four lines of this poem have an affinity to those in the second last verse of the song A Street - “won’t” became “may” and “dark” became “drunk”.

I never held you in my arms
Now this is an interesting story. LC said he knew he’d never finish this song. He gave it to his son Adam who later with Brock Walsh co-wrote a song called Lullaby In Blue for Bette Midler. When asked about the source of Adam’s song LC said, “The tune and the words are Adam’s; all I gave him were the words, “The child I never knew/ My lullaby in blue”. If you look at Leonard’s notebook poem you will find those two lines in this poem as well as in Adam’s song. The latter line and a similar theme are repeated in another of LC’s poems Nov ’88 which makes my like list below.

I am on one side
This line, “They’re stacking up the chairs” was spoken in concert at the end of Closing Time on many occasions. This same line is also in its close relative, Never Got To Love You from Blue Alert.

For I have been thru many lives
The whole of this poem especially the last verse is so aligned with the songs of You Know Who I Am and Nothing To One. In this poem, “a bag of cracks” has been replaced in the songs by “one broken man” – ha! I always wondered what shattered men were made of! This poem is also in my leftovers like list below.

Formless dinosaurs
As it’s a distinctly different subject for LC to write about it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say this poem was written in 1985. Other than here, he refers to these creatures by name and implied in two different songs written in only that year. You could say it was the year of the dinosaur!

There may be other examples as the above are and all are welcome to add them here.


And now for some scrumptious scraps that feed the hunger: ;-)

I’ve driven a pin through your footprint/ to make you stumble and swoon
I like those two lines for what they say and the visual image it creates.
Also, they reminds me of – "I lit a thin green candle /to make you jealous of me"

Plus including all the words in these following poems –

she loved me

This time, baby, gonna ask for the moon

Soho Metro April 8, 2006 Toronto

May 22, 2006

I’m sitting here alone

Field Commander Cohen is wounded


... I could not slip away (and also a please read for those going to Hydra this year)

Beautiful are the nights in Canada

Dear Steve

Nov ’88/ Someone that/ who I never knew/ my lullaby in blue/ and I’ll never know/ what my mother knew

You must have heard it in my voice

I asked for the check


True love is what happens between two people/ who no longer need to know each other

The truth minus 7%

I used to have a life

It has waited until this night

I’m trying to catch the future

to the young let me say

I loved you. I envied you.

For I have been thru many lives

You came to me

My above choices were for two different reasons, but subconsciously it’s probably the same one! Firstly for where they personally took me and secondly for LC’s wonderful dry sense of humour.

I’ll stop now and go back to the beginning of this book for a slower second read :)
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby mat james » Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:20 pm

Thanks, B4real,

reading your post above reminds me again that we all approach Leonard's work in our own unique way. You paint, enthusiastically, with a broad brush.
I have begun my "...mystery tour" in the Poetry Place, on the Leonard Cohen Poetry and Novels section

Since I have focused heavily on one poem, "The Lucky Night!!!!!", I thought it appropriate that I begin my ramblings there rather than corrupt this thread and from my point of view, lose sight of my tracks.
You and I have begun our journeys in totally different directions, you on your large canvass and broad sweep and I on my narrow intrigue; Leonard's "tangled up matter and ghost". Both roads valid and both fun, so hats off to both of us; and all those others who read or comment on the forum.

Like you, I am going over and over lines in my head and loving the mulling around.
Take a look if you have the time; I have said way too much...and still I have only just begun!!! :lol: 8)

https://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewt ... 10&t=38376

All good things to you, B4

MatbellybuttongazerJ.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby B4real » Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:49 am

Mat, nice to catch up with you! I was thinking along the same lines that we do all approach Leonard from somewhat different angles – ain’t that the truth ;-) and it stands to reason because we are all individuals with varying life experiences colouring our thoughts. I’ve always thought that writing means (or is a way of) reading yourself. Taking into account our varying methodologies, I reckon that makes the individual paths trod all the more interesting!

I guessed your reasons for posting your thoughts in the Poetry thread but in my eyes it would’ve been OK here and thanks for the link, forgive me for not responding there but I'm always interested in what you say. Most people here just read what others write and don’t feel the need to comment and I fall into that category sometimes too :)

btw – I haven’t read any more of The Flame since my post above. Amongst visitors and other things, on a whim I’ve been for many hours and still ongoing, reorganising and playing my entire collection of Elvis original vinyl records – LPs, 45 extended plays and singles. I have not touched them since the late 1970’s! I’ve also discovered that my collection is worth considerably more than I paid for it, especially one very rare Australian RCA LP! Remarkably, I still remember all the words to the songs so far but I now relate to some of them with a different light. Even so, it’s definitely a most nostalgic experience to say the least. Ha! Who would’ve known that my misspent youth would prove to be so profitable in later years! So I say to Elvis," thank you ... thank you very much" :razz:

You know, there are connections between Leonard and Elvis besides them being born only a few months apart. I remember Leonard saying he did like Elvis as a singer and he has sung Can’t Help Falling in Love at one concert at least and part of it at an interview. He has officially rapped with Elvis’ Rolls Royce and also performed an impromptu song referring to Elvis as having the broken lip ;-)
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby The Brucester » Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:52 am

re: LEONARD COHEN + ELVIS PRESLEY CONNECTION

Remember I was writing about Leonard Cohen singing The Kingston Trio's song "Tom Dooley" at Beautys Restaurant ?
(first verse, softly, at the counter, while Beautys owner, Hymie, looked on and grinned)

One of the original members & co-founder of The Kingston Trio...and who sang LEAD VOCAL in their song "Tom Dooley" was BOB SHANE.
>>> Now get this.....

BOB SHANE WAS KNOWN AS THE "HAWAIIAN ELVIS"....before The Kingston Trio was ever formed.

For the record (pardon the pun)....when Bob Shane met Elvis Presley in an elevator during a show in VEGAS,
Bob told Elvis he pretended to be him. Elvis glared at Bob Shane and said....

"Why the hell you wanna do that for ???" :lol:

True story! Another Leonard Cohen + Elvis....and Kingston Trio connection (sort of) !!!

ps: Bob Shane was born and raised in Hawaii and he was the first impersonator of Elvis Presley

*** A L O H A ***

- Brucester (Montreal, QC, Canada)
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby B4real » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:18 am

Ha! now that's what I call an enthusiastic reply :)
Welcome to the forum, Brucester!
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!

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