Tribute “of the Week”

Joe Woodard on Leonard Cohen

When Lian Lunson’s new documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your
recently premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the
tributes to Cohen’s music weren’t confined to the screen. Sure, the
film features Nick Cave, Beth Orton, and U2 doing the Cohen songs,
but prior to the screening, there were a handful of live tributes
performed as the songwriter watched from the audience.

Along with Martha Wainwright, two of Cohen’s backup
singers — Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla — also performed. As
Christensen presented “A Singer Must Die” and Batalla offered “Bird
on a Wire,” their musical support came from the guitar of Joe
Woodard, Santa Barbara’s most avant-garde string picker and a
longtime columnist for The Independent. (See Fringe

“It was a great honor to be involved in the event, even
peripherally. I figure I was on the outer, outer ring of the inner
circle,” said Woodard recently. “I’ve known and worked with Julie
quite a bit in recent years as she’s been involved with Headless
Household projects. Within the last year, I’ve become involved in
her musical world, co-writing an album-in-progress and playing some
gigs as her guitarist.”

What led to this Leonard Cohen undertaking? The songwriter’s
towering presence within popular music. From musicians meandering
the middle of the musical road to those exploring its extremes,
Cohen’s impact is immeasurable. And it seemingly stems from nothing
more than the sanctity of heart and soul of the man himself,
something he freely pours into every one of his songs.

“I can’t remember when I first fell for Leonard’s music, but it
may have been after hearing his work in the film McCabe &
Mrs. Miller
,” explained Woodard. “I was hooked then, and now.
It’s hard to imagine a songwriter whose words create poetic imagery
at once vivid and pliable. You get lured inside another dimension,
beyond the immediate, yet the songs are also so sensuous and
connected to this life.”

See for more info. The film opens
this weekend in Santa Barbara.

— Brett Leigh Dicks


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