Famous Blue Raincoat
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|"Famous Blue Raincoat"|
|Song by Leonard Cohen from the album Songs of Love and Hate|
|Songs of Love and Hate track listing|
"Famous Blue Raincoat" is a song by Leonard Cohen. It is the sixth track on his third album, Songs of Love and Hate, released in 1971. The song is written in the form of a letter (many of the lines are written in amphibrachs). The lyric tells the story of a love triangle between the speaker, a woman named Jane, and the male addressee, who is identified only briefly as "my brother, my killer."
The lyrics contain references to the German love song "Lili Marlene," to Scientology, and to Clinton Street. Cohen lived on Clinton Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1970s when it was a lively Latino area.
In the 1999 book, The Complete Guide to the Music of Leonard Cohen, the authors comment that Cohen's question, "Did you ever go clear?", in the song, is a reference to the Scientology state of "Clear". Cohen was very briefly a member of the Church of Scientology, which he had heard was a "good place to meet women."
In the liner notes to 1975's The Best of Leonard Cohen, which includes the song, he mentions that the famous blue raincoat to which he refers actually belonged to him, and not someone else:
I had a good raincoat then, a Burberry I got in London in 1959. Elizabeth thought I looked like a spider in it. That was probably why she wouldn't go to Greece with me. It hung more heroically when I took out the lining, and achieved glory when the frayed sleeves were repaired with a little leather. Things were clear. I knew how to dress in those days. It was stolen from Marianne's loft in New York sometime during the early seventies. I wasn't wearing it very much toward the end.
Ron Cornelius played guitar on Songs of Love and Hate and was Cohen's band leader for several years. He told Songfacts: "We played that song a lot before it ever went to tape. We knew it was going to be big. We could see what the crowd did—you play the Royal Albert Hall, the crowd goes crazy, and you're really saying something there. If I had to pick a favorite from the album, it would probably be 'Famous Blue Raincoat.'"
Cover versions (alphabetically)
"Famous Blue Raincoat" has also been recorded by numerous other artists, including:
- AaRON on Artificial Animals Riding On Neverland (2007)
- Tori Amos on the tribute album Tower of Song (1995) & her "Glory of the 80's" single as a b-side (1999)
- Joan Baez on the live album Diamonds & Rust in the Bullring (1989)
- Perla Batalla on the tribute album Bird On The Wire: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen
- Justin Vivian Bond on the album Silver Wells (2012)
- Kari Bremnes on tribute album Hadde månen en søster: Cohen på norsk (1993), as "Gikk du noen gang fri?"
- Lloyd Cole on the compilation album Rare on Air, Vol. 2 (1995)
- Judy Collins on the live album Living (1971) and on the tribute album Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy (2004)
- Jonathan Coulton on Thing a Week Three (2006)
- Allison Crowe on the album Heavy Graces (2013)
- Kevin Devine on his Facebook page (2011)
- FourPlay Electric String Quartet on Fourthcoming (2009)
- Przemysław Gintrowski (Polish cover)
- The Handsome Family on Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (OST), (2006)
- Hayden (Paul Hayden Desser), live with only piano accompaniment since at least 1996
- Steve Hogarth (live)
- Swan Lee (Danish cover) on the tribute album På danske læber, as Din gamle blå frakke
- Sharon Lifshitz (Hebrew cover; Lyrics by Tzruya Lahav) on Kav HaOsher (1993)
- The Like (live on Indie 103.1 FM, B-side of "June Gloom" single)
- Jared Louche (lead singer of Chemlab) on his 1999 solo album Covergirl
- Ulf Lundell (Swedish cover, "Kom du nånsin iväg" on Sweethearts (1984)
- Reinhard Mey on Poem (2014) (German)
- Marissa Nadler on Songs III: Bird on the Water (2007)
- Nina Persson on Live "DN Sommarkonsert 2011"
- Dax Riggs (live)
- Christina Rosenvinge (Spanish cover) on the album Acordes Con Leonard Cohen/According To Leonard Cohen (2007)
- Damien Saez on live album God Blesse (2002)
- Richard Shindell on live album Live at The Chandler Music Hall Randolph, Vermont: Archive Series #1 (2008)
- Sixpence None the Richer and Leigh Nash at live shows since 2010
- Solveig Slettahjell on Antologie (2011)
- Beth Sorrentino on Nine Songs, One Story (2006)
- Ornella Vanoni on Ricetta di Donna (1980), translated into Italian "La famosa volpe azzurra" (F. De Andrè - S. Bardotti - L. Cohen)
- Vassilikos on Vintage (2009)
- Jennifer Warnes on the tribute album Famous Blue Raincoat (1987)
- Maciej Zembaty (Polish cover, on multiple albums)
- Kurutz, Steven (September 17, 2006). "The Lonesome Casita". The New York Times.
- Ratcliff, Maurice; Chris Charlesworth (1999). The Complete Guide to the Music of Leonard Cohen. Omnibus Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-7119-7508-6.
- "Famous Blue Raincoat". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- Famous Blue Raincoat lyrics at Cohen's official website
- Analysis of "Famous Blue Raincoat", by Judith Fitzgerald from Essays on Canadian Writing
- Analysis of "Famous Blue Raincoat" full analysis of the song.