Songs from a Room

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Songs from a Room
Studio album by Leonard Cohen
Released April 7, 1969
Recorded October 1968 at Columbia Studio A, Nashville
Genre Folk
Length 35:38
Label Columbia
Producer Bob Johnston
Leonard Cohen chronology
Songs of Leonard Cohen
Songs from a Room
Songs of Love and Hate

Songs from a Room is the second album by Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, released in 1969. It reached #63 on the US Billboard 200 and #2 on the UK charts.

Cohen reportedly said he chose producer Bob Johnston to achieve the spartan sound he considered appropriate for his songs, after the disputes he had with John Simon during the mixing sessions of Songs of Leonard Cohen. The album also features some prominent (if strictly ornamental) jaw harp.

This project was first begun in Hollywood in May, 1968 with David Crosby as producer.[1] That didn't work out, and the album was eventually produced in Nashville with Bob Johnston. Two of the tracks from the Crosby sessions are included as bonus tracks on the 2007 remaster version.

Among uncredited sessions musicians it is known that Ron Cornelius played acoustic and electric guitar, Charlie Daniels played bass, fiddle and acoustic guitar, Elkin "Bubba" Fowler participated on banjo, bass and acoustic guitar, while producer Bob Johnston played keyboards. Johnston toured with Cohen in 1970 and 1972, playing keyboards, harmonica and guitar.

In sheet music for the album, a song titled "Priests" was included, and although reportedly recorded, it didn't appear on the LP or on any subsequent Cohen record. The song was recorded by Judy Collins on her 1967 album Wildflowers, and by Richie Havens on his 1969 album Richard P. Havens, 1983.

Songs from a Room was released on CD in 1990. A Digitally remastered version, including two bonus tracks produced by David Crosby, was released in February 2007.[1]

The album cover is a simple black and white photo heavily matted as to almost wash out Cohen's face. The back cover features a black and white photo of Norwegian poet & singer Marianne Ihlen sitting in front of table with papers. The picture was taken on the Greek island of Hydra. Cohen used their seven-year relationship as the basis for several of some his earliest songs, including "So Long, Marianne," "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye", and "Bird on the Wire."

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link
Dogmatika link
Music Box 4/5 stars link
Pitchfork Media (8.8/10) link
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars April 2007
Q 3/5 stars[2]
Uncut 3/5 stars[3]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Leonard Cohen except as noted.[4]

Side one[edit]

  1. "Bird on the Wire" - 3:28
  2. "Story of Isaac" - 3:38
  3. "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" - 3:18
  4. "The Partisan" (Hy Zaret/Anna Marly) - 3:29
  5. "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" - 3:41

Side two[edit]

  1. "The Old Revolution" - 4:50
  2. "The Butcher" - 3:22
  3. "You Know Who I Am" - 3:32
  4. "Lady Midnight" - 3:01
  5. "Tonight Will Be Fine" - 3:53

Bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Like a Bird (Bird on the Wire)" - 3:21
  2. "Nothing to One (You Know Who I Am)" - 2:17


Original Songs and their Covers[edit]

"Bird on the Wire", described by Cohen as a simple country song, has been covered by many musicians including Jennifer Warnes (his one-time backup singer), The Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson, The Lilac Time, and Johnny Cash.

"Story of Isaac," based on the Old Testament story of God's demand that Isaac be sacrificed by his father Abraham, has also been covered by a handful of musicians including Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Linda Thompson, The Johnstons, Pain Teens, and Roy Buchanan.

The Partisan[edit]

"The Partisan" is Cohen's cover of the French song "La Complainte du Partisan" by Emmanuel D'Astier and Anna Marly, which is about the French resistance during World War II. The English translation was written by Hy Zaret.[5] The rock journalist Tim Nordberg notes, "[Cohen] is often incorrectly credited as the composer of the song –although he is certainly responsible for its survival." Nordberg also notes that the English translation that Cohen recorded differs from the French in that it excludes the direct references that D'Astier and Marly made in the original lyric to the occupation of France by Nazi Germany.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Digitally remastered albums". Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Dave Everley Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  3. ^ David Cavanagh Uncut, May 2007, Issue 120
  4. ^ According to the album liner notes
  5. ^ a b Nordberg, Tim. "Rock History 101: Leonard Cohen – 'The Partisan.'" Consequence of Sound. 14 January 2009.[1]