Mutual Muses: Joni and Leonard

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A season that celebrates legends, poets, and dream weavers...

We open this season with work inspired by Leonard Cohen, and we close the season with work by Joni Mitchell; two great examples of Canadians who transcended genres and art forms, bringing people together around the world through their lyrics and poetry. Many people don’t know what an influence they had on each other, and a shared admiration that would last a lifetime.


Joni and Leonard met through their mutual friend, fellow folk singer Judy Collins, at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival. It was there that their lifelong friendship—and very brief romance—began, and remained a mysterious and oft-cited part of one another’s lives. For artists notorious for keeping their private lives out of the spotlight, Joni and Leonard managed to sneak in a few mentions of each other in interviews.


For Leonard, Joni was a feminine powerhouse and a source of great artistic talent. Leonard was “very impressed and somewhat intimidated” when it came to Joni’s ability to paint skillfully and beautifully, as well as tune a guitar just by listening, or sit at a piano and play with ease.


Leonard was to Joni a major source of songwriting inspiration and a subject in some of her most beloved work. It is believed that Leonard was the inspiration of her song “A Case of You” in which Joni writes “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet”. 


Always the gentleman, Leonard spoke of Joni at the 2013 Luminato Festival in Toronto, with the words, Master Poet. Master Painter. Most Subtle Technician of the Deep. / You are indeed Queen Undisputed of Mind Beauty. / Star-breasted, Disguised as a Ravishing Piece, / You Changed the Way Women Sing and the Way Men Listen.


When we present Ballets Jazz de Montréal's Dance Me this September, there is a chance that someone will see Leonard Cohen anew through a different lens. No doubt the chance to be impressed by another great legend you only thought you knew well will happen again in May 2019 with Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and the Drum. We can only assure you that both experiences will be unforgettable.