Leonard Cohen’s Bow to George Jones

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George Jones Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is about to release an album of recordings from his most recent concert tours: not so much the hits as the rarities. On it will be his performance of “Choices,” a song that George Jones made his own and made famous. George Jones and Leonard Cohen were both on concert tours in 2013. George Jones was then 81; Cohen was a fresh-faced 78 going on 79. George Jones didn’t quite make it through his tour, falling ill and then passing away on April 26th. His had been intended as a farewell tour, and indeed it was titled “The Grand Tour,” after his classic record of the same name. And Leonard Cohen’s new album is titled Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour.

I do think that Leonard has been fancying himself quite a bit as a country singer in his latter days, using more and more of those flavors in his songs and performances, and I for one love it. But he would well know that he can’t touch George Jones, and he introduced the song when he sang it live in Germany some weeks after George Jones’ death by saying: “This is in homage to that very great artist.” And indeed it is a very sweet homage. (I think that the official recording—embedded below—is from a soundcheck rather than a concert.)

It is awfully nice to hear the younger folk keeping George Jones’ music alive. But you can’t beat the possum himself, and his version is embedded below, from his rather superb 1999 album, The Cold Hard Truth.

I guess I’m payin’ for the things that I have done
If I could go back, oh, Lord knows I’d run
But I’m still losin’ this game of life I play
Living and dying with the choices I’ve made