In 1969, Leonard Cohen released the song “Bird On The Wire” from his Songs from a Room album. The track quickly became one of his signature songs, and would be performed live by Cohen more times than any of his other original music. Inspired by an actual bird sitting on a newly installed telephone wire, “Bird On The Wire” helped lift Cohen out of a depression, and the song’s uplifting lyrics have gone on to inspire countless artists.
Two of those inspired artists were the legendary Joe Cocker and Leon Russell, who came together for the “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” live performance in 1970. Among the many songs played by the Mad Dogs band was “Bird On The Wire,” which was only a year old at the time. With Cocker’s unmistakably soulful vocals and Russell’s barreling piano lines, this would go down as one of the all-time great renditions of Cohen’s classic song.
Listen to “Bird On The Wire” on Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen 1970 live album, streaming below.
In 2015, Lockn’ Festival hosted an all-star tribute concert to Joe Cocker, with the Tedeschi Trucks Band leading special guests along a full cover of the Mad Dogs album. Leon Russell was one of those esteemed guests, participating in the festivities to honor his former bandmate. Watch their live rendition of “Bird On The Wire” below, as we now honor the lives of Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen, who both passed away last year. RIP.