Cohen's first performance
Cohen has always found performing unnerving. His first major attempt came in 1967, when Judy Collins asked him to play at Town Hall, in New York, at an anti-Vietnam War benefit. The idea was that he would make his stage début by singing “Suzanne,” an early song of his that Collins had turned into a hit after he sang it to her on the telephone.
“I can’t do it, Judy,” he told her. “I would die from embarrassment.”
As Collins writes in her memoir, she finally cajoled him into it, but that night, from the wings, she could see that Cohen, “his legs shaking inside his trousers,” was in trouble. He got halfway through the first verse and then stopped and mumbled an apology. “I can’t go on,” he said and walked off into the wings.
Out of sight, Cohen rested his head on Collins’s shoulder as she tried to get him to respond to the encouraging shouts from the crowd. “I can’t do it,” he said. “I can’t go back.”
“But you will,” she said, and, finally, he acceded. He went out, with the crowd cheering, and finished singing “Suzanne.”