Leonard Cohen's musical legacy up for grabs

By Jennifer Lipman, January 27, 2011
Some of the hundreds of reels which made up Bird on A Wire

Some of the hundreds of reels which made up Bird on A Wire

Rock music history is up for grabs after a lawyer decided to sell his collection of Leonard Cohen films.

Steven Machat is offering for sale 294 reels of film of the singer, a former client of his late father, music manager Marty Machat.

The material, which formed the basis of the iconic 1974 Tony Palmer film, Bird On A Wire, includes shots of Cohen as a child and at concerts in Jerusalem and Paris.

Marty Machat's partnership with Cohen ended badly, but not before he funded Bird on A Wire, recording Cohen on stage and behind the scenes of his 1972 European tour.

The reels disappeared in 1980 and their whereabouts have been the subject of a feud between Cohen and Mr Machat, of Shoreditch, east London, ever since.

Mr Machat finally acquired the reels from Cohen in 2009, and last year the film, restored by Tony Palmer, was shown on BBC Four.

Mr Machat, 58, said he was selling the reels because he wanted to give his father back his legacy.

He said: "This is the most important thing I can do this year. My dad was my god and I was his gangster."

He said he was happy to sell the reels and end his family's involvement with the Canadian singer.

"I wanted rid of him years ago," he said. "I don't like him – he's not my cup of tea. But I do respect him. He's a damn good writer."

    Last updated: 3:35pm, January 27 2011