Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen: His Walther PPK

Walther_PPK_1848

Ready, Aim, …

Guns have been a recurrent motif in Leonard Cohen’s work and life. He was deeply effected by his father’s pistol, a marker of his service in World War I, Phil Spector threatened him with a handgun, he has owned a number of guns, and he has alluded to firearms in his poetry, novels, and songs. As is true with most subjects that arise in Cohen’s interviews, he has been forthcoming about his experience with and thoughts about guns, discussing the matter without braggadocio (no one is likely to confuse his views with those of, say, Ted Nugent) or apology. This post is part of a collection of entries comprising a noncomprehensive sampler of connections between Leonard Cohen and pistols, rifles, bullets, small arms, handguns… . All such posts can be accessed at  Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen. (Note: This material was originally presented at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric, in a series of posts beginning Nov 12, 2011.)

Why

When asked about his interest in guns, Cohen responded

I don’t hunt. I like target practice. I kind of fell into it [gun ownership] because I was interested in becoming a cowboy at one time. … When I lived in Nashville I had a lot of admiration for these guys I saw around. They were very attractive. I liked the way they spoke, and I liked their sense of honor that these men had. A lot of them carried gun or had rifles in the back of their trucks. That’s when I started getting interested in firearms.1

Walther PPK

Leonard Cohen’s Walther PPK is mentioned in Ira Nadel’s biography of Cohen, Various Positions (Random House of Canada, 1996), as “the largest weapon he [Leonard Cohen] had at the time [when Cohen lived in Franklin, Tennessee, where he moved in 1968].” Of course, this declaration implies that Cohen owned other, albeit smaller caliber, guns. Nadel also notes that

One of his [Cohen’s] favorite places in Nashville was the Woodbine Army Surplus store. A journal from that period contains photographs of various gun counters; he became the poet with a gun.

In his introduction to “Memories” at the June 8, 1985 San Francisco concert, Cohen tells the audience about his Walther, comparing it to Phil Spector’s weapon (more about Phil Spector and guns later):

A song that I wrote with the great R’n’R master by the name of Phil Spector. A delightful chap. You really get to know him, you really did get to know him. And I had a Walther PPK. He had a just an ordinary 45.2

And, a Walther PPK/S3 earns a place in one of the poems from Cohen’s Energy Of Slaves:

Each day he lugged
a hunk of something precious
over to his boredom
and once or twice a week
when he was granted
the tiny grace of distance
he perceived that he laboured
as his fathers did
on someone else’s pyramid

Thoughts of rebellion
Thoughts of injustice
New Year’s resolutions
The seduction of a woman
All these he engraved
numbly letter by letter

Walther PPK-S
Serial No. 115142
stolen from one slave by another

Note: The gun images that populate these posts, unless otherwise designated, are illustrative only and do not portray any guns actually owned by Leonard Cohen and may not accurately depict the specific gun described in the text. Firearms of the same caliber may be produced by more than one manufacturer and in various formats.

Credit Due Department: Photo By http://www.adamsguns.comhttp://www.adamsguns.com, Attribution, Wikipedia

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  1. The ‘Serious’ Sounds Of Leonard Cohen – Interview by Terry Gross. NPR Fresh Air: April 29, 1986 []
  2. Leonard Cohen Prologues []
  3. The details of the PPK/S model can be found at PPK versus PPK/S []