Claude Gassian Talks About Photographing Leonard Cohen: “He possessed grace and class… His eyes sparkled with laughter.”


I believe Leonard Cohen was someone fundamentally human. He never put on the celebrity act. He never made a fuss when he was being photographed. He understood my way of doing things and accepted it. He let me do my thing, gave me total freedom. I really loved those sessions because I felt I could express myself fully. Once, however, he decided to pose in a certain way. I found the result interesting because he was reinventing his image. For example, there is this photograph where Leonard Cohen rests his face in his hands, his eyes closed. He possessed grace and class… His eyes sparkled with laughter. At first, he seemed to be rather reserved, but in fact he had a keen sense of humor, he was very outgoing. When I photographed him, I felt we were working towards the same thing. He was present in my silence. He was part of it.quotedown2

Claude Gassian


From Claude Gassian: “Leonard Cohen possessed grace and class” by Jean-Baptiste Gauvin (Eye of Photography: May 16, 2017). Entire interview with Claude Gassian and 20 of his Leonard Cohen photos can be accessed at the link.

Anjani answers “Has [Leonard Cohen] become more gentle in old age?” (2007)


No, rather sharper, more intense. He has no time to lose and works very concentrated on the things he still wants to do. Unfortunately, this means that he does not have much leisure for contacts. We spend time with our families, with their children and his grandson. But we do not go to parties and have no big circle of friends either. Actually, we work mostly. A very simple life.quotedown2

Anjani Thomas


From Mit Gedächtnisschwund kommt man schon sehr weit by Von Johannes Wächter. Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin: Issue 17: 2007, an interview with Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas about their connection. Quote via Google Translate. Photo by Paul Zollo. Originally posted April 24, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“It has become part of Cohen’s role to be balladeer of the cataclysm, examining fragments of the wreckage and assembling them into weird but beautiful sculptures”

Having survived terminal commercial breakdown to fashion himself a unique niche within the record industry — which will never understand him, yet retains a vague sense that he is worth saving — it has become part of Cohen’s role to be balladeer of the cataclysm, examining fragments of the wreckage and assembling them into weird but beautiful sculptures.quotedown2


From A Purple Haze To A Purple Patch by Adam Sweeting (The Canberra Times: July 24, 1994)

Cohen Is Coming!! – Leonard Cohen’s Transition Point: Edmonton 1966

Leonard Cohen came to Edmonton a private person and left famousquotedown2

Kim Solez


Leonard Cohen’s 1966 Epiphanic Visit To Edmonton Is Coming To Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen – Edmonton 1966: In 1966, Leonard Cohen, at the invitation of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts, spent five weeks in Edmonton. At the time, Leonard was known, if he was recognized at all, as Canada’s cultural enfant terrible, the hip and trendy poet of the younger generation – or as the article, Cohen Is Coming (The Gateway:1 November 25, 1966), describes him

Present darling of the campus cognoscenti, the bohemian in-groups, English 384, the Toronto morality squad, and lots of lovers of language

Kim Solez, president of the Cohennights Arts Society, and lead organizer of the Leonard Cohen International Festival, makes the case that Leonard Cohen’s Edmonton stay was the beginning of his professional life as a pop star

The start of his feeling famous started here in Edmonton, attention that was still brand-new to him.

And, a chance meeting with two University of Alberta co-eds during that Edmonton visit was memorialized in a classic Cohen song, Sisters of Mercy.

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  1. The Gateway is the student newspaper of the University of Alberta []

“[The Future] cements Cohen’s reputation as wry nineties ironist & all-round spokesman for the human condition. Little short of a bloody marvel.”

This excellent new album continues the stylistic experiments inaugurated with I’m Your Man, with only a few nods to the jaundice folkiness that made him so popular with hypochondriacs and raving paranoiacs in the first place. Likewise, his lyrical concerns have broadened beyond familiar themes of seduction and betrayal, with numerous forays into the political amphitheatre and committed stabs into the belly of the cynical, hard-boiled nineties.quotedown2


From Leonard Cohen: The Future by Cliff Jones, Rock CD, December 1992. Found at Rock’s Backpages. Access full review at the link.

“Leonard Cohen Displayed That Knife-edge Walk Between Melancholy And Hilarity” 1985 L.A. Concert Review

June 9, 1985 Leonard Cohen Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles Concert Review

Most of  the review of the June 9, 1985 Leonard Cohen Wiltern Theatre (Los Angeles) show by Ethlie Ann Vare in Billboard (June 29, 1985) appears to have been composed by the boilerplate phrases that one assumes is given to all reporters assigned to Cohen Concerts. For example, “Cohen is first and foremost a poet.”  Moreover, he uses “his usual self-depreciating tone” when speaking to the “reverential crowd.” And there is the appearance of the always popular “Cohen hasn’t toured America in [fill in the number – 10 in this case] years.” There are, however, some noteworthy sections.

Leonard Cohen On His Songs

The description Cohen gives his own songs, for example, doesn’t seem to be found elsewhere online and certainly seems worth memorializing. His songs, he told  the audience, are

The kind of songs you sing when you don’t feel like singing

Leonard Cohen On Leonard Cohen

While not recorded in this review, it was also at this concert that Cohen described himself as

... an old veteran of the rainbows, rambling on in his invisible trench.1

From the same source, ((Various Positions by Ira Nadel. University of Texas Press. 2007 edition)) we learn

Dressed in black and playing a black acoustic guitar, Cohen sang new compositions like “Dance Me to the End of Love,” and a rollicking “Diamonds in the Mine.” Afterwards, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Al Kooper visited him backstage to congratulate him.

Leonard Cohen On Guilt

The other quotation recorded by Ms Vare is thoughtful and poignant (it also appears elsewhere in slightly altered form):

Guilt has gotten a lot of bad press lately.  Guilt is the only way we know we’ve done something wrong.

This is a rephrasing of his introduction to “The Law” the previous night, June 8th, 1985, in San Francisco:

It’s [The Law is] about our current dismal catastrophe. It’s about the Age of post-guilt. Guilt has been given a very bad name. There are entire medical industries that are devoted to describing guilt as a disease. Actually it’s the only way that we know that we’ve done something wrong.2

At the December 4, 1988 Mannheim concert, he worded it

Yes, guilt is a very under-estimated emotion. It has a lot of bad press today, guilt has. Actually, it is the only way we know when we’re doing a wrong thing. 3

And Ethlie Ann Vare Scores

I’m also going to give the author credit for her rendering of Cohen as “the black-clad troubadour of the minor key” and her hyperbolic observation, “You can’t really sing along [with Cohen’s songs] (hell, he can’t really sing along) … .”

And A Final Word About Record Labels

The phrase “Cohen’s new Passport album” used in the review refers  to Various Positions, the album that Cohen’s label Columbia Records refused to release  in the US. (Yep, this is when Walter Yetnikoff, president of the company, called him to his office in New York and said, “Look, Leonard; we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.”) Various Positions was subsequently picked up by the independent label Passport Records. The album was finally included in the catalog in 1990 when Columbia released the Cohen discography on compact disc.

Credit Due Department: The photo of the Wiltern Theatre was taken by Carol M. Highsmith, who has stipulated it part of public domain. It was found at Wikipedia.

Note: Originally posted Apr 19, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Various Positions by Ira Nadel. University of Texas Press. 2007 edition []
  2. Found at Leonard Cohen Prologues – The Law []
  3. Found at Leonard Cohen Prologues – The Law []