10 Things American Blues Scene Thinks You Didn’t Know About Leonard Cohen

This time last year, it was 5 Things AXS Thinks You Didn’t Know About Leonard Cohen and Sony Legacy listing 12 Things You Need To Know About Leonard Cohen.  Now it’s American Blues Scene’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Leonard Cohen by JD Nash (American Blues Scene: May 3, 2017).  In this case, many of the 10 “Things” are composites. Cohencentric readers who are unfamiliar with any of this items just haven’t been paying attention. I’ve included one to give a sense of what to expect. The full list can be found at the link.

2. Cohen had a habit of living as a semi-recluse. In the 1960s, he purchased a house on the Greek island of Hydra. With intermittent electricity, he shared the house with his girlfriend, and muse, Marianne Ihlen. During this time, Cohen wrote more books of poetry, at least one novel, and music for his first two albums. Songs From a Room, contained the tune, “Bird on a Wire”, which became one of his most covered songs. At least 78 versions of the song have been recorded by other artists. When he and Ihlen broke up, he wrote the song, “So Long Marianne”. Ihlen died of leukemia on July 28th, 2016. Upon news of her illness, he wrote her a letter saying, “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.” Cohen died just over three months later, on November 7th.

DrHGuy Note: I’m not convinced Leonard’s behavior while residing on Hydra qualifies him as a “semi-recluse,” given that he lived with Marianne and her son during most of that time, spent much time with other friends, such as Charmian Clift and George Johnston, and was often found socializing in the local community. Heck, Leonard even gives a shout-out to his friends at Bill’s Bar on the island in Night Comes On:

I’ll go down to Bill’s Bar
I can make it that far
And I’ll see if my friends are still there

These residents of Hydra remember Leonard Cohen as a part of the community.


And, check out these photos of Leonard et al in Hyidra.

Finally, during that same period, he made several trips back home to Montreal to earn money working in various jobs.

Mighty odd behavior for a semi-recluse.

“Leonard Cohen’s voice is so whiskey-gravelley [in Old Ideas] that he goes all the way through Tom Waits at times and enters Isaac Hayes territory, challenging the woofer under my desk” Cory Doctorow

Leonard Cohen: Born With The Gift Of A Golden Voice

Leonard Cohen’s distinctive voice has been described so often and so strikingly that I’ve collected these characterizations under their own tag: Leonard Cohen’s Voice

The excerpt in this post is from Leonard Cohen’s new Old Ideas: pure distilled Cohen, the apotheosis of gravelly poetry by Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing: Jan 31, 2012) Photo by Ted McDonnell.

Anjani Outs Leonard Cohen & Herself As “Cleaner Fanatics”

Now, life does not just consist of art. You also have to look after profane things like the household. We [Leonard Cohen & I] are both cleaner fanatics. If everything is not spotless, we can not work. We are so similar that sometimes it is eerie. quotedown2

Anjani Thomas


Anjani’s quote is from Mit Gedächtnisschwund kommt man schon sehr weit by Von Johannes Wächter. Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin: Issue 17: 2007 [via Google Translate], an interview with Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas about their connection. The illustrative photo atop post is by Guido Harari (other Guido Harari photos of Leonard Cohen can be found at the Wall Of Sound Gallery site.) The lower photo is by Andrew Stawick. Originally posted April 24, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“If… [Leonard Cohen] often failed to live at the center of righteousness, he…maintained a sense of where that center remained, and of how to find it again in prayer and repentance” Christian Raab in Commonweal

The following excerpts are from How the Light Gets In – Leonard Cohen’s Biblical Vision By Christian Raab (Commonweal: April 27, 2017). Photo by Rama. The complete article is available at the link.

In a secular age, artists are often the closest thing we have to prophets. Leil Leibovitz’s A Broken Halleluiah (W. W. Norton) argues that the work of Leonard Cohen is, in fact, best understood and appreciated in the Old Testament prophetic tradition. Leibovitz is not reaching. Cohen was raised in an observant Jewish home and was the grandson on both sides of rabbis of considerable renown. Even if Cohen, like many famous people, often failed to be a paragon of private virtue (his womanizing and drug abuse, especially during his early career, are well established), spiritual concerns nevertheless framed his life and art. The language and imagery of his lyrics came from a biblically formed imagination. His personal faith, as he reaffirmed many times, was in the God of the Torah, and his flashes of prophetic genius were his insights into the application of biblical logic to the contemporary world. If, like many of his peers in rock stardom, he often failed to live at the center of righteousness, he, unlike most of them, maintained a sense of where that center remained, and of how to find it again in prayer and repentance.

While Cohen’s critique of contemporary sexual mores is somewhat self-evident in his lyrics, his esteem for traditional marriage is revealed mostly in his interviews. Although Cohen never married, and never personally achieved more than episodic monogamy, he pointed to marriage as the surest, if one of the most difficult, paths to true freedom, as opposed to the illusory freedom described in “Closing Time.” Cohen had already said in 1974, “I think marrying is for very, very high-minded people…. It is a discipline of extreme severity. To really turn your back on all the other possibilities and all the other experiences of love, of passion, of ecstasy, and to determine to find it within one embrace is a high and righteous notion. Marriage today is the monastery; the monastery today is freedom.” Understanding that in an age of sexual chaos, marriage could provide a route to the peace, self-knowledge, and self-transcendence for which the culture truly longed, Cohen called marriage, in 1988, “the foundation stone of the whole enterprise.” In 1993, while admitting his own failure to attain what he believed in, he reiterated: “Monogamous marriage and commitment, all those ferocious ideas, are the highest expression of a male possibility.”

Recommended Reading: 10 Best Leonard Cohen Lyrics By Lemuria’s Alex Kerns

While the lists of Leonard Cohen songs/lyrics/albums favored by one or another celebrity is typically interesting only in a how about that sort of way, The 10 best Leonard Cohen lyrics by Lemuria’s Alex Kerns by TeamRock (TeamRock: April 26, 2017) is insightful and enlightening. Many of the intriguing choices are atypical for this sort of piece (two come from poems). I’ve excerpted part of the introduction and twp of the 10 best Leonard Cohen lyrics listed as a sampling, but do yourself a favor and read the entire article at The 10 best Leonard Cohen lyrics by Lemuria’s Alex Kerns

Lemuria’s drummer and vocalist Alex Kerns discusses his greatest songwriting inspiration

It’s been 10 years since New York-based indie-punk trio Lemuria wrote their debut album. Entitled Get Better, and written in the wake of vocalist, drummer and songwriter Alex Kerns losing his father, the album was a powerful exploration of grief and sorrow – the essence of which borrowed from the blueprint laid out by Leonard Cohen, and his songs of love, loss and humanity… To mark the album’s 10th year, Kerns pays tribute to his chief inspiration, Leonard Cohen, and remembers the impact he had on his own songwriting.

‘I will not be held like a drunkard under the cold tap of facts’

“I’m cheating here, this is actually pulled from one of his poems titled What I’m Doing Here. It reminds me of those instances when you realise the truth at the 11th hour. When you’re blinded by the sparkle of a sharp sword you no longer have control of. A reminder to proceed with caution, especially when your guard has been retired.”

“I have to deal with envy when you choose the precious few, who’ve left their pride on the other side of coming back to you”

“Cohen isn’t afraid to sing about the feelings a lot of us are ashamed to admit. When read without the musical accompaniment and his emotive voice, the words on paper can be selfish and mean. Placed into context [the track Coming Back To You], they’re incandescent with humanity.”

Credit Due Department: Photo of Lemuria by Evan Kolosna – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia Commons