“Some people write great songs in the back of taxicabs…Unfortunately, I am one who deals with tohu va’vohu.” Leonard Cohen


The cabalists interpret tohu va’vohu [a Biblical Hebrew phrase in Genesis 1:2 that describes the condition of the earth before God said, ‘Let there be light’ – often translated as ‘chaos and desolation’] to mean the raw material of creation. If you’re really going to build the universe in the image of the Creator, the process is involved with an intimate association with chaos and desolation. Those are the building blocks, the DNA. Unfortunately you have to become very familiar with those elements, those out of which form and beauty emerge, and you want to keep them at arm’s length as much of the time as possible. But when you’re trying to make something that has an enduring form or a significance, you have to deal with some of these elements. Some people write great songs in the back of taxicabs. I’ve always wanted to be one of them. Unfortunately, I am one who deals with tohu va’vohu. I don’t think my situation is unique. I wouldn’t even call what I feel anguish; it’s more like discomfort. But I’m reluctant to talk about these matters because they are essentially, from my point of view, of a religious nature, intimately connected to my work. That discomfort is refined in the crucible of attention and intuition and surrender, and what there is to say of it is in the work itself.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen, Pain Free by Sheldon Teitelbaum. Los Angeles Times: April 05, 1992. Originally posted Jun 27, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video & Photo: Fans Equip Leonard Cohen To Step Into The Ring And Examine Every Inch Of You – Colmar 2009

Leonard Cohen With Boxing Gloves and Stethoscope (Colmar)

If you want a boxer
I will step into the ring for you
And if you want a doctor
I’ll examine every inch of you

From “I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen1

“I’m Your Man” Props

As documented in the video below, the Canadian singer-songwriter, already wearing the boxing gloves slung over his shoulder, retrieves and puts on the stethoscope.

The audience seems pleased.

Next, a stuffed monkey with a (also stuffed) banana can be seen flying toward the stage where it is nimbly fielded by the now well-equipped singer/songwriter/poet/boxer/doctor/icon.

Thanks to reader, Uli, who, accompanied by her Swiss sidekick, attended the Aug 16, 2009 Leonard Cohen Colmar Concert where she shot the stellar photo of The Poet equipped with boxing gloves, tossed on stage by Vic & Beck of the UK, and stethoscope, the perfect offering of Christine Geyer,

Update: The Colmar concert was a fun show. Also see Video: 2009 Colmar Hijinks – Leonard Cohen & Dino Play The Hat Game

Note: Originally posted Aug 18, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. The next lines in the lyrics are

    If you want a driver
    Climb inside
    Or if you want to take me for a ride
    You know you can

    Disappointingly, no one drove a car onto the stage. []

“I’m not and never have been on a spiritual journey. I recognize there is a greater power. I’m just the secretary taking down notes.” Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen’s response to a query at Old Ideas listening party about how his spiritual journey was going. From A Night With Leonard Cohen by Timothy J., Program Manager, Starbucks: February 21, 2012. Note: Originally posted July 15, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Warren Zevon Turning Canadian, Covering Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan

zevonListening to live recordings of Warren Zevon playing in Buffalo (December 1991) and Cleveland (January 1992), I was so taken by his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan” and his comments bracketing the song that I realized nothing would do but offer Zevon’s song and his thoughts on turning Canadian.

Update: See Download Warren Zevon Concert Recordings Legally & At No Cost

Becoming Leonard Cohen

Prior to both of these audio clips, Zevon has introduced the Odds, a Vancouver based band backing him in this round of concerts. He then segues into their Canadian origin, which is where the first clip begins.

Warren Zevon On Becoming Leonard Cohen
(Empire Club, Cleveland, Jan 5, 1992)

Born To Sing This Song

Before beginning “First We Take Manhattan,” Zevon says,

I think the only three singer-songwriters I can stand since Bob Dylan are all Canadian. What do you think about that? So, we’re going to do a Leonard Cohen song for you here. [indecipherable] I was born to sing this song.

At the end, he opines,

I bet Leonard Cohen doesn’t perspire like this. Neither does John Updike.

Warren Zevon – First We Take Manhattan
Impaxx, Buffalo, Dec 13, 1991


Credit Due Department: Photo by Klaus Hiltscher – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia Commons. Originally posted May 20, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric