Leonard Cohen’s Lynyrd Skynyrd & NRA Caps

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Leonard Cohen’s fedoras on tour; photo by Sharon Robinson

The Hats Of Leonard Cohen

Cohencentric has featured Leonard Cohen wearing fedoras, caps, berets, cowboy hats, a kufi, and even a laurel wreath. The recent spate of articles about the Canadian singer-songwriter has now revealed two new caps of his. (Note: The images shown below are examples of the caps described and may or may not be specific ;versions of these caps owned by Mr Cohen.)

Lynyrd Skynyrd Baseball Cap

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The [1988] Edmonton concert was superb, the audience delirious with tears of happiness. After, the woman who was to become my wife and two female friends rushed to the backstage exit, hoping to say a few words to the master before he boarded his tour bus, to press the flesh, however briefly. Eventually, Cohen did show, surrounded by roadies and security personnel. It was cold and I remember him being bundled up, a Lynyrd Skynyrd baseball cap on his head. Not knowing what to say, I blurted out how great the concert had been and hey, we met four years ago, remember? “Beautiful, man,” was the reply.

From Leonard Cohen pulled people into his universe and made it hard to let go by James Adams (The Globe and Mail: Nov. 11, 2016)

National Rifle Association Hat

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We left the pizza parlor, turned the corner, and who should be sitting at a table outside a burger restaurant but Jikan Leonard Cohen himself. He had an office nearby, and we spent the afternoon brainstorming about how to revitalize the monastery now that our teacher was dead. “What if you put in a rifle range and get a bunch of young guys up there?” Jikan said. “Man, if I were 15 minutes younger, I’d join you.” Yes, rifles. For all the self-satisfied liberals who want to claim him as one of their own, I’m sorry, but Leonard Cohen belongs to everyone. Once, when we were waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office, he said: “My National Rifle Association hat came in the mail today. I looked at the tag. I couldn’t believe it: Made in China!” After I rearranged my jaw on my face from its descent to the floor, I said, “You’re an N.R.A. member?” He kept staring straight ahead. “Let’s keep that between us,” he said.

From Ode to Leonard Cohen, From a Fellow Zen Monk by Shozan Jack Haubner (New York Times: Dec. 6, 2016)

That Leonard Cohen attested to purchasing a NRA hat (and presumably belonging to that organization) has caused consternation and even disbelief among some fans. The NRA link is,  however, less surprising upon considering Leonard’s long history of owning, shooting, and writing about guns. I refer readers to the Cohencentric series of posts: Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen. which lists several specific pistols and rifles used by the Lord Byron Of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The opening lines follow:

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.

Leonard Cohen: Literary Marksman

Leonard Cohen’s work contains too many allusions, references, and metaphors related to firearms to provide an exhaustive list in this post. The following samples are representative.

From “Love Calls You By Your Name:”

Shouldering your loneliness
like a gun that you will not learn to aim,

From “Hallelujah:”

Well, maybe there is a God above,
But all that I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you.

From “Field Commander Cohen:”

Leave it all and like a man,
come back to nothing special,
such as waiting rooms and ticket lines,
silver bullet suicides,
and messianic ocean tides,
and racial roller-coaster rides
and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry.

From “Night Comes On:”

We were fighting in Egypt
When they signed this agreement
That nobody else had to die
There was this terrible sound
And my father went down
With a terrible wound in his side
He said, Try to go on
Take my books, take my gun
Remember, my son, how they lied
And the night comes on

Continue Reading →

Guns Aimed At Leonard Cohen

In preceding n posts, the guns have been owned by the Canadian singer-songwriter; today’s post, in contrast, features instances in which he has been the potential target of another gun-wielding individual.

Phil Spector

The best known gun pointed toward Leonard Cohen was Phil Spector’s .45. The anecdote has been repeated several times by Cohen. This excerpt, in fact, comes from a 2004 article, the title of which was inspired by the incident – “Who held a gun to Leonard Cohen’s head?”

His album Death of a Ladies’ Man was produced by Phil Spector, the reclusive genius of girl-group pop. “I was flipped out at the time,” Cohen said later, “and he certainly was flipped out. For me, the expression was withdrawal and melancholy, and for him, megalomania and insanity and a devotion to armaments that was really intolerable. In the state that he found himself, which was post-Wagnerian, I would say Hitlerian, the atmosphere was one of guns – the music was a subsidiary enterprise … At a certain point Phil approached me with a bottle of kosher red wine in one hand and a .45 in the other, put his arm around my shoulder and shoved the revolver into my neck and said, ‘Leonard, I love you.’ I said, ‘I hope you do, Phil.'”1

Phil Spector’s Bodyguards

It turns out that the gun Phil Spector held to Leonard Cohen’s head isn’t the only gun in a Cohen-Spector story. The following excerpt is from Leonard Cohen by John Walsh (Mojo, September 1994):

[John Walsh:] But most of the time [Cohen spent with Spector] was spent dodging bullets. Both the clinically paranoid Spector and his bodyguards were packing heat through the recording session. What was Spector shooting at?

[Leonard Cohen:] “Me! He was threatening me and the musicians. On Fingerprints there was a fiddle player, a good old country boy, a big guy. He played a riff, and Phil went up to him, pulled out a .45 and said he didn’t like the way he was playing it. The fiddler was a guy who’d grown up with guns. He just put his fiddle in its case and walked out of the studio, and that was the last we saw of him.”

[Leonard Cohen:] “It was a dark time. My family was breaking up. I thought I’d lost control of the record. All the takes were just scratch vocals – Phil used to confiscate the tapes at the end of each session. And all this madness with guns. … But I did challenge his bodyguard to draw on me. I started insulting him. I said You’re a motherfucking pussycat. You don’t even known how to use that [gun].”

Cuban Soldiers

During his expedition to Cuba, Cohen was in the cliched position of bringing a knife to a gun fight:

Wearing his khakis and carrying a hunting knife, he was suddenly surrounded by twelve soldiers with Czech submachine guns. It was late at night and they thought he was the first of an American landing team.2

Happily, Cohen convinced them he was harmless:

They arrested me, and the only words I knew at the time were ‘Amistad de pueblo.’ So I kept saying, ‘Amigo! Amistad de pueblo!’ and finally they started greeting me. And they gave me a necklace of shells and a necklace of bullets and everything was great.3

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Leonard Cohen (middle) wearing necklace of bullets given him by Cuban soldiers.

 

Maoists At The 1970 Aix-En-Provence Festival

Finally, there is Cohen’s report of a possible shooting at the 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival concert:

I think I was shot at once at a big festival in Aix-en-Provence. That was when the Maoists were very powerful in France and they resented the fact that they actually had to buy a ticket. A lot of them broke down the fence and came into the concert and I did notice one of the lights on the stage go out after a kind of crack that sounded like a gunshot. I don’t know. But they’re tough critics, the Maoists.4

Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen

Guns have been a recurrent motif in Leonard Cohen’s work and life. He was deeply affected 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.)
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  1. Who held a gun to Leonard Cohen’s head? by Tim de Lisle. The Guardian, 16 September 2004. [emphasis mine] []
  2. Various Positions by Ira Nadel. Random House of Canada, 1996 []
  3. Leonard Cohen: Several Lifetimes Already by Pico Iyer. Shambhala Sun: Sept, 1998 [emphasis mine] []
  4. Leonard Cohen: Various Positions, Transcript of 1984 CBC interview by Robert Sward []

Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen: Pellet Guns

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In 1986, Leonard Cohen told Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air

I have some pellet guns now and my children and I set up a little target range in my house in Montreal and we do target practice with that.1

Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen

Guns have been a recurrent motif in Leonard Cohen’s work and life. He was deeply affected 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.)

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. The photo of the air pistol atop this post is Public Domain via Wikipedia,
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  1. The ‘Serious’ Sounds Of Leonard Cohen – Interview by Terry Gross. NPR Fresh Air: April 29, 1986 []

Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen: .22 Caliber Pistol

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High Standards Victor .22 caliber pistol

.22 Caliber Pistol

The Chelsea Hotel often served as Cohen’s residence in New York. On at least one stay at the Chelsea, the Canadian singer-songwriter was armed. The following excerpt is from a 1969 interview:1

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Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen

Guns have been a recurrent motif in Leonard Cohen’s work and life. He was deeply affected 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.)

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. The photo atop this post is by Vtolfreak at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia by SreeBot, Public Domain, Via Wikipedia

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  1. Leonard Cohen Is A Poet Who Is Trying To Be Free by Marci McDonald. Toronto Daily Star: April 26, 1969. []