“[My work] may not be always easy to understand, but it is easy to embrace…” Leonard Cohen on the Comprehension of His Songs


Interviewer: “His work, I put to him [Leonard Cohen], is not always easy to understand.”

No. Well, it may not be always easy to understand, but it is easy to embrace. It’s simple. ‘All at once the torches flare / The inner door flies open / One by one they enter there / In every style of passion.’ Every style of passion is in my work… It’s best just to think of these as little songs, not terribly complicated, not any more complicated than anyone’s experience. How could they be? It is the work of my heart.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Love Me, Love My Gun Barrel by Graham Lock. New Musical Express: February 23, 1980. Photo of Leonard Cohen performing in Amsterdam, 1980 by Pete Purnell.

A discussion of related issues can be found at Three Characteristics That Make A Song A Leonard Cohen Song: #3. Artistic Design – Introduction

Leonard Cohen on the significance of “The Guests”

Its sensibility is sponsored by the poems of Rumi and Attar, who are Persian poets of the 12th and 13th centuries. I guess it’s a religious song, just about our strangerhood on the Earth and how it’s resolved. ‘One by one, the guests arrive/Guests are coming through/The openhearted many/The brokenhearted few.’ [The guests ask] ‘Where is God? Where is truth? Where is life?’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Poet of Brokenness by Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone: 30 November 2016) Note:  The entire article – an excellent read – is available at the link.

Pristine Video: Leonard Cohen Performs The Guests On French TV – 1979

Leonard Cohen - screen capture from French TV

Leonard Cohen – screen capture from French TV

And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh, love I need you, I need you, I need you, I need you, oh
I need you now

This extraordinarily vivid video of Leonard Cohen singing “The Guests” was originally broadcast on French TV on December 15, 1979.1

lc-french-tv--dec-15-1979-violinist.jjpgAccompanying Cohen on the violin – and evoking smiles of approbation from him –  is Armenian Raffi Hakopian.

Leonard Cohen – The Guests
French TV: December 15, 1979

Note: Originally posted July 17, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Date provided by INA.fr archives []

Best Videos Of 2012 Leonard Cohen Tour: The Guests – Madrid

guestsOne by one, the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few
And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh, love I need you, I need you, I need you, I need you, oh
I need you now

Best 2012 Leonard Cohen Videos: Cohencentric.com features selections from the Best Of 2012 Leonard Cohen Tour Video Setlist, which comprises the best available video of each of the songs performed during the 2012 Leonard Cohen World Tour.

Leonard Cohen – The Guests
Madrid: Oct 5, 2012
Video by

On Location At The King Edward Hotel – Film Site Of Leonard Cohen’s “I Am A Hotel”


The King Eddy Ballroom Of Leonard Cohen’s Memories

While I was gamboling on the beach enjoying vacation, Sally Hunter was diligently examining a Toronto landmark with a special connection to Leonard Cohen. Sally writes:

Every year Toronto has an event called “Doors Open”. For a weekend, many places are opened to the public – everything from the subway yards, boardrooms, historic buildings, and even the oldest Jewish Cemetery, which usually has it’s doors locked. Among those on the list this year was the King Edward Hotel – one of the last old grand hotels remaining. The King Eddy has a long and illustrious history, hosting many celebrities and dignitaries – the Beatles did a bed in here, scandalously Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shared a suite, though they were not married, etc. The Hotel opened the Crystal Ballroom, on the 17th floor, up to the public. The Hotel is where “I am a Hotel” was filmed, and the Crystal Ballroom was featured as Cohen sang “Memories”. The Crystal Ballroom was used from the early 20’s to the 50’s when it was shut down due to changing fire regulations. It was stripped of it’s chandeliers, fixtures and even the hardwood flooring. This will be the last time the room is opened to the public, as it looks now. The Hotel has now been purchased by another investor who plans to revamp the hotel, refurbish rooms and add luxury condos (the cheapest begin at $400,000). I am sending you a link to several of the pictures, in case you are interested. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingermadd … 168146900/

All of Sally’s photos are interesting and worth viewing.  One of those, a shot of the ballroom, is displayed below a screen capture from the “Memories” performance in “I Am A Hotel” that was filmed in the same spot.

Screen capture of "Memories" from I Am A Hotel

Screen capture of “Memories” from I Am A Hotel


I Am A Hotel

King_Edward_HotelLeonard Cohen provided the music for and helped write “I Am a Hotel,” a 24 minute video produced in 1983  by Allan Nichols for Blue Memorial Video1 Ltd (the chairman of the company and one of the owners is Cohen) which won the Golden Rose at an international television festival in Montreux.

The concept of this 24 min video is based on the reminiscences of a hotel – or some rooms of the hotel. Leonard Cohen plays a (long term) resident of the hotel. Each song is depicted by a little visual story involving some of the guests. There are no words other than those in the songs. “Memories” is set to a dance (like a prom) with Cohen up on stage leading the band. The two dancers that are featured in this vignette are very good (the bellboy and a hotel maid in the film). Choreography by Ann Ditchburn.2

The making of the film was not without difficulties, as explained in this excerpt from In Every Style of Passion by Jim Devlin:3

Getting the project off the ground and onto the screen ran into severe problems when the original backers, C Channel Pay-TV, went bust six days before shooting began. CBC came to the rescue and the rest is graphic imagery. The stars were Toller Cranston, the skater, in his first acting role and Anne Ditchburn who was also responsible for the choreography. It was set in the luxurious Victorian splendour of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. Guests there over the years have included Candice Bergen, Rudolph Valentino, The Beatles, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and Liciano Pavarotti. Filming lasted two weeks in May 1983 under the direction of Allan Nicholls, an associate of Robert Altman, with additional scenes directed by Don Allan. The producers were Leonard’s long-time friends Barrie Wexler and Moses Znaimer, and it was the first production by their new Blue Memorial Video company, so-called in honour of Leonard’s late musician friend David Blue (born Cohen, no relation), who had died the previous year and to whose memory the film is dedicated.

The songs on the soundtrack follow:

  • The Guests
  • Memories
  • The Gypsy’s Wife
  • Chelsea Hotel # 2
  • Suzanne

Videos from “I Am A Hotel” can be viewed in the final section of this post.

The Handwriting On The Wall

Sally Hunter’s note continues:

As I was perusing other photos of the Hotel, I found this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyfen/1496 … otostream/. It was taken in 2006, and unfortunately I did not see this while I was there. It is not signed or initialed, but to me it looked remarkably like Leonard Cohen’s handwriting. Tell me what you think.

I contacted the photographer, Andrew Louis, who has a number of intriguing shots of Toronto scenes at hyfen. He writes that he recalls that the inscription was found “on the same floor as the Crystal Ballroom but on the North side of the building.” He also gave permission to post the photo here (click on image to enlarge).

you have made my heart

A Google search of the exact quote, “You have made my heart a garden,” turns up only six  hits (other than the photo reference), none of which have any obvious link to Leonard Cohen.  “You made my heart a garden” shows up a few additional hits, but again there is nothing associated with Cohen.

The handwriting, however, is clearly similar to Cohen’s.  I’ve never seen that calligraphic style elsewhere although it’s certainly possible others use a similar script.

For comparison, I’ve included examples of Leonard Cohen’s distinctive handwriting, only one of which is outrageously self-serving:


Leonard_Cohen_One_More_Thing_6258_67Update: See article in The Torontoist triggered by this post: A Portrait of the Graffiti Artist as Leonard Cohen by Suzannah Showler

Leonard Cohen – I Am A Hotel

Note: Originally posted Jun 10, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Blue Memorial Video was named for David Blue, a 1960s folksinger who was a close friend not only of Leonard Cohen but also Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Blue died the year before the film, which is dedicated to him, was produced. David Blue is a reliable source of information about the now nearly forgotten singer-songwriter. []
  2. LeonardCohenFiles []
  3. While the quotation that follows is from Jim Devlin’s book, In Every Style of Passion,” the excerpt was found at Diamonds In The Mine. []