You Want It Darker Isn’t Leonard Cohen’s First Smoking Album Cover


The cigarette held by Leonard Cohen on the cover of his new album, You Want It Darker, has drawn a surprising amount of interest and has become the latest  chapter in the complex and captivating story of Leonard’s tobacco use, a history I have sometimes labeled The (Formerly) Smokey Life Of Leonard Cohen.  Cohencentric has, in fact, long maintained a tag for posts dealing with this issue.

The responses of fans thus far to the cigarette displayed on the You Want It Darker cover can be divided into four categories:

  • Leonard is over 80 so I wish he wouldn’t smoke – it’s not healthy for him and it’s the wrong message to send to fans
  • Leonard is over 80 so he can enjoy a cigarette if he wants
  • The cigarette is an essential element in a great conceptual cover image
  • Who cares?

It’s noteworthy that, in addition to the many comments by fans, the album’s producer, Adam Cohen has weighed in on the cigarette as has Leonard Cohen himself.

True to its mission as provocateur, Cohencentric has offered alternatives to the official You Want It Darker album cover:

Cigarettes & Album Covers

vanLeonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker coffin nail is not the only example of a cigarette on an album cover causing controversy.

The best known of several example is the angelic baby’s cigarette on the cover of Van Halen’s 1984 album, which was, by official UK fiat, covered by a sticker.1

Leonard Cohen Was Smoking – On These Album Covers

As far as I can determine, there was no controversy or even much notice given to the cigarettes on the Death Of A Ladies’ Man and Live Songs albums.

And neither the cover on the Everybody Knows single nor the back of the Greatest Hits album caused a kerfuffle.


  1. This ban is no longer in effect. []