The Leonard Cohen-Barry White Comparison

In the Dec 21, 2012 issue of The Table, Adam Chandler has posted Is Leonard Cohen the Jewish Barry White?, an entertaining and sometimes enlightening set of 7 observations on the Dec 20, 2012 Leonard Cohen concert that is well worth reading – but I do have a quibble or two about the piece.

For example, the following point genuinely adds to my understanding of the Brooklyn concert experience:

2. There is nothing quite like hearing a crowd roar mid-song when Cohen bellowed the lyric “I was the little Jew who wrote the Bible.”

On the other hand, I’m a tad puzzled by this note:

6. Leonard Cohen did play an Ozark harp. If that’s unfamiliar to you, it’s probably because it’s still better known by another name.

It’s unclear to me if “Jew’s Harp” is indicated by a Wikipedia link instead of being written out because Jew’s Harp, which is what Leonard Cohen calls the instrument, is considered insulting or if this is just a riddle of sorts or … ? If Jew’s Harp is an affront, I have to wonder if the use of “Ozark Harp” is also derogatory. Given that I was raised in the Ozarks, I need to know if I’m being dissed.

As for the “Is Leonard Cohen the Jewish Barry White?” question, the response provided without elaboration, “I think the answer is probably that Barry White is the black Leonard Cohen,” does set right the causal relationship between the two singers but seems to imply, incorrectly, that Mssrs White and Cohen are virtual doppelgangers professionally. In any case, it’s a grizzled comparison that has already been exploited too many times. There are, for example, at least a couple of Leonard Cohen – Barry White YouTube playlists, another author has pointed out that Leonard Cohen is “The only singer with a deeper voice than Len is Barry White. Fact,”1 a 1992 article that describes Leonard Cohen as “the man who made monotone semi-marketable (thereby setting the stage for lessers from Bob Smith to Barry White),”2 a 2004 BBC documentary that calls Leonard Cohen the “Barry White for poetry chicks…” and there is much, much more in the vein.

Finally, the introductory paragraph makes an unsubstantiated claim some Cohen cognoscenti might dispute:

I probably shouldn’t write about anything Leonard Cohen because my brilliant office-mate Liel Leibovitz knows more about Cohen that anyone else in the world–including Cohen himself.

I’m assuming this is harmless collegial puffery, but just in case The Tablet staff is interested in putting Mr Leibovitz’s undeniable Cohenological sagacity to the test (I should disclose that I’ve long been a fan of Liel Leibovitz’s essays on Cohen), I suspect we could recruit a few folks willing to enter a Cohen Bowl competition.

Originally posted Dec 22, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Extra! 5 Things Concerning Leonard Cohen in Paris by Martin Colyer []
  2. Leonard Cohen and the Death of Cool by David Sprague []