Homes Of Leonard Cohen: The Caravan In The South Of France

Cohencentric has long offered a category of posts focused on the Homes Of Leonard Cohen in Montreal, Los Angeles, and Hydra. Today marks the addition of his caravan (what we Yanks would call a “house trailer”) in the south of France (what we Yanks would call “the south of France”).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Leonard Cohen repeatedly traveled from his homes in Montreal, Los Angeles and Hydra to live in a trailer he installed at the bottom of a path leading to the home in the south of France near Avignon,1 where Suzanne Elrod had moved with their children following their breakup.2 (Note: The photo atop this post is representative of the genre but does not depict Leonard’s actual caravan. Photo by KotivaloOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Adam Cohen described the scene in a 2018 NPR interview:3

I remember my mother moved my sister and I all the way to the south of France where we lived – and there was a long dirt road. And he bought one of these sort of caravan jet-stream type things. And he put it at the T where the road met the dirt road. And he just lived there (laughter). And my mother didn’t want him on the property. So, you know, every day after school, the bus would drop us off. And we’d see Dad in his caravan.

Adam elaborates in a 2012 article:4

One of the chief occupations of my father is to divine what somebody needs and give it to them before they ask. He remained in his children’s lives despite incredible obstacles. There was a moment, when we were living in the south of France, that my father wasn’t allowed on the property. So he bought a caravan and lived at the end of our road. Despite the distances my mother placed before him, he was always present with instruction and humour. To many, he was lugubrious because of his poetry, but to us, he was the most hysterical guy. We still get together every Friday when we’re in town for a family meal and he’s a constant source of counsel, advice, support and encouragement. I feel loved. I’ve always felt seen. I was between five and eight when he lived in that caravan. He was parked right at the T, where the public street met the private road. It’s hard on a kid, when you see your makers at pointed odds, especially when you understand that financially, your father’s floating the whole scene and living in a caravan at the end of a dirt road. In retrospect, every visit was an education. He was there to protect values. It would be lighting the Sabbath candles and learning Hebrew prayers, singing songs, reading the bible. In the Jewish tradition, “Cohen” is the high-priest. It’s no accident my father has a ministerial quality. As a father, he still continues to feel like a shepherd imparting an ancient understanding.”

The caravan was also where Leonard did much of his work on Book of Mercy:5

Continue Reading →

  1. The Face May Not Be Familiar, but the Name Should Be: It’s Composer and Cult Hero Leonard Cohen by Pamela Andriotakis & Richard Oulahan. People: January 14, 1980. []
  2. I’m Your Man – The Life Of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012. P 327. []
  3. New Collection Showcases Leonard Cohen’s ‘Obsession With Imperfection’. Terry Gross Interviews Adam Cohen (NPR: October 8, 2018 []
  4. Leonard Cohen: Portrait of the artist as an older man Ben Kaplan. National Post: January 31, 2012 []
  5. Vicki Gabereau Interview with Leonard Cohen (CBC:  September 6, 1984 []

“Leonard Cohen’s Montreal flat wears the unclutter of a man who never quite puts away his suitcase.” Tom Chaffin (1983)

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The described grandiosity [of Night Magic] contrasts harshly with the setting of our conversation – the kitchen of Cohen’s small second-story flat. Tucked away on a side street in one of east Montreal’s working-class, ethnic enclaves, the apartment, two rooms and a kitchen, could have been lifted straight from the text of a Leonard Cohen song (“That’s what everybody says when they come here”). Fake oriental carpets cover grey floorboards. Ceilings are low, the walls white and bare except for a few prints. Furnishings are sparse – no bric-a-brac here, no book-lined shelves. There are worktables in the front room; a brass bed, a dresser, a chair in the bedroom; a wooden table with two chairs in the kitchen…

Cohen’s Montreal flat wears the unclutter of a man who never quite puts away his suitcase. This tidy perch, with its unopened boxes in the hallway, is, after all, just one shard of a life spent between countries and continents. Cohen considers his small stucco house on the Great island of [Hydra], which he purchased for $1,500 in 1960, his most permanent abode. Modest like his Montreal flat, and a similar one in Los Angeles, it has had running water and electricity only for the last few years.

From Conversations from a Room by Tom Chaffin. Canadian Forum: August/September 1983. Photo by Lilian Graziani. Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

This is an outstanding interview that makes for rewarding reading. It is saturated with significant Cohen quotations on performing concerts, Montreal, poetry, politics, songwriting, and housecleaning, all of which are available at the link.

“This little house up on a hill–it’s always been a good place to work in.” Leonard Cohen On His Home In Hydra

Were the novels written during that period  [in Greece]?

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Yeah, most of the work was written there; and even now, though the new songs were at least three or four or even five years in the making, it was in Greece last summer that those ten or twelve golden days came when I was able to see the end of the songs, see them to completion. My house in Greece, which I still have–I’ve heard it described in the European press as a ‘villa,’ which always amuses me, this little house up on a hill–it’s always been a good place to work in.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic In A Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975).

Also See “Greece is a good place to look at the moon, isn’t it” – Leonard Cohen Recites Days Of Kindness

Up Close & Personal With Leonard Cohen 2005: The Lifestyle Of The Once Well Off & Kind Of Famous

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The Music Icon At Home

The primary story attached to the now famous, emblematic “Devastated” cover of the Aug 17, 2005 issue Maclean’s, A ‘Devastated’ Leonard Cohen by Katherine Macklem, explored the financial catastrophe that befell the Canadian singer-songwriter.

As the article put it:

He [Leonard Cohen] discovered last fall that his retirement funds, which he had thought amounted to more than $5 million (all figures U.S.), had been reduced to $150,000.

Today’s post, however, focuses on a supplemental story in that same issue of Maclean’s, Up Close And Personal by Brian D. Johnson, which affords an insight into Leonard Cohen’s day to day life at home.

The simplicity of Cohen’s digs and his personal preferences are striking, especially in contrast to the contemporary press references to his “extravagant ‘celebrity’ lifestyle.”

Credit Due Department: The scans from Maclean’s were contributed by Dominique BOILE. Photo of Leonard Cohen’s Montreal home by Lilian Graziani.

Originally posted February 21, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

2011 Photo: Leonard Cohen’s LA Home With His Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award In Window

In searching through material related to Leonard Cohen and the Grammys, I came across this photo taken in May 2011 by Shannon Burns.1 What’s the Grammy connection? Well, sharp-eyed Shannon noticed that Leonard’s Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award was visible in the second story window of the duplex (see blowup below).

Missing from the photo is Mr Cohen himself, who was seated to the right of the unidentified gentleman in the yard.

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  1. We didn’t post that photo then lest we publicize the location of Leonard’s home.That precaution has been obviated by the fact that several pictures of the house are now online. []