Leonard Cohen’s Abandoned Album – Songs For Rebecca: Who’s Rebecca?

Songs For Rebecca

Songs For Rebecca, a Leonard Cohen-John Lissauer collaborative project in the mid-1970s, was abruptly abandoned after at least five songs were recorded for it. Cohencentric will soon publish a comprehensive post about what some call the Lost Leonard Cohen Album (including who lost it) because (1) it’s interesting and (2) there is a significant amount of confusion and misinformation about Songs For Rebecca.

Consider this a teaser for the main event.

Origin Of The Title “Songs For Rebecca”

An example of the above-referenced misinformation online is this excerpt from the Leonard Cohen biography at Canadian Bands:

Columbia released THE BEST OF LEONARD COHEN in 1975, and eager to get to work on his next album, tentatively titled SONGS FOR REBECCA (for his friend, actress Rebecca De Mornay), Cohen and Lessauer [sic] had actually completed half a record, and several had been performed live.

Well, for one thing, it’s John “Lissauer” rather than “Lessauer,” but typos aren’t our concern here. The notion that Songs For Rebecca was named for Rebecca De Mornay is an egregious (and surprisingly prevalent) error, one that even cursory fact-checking exposes as inaccurate. Songs For Rebecca, you see, was a project that began in 1974 and ended in 1976. It wasn’t until at least ten years later that Leonard and Rebecca became an item.

Leonard Cohen & Rebecca De Mornay – A Summary (for more, see ): For five years or so (accounts, as they tend to do, vary) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Leonard Cohen and Rebecca De Mornay were in a relationship that progressed through a phase “a press officer call[ed] ‘an exclusive dating situation'”1 and into an engagement that was eventually broken off because, according to Cohen, “finally she [Rebecca De Mornay] saw I was a guy who just couldn’t come across. … In the sense of being a husband and having more children and the rest.”2

So, who is the Rebecca of Songs For Rebecca?

None of the (reliable) accounts I’ve found of the project identify the titular Rebecca. The most likely suspect, I submit, is the Rebecca whose story is recorded in Genesis. We know Leonard Cohen was familiar with this Rebecca because the dedication he chose for his 1992 album, The Future, comprises the two verses of Genesis 24:45-46 (KJV), neatly conflating the biblical Rebecca with Rebecca De Mornay, who is also co-credited as a producer of the album:

And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebecca came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water; and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.

And who is the narrator, the “I” in “And before I had done speaking in mine heart…?” Well, that would be the servant Abraham sent to find a wife for his son, Isaac. It was that servant who devised the test to find the right woman to be Isaac’s spouse. Standing by the well in Abraham’s birthplace with his men and camels, he prayed to God:

And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master. — Genesis 24:14

And, according to Jewish tradition, that servant of Abraham who found Rebecca, who did marry Isaac, was Eliezer (meaning “God is my help”) – which is also Leonard Cohen’s Hebrew name.

Heavy, eh?

There’s much more to come. Stay tuned.

Credit Due Department: Rebecca De Mornay (1993), Photo by Christof Graf (taken from Christof`Graf`s forthcoming new Leonard Cohen-book “Zen & Poetry” – The Cohenpedia Series Vol. 1). The painting is Rebecca and Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.


  1. The Joking Troubadour of Gloom by Tim Rostron. The Daily Telegraph, April 26, 1993 []
  2. Leonard Cohen: Several Lifetimes Already by Pico Iyer. Shambhala Sun. Sept 1998 []

Kezban Özcan, Leonard Cohen’s Personal Asst, Tells All – Well, Tells More About The Cat & Those Bearded Chaps

Left to right: Duchess, DrHGuy, & Kezban Özcan. Photo by Leonard Cohen

Kezban Özcan, Leonard Cohen’s personal assistant since 2007, has appeared frequently in entries at  Cohencentric and its predecessor sites. Kezban Özcan Talks About What It’s Like To Be Leonard Cohen’s Assistant is, in fact, one of the most popular posts among Cohen fans. Today [date of original post: Aug 29, 2014] she responds to a couple of questions from readers.

Leonard Entwined

The two bearded gents flanking Leonard Cohen in the above photo, posted at An Unrecognized Leonard Cohen Poses At Photographer’s Request – West Village, NYC July 28, 2014, are the owners of Entwine, the Turkish eatery in the background. They are also friends of Kezban, who testifies to the excellence of their offerings and recommends the place to anyone who finds himself or herself in New York.

Kezban & The Cat

As reported previously, Kezban confirms that our favorite Canadian singer-songwriter-icon & long-time canine lover is now the primary caregiver for a cat (see above photo) who had roamed the neighborhood and “got himself adopted” by Leonard Cohen.  Asked the name of the cat, Kezban writes,

The cat’s name is Jackson, but I like pronouncing it with a French accent, I have a feeling he likes that 🙂

Credit Due Department: First photo by Leonard Cohen. Second photo (at Entwine) by Enrique Avilés. Third photo (of DrHGuy, Leonard Cohen, and Jackson) by Penny Showalter.

Note: Originally posted Aug 29, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Clarifies His Work On Lullaby In Blue Before He Gave To Adam Who Bestowed It On Bette Midler

Tracking The Source Of  Lullaby In Blue

Bette Midler recorded Lullaby In Blue on her 1998 Bathhouse Betty album, describing it as her favorite of the tracks:

I’ve never heard a pop song about a person who gives their child up and is missing the child… The first time I heard that song, I burst into tears. I had to pull over to the side of the road. 1

On the album, the song is listed as having been co-written by Adam Cohen and Brock Walsh.

A reader referencing I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons (Ecco: 2012), however, points out that Leonard Cohen originated the song:

Leonard [Cohen] gave his son [Adam Cohen] a song that he had been “working on for years” and knew he’d “never get around to doing,” “Lullaby In Blue.”

How  similar the iteration Leonard Cohen gave Adam is to the final version Bette Midler song is unknown.2

DrHGuy Note: That’s where things stood when this entry was posted. About eight minutes after it went online, I heard from Leonard Cohen, who was then ensconced at the Regina Encampment, where a concert had been canceled because of wide-spread illness among the Unified Heart Touring Company. As Joey Carenza posted on March 10, 2013, Cohen & crew were “bunkered in Regina and on the mend.”

Regina Airport: Photo by Joey Carenza

Well, it turns out that Leonard found time during this hiatus to check in on my online ramblings and respond to “How  similar the iteration Leonard Cohen gave Adam is to the the final version Bette Midler song is unknown:”

Dr Heck,

The tune and the words are Adam’s

All I gave him were the words:

The child I never knew
My lullaby in blue

Warm Regards,


And thus is another seemingly unanswerable query concerning the life and times of Leonard Cohen answered. It’s just another day at the premier Leonard Cohen blog noir.


Note: Originally posted February 28, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. “Midler makes Warner Bros. debut with ‘Bathhouse Betty’” by Melinda Newman. Billboard: Sept 5, 1998 []
  2. I checked with Sylvie, who concurred that she had no further information on this point. []

“You can’t listen to these words [from You Want It Darker] without thinking about the fact that Leonard Cohen was dying when he recorded them.” From 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going – New York Times

This was hardly the first time that Cohen had drawn on his Judaism for his music. Though he had a complicated relationship with his religious inheritance, it provided a natural vocabulary for him; it was what he knew, and its stories of human suffering and, occasionally, redemption suited his poet’s pull toward the existential. But never before have Cohen’s biblical references felt so charged, so dark, so pointed. “Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name,” he sings. “Vilified, crucified, in the human frame. A million candles burning for the help that never came. You want it darker.” Then, echoing the words that Abraham spoke as he answered God’s command to sacrifice his only son: “Hineni, I’m ready, my Lord.”

From 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going: You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen by Jonathan Mahler (New York Times Magazine: Mar 9, 2017). The complete article is accessible at the link.