“I need some chocolate if I’m gonna do this.” Leonard Cohen, Working On Blue Alert With Anjani Thomas

Anjani tells of fueling the Leonard Cohen lyric-writing engine with candy during their work together on the Blue Alert album:

The song was No One After You, and we just needed one line to finish it so I could record it the next day:

I lived in many cities
from Paris to LA
I’ve known rags and riches

It was a bit tense as he paced back and forth. I sat at the piano and didn’t move, didn’t say a word. Then he finally said, “I need some chocolate if I’m gonna do this.”

That would have been milk chocolate, because he doesn’t like dark — and of course I always keep some around — so he ate a bar and about a minute later he came up with the line:

I’m a regular cliche

From personal communication with Anjani Thomas. (Anjani also used this anecdote with some minor differences in an interview with PureMusic.) Photo atop post by Dominique BOILE.

“I went to a Dylan concert and the first song that was by the opening act was Hallelujah… I’d never heard it before so I went out looking for it. I wound up asking Leonard [Cohen] for the lyrics and he sent me… 15 verses. So I chose all the cheeky verses, the ones that weren’t quite right.” John Cale


Cale earned an unusual hit with his cover [of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah] when it appeared in the 2001 film Shrek, but he had recorded it a decade earlier for the compilation I’m Your Fan. He discovered it in an unusual place. “I went to a Dylan concert and the first song that was by the opening act was ‘Hallelujah’ with a choir,” he recalled. “I’d never heard it before so I went out looking for it. I wound up asking Leonard for the lyrics and he sent me the lyrics: 15 verses. So I chose all the cheeky verses, the ones that weren’t quite right. I couldn’t sing the religious ones. You could tell from the structure of that thing, it was going to be around for a long time.

From John Cale’s Velvet Underground Talk: 10 Things We Learned By Kory Grow (Rolling Stone: October 12, 2018). Photo by Yves Lorson – originally posted to Flickr as John Cale, CC BY 2.0, Link

Note: Cale told his story of first hearing Hallelujah in a 2013 interview but then reported the song was sung by Dylan rather than an opening act: “That’s really a catchy chorus” – John Cale Talks About His Cover Of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

Follow The Yellow Brick Road To The Inspiration Of Leonard Cohen’s Skipping

Investigations Of Leonard Cohen’s Early Influences

For decades, scholars, critics,  and fans  have searched for the definitive influences on Leonard Cohen’s artistry. The style and quality of Cohen’s novels, poetry, and music have been variously attributed to Yeats, country music, Judaism, Montreal’s geographic and social environs, ritualistic Catholicism, parental nurturing, illicit drugs, Irving Layton, local mores, women with whom he has coupled, women who have rejected him, the creative community on Hydra, and scores of other writers, sociological factors, and interpersonal forces. Despite the effort expended, however, the conclusions derived from these explorations have been, at best, generic in scope and, too often, unconvincing.

In retrospect, it is apparent that all examples of this sort of research have shared a common flaw: each of these explorations of Cohen’s fundamental influences has focused exclusively on one category of his work, what we have come to call “the important stuff.”

1HeckOfAGuy/Cohencentric investigations, however, have eluded this seemingly unavoidable, pervasive fault, remaining pristinely uncontaminated by matters smacking of or even approximating significance.

Skipping Study Leads To Breakthrough

Rather than taking the easy way out by examining, for example, metric and rhyme patterns, transformative  shifts in content and prose conventions, or the complex interactions resulting from Leonard Cohen’s friendships and romances, the 1HeckOfAGuy/Cohencentric Research Department approached Cohen’s primary influences by extending its seminal work on On-stage Skipping Behaviors Displayed By 75 Year Old Iconic Canadian Singer-Songwriters (see What Makes Leonard Cohen Run? and 1983 Precursor To Leonard Cohen’s 2008-2013 Concert Skipping Found).

The break came during  the systematic examination of parallel skipping performances by other performers.

To highlight the congruency between the rather elaborate skipping Leonard Cohen has routinely undertaken to leave the stage during the World Tour concerts and the similar choreography implemented by his show business ancestor, the first video shows three of Mr Cohen’s skipping exits set to the music used by his predecessor:

The Back To The Future Version Of The Wizard Of Oz

Even more convincing is a long lost video Heck Of A Guy operatives unearthed from the MGM archives1 which appears to be a projected sequel to The Wizard Of Oz featuring – well, you have to see it for yourselves. Happily, our agents were able to copy and smuggle out this fragment (keep an eye on the Scarecrow at the beginning of the video – the straw dude is really into it):

So, once more, Cohencentric has followed the yellow brick road to offer new insights into the wizard that is Leonard Cohen.

Credit Due Department: The photo of Mr Cohen skipping off the stage displayed atop this post was taken at the April 13, 2013 Halifax concert by J.S.Carenza III

Originally posted Nov 30, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. MGM, which produced Wizard of Oz was purchased by Sony. Guess which talented and iconic Canadian poet, singer-songwriter is under contract to Sony? Happenstance? I think not. []

“Dear Mailer / don’t ever fuck with me” If Leonard Cohen’s “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” Is A Diss Poem; What Is “Dear Mailer”?

OK, I admit I’m not familiar with that segment of literary theory that deals with “diss poems.” None of the courses I took as an English major, Modern American Poetry, Victorian Poetry. Seventeenth Century Verse, Restoration & 18th Century Poetry: From Dryden to Wordsworth, etc., addressed, as far as I recall, Epic Diss Poetry. That may explain why the internet’s current fascination with Leonard Cohen’s “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” and the characterization of that verse as A Diss From Beyond The Grave” elude me. Nonetheless, we press on.

I’ve already posted the recommendation that if you’re weary of reading Twitter-sized appraisals of Leonard Cohen’s currently trending “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” poem (e.g., “Leonard Cohen is right,” “Leonard Cohen sucks,” “Who’s Leonard Cohen?”), take a look at Leonard Cohen’s Kanye West Poem Wasn’t an Insult; It was a tribute by Carl Wilson (Slate: Oct 12, 2018), which offers a more comprehensive, nuanced, and coherent take on the issue. Now, however, I want to approach the issue from another perspective.

Here’s “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” from The Flame by Leonard Cohen:

From my fundamentalist perspective, if Leonard Cohen ever wrote a diss poem, it is “Dear Mailer” (that would be Norman Mailer), published in The Energy Of Slaves (1972).

Dear Mailer
don’t ever fuck with me
or come up to me
and punch my gut
on behalf of one of your theories
I am armed and mad
Should I suffer
the smallest humiliation
at your hand
I will k–l you
and your entire family

I mean, doesn’t that sound pretty diss-ish to you? Yet, here’s what Leonard had to say about it.

I actually recited the poem [‘Dear Mailer’] to [Norman] Mailer with a smile, at some reading where we met up. He didn’t punch me out but he was alarmed. He said, ‘God, don’t publish that. You don’t know that some loony isn’t going to be excited by it and do what you threatened to do.’ It really scared him. I then had second thoughts about the poem because suddenly I saw it from his point of view. Earlier, I saw it as a humorous response to the position he was taking at the time, coming on like a bully. I had a real laugh when I originally wrote it. I then tried to stop its publication but it had already gone to press.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview).

“Dear Mailer” has provoked some interesting responses. The posts collected at “Dear Mailer” – Leonard Cohen  explain the origin the poem and offers observations on it;.

Kanye West photo by the_mlKanye West concert, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

“This was one of the most generous, attentive, nourishing characters I’d ever met.” Adam Cohen On Acknowledging The Influence Of His Father, Leonard Cohen

You grew up with your father’s voice. You grew up with him writing. You grew up with him reading to you. You watched him backstage as he performed. Was it hard for you to find, like, your own voice, to recognize that his voice was a part of you, that it influenced you in the way that people have a right to be influenced by the people who they take in as they’re going through their formative years? Was it hard to acknowledge that influence in the same – and at the same time figure out who you were as a singer and songwriter?

You know, I’m triggered to answer that in two ways. I mean, the first is to look at it statistically, you know? Statistically, I think in humanity, you know, Napoleon’s son, Frank Sinatra’s son – you know, it’s very, very difficult to capture people’s imaginations in the same way as one would if your name was Joe Smith – you know? – and you had no provenance. Statistically, the heirs of people who do great things can often not do great things as remarkably and in such a beloved way. There’s that. And then there’s the idea that – you know, that I grew up perhaps under this tyrannical shadow, this oppressive, tyrannical shadow. And it’s quite the contrary. I mean, this was one of the most generous, attentive, nourishing characters I’d ever met. He encouraged me up to the upper-sunniest branches of the family tree. And as I say, you know, I really do believe my story is far more of a success story, not just the instruction I got from a master, not just having his attention and encouragement and the example of his own life and work. But the great privilege of being invited – again, you know, having started in the mailroom of the family business, the great privilege that it was to end up at the penthouse, you know, making boardroom decisions with my boss.quotedown2

Adam Cohen


New Collection Showcases Leonard Cohen’s ‘Obsession With Imperfection’

“Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen shows that religious discourse can be funky.” Spiegel Review Of Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems


From Abgehört: Die wichtigste Musik der Woche [via Google Translate] by Andreas Borcholte and Jan Wigger (Spiegel: Sept 16, 2014)

Originally posted September 17, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Leonard Cohen] never has explained why he works with me. He’s very generous and gracious. I think that I was just able to provide an atmosphere that’s comfortable for him to express himself and get his work done.” Sharon Robinson

From The California Girl and the Ladies’ Man by Doug Saunders. Toronto’s Globe & Mail: October 11, 2001. Accessed 19 May 2014; 2:25 PM at Ten New Songs. Originally posted May 19, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen: “Indulgent Father” – 1980s

There are still a number of [Leonard Cohen’s] classmates around, as well as his former babysitters [in 2012]. I only ever saw him twice in Westmount, once eating a banana outside of a fruit shop. The other time was at a bead emporium 25 years ago, where teenage girls gathered every Saturday to buy beads. Leonard was standing there as an indulgent father and Westmounters, being so polite, we pretended not to notice. I worked as a men’s clothing salesman in high school selling the Freedman line, which was the Cohen family’s topcoat and cashmere overcoat brand. Leonard came back here to raise his children and in the local alternative high school, you had Adam Cohen, Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright in the same class. You didn’t want to say much if you knew Leonard. The line went: If you were a friend of Leonard Cohen and told people you were friend of Leonard Cohen, you were no longer a friend of Leonard Cohen.

Terry Rigelhof

From Leonard Cohen: Portrait of the artist as an older man Ben Kaplan National Post: January 31, 2012. Terry (T. F.) Rigelhof is a Canadian novelist and academic. Photos by Johann Agust Hansen.