What Makes Leonard Cohen Run (And Skip)?

The Cohen Credibility Crisis

Introduction: Back in Jan 2009, after Leonard Cohen had performed shows in Canada and Europe and it was announced that the tour would come to the USA, this site took on the investigation of the rumors that Leonard was, at 74, running, skipping, and otherwise performing in a way belying his age and presumed infirmities.

The news that the Leonard Cohen Tour is coming to the US has precipitated a moral crisis for the 1HeckOfAGuy/Cohencentric management.

While steadfast in my admiration of Mr Cohen, I cannot perpetuate the patently absurd premise that – now think about this – a 74 year old entertainer with a self-admitted history of significant tobacco, alcohol, and illicit pharmaceutical use allegedly maintained a tour schedule through 2008 that began with 22 concerts in 30 days and, then, after a 4 day break for travel, resumed on June 13th in Europe with 7 concerts in 8 days. Oh, and from September 21-November 30, Leonard Cohen supposedly performed 34 concerts in 28 cities across 15 countries.1

Sure he did

Nor are these purported concerts described as easy-going, ritualistic affairs, the purpose of which is no more than to allow fans to pay homage to a once-great entertainer. The newspaper reports portray an entirely different kind of event.

… Leonard Cohen surprised and delighted his audience at the BIC last night (Tuesday) by literally sprinting onto the stage and performing a three hour show. ((Cohen’s three-hour set masterpiece by Jeremy Miles. Daily Echo 12 November 2008))

Like a surreal gangster in double-breasted suit and trademark Fedora, Leonard Cohen skipped on to the stage to a deafening and reverential welcome at the Brighton Centre.2

After a seemingly endless string of encores (with Cohen skipping on and off stage between each) it’s obvious that Leonard Cohen has finally come to enjoy life and the songs that he has written that have touched so many.3

And it’s not just newspapers that are in on the scam. The animation below is from a Nett-TV News Clip, Oslo, Norway 2008.

And, check out this representative concert video, set to begin just before the pertinent athletics.

Leonard Cohen – Closing Time
Venice: August 3, 2009
Video by AintNoCureForLove


Does that look to you like a 74 year old guy who just gave a 3+ hour show?

I don’t think so.

Miracle Or Potemkin Performance?

Come on, now. Rigorous schedule? Three hour shows? Running? Skipping?

Give me a break

Clearly, Cohen’s management is attempting to hoodwink fans, but in doing so has clumsily concocted a scenario that is so far beyond the believable that – well, it’s unbelievable is what it is.

It is now necessary to ask the awkward question – What really makes Leonard Cohen run? Stay tuned to find out what the 1HeckOfAGuy/Cohencentric investigative staff has uncovered.

Credit Due Department: Photo atop post by J..S. Carenza III.

Originally posted Jan 15, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. The original video and photo, which have disappeared, have been replaced with similar versions.

  1. Counting the UK as one country. []
  2. Leonard Cohen at the Brighton Centre By Charlotte Taylor. Crawley Observer 22 December 2008 []
  3. Friday 14/11/08 Leonard Cohen @ The O2 Arena, London by Jon Bye. Gigwise. November 19, 2008 []

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 Advises His Son, Adam: “Man, you’re going to scrap your record? That’s an amateur move… It’s not about how you feel about the record. It’s how the songs make them feel.”

I was a deep, deep admirer of [my father, Leonard Cohen’s] melodies of – at first, you know, as a child, just the melodies – the generosity of the melodies. And then as I grew older, there was the complexities and the beautiful marshaling of language. And then you grow older, and then you sort of see – I remember I myself, you know, was making a record at the time. And I’d scrapped it. And I asked my father for counsel.

I said, Dad, you know, meet me. I really got to talk to you. I got to pick your brain. And we were sitting on the corner of Wilshire and La Brea, and I confessed to him that I was going to scrap this entire record and was expecting him to put his hand on my shoulder and say, like, that’s my boy – you know, altruistic values. Don’t ever stop, continue refining. But instead, he turned to me and said, man, you’re going to scrap your record? That’s an amateur move. I said, amateur move? He says, yeah, it’s not about how you feel about the record. It’s how the songs make them feel.

And at that moment, I realized that the love I had always had for his material wasn’t just about their construction, but it was also about their intentionality. He was holding up this baton that he had been given by the love he had for the people who came before him. And he was holding it up, and something about the canon of his work that – has always maintained that baton off the ground.

Excerpt from New Collection Showcases Leonard Cohen’s ‘Obsession With Imperfection’. Terry Gross Interviews Adam Cohen (NPR: October 8, 2018)

If You’re Only Going To Read One Review Of Leonard Cohen’s The Flame, Make It The Flame Burns On By Ian McGillis

The flame burns on: Leonard Cohen has the last word in his posthumous book by Ian McGillis (Montreal Gazette: October 6, 2018) is, by far, the most thorough of the reviews of The Flame I’ve found and one of the most perspicuous.

It outlines, for example, the roles played by Alexandra Pleshoyano and Robert Faggen in curating and organizing the book:

Clearing the technical hurdles, Pleshoyano and Faggen put together a sequence of previously unpublished poems, lyrics for the late-period albums (often slightly but enticingly different from what ended up being sung), reproductions from the notebooks, and other late-life documents. Resisting the temptation to provide extensive marginalia and footnotes — “That would have made it an academic book, and that’s the last thing he would have wanted,” Pleshoyano said — they have assembled an illuminating and seamlessly readable volume that will be manna to Cohen fans worldwide.

McGillis goes on to describe Leonard’s drawings published in the volume:

What’s likely to cause the most surprise, though, is the visual component of The Flame. More than a hundred drawings and paintings from Cohen’s sketchbooks enhance the text, chosen by Pleshoyano from among roughly 400 provided. Many are self-portraits, though the designation doesn’t indicate their range: in 2003 alone Cohen did a self-portrait every day, in a variety of media, often with accompanying words expressing the first thoughts that came into his mind upon waking up.

He also discusses each of Leonard’s first six poetry collections (Let Us Compare Mythologies, 1956, The Spice-Box of Earth, 1961, Flowers for Hitler, 1964, Parasites of Heaven, 1966, The Energy of Slaves, 1972) and two novels (The Favourite Game, 1963 and Beautiful Losers, 1966) that McClelland & Stewart is republishing along with The Flame:

To coincide with The Flame, McClelland & Stewart is providing a fine corrective for those whose Cohen shelves are in mismatched disarray: a uniform edition, sold in separate volumes, of his first six poetry collections and two novels. While each is its own beast, it’s striking how they can also be read as a single entity, instalments in an unbroken lifelong project. Add to these The Flame, and the collections Book of Mercy and Book of Longing, and you’ll pretty much have the lot.

The entire review is accessible at The flame burns on: Leonard Cohen has the last word in his posthumous book. Highly recommended.

“He found her beauty inescapable and her sensuality irresistible.” Ira Nadel On Leonard Cohen & Suzanne Elrod

He found her beauty inescapable and her sensuality irresistible. She hung erotic woodcuts beside religious icons on the white-washed walls of his house on Hydra. She was Jewish, from Miami, a beautiful, difficult woman. “God, whenever I see her ass, I forget every pain that’s gone between us,” he once remarked. When he discovered that she had small handwriting much like his own, he said, “I fear we are to be together for a long time.” Their difference in age never affected their relationship, although once when Cohen was doing an interview and gave his real age, thirty-four, she interrupted to say, “Leonard, don’t say how old you are.” He laughed and quoted John, 8:32: “The truth shall set you free.” In their first year together, Cohen and Suzanne were itinerant, living on Hydra, at the Chelsea in New York, and briefly in Montreal where, after a short stay with Robert Hershorn, they rented a small house in the Greek section near Mount Royal. He wrote and composed, while she dashed off a pornographic novel, written “to make us laugh.” He gave Suzanne a filigreed Jewish wedding ring, although they never actually married. They eventually settled in Nashville.

Excerpt from Various Positions A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel (Random House of Canada: 1996)

“I am the Kanye West of Kanye West / The Kanye West / Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture.” From The Flame By Leonard Cohen

In The Flame: Poems And Selections From Notebooks, the late singer/songwriter, poet and novelist’s last book of poetry, lyrics and miscellaneous notes, he emphatically writes that West is not an artistic giant, like Picasso. “I am Picasso,” he writes in Kanye West Is Not Picasso, before adding “I am Edison / I am Tesla.” It’s a bold move – triumphant. Profound, even. To make Kanye’s greatness smaller, Cohen made himself bigger. He has the bigger ego. I almost believe him. You can picture Cohen living in Los Angeles, not far from West, seriously contemplating the once visionary rapper who, today especially, wreaks havoc on the culture. Kanye West is not even the Kanye West he believes he is, Cohen tells us. “I am the Kanye West of Kanye West / The Kanye West / Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture.” While Cohen has been dubbed the “godfather of gloom,” the kind of introspective writer who toiled in pain purposefully, he still – and always – had sharp thoughts about the culture around him, evolving as he grew old. This poem is, curiously, perhaps not unlike Patti Smith’s Instagram posts: a legendary literary figure and musician who meticulously inspects popular culture and infuses a voice of concern or tenderness upon it. The poem Kanye West Is Not Picasso exemplifies the attention Cohen paid to the world around him – and how it disappointed him so.


From Leonard Cohen is as elusive as ever in his final poetry book by Sarah MacDonald (Now: October 2, 2018). The complete review is available at the link.