Scary Fact Of The Day: At one time, Kelley Lynch was named in Leonard Cohen’s living will, “giving her the power to decide, in certain circumstances, if he would live or die.”

Until Cohen fired her last fall, Kelley Lynch had been his personal manager for almost 17 years. Back in 1988, she’d been working as an assistant to his then-manager, who died that year. Because she was knowledgeable about Cohen’s business affairs and recording contracts, he had her take over. Over the years, the two developed a personal and professional relationship. Fifteen years ago, they had a brief affair. “It was a casual sexual arrangement. It was mutually enjoyed and terminated,” he says. “I never spent the night.” The end of the affair didn’t affect their bond. “We were very, very close friends,” Cohen says today. “I liked her immensely. Our families were close—she was helpful when I was raising my daughter; I employed her father.” He even named her in his living will, giving her the power to decide, in certain circumstances, if he would live or die. He handed her vast powers of attorney. He trusted her implicitly. And he believed the relationship was mutual. “She wrote dozens of emails to me, thanking me for my help. We used to correspond regularly, relentlessly.” He says that in 2004, while he was recording his most recent album, Dear Heather, with a small team at his homerecording studio, Lynch would come by almost daily. “People were very tight. Kelley was taking care of business, I was producing the album. It was all taking place in this little duplex and the garage that was converted into a studio. Kelley would come over, and I would generally prepare lunch for everyone.”

From A ‘Devastated’ Leonard Cohen by Katherine Macklem. Maclean’s: August 17, 2005. Originally posted July 24, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

That Don’t Make It Junk – Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen On War

Introduction

This is the fourth and final post in , a series examining those aspects of Leonard Cohen’s life that, based on my experience blogging and following social media about the Canadian singer-songwriter for the past ten years, have proved overwhelmingly and uniformly unpopular with readers, more than a few of whom have reacted with vehemence that extends far beyond, for example, the strident comments that “nobody should cover Leonard’s songs” or “Jazz Police is probably Cohen’s worst song.”

Today’s offering is actually the second part of That Don’t Make It Junk – Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen: His Perspective On War. As indicated in that post, this entry (1) follows up on the context of Leonard Cohen’s “war is wonderful” quotation and (2) addresses the misperception that Leonard Cohen was anti-war as a cause of the vigorous antagonism to certain of his perspectives on war.

Leonard Cohen’s “War Is Wonderful” Quote Considered In Context

This Leonard Cohen quotation from the September 15 1974 Leonard Cohen Interview by Robin Pike (ZigZag magazine: October 1974) has recurrently caused a brouhaha on social media:

War is wonderful. They’ll never stamp it out. It’s one of the few times people can act their best. It’s so economical in terms of gesture and motion, every single gesture is precise, every effort is at its maximum. Nobody goofs off. Everybody is responsible for his brother. The sense of community and kinship and brotherhood, devotion. There are opportunities to feel things that you simply cannot feel in modern city life. Very impressive.

While that’s how the quotation is usually posted, the more complete excerpt follows:

Q: It [being in the Yom Kippur War] strikes me as being rather dangerous. You didn’t feel any personal anxiety about being killed?

Leonard Cohen: I did once or twice. But you get caught up in the thing. And war is wonderful. They’ll never stamp it out. It’s one of the few times people can act their best. It’s so economical in terms of gesture and motion, every single gesture is precise, every effort is at its maximum. Nobody goofs off. Everybody is responsible for his brother. The sense of community and kinship and brotherhood, devotion. There are opportunities to feel things that you simply cannot feel in modern city life. Very impressive. 

As the interviewer’s question reveals, the context of Leonard’s statement is his own experience in war. From my perspective, the only portion of the quotation that sparks readers’ discomfort is that single line “And war is wonderful.” The remainder of the paragraph are self-apparent observations about military service in war. If Leonard had been more wordy and said, “And if you think about it, war is even wonderful in certain ways…” the reaction might well have been muted.

It’s also worthwhile to note that the same article contains another comment by Leonard Cohen on war that doesn’t seem to bother readers. In speaking about his song, The Story Of Isaac, Leonard said,

I think probably that I did feel that one of the reasons that we have wars was so the older men can kill off the younger ones, so that there’s no competition for the women. Or for their position. I do think that this is true. One of the reasons we do have wars periodically is so the older men can have the women. Also, completely remove the competition in terms of their own institutional positions.

Leonard Cohen: Anti-Some-Wars, Not Anti-War

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“It’s a testament to something at the core of Hallelujah that… almost no one approaches it blithely.” Q&A With Alan Light, Author of The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah

 The “Hallelujah” Phenomenon – What’s It To You?

The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”
By Alan Light

Atria Books
Publication Date: December 4, 2012

Well, unless you have an interest in music, cultural movements in modern society, love, tragedy, human dignity, or matters of that ilk, the improbable, unique, near-miraculous phenomenon of “Hallelujah” won’t mean much to you. On the other hand, if the prospect of uncovering some clues about the secret chord intrigues you, Alan Light’s The Holy Or The Broken offers a wealth of insightful, engrossing information pertinent to that investigation.

Three intertwined themes run through the book:

1. The evolution of “Hallelujah:” The Holy Or The Broken tracks “Hallelujah” from its six year gestation and initial, inauspicious presentation to the public as a track on the Various Positions album in 1984 through John Cale’s reconstruction of the song on the I’m Your Fan tribute album through Jeff Buckley’s dramatic transformation of “Hallelujah” into a song most often identified with Buckley alone (i.e., “Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah” rather than “Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah”) through its popularization in the general public via Shrek and musical responses to 9/11 to its seeming ubiquity in movies, TV shows, and ceremonies, small and large, public and private (e.g., opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, memorial services, weddings, …).

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Victorious In Victoria – Leonard Cohen’s 2010 Triumphant Return To Canada

Some Events Apparently Are A Victory March

Leonard Cohen opened the final North American leg of his World Tour in Victoria last night (Nov 30, 2010). It was – yawn – another five star performance. Documentation of that rating and other impressions of  the concert can be found in the local paper of record, the Victoria Times Colonist, under the rather lengthy but informative title, Leonard Cohen performed for Victoria Tuesday night at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Reviewer Mike Devlin gave the show five stars (out of five) [Update: Title has since been changed to the more concise “Full Leonard Cohen review: He sings to serve”]. The first lines are representative:

Where does it come from? Where does Leonard Cohen get his vigor, stamina, discipline and élan vital? Leonard Cohen literally bounded on stage Tuesday night, looking for more agile — and sounding considerably younger — than your average 76-year-old.

He would prove to be to be even more impressive, in all manner of areas, as the night progressed. Over the course of his truly awe-inspiring three-hour concert, Cohen could do no wrong. In any way, shape or form.

He was met with a standing ovation after stepping on stage at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, which he readily accepted. Forget that the gesture has probably been expressed at nearly every one of his 240 comeback concerts during the past two-and-a-half years. Cohen was genuinely gracious in accepting such a gift.

“Looking … agile,” “sounding considerably younger,” “impressive,” “awe-inspiring,” … you’ve heard it all before.

Early reports from fans are even more rapturous. No videos have yet surfaced – which leads to a brief commentary about video recordings taken by audience members.

Update: Videos from the Victoria show did turn up later:

YouTube Video Is The Leonard Cohen World Tour’s Friend – And Maybe Its BFF

While videotaping  performances such as Leonard Cohen concerts from the audience has been criticized as distracting to others attending the show and the final products damned as inferior in quality as well as potential violations of copyright, one can make an impressive case that, aside from being present for the concert itself, nothing that rivals the excitement and gratification of viewing a competently recorded video within hours of  the live performance, which may have taken place thousands of miles away from the viewer.1

In fact, many of those who have attended a Leonard Cohen concert admit to eagerly logging  in the next morning in hopes of again watching a performance they saw live the night before.

Further, I would contend that, lacking a hyper-detailed first hand account, there is little to rival a video’s capacity to individualize a performance. The eight still photos from the Victoria Times Colonist article [Update: Only two photos now remain], for example are of professional quality, well framed, well lit, distortion free, … and, unless one has an encyclopedic knowledge of stage curtains and overhead lights, indistinguishable from photos of Cohen’s performances in Moscow, Chicago, and 90% of the Tour’s other indoor venues.

One can, indeed, make the argument that nothing, other than the shift in the economics of the music system, has had more impact on pop concerts than widely and easily accessible videos of the shows.

Credit Due Department: Photos by J.S. Carenza III.

Originally posted Dec 1, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. One headline format that reliably draws large numbers of viewers to this site is “First Video From ____ Leonard Cohen Concert Now Online.” []

Tanya Donelly On Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions: “I love it. For one thing, Dance Me To The End Of Love is my song with my husband. That’s our story.”

 

quoteup2
Leonard Cohen – Various Positions: This is the one that everyone’s like, ‘That’s the dilettante choice.’ But I love it. For one thing, ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ is my song with my husband. That’s our story, sort of. And ‘The Law’ is one of my favourite songs he’s ever written. Maybe possibly my favourite song. Obviously ‘Hallelujah”s on here. ‘If It Be Your Will’, I can’t get through it without crying. I spent a lot of my adult youth trying to find a spiritual home, which required lots of homework, and reading, and visiting places, and trying to figure it out. And I’ve come to a place where I know that that’s not for me. Unfortunately. I have my own cobbled together framework of what I believe, belief system, but this album I feel like was so important to me during all of that, in terms of another person who sort of … It felt like here’s another soul that’s sort of going through the same endless list of questions. Before you know that list actually is endless. It really had a huge impact on grounding me during that search. And he does in general, to be honest. Not just his music, but also his prose and his poetry. I came back to him almost as often as to any world wisdom that I was looking into at the time. But this book sort of is a distilled version of that time of searching. It’s hard to come to a point where you’re like, ‘This is going to be internal and that’s it. ‘That’s a hard place to come to, but it is my place.quotedown2

Tanya Donelly

From A Belly Full: Tanya Donelly’s Favourite Albums by Emily Mackay (The Quietus: May 2, 2018). Photo by ForbiddenDoughnut, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons. Thanks to Harold Lepidus, who alerted me to this article.

The Water and the Wine: Tamar Hodes’ Novel About Leonard Cohen & Marianne On Hydra Published – May 1, 2018

The Water and the Wine

It is the 1960s and a group of young writers and artists gather on the Greek island of Hydra. Leonard Cohen is at the start of his career and in love with Marianne, who is also muse to her ex-husband, Axel. Australian authors George Johnston and Charmian Clift drink, write and fight. It is a hedonistic time of love, sex and new ideas. As the island hums with excitement, Jack and Frieda join the community, hoping to mend their broken marriage. However, Greece is overtaken by a military junta and the artistic idyll is threatened. In this fictionalised account of the time, Tamar Hodes explores the destructive side of creativity and the price that we pay for our dreams.

On Sale: The Water and the Wine is now available as a paperback and an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellersimilar sites.

Read the early chapters here.

Tamar Hodes

Growing up, Tamar Hodes’ neighbours were Leonard Cohen, his girlfriend Marianne, and other writers and artists on Hydra. Tamar was three when her parents took her to live on the Greek island, as they wanted to pursue their own art and writing. However, the bohemian nature of Hydra took its toll on their marriage. The Water and the Wine is a fictional account of those days.

Tamar Hodes’ first novel Raffy’s Shapes was published in 2006. She has had stories on Radio 4 and others in anthologies including Salt’s The Best British Short Stories 2015, The Pigeonhole, Your One Phone Call, the Ofi Press, MIR online and Fictive Dream. Tamar was born in Israel and lived on Hydra and in South Africa before settling in the UK. She read English and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge. For the past thirty-three years she has taught English in schools, universities and prisons.

That Don’t Make It Junk – Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen: His Guns

Introduction

As discussed in the first entry of this series, That Don’t Make It Junk: Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen, certain unequivocal biographical facts about Leonard Cohen have proved overwhelmingly and uniformly unpopular with readers, more than a few of whom have reacted with vehemence that extends far beyond, for example, the strident comments that “nobody should cover Leonard’s songs” or “Jazz Police is probably Cohen’s worst song.”

Ready, Fire, Aim

quoteup2
Boys like to play with guns. I like them myself.1quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Over the years, Cohencentric and its predecessor sites have published posts about Leonard Cohen’s headgear, cars, airplanes used on tour, footwear, suits, jewelry, guitar, typewriter, computers, recording microphone, and preferred foods, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and illicit drugs. These entries have all been well received, and, while the posts about smoking, drinking, and drug use routinely triggered a handful of concerned comments, one analogous topic generated an overwhelmingly negative response: the series.

As it turns out, guns were a recurrent factor in Leonard Cohen’s life. He was deeply affected, for example, by his father’s pistol, a marker of his service in World War I. Phil Spector threatened him with a handgun. He purchased a number of guns (such as the Walther PPK pictured above which he owned when he lived in Franklin, Tennessee) and alluded to firearms in his poetry, novels, and songs. As is true with most subjects that arose in Cohen’s interviews, he was forthcoming about his experience with and thoughts about guns, discussing the matter without braggadocio (no one is likely to confuse his views with those of, say, Ted Nugent) or apology.

It’s interesting to speculate about why the Cohenite response to Leonard’s use of guns so dramatically amplified compared, for example, to his use of drugs.2 It seems likely that the answer has to do, in part, with firearms having been transformed into a political litmus test. I suspect that, as well, Leonard Cohen’s comfort with and enjoyment of guns doesn’t fit the image admirers have constructed of the Canadian singer-songwriter, creating cognitive dissonance that is resolved by avoiding/denying that trait.3

In any case, it is not the intent of this post to convince readers that Leonard Cohen’s attitude toward guns is either laudable or shameful; the goal is simply illuminating an area in Leonard’s life that is unknown to many because it is somehow discomforting.

And, as noted earlier in this series, even benign historical revisionism is not without cost. If those who admire artists are interested in understanding their backgrounds, rewriting those histories defeats the intent. Ignoring, let alone attacking biographical data is dangerous.

Firearms and Leonard Cohen

Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen is a summary of entries comprising a noncomprehensive sampler of connections between Leonard Cohen and pistols, rifles, bullets, small arms, handguns, etc. All individual posts in this category are collected at

Credit Due Department: Photo of Walther PPK4 by http://www.adamsguns.comhttp://www.adamsguns.com, Attribution, Wikipedia.

More Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen

All posts in this series are collected at

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  1. The ‘Serious’ Sounds Of Leonard Cohen – Interview by Terry Gross. NPR Fresh Air: April 29, 1986 []
  2. For that matter, why didn’t the posts describing Leonard’s  cars result in angry retorts about his use of internal combustion engine vehicles that pollute the environment? []
  3. I should note that, despite growing up in the Ozarks at a time when most adolescent and adult men owned and hunted with rifles and shotguns (I still own my father’s guns although I haven’t fired them in many years), I’m concerned about the impact of firearms on our society and my pertinent personal views are not congruent with Leonard’s. []
  4. Note: The gun images that populate Cohencentric posts, including this one, are illustrative only and do not portray any guns actually owned by Leonard Cohen and may not accurately depict the specific gun described in the text. Firearms of the same caliber may be produced by more than one manufacturer and in various formats. []