“[Leonard Cohen] is the ideal grandfather, psychoanalyst and rabbi” Marilyn Ambach

Marilyn Ambach, a Production Assistant for Leonard Cohen for two years, is featured in Tegen Leonard Cohen zeg je niet nee [Google Translate: By Leonard Cohen you do not say no] by Inge Schelstraete in the Dec 29, 2012 issue of De Standaard.

Translation issues notwithstanding, the entire article is a worthwhile read for its insight into the behind the scenes operations and an insider’s view of Leonard Cohen.  (Those interested in this perspective might also find Kezban Özcan Talks About What It’s Like To Be Leonard Cohen’s Assistant interesting.) Excerpts via Google Translate follow:

“On July 1, 2010, I received phone Cohens people: go you on our next tour? It was not my ambition to travel around the world – when I saw roadies, I always thought: for months in a suitcase life, that’s not for me. But my shows in Tel Aviv were finished and I work freelance. If there are no concerts, I organize events. “

“So I thought … No, I thought not. You do not say no to Leonard Cohen, especially if you are from around the world are chosen. His performance in Tel Aviv … indescribable. In Belgium we are in terms of concert offerings spoiled. This is not so. The people know that you are not in Israel occurs because you happen to be in the neighborhood. Israel is not loved, it’s hard to get here. “

“The concert of Cohen had an extra dimension. He sang in Hebrew prayer of the Kohanim, the caste which its name is derived. He might be a Buddhist, but he remains Jewish. Anyway, there was something mystical about that concert. “

… “Now, if you would do a survey in showbiz Cohen is top of the top of people without pretense. With us there was no difference between the star and the people. Leonard Cohen wears his guitar itself. As a Buddhist, he is totally unattached to material things: he does not suites. He will never say, “That person is working for me.” He says: “This is my colleague ‘.’

“This creates a kind of … gratitude. The feeling that we are working for someone who is intrinsically good. Camp Cohen, as we called it. His zen radiates from the entire team, from the technicians to managers. With Cohen, I have the deepest conversations, about Freud, about life … He is the ideal grandfather, psychoanalyst and rabbi. And it is perhaps not so young, but still the most beautiful man in the world. I will not forget how hard I had on that tour and how much I missed my comfort zone, but it is an experience which I am very grateful.”

Marilyn Ambach’s story in her own words as well several photos (see sample above) can be found at Marilyn & Camp Cohen, [Update: This post is now marked private and is inaccessible to the public] posted at Marilyn & Josephine: August 28, 2012.

Credit Due Department: Both photos in this post were taken by Joey Carenza. Originally posted Dec 29, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

3 Years Ago: Leonard Cohen & DrHGuy – Hanging In The Hood


On Aug 6, 2014, the Duchess & I spent a sunny afternoon with Leonard Cohen and his personal assistant, Kezban Özcan, at his home in Los Angeles. Read about that visit at


Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post taken by Penny Showalter

Leonard Cohen’s Voice: “His sonorous rasp meshes perfectly with the earthy transcendence of his lyrics.”


Although he’s widened his range in recent years, Cohen’s voice has always been a limited instrument, but his sonorous rasp meshes perfectly with the earthy transcendence of his lyrics.quotedown2


Leonard Cohen: Born With The Gift Of A Golden Voice

Leonard Cohen’s distinctive voice has been described so often and so strikingly that I’ve collected these characterizations under their own tag: Leonard Cohen’s Voice

This excerpt is from Icon: Leonard Cohen by Sam Adams (Wondering Sound: June 30, 2009). Photo by Ted McDonnell. Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

University of Cape Town Professor Lesley Marx To Lecture On Music Of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan

Prof Marx will host two lectures on Cohen and Dylan, as a part of UCT’s Winter School programme, on 5 and 12 August. She says her lectures aim to link their work without making any insidious comparisons.

More information at Professor explores meaning behind music of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan (Cape Talk: 4 August 2017)

Credit Due Department: UCT photo by Adrian Frith – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons

Was Leonard Cohen A Vegetarian?

Because questions about Leonard Cohen’s vegetarianism arise periodically, I’ve compiled a summary for reference.

Was Leonard Cohen A Vegetarian?

Yep. Leonard Cohen was a self-professed vegetarian for a few years in the 1960s. The exact dates given or his vegetarianism are a tad inconsistent..

Leonard Cohen Loses His Veginity

There is some confusion about when Leonard’s stint as a vegetarian began and ended. The best contemporaneous description I’ve found is this excerpt from Is the World (or Anybody) Ready for Leonard Cohen? by Jon Ruddy. Maclean’s: October 1, 1966.

He [Leonard Cohen] has started eating meat again after being a vegetarian for two years. He had stopped eating meat because he disapproves of the killing of animals. He wrote:

Great torsos of meadow animals strung in glistening exhibition Heads piled in pyramids like parked cannon balls some of them cruelly facing a display of their missing extremities.

He started eating meat again because he got to dislike a certain kind of arrogance he had developed about being a vegetarian. The arrogance was shown in his subtle and partly unconscious attempts to convince Marianna, the sweet-faced Norwegian blonde he has been living with for six years, that not eating meat somehow would make her a finer person. Sometimes Marianna would abstain, sometimes she would be fiercely carnivorous. Now, sitting there among the turtles, drinking Welch’s grape juice, eating a licorice cigar, Cohen says, “1 don’t know, everybody has become kind of loony.”

In his description of the life Leonard & Suzanne [Elrod]  led on their rented Tennessee farm in 1968, Nadel writes1

At the time, he [Leonard Cohen] was continuing  with his macrobiotic diet (between 1965 and 1968 he was a vegetarian). Cohen often had nothing to offer his guests but soy tea.

In the same volume, Nadel notes

A January 28, 1968 article in the New York Times captured Cohen’s state of mind … He offered diet tips; three years earlier, he had been a vegetarian, now he ate only meat.

Leonard Cohen On Vegetarianism

In Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, the 1965 documentary about Leonard Cohen from the National Film Board of Canada, Leonard declared:

Well its true, ever since I stopped eating meat I feel a lot better among animals, I feel I can be much more honest when I pat a dog.

He also wrote A Person Who Eats Meat2, which he recited during his performance at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival:

A person who eats meat
wants to get his teeth into something
A person who does not eat meat
wants to get his teeth into something else
If these thoughts interest you for even a moment
you are lost.

And, he composed

So you’re the kind of vegetarian
Who only eats roses
Is that what you meant
with your beautiful losers

The final words of this poem (for more about this poem, see They Eat Roses, Don’t They? Leonard Cohen, Roses, Vegetarians, Poetics, & Abligurition) from Parasites of Heaven (1966) provide the name for Cohen’s novel, Beautiful Losers.

The serendipitous consecutive mentions of Cohen’s Beautiful Losers (1966) and his vegetarianism proffer an irresistible opportunity to – finally – present my favorite passage from that novel that features vegetarians and hilarity in equal parts:

Secret kabals of vegetarians habitually gather under the sign to exchange contraband from beyond the Vegetable Barrier. In their pinpoint eyes dances their old dream: the Total Fast. One of them reports a new atrocity published without compassionate comment by the editors of Scientific American: “It has been established that, when pulled from the ground, a radish produces an electronic scream.” Not even the triple bill for 65˘ will comfort them tonight. With a mad laugh born of despair, one of them throws himself on a hot-dog stand, disintegrating on the first chew into pathetic withdrawal symptoms. The rest watch him mournfully and then separate into the Montreal entertainment section. The news is more serious than any of them thought. One is ravished by a steak house with sidewalk ventilation. In a restaurant, one argues with the waiter that he ordered “tomato” but then in a suicide of gallantry he agrees to accept the spaghetti, meat sauce mistake.


  1. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel (Random House of Canada, Oct 29, 2010) []
  2. Selected Poems 1956-1968 []

Recommended Reading: Notes on the Late Leonard Cohen and Meeting Him in Montreal by Jim Algie

No singer or songwriter I’ve ever heard has sung with more honesty and wit about his own failings and shortcomings than Leonard Cohen.quotedown2

Jim Algie

Notes on the Late Leonard Cohen and Meeting Him in Montreal by Jim Algie (JimAlgie: July 26, 2017) is an insightful and entertaining personal essay about the significance of Leonard Cohen’s work and philosophy. It includes a brief account of the author’s sole meeting with Leonard, which is heartfelt as well as interesting. I especially like Jim Algie’s parting words to Leonard:

Thanks again for all the great music, books, and solace, that rapturous concert and for putting up with me for an hour. Now I get bragging rights that will certainly impress my band-mates and the cool Goth babes.


Jim Algie GoodReads Profile:

Jim Algie has been a punk rock musician, journalist, wildlife conservationist and security guard in a lunatic asylum. His journalism has been published The International Herald Tribune, and his short fiction included in anthologies, like the Bram Stoker-winning Extremes 2: Fantasy and Horror from the Ends of the Earth. His non-fiction collection Bizarre Thailand: Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic and his short fiction collection, The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand, illuminate the country’s dark and sexy side. In 2017, he published On the Night Joey Ramone Died, part memoir, part punk history and part literature.