Leonard Cohen Describes How Roshi Gave Him “The Best [Musical] Advice I Ever Got”

How do you think your writing and music has changed since studying under Roshi?

I’ve been studying with Roshi for over thirty years, so it’s hard to say. Roshi came to the studio one night when I was recording New Skin for the Old Ceremony. That was in the seventies. In those days I was being written off as a morbid old depressive drone peddling suicide notes. (Still am, in some circles). Roshi slept through most, but not all of the session. The next morning I asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Leonard, you should sing more sad.’ That was the best advice I ever got. Took a while to put it into practice.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From October 16, 2001 Online Web Chat

DrHGuy Note: Leonard’s reference to “morbid old depressive drone” is one of many comments he made over the years to an insulting review of his 1970 Isle Of Wight performance. See Leonard Cohen On Being Labeled A “Boring Old Drone Who Should Go The Fuck Back To Canada.”

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. []

Cars Of Leonard Cohen: Leonard’s Car Talk – Homogenization By Car

Leonard Cohen On Homogenization By Car

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Cars Of Leonard Cohen

is a series of posts about actual automobiles owned by or associated with Leonard Cohen, metaphorical cars he employed in his songs, and his thoughts about cars. All posts in this series are collected at as they go online.

Two Views Of Leonard Cohen Montreal Mural: In Snow & In Clear Skies – March 12 & 13, 2018

To change view, hover cursor on right of image; then, click arrow that appears. To change back to original view, repeat process on left side of image.