In 2005, it was discovered that Leonard Cohen’s longtime manager, Kelley Lynch, had embezzled more than $5 million from the 71-year-old’s accounts, while also surreptitiously selling many of Cohen’s publishing rights. In the previous decade, Cohen mostly had been residing in a Zen monastery and had released only two albums—2001’s Ten New Songs and 2004’s Dear Heather, neither of which reached the top 100 on the chart. To pursue his case against Lynch, Cohen ultimately had to take out a new mortgage on his Los Angeles home. So on the heels of his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, the singer-songwriter announced that he was going to generate some income the old-fashioned way—by going back on tour after 15 years off the stage. ‘Leonard was very reluctant at first,’ says his manager, Robert Kory. ‘From his view, touring had always been a disaster—he would say, ‘Performing is an opportunity for a thousand humiliations.’ His hand forced, Cohen assembled a band (three backup singers, two guitarists, drummer, keyboardist, bassist and saxophonist, later replaced by a violinist) and rehearsed for a full three months, followed by a series of unadvertised preview dates in Canada, beginning May 11, 2008, at the 709-seat Playhouse in Fredericton, New Brunswick. During the next five years, selling out bigger and bigger stages, Cohen’s touring would propel his career to heights he had never seen since emerging as one of the most important songwriters of the 1960s. Between a lengthy run from 2008 to 2010, which included triumphant appearances at Coachella and Glastonbury, and then a shorter leg in 2012 and 2013, the previously stage-wary Cohen played 387 shows to more than 2 million people.
Information about the financial success of these tours is available at 2008-2013 Leonard Cohen Tour Revenues.
From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016). Photo by J. Gordon Anderson.
DrHGuy Note: Alan Light is the author of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”