“My hero is Muhammad Ali” Leonard Cohen

When Sylvie Simmons asked Leonard Cohen who his hero was, he named “poets and spiritual leaders – Roshi, Ramesh Balsekar, Lorca, Yeats – adding the caveat, ‘I admire many men and women but it’s the designation ‘hero’ I have difficulty with, because it implies some kind of reverence that is alien to my nature.'” The next day, however, Sylvie received the following email from Leonard:

i forgot
my hero is muhammad ali
as they say about the Timex in their ads
takes a lickin’
keeps on tickin’

Leonard Cohen


From  I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. Also see Adam Cohen Named His Son, Cassius, After His Hero, Muhammad Ali

Posted shortly after Muhammad Ali died June 3, 2016

Leonard Cohen’s Mother Advises Him: “Follow Your Own Little Heart”

I felt very free to follow whatever direction I wanted and my mother, who was very generous and open,  just said, ‘follow your own little heart.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen: Exclusive JC Interview by Jenni Frazer (The Jewish Chronicle: July 19, 2007)

Leonard Cohen Describes His Mother, Masha: “A Generous Chekhovian Spirit”

[My mother was] a generous Chekhovian spirit, very accepting in her way. She was alarmed when she saw me running around Montreal with a guitar under my arm, but she was very kind in her observations She would occasionally roll her eyes, but that was about as far as it went.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Sylvie Simmons’ interview with Leonard Cohen, reported in her book, “I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen”

“I got ambushed in New York by the folk renaissance” Leonard Cohen Tells How He Met Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, & “Aryan Ice Queen” Nico

Nico at Lampeter University (Nov 1985)

Nico at Lampeter University (Nov 1985)

Things To Do In New York If You’re Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen provides, in his own words, an  entertaining synopsis of  his time in New York during the 1960s, including the kind words Lou Reed had for him and the less kind words of dismissal he received from Nico:1

In 1966 I borrowed some money from a friend in Montreal and came down to the great empire, America, to try to make my way. I had written a few books and I couldn’t make a living. I played in a country band and I loved country music and I had a few songs I thought were country songs and I was on my way ultimately to Nashville but I got ambushed in New York by the folk renaissance — and got my first public appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. In New York I found this huge explosion of things and I was interested in this enlightened community being promoted in the east side of New York and I would go down there but I couldn’t locate it.

I walked into a club called the Dome and I saw someone singing there who looked like she inhabited a Nazi poster; it was Nico, the perfect Aryan ice queen.

And there was a very handsome young man playing for her; he turned out to be Jackson Browne.

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne

I just stood there and said forget the new society, this is the woman I’ve been looking for. I followed her all around New York.

She led me to Max’s Kansas City. I met Lou Reed there and he said something very kind to me which made me feel at home. I had no particular clout in that scene. I was just a guy who was a little older than the other guys, just sniffing around like everybody else. I was very lonely and mostly interested in finding a girl. Lou came over and introduced himself and said, “I love your book.” I never knew anybody knew my books because they only sold a few thousand copies in America. We were sitting at a table and some guy was bugging me, in a polite sort of way, and I was responding in a polite sort of way, and Lou Reed said to me, “Hey, man, you don’t have to be nice to this guy. You don’t have to be nice to anybody. You’re the man who wrote ‘Beautiful Losers.’”

Lou Reed holding a gun during a 1977 photo shoot.

Lou Reed holding a gun during a 1977 photo shoot.

Nico eventually told me, “Look, I like young boys. You’re just too old for me.”

Credit Due Department: Lou Reed photo: By Arista Records/Photo by Mick Rock. – ebayfrontback, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30585465. Nico photo: By GanMed64 – Flickr: Nico (The Velvet Underground) – Lampeter University – November 1985, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27794898. Jackson Browne photo: By Helge Øverås – Norberak egina, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3473573

Note: Originally posted Mar 2, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. From Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen 1994 []

Leonard Cohen on Kurt Cobain

Photo of Kurt COBAIN and NIRVANA
Several members of Nirvana came to my concert in Seattle in ’93. And when Kurt Cobain killed himself… I always wished he had come to the concert, wished I’d been able to talk to him. We get young people like him up at the monastery who’ve come to the end of the rope, and there are ways you can address them that are rather original –— not psychological. I probably wouldn’t have been able to affect anything. It’s just one of those big ‘what ifs.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen by Neva Chonin (Rolling Stone: December 11, 1997). Photo by Maia Valenzuela

Leonard Cohen, on being asked if “it was a thrill” to work with Phil Spector

Well, baby, the thrill is gonequotedown2

Leonard Cohen



From A Sitting With Leonard Cohen: Ladies’ Man Is Home, Not Dead by Juan Rodriguez. The Gazette (Montréal): Jan 7, 1978

DrHGuy Notes: Leonard Cohen  and Phil Spector collaborated on the Death Of A Ladies’ Man album. “Well, baby, the thrill is gone” references, of course, the lyrics of “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King.

Note: Originally posted September 14, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric