“I shouldn’t be in Canada at all. Winter is all wrong for me. I belong beside the Mediterranean. My ancestors made a terrible mistake.” From Book Jacket Of The Spice-Box of Earth By Leonard Cohen

The full dust jacket blurb from The Spice-Box of Earth (1961) follows:

Leonard Cohen, 27, McGill graduate, gives his address as Montreal, but as this book was going to press he was enroute to Cuba. He spent last year on the shores of the Aegean Sea, writing as a result of that experience:

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I shouldn’t be in Canada at all. Winter is all wrong for me. I belong beside the Mediterranean. My ancestors made a terrible mistake. But I have to keep coming back to Montreal to renew my neurotic affiliations. Greece has the true philosophic climate—you cannot be dishonest in that light. But it’s only in Montreal that you can get beat up for wearing a beard. I love Montreal. I hate the speculators who are tearing down my favourite streets and erecting those prisons built in the habit of boredom and gold.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

While he prefers swimming in the Aegean, Leonard Cohen admits a fondness for camping in Northern Quebec. He is currently engaged in writing a novel.

“Leonard Cohen’s Montreal flat wears the unclutter of a man who never quite puts away his suitcase.” Tom Chaffin (1983)

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The described grandiosity [of Night Magic] contrasts harshly with the setting of our conversation – the kitchen of Cohen’s small second-story flat. Tucked away on a side street in one of east Montreal’s working-class, ethnic enclaves, the apartment, two rooms and a kitchen, could have been lifted straight from the text of a Leonard Cohen song (“That’s what everybody says when they come here”). Fake oriental carpets cover grey floorboards. Ceilings are low, the walls white and bare except for a few prints. Furnishings are sparse – no bric-a-brac here, no book-lined shelves. There are worktables in the front room; a brass bed, a dresser, a chair in the bedroom; a wooden table with two chairs in the kitchen…

Cohen’s Montreal flat wears the unclutter of a man who never quite puts away his suitcase. This tidy perch, with its unopened boxes in the hallway, is, after all, just one shard of a life spent between countries and continents. Cohen considers his small stucco house on the Great island of [Hydra], which he purchased for $1,500 in 1960, his most permanent abode. Modest like his Montreal flat, and a similar one in Los Angeles, it has had running water and electricity only for the last few years.

From Conversations from a Room by Tom Chaffin. Canadian Forum: August/September 1983. Photo by Lilian Graziani. Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

This is an outstanding interview that makes for rewarding reading. It is saturated with significant Cohen quotations on performing concerts, Montreal, poetry, politics, songwriting, and housecleaning, all of which are available at the link.

The 2018 Leonard Cohen Field Guide

The Legacy Of Leonard Cohen 2018: People, Places, & Projects

While Leonard Cohen died November 7, 2016, his work and memory live on. This chapter of the Leonard Cohen Primer identifies some of the individuals, locations, and potential projects that figure prominently in the legacy of Leonard Cohen in 2018.1

Robert Kory

Leonard Cohen & Robert Kory. Photo by Gwen Langford.

Robert Kory, Leonard Cohen’s business manager, lawyer, and friend, is now Trustee Of Leonard Cohen Family Trust and, pragmatically, the primary decision-maker for matters Cohen in 2018 (see Robert Kory, Trustee Of Leonard Cohen Family Trust, Talks About His Mandate To Expand Appreciation Of Cohen’s Work).

The Robert Kory Story: Leonard Cohen experienced a financial disaster that he discovered in 2004.

Leonard is broke, or to put it more properly, he’s been robbed. You may have followed this in the press, but the drift is, the songwriter was bilked out of millions due him by his former manager, Kelley Lynch. A true femme fatale, even though Cohen successfully sued Lynch (for $9 mil), she has ignored the suit.2

Within a short time, the legal pursuit of his financial losses depleted Leonard’s funds to the point that he would soon be unable to pay the professionals charged with protecting his interests. In the midst of these problems, Leonard Cohen, Anjani, and Lorca Cohen were discussing this looming and increasingly tempestuous financial maelstrom when Lorca experiences an epiphany expressed as an innocuous question addressed to Anjani: “Wasn’t your ex-husband a lawyer?” Anjani responds that yes, her ex was indeed a member of the legal profession – which is how Anjani came to be phoning the man she divorced 15 years earlier to ask his professional help. (More information about this event can be found at The Anjani Chronicles: Escape From New York Meets To Live & Die In LA Meets Back To The Future + The Robert Kory Story.) Cohen and Kory meet and agree to work together. The ensuing legal battles are brutal, ferociously antagonistic affairs, replete with suits, countersuits, threats, demands, and accusations of blackmail, conspiracy, and worse. As noted in the earlier quote from the Guardian, Leonard Cohen, represented by Robert Kory, prevailed in court although collection of the judgment remained a largely theoretical concept. That win led to Robert Kory’s ongoing role in the management of Cohen’s business interests,  including the 2008-2013 tours.

Adam Cohen

Leonard Cohen, Adam Cohen, & Adam’s son, Cassius. Photo from Adam Cohen Facebook Page.

Leonard Cohen has two grown children. His son, Adam (born 1972), is, like his father, a singer-songwriter. Adam played a major role in the creation of his father’s final album, You Want It Darker, and the Nov 6, 2017 Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert.

Lorca Cohen

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Leonard’s daughter, Lorca (born 1974), was named after the poet, Federico García Lorca. (Of course, mention of Federico García Lorca at this point is an instance of Chekov’s gun3 so there will be more about him later. For now, however, just keep Lorca’s namesake4 in mind for future reference.)

Lorca has two children, Lyon and Viva. Viva is the child of Rufus Wainwright. Lorca has run an antique store, has assisted her father on tour, and is a skilled photographer. Many of the photos of Leonard Cohen that appear in published materials, CD cover art, etc. are her work.

The photo of Leonard Cohen and a 16 year old Lorca at his L.A. home was taken May 16, 1991 by Paul Harris.

Patrick Leonard

 

Patrick Leonard, who collaborated with Leonard Cohen on his final three albums, Old Ideas, Popular Problems, and You Want It Darker, revealed that the last time he visited Leonard Cohen, the two “were in talks to work on an R&B album.” There are other indications of work produced by The Two Leonards stashed away at the time before Leonard Cohen’s death have sparked hopes of future releases of original material.

Montreal

Leonard Cohen mural on Crescent St, Montreal. Photo by Michael Loftus

Leonard Cohen was born, grew up, attended college, maintained a residence, and was buried in Montreal (see ). Montreal scenes were featured in some of Leonard’s songs (see Leonard Cohen on Suzanne “It was never about a particular woman…it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal”), and he was also a member of Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, the synagogue Lazarus Cohen (Leonard Cohen’s great-grandfather) and Lyon Cohen (Leonard’s grandfather) each served as president. Leonard Cohen’s gravesite is located in the Shaar Hashomayim Cemetery.

Photo by Maarten Massa

Montreal was the site of Nov 6, 2017 Leonard Cohen Tribute.

The Flame – Leonard Cohen’s Final Book

The only confirmed, impending official Leonard Cohen project is Leonard’s final book, The Flame, due to be published Oct 2, 2018,. The volume will offer lyrics from his final three albums, poems, prose, illustrations, & selections from his notebooks.

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  1. Note: The first Leonard Cohen Field Guide was published in 2008. []
  2. Leonard Cohen: A troubadour at Charles’s court by Neil Spencer. Guardian: May 21, 2006 []
  3. “Chekov’s gun” references the playwright’s notion that “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” From Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521. Preceding primary reference is from Wikipedia []
  4. One suspects that Lorca Cohen, however admirable she may find the poet for whom she was named, may well have grown less enthusiastic about inevitably being introduced in published material as “Lorca Cohen, who was named after the … .” If so, I apologize for perpetuating the trend; it’s the kind of thing newbies need to know. []

“Autumn here [in Montreal], the one I always remembered, red trees and sunlight, a bright wind swirling the leaves and skirts, the buildings more solid for all the fragile movement of the trees and walkers.” Leonard Cohen Writing To Redmond Wallis In 1963

Leonard Cohen’s Oct 6, 1963 letter, written in Montreal, to Redmond Wallis, then living in Leonard’s home on Hydra. Archived at the National Library of New Zealand – Wellington. The photo of a very young Leonard Cohen and his sister in the woods courtesy of Maarten Massa.

A Leonard Cohen Primer: Childhood

A Leonard Cohen Primer is a series of posts designed as an introduction to Leonard Cohen for those who are interested in discovering the basics about the life of the Canadian singer-songwriter but  who may not be ready to peruse a full fledged biography (for that, see Sept 18, 2012: “I’m Your Man” By Sylvie Simmons Becomes The Definitive Leonard Cohen Biography).

Growing Up Leonard Cohen

Born September 21, 1934, Leonard Cohen, along with his older sister, Esther, grew up in a well-to-do Jewish family in Westmount, an upper middle class suburb of Montreal, located on the slope of Mount Royal.

Leonard Cohen’s Family

His father, Nathan Cohen,1 was a successful clothing manufacturer, who died when Leonard was nine years old.2 Leonard took pride in Nathan’s service as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I, telling Harry Rasky

I always loved the Army. And my father had intended to send me to the Kingston Military Academy actually. And if he’d have lived, I would probably have been in the Canadian Army.

l-m-e Leonard characterized his mother, Masha, as romantic, beautiful, sensitive, and emotional, given to bouts of both joyfulness and melancholy. He credited her with encouraging his poetic and musical aspirations and described how she would, as she went through her day, sing Yiddish and Russian folk songs she had learned as a child.

Continue Reading →

  1. Several photos of Nathan can be viewed at The Pictorial Rehabilitation Of Leonard Cohen’s Father, Nathan Cohen []
  2. Weeks later, Leonard buried one of his father’s bow ties wrapped in a paper containing a few lines of verse. While some have identified that act as an especially consequential point in Cohen’s artistic development, Cohen himself accounts it as “just a singular gesture,” going on to note, “I don’t know why I did that.” []

“I live like a foreigner in my own city, cut off by the fact that I don’t speak French that well.” Leonard Cohen

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I live in Montreal, which is a French city, in Quebec, which is a French country–especially now, it is a country. I live as a minority writer, almost in exile, because there is no English writing community where I live. These are very special Canadian problems which to me form the Canadian character, because we’re very much involved in this notion of what is minority and what is majority; and yet while these questions are in the air, it seems that everybody has space. Because we don’t have the melting pot notion at all in Canada, we have a federal system that runs right down into the psyche of the country. So in a sense I live like a foreigner in my own city, cut off by the fact that I don’t speak French that well. I can get by, but it’s not a tongue I could ever move around in in a way that would satisfy the appetites of the mind or the heart. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975). Photo by Thomas1313 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons. Originally posted December 17, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric