“I had no conscious desire to have offspring. I didn’t really want to have children. Their mother, Suzanne, wanted children, I obliged.” Leonard Cohen

Did you want to leave something behind you, a descendant?

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Oh no, not at all. I had no conscious desire to have offspring. I didn’t really want to have children. Their mother, Suzanne, wanted children, I obliged.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

Note: Although he hadn’t wanted children, they became a focus of his life: see Lessons From Leonard Cohen: Your Children Are Your First Priority.

Homes Of Leonard Cohen: The Caravan In The South Of France

Cohencentric has long offered a category of posts focused on the Homes Of Leonard Cohen in Montreal, Los Angeles, and Hydra. Today marks the addition of his caravan (what we Yanks would call a “house trailer”) in the south of France (what we Yanks would call “the south of France”).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Leonard Cohen repeatedly traveled from his homes in Montreal, Los Angeles and Hydra to live in a trailer he installed at the bottom of a path leading to the home in the south of France near Avignon,1 where Suzanne Elrod had moved with their children following their breakup.2 (Note: The photo atop this post is representative of the genre but does not depict Leonard’s actual caravan. Photo by KotivaloOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Adam Cohen described the scene in a 2018 NPR interview:3

I remember my mother moved my sister and I all the way to the south of France where we lived – and there was a long dirt road. And he bought one of these sort of caravan jet-stream type things. And he put it at the T where the road met the dirt road. And he just lived there (laughter). And my mother didn’t want him on the property. So, you know, every day after school, the bus would drop us off. And we’d see Dad in his caravan.

Adam elaborates in a 2012 article:4

One of the chief occupations of my father is to divine what somebody needs and give it to them before they ask. He remained in his children’s lives despite incredible obstacles. There was a moment, when we were living in the south of France, that my father wasn’t allowed on the property. So he bought a caravan and lived at the end of our road. Despite the distances my mother placed before him, he was always present with instruction and humour. To many, he was lugubrious because of his poetry, but to us, he was the most hysterical guy. We still get together every Friday when we’re in town for a family meal and he’s a constant source of counsel, advice, support and encouragement. I feel loved. I’ve always felt seen. I was between five and eight when he lived in that caravan. He was parked right at the T, where the public street met the private road. It’s hard on a kid, when you see your makers at pointed odds, especially when you understand that financially, your father’s floating the whole scene and living in a caravan at the end of a dirt road. In retrospect, every visit was an education. He was there to protect values. It would be lighting the Sabbath candles and learning Hebrew prayers, singing songs, reading the bible. In the Jewish tradition, “Cohen” is the high-priest. It’s no accident my father has a ministerial quality. As a father, he still continues to feel like a shepherd imparting an ancient understanding.”

The caravan was also where Leonard did much of his work on Book of Mercy:5

Continue Reading →

  1. The Face May Not Be Familiar, but the Name Should Be: It’s Composer and Cult Hero Leonard Cohen by Pamela Andriotakis & Richard Oulahan. People: January 14, 1980. []
  2. I’m Your Man – The Life Of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012. P 327. []
  3. New Collection Showcases Leonard Cohen’s ‘Obsession With Imperfection’. Terry Gross Interviews Adam Cohen (NPR: October 8, 2018 []
  4. Leonard Cohen: Portrait of the artist as an older man Ben Kaplan. National Post: January 31, 2012 []
  5. Vicki Gabereau Interview with Leonard Cohen (CBC:  September 6, 1984 []

“He found her beauty inescapable and her sensuality irresistible.” Ira Nadel On Leonard Cohen & Suzanne Elrod

He found her beauty inescapable and her sensuality irresistible. She hung erotic woodcuts beside religious icons on the white-washed walls of his house on Hydra. She was Jewish, from Miami, a beautiful, difficult woman. “God, whenever I see her ass, I forget every pain that’s gone between us,” he once remarked. When he discovered that she had small handwriting much like his own, he said, “I fear we are to be together for a long time.” Their difference in age never affected their relationship, although once when Cohen was doing an interview and gave his real age, thirty-four, she interrupted to say, “Leonard, don’t say how old you are.” He laughed and quoted John, 8:32: “The truth shall set you free.” In their first year together, Cohen and Suzanne were itinerant, living on Hydra, at the Chelsea in New York, and briefly in Montreal where, after a short stay with Robert Hershorn, they rented a small house in the Greek section near Mount Royal. He wrote and composed, while she dashed off a pornographic novel, written “to make us laugh.” He gave Suzanne a filigreed Jewish wedding ring, although they never actually married. They eventually settled in Nashville.

Excerpt from Various Positions A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel (Random House of Canada: 1996)

Leonard Cohen On His “Attraction To Formality” Vs Suzanne Elrod’s Advice That He “Lighten Up”

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Cohen admits to having an old-fashioned streak (“an attraction to formality”)

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I might be inclined to have the children dressed in their best clothes for synagogue and such, but Suzanne [Elrod] tells me to lighten up and she’s right. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Cohen at 50: On His Songs, His Women And Children by Chris Cobb (Ottawa Citizen: April 21, 1984). Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“This is a painting that Suzanne [Elrod] did… That’s me playing guitar and being comforted by her. It’s the consolamentum, the kiss of peace.” Leonard Cohen

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From the Armelle Brusq documentary, Leonard Cohen, Spring 96, A Portrait.

More about the consolamentum can be found at Video – The Consolamentum of Leonard Cohen: An Introduction by David Peloquin

“That’s why I speak in my songs about marriage – because I believe that any human being who acquires that commitment is someone with an authentic monastic spirit.” Leonard Cohen

In Cohen’s songs there are repeated allusions to marriage.

Leonard Cohen: Last year I was traveling in the service of a monk [Roshi], carrying his luggage. We went to several monasteries in America, and I remember he once told the monks of a Trappist monastery that the life they led was very easy in their setting. To know what a hard, difficult life was, they had to know what marriage was. In their environment, it was very easy to get up at three in the morning and pray. But leading a life of commitment with another person was the most difficult thing in this world. It is in marriage that a man is tested, where his manhood, his dignity is proved. That’s why I speak in my songs about marriage – because I believe that any human being who acquires that commitment is  someone with an authentic monastic spirit.

Are you married?

Leonard Cohen: I live with a woman [Suzanne Elrod]

And do you do it in the spirit you’re talking about?

Leonard Cohen: Yes, although I think it’s very difficult. Anyway, it’s worth trying.

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate.

Leonard Cohen says Suzanne Elrod “outwitted me at every turn”

In 1969, Cohen met 24-year-old Suzanne Elrod, the woman with whom he would share his longest and most tempestuous relationship. (She was not the legendary “Suzanne” of his most famous song, though Cohen admits her name was part of the attraction.) The two formed what Cohen describes as a marriage, though it was never formalized. In the coming years, Cohen’s recordings (including Songs of Love and Hate and Death of a Ladies’ Man) were often-stark portrayals of the struggle for romantic faith amid sexual warfare and of hope in the face of cultural dissolution. Much of the work was about his stormy relationship with Elrod. (She “outwitted me at every turn,” he says.) They had two children together and separated in the mid-’70s.

From Brother of Mercy by Mikal Gilmore, Spin, March 2002

“I believed in him. He had moved people in the right direction, toward gentleness. But then I became very alone—the proof of the poetry just wasn’t there.” Suzanne Elrod On Leonard Cohen

Though Cohen had given Suzanne [Suzanne Elrod, the mother Of Adam and Lorca Cohen] a filigreed Jewish wedding ring, the union had never been formalized. The relationship became strained and about the time his mother died, in 1978, they separated. Suzanne took the children to live near Avignon, France. “I believed in him,” she says. “He had moved people in the right direction, toward gentleness. But then I became very alone—the proof of the poetry just wasn’t there.” Suzanne claims he is not living up to a child-support agreement he signed when they broke up. For his part, Cohen complains about Florida-bred Suzanne’s “Miami consumer habits. My only luxuries are airplane tickets to go anywhere at any time. All I need is a table, chair and bed.”

From The Face May Not Be Familiar, but the Name Should Be: It’s Composer and Cult Hero Leonard Cohen by Pamela Andriotakis & Richard Oulahan. People: January 14, 1980. Originally posted Nov 15, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric