Leonard Cohen, Kim Solez, The Banff Classification For Renal Transplant Biopsies, & Treaty Lyrics

Introduction by DrHgGuy:  Leonard Cohen has incorporated into his work images and phrases from a panoply of sources, including but certainly not limited to

Kim Solez1 posits that a discussion he had with Leonard about the international classification for renal transplant biopsies may have contributed to the first draft of what later became the song Treaty.

At Leonard Cohen’s Kitchen Table
By Kim Solez

In November 2005, I met with Leonard at his home in Montreal for a three day weekend during which we discussed at length standard-setting in medicine and the controversy over the status of borderline changes in the Banff classification for renal transplant biopsies.

At the Nov 6, 2017 Montreal Tower Of Song Tribute Concert, I opened the program to find pages from Leonard’s notebook indicating that nine months later at the same kitchen table where our conversations took place, Leonard wrote the first draft of Treaty in which the word ‘borderline” appears five times. I explain further in this video.


“Living Life With Microscopic Precision”

Also, in 2006 when Leonard accepted induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame he mentioned “living life with microscopic precision,” a phrase from our conversations together in November 2005 when we talked about the profession of pathology.


  1. Kim Solez, MD, is President of the Cohennights Arts Society and lead organizer of the Leonard Cohen International Festival.  He is also a pathologist and co-founder of the Banff Classification, the first standardized international classification for renal transplant biopsies. []

Video: Treaty By Leonard Cohen – Quintessential Puzzle Of Longing, Love And Faith

Oana Maria Cajal.writes:

Here is our new Cohenesque Art Video, in anticipation of Leonard’s celebration in November, here in Montreal.

More Cohencentric posts featuring work by this artist can be found at Oana Maria Cajal. She also maintains a website at www.oanacajal.ca and a Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/@OanaCajal

Leonard Cohen’s “Treaty” – Not Just A Song But A Piece Of Soul By Brian Nowlin


Introduction: Brian Nowlin’s essay on “Treaty” from Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker album is personal, poignant and revealing. While the critics’ reviews of You Want It Darker (links to well over 100 online reviews of this album can be found at Info & Updates: Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker) have been especially thoughtful and respectful, Brian’s expression of his response to “Treaty” offers insights not found in the reviews of professional critics.

Allan Showalter

Leonard Cohen’s “Treaty” – Not Just A Song But A Piece Of Soul: A Guest Post By Brian Nowlin

I felt called to dash off some thoughts last night about L.C.’s new album — well, about “Treaty.” What an amazing song! My reflections veered into a highly personal direction, which I hadn’t anticipated, but there was no other way to write about my current experience of the song.

Brian Nowlin

The invigoratingly painful jubilee of “Treaty” has completely stopped me in my tracks, so much so that my engagement with the rest of the album has thus far been casual at best. I don’t have any real interest in offering an exhaustive “reading” of the song, or in trying to unpack particular lines, but I feel compelled to try and say a few things.

Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s work, “Treaty” blurs prayer and love song, spiritual meditation and erotic lament — or rather, it doesn’t so much blur them as speak from that deep place where the agonies of love and the insoluble questions of the spirit are inherently one and the same. As I hear it, it’s a song that voices the simultaneous miracle and impossibility of a particular relationship, the aching truth that sometimes our deepest attachments simply cannot survive the falsifying mechanisms and the mysterious torments that the specific context of a human encounter often carries with it. I also hear, in and through the particular drama I try to describe above, a broader engagement with the inevitable disappointment and pain operative in life as a whole. This is both a personal kind of love song and an impersonal dialogue with the universe. Really what the song so powerfully conveys for me is the inseparability of love and loss — that perennial occupation of lyric poetry. The song ineffably touches something in me, a naked vulnerability, that in the midst of life’s most difficult situations longs for an impossible “treaty,” a solution, a respite from suffering, even while knowing full well that such a compromise is not forthcoming, and that in fact its very impossibility is the key to the visitation of such beautiful longing.

The delivery of the line, “You were my ground — my safe and sound / You were my aerial,” is something I find more moving than just about anything else in Leonard Cohen’s work

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“Unless the situation is life-threatening, let your lover (and everybody else) off the hook.” Leonard Cohen On The Nature Of The Treaty In You Want It Darker

At the beginning and at the very end of the [You Want It Darker] album you mention a “treaty.” What kind of treaty is it exactly?


A treaty between your love and mine,
both these loves utterly impenetrable
and unknowable,
one to the other.

A man I studied with said: Love your neighbor? Difficult. How about, Try not to hate your neighbor. Unless the situation is life-threatening, let your lover (and everybody else) off the hook.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Le Dernier Empereur by J.D. Beauvallet and Pierre Siankowski (Les Inrocks: Oct 19, 2016) [from the original English questionnaire forwarded to me from Leonard Cohen]

More Information About You Want It Darker

Information about You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen is collected and updated at Info & Updates: Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker

“We sold ourselves for love / But now we’re free” Lyrics From Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker Album: Treaty

They’re dancing in the streets
It’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love
But now we’re free
I’m so sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real
And that was me

From Treaty
By Leonard Cohen


Posts featuring selected lyrics from songs on the You Want It Darker album along with notes on the songs’ origins (e.g., published poems), links to other works by Leonard Cohen, and allusions can be found at 

All available information about You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen is collected and updated at Info & Updates: Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker