The People & Places Associated With Leonard Cohen Today
A Leonard Cohen Primer1
The Not Too Big, Not Too Little, Pyritic Book Of Leonard Cohen
This chapter of A Leonard Cohen Primer introduces some of the individuals and locations that figure prominently in the contemporary life of Leonard Cohen. The names of these important people and places are identified in their first use in this post by being displayed in this version of dark red.
This should be easy going. There are lots of pictures, not much text, and only one tricky part (not to worry – I’ll warn you when it’s coming up.)
The exotically beautiful,2 dulcet-voiced woman who often accompanies Leonard Cohen musically and socially is Anjani.3 (In the spirit of full disclosure,4 I have a thing for Anjani. Details are available at Anjani & DrHGuy.)
Since the mid-1980s, Anjani has worked a back-up singer for Cohen in the studio and on tours, where she also played keyboards.
A decade or so later, the two became lovers.5
Anjani is also the vocalist, writer, and arranger on Blue Alert, a CD produced by Cohen and composed of tracks based on remnants and fragments of his poems and songs.
Blue Alert, issued in 2006, is considered by many to be the most recent “Leonard Cohen album” in the sense that its style and lyrics resonate with his previous work although he does not perform on the recording.6
When not performing or attending ceremonies in New York inducting Cohen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Anjani and Leonard Cohen spend most of their time in either Los Angeles, where they maintain separate apartments, or Montreal, which was Leonard Cohen’s home until his early 20s.
Leonard Cohen’s Family Home, Montreal7
The Poet’s Progeny
Leonard Cohen has two grown children. His son, Adam (born 1972), is also a singer.
His 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 gun8 so there will be more about him later. For now, however, just keep Lorca’s namesake9 in mind for future reference.)
Many of the photos of Leonard Cohen, Anjani, and family friends that appear in published materials, CD cover art, etc. are the work of Lorca Cohen.
OK, here’s the part where you have to pay attention.
The mother of Adam and Lorca is Suzanne Elrod.
Now, even a new Leonard Cohen fan is likely to know his only commercial hit song was “Suzanne.” 10 You know the one, Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river / You can hear the boats go by / You can spend the night beside her … she feeds you tea and oranges / That come all the way from China … For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind … and so on.
Ah, see how things are already starting to link together?
Well, no, they aren’t – yet.
It turns out – and this may be hard to believe – Leonard Cohen knew at least two Suzanne’s.11 And, the tea and oranges Suzanne was not the mother of Adam and Lorca Suzanne.
The Suzanne in the song is Suzanne Verdal, who was married to a friend of Cohen’s and did indeed live on the waterfront. In fact, the lyrics of the song, Suzanne, including the local geography, match up well with the real life Suzanne and her situation.12
Note that the official The Leonard Cohen Primer Qualification Criterion for Leonard Cohen Fan, Novice Level is “Awareness that the song-Suzanne is not the mother of Adam and Lorca-Suzanne.” Recall of the Suzannes’ specific last names is not required at this level.
There is one other point of contention. A biographer of Cohen’s claims that Cohen and Suzanne Elrod were married while Cohen himself holds that there was no marriage. No one disputes the relationship existed or that Adam and Lorca are the product of the union, rendering the point trivial. It is acknowledged here only in hopes of preventing future confusion on the reader’s part from these conflicting claims.
Jarkko Arjatsalo, Webmaster – and De Facto Chief Curator, Head Archivist, Documentary Photographer, Fan Club President, Social Chairman, High Priest, Ringmaster, and Prime Minister Of Cohenatia
Leonard Cohen with webmaster Jarkko Arjatsalo
(Los Angeles, June 1999)13
In 1995, Jarkko Arjatsalo, an accountant from Finland, established leonardcohenfiles.com, a web site devoted to (duh) Leonard Cohen.14 In 1997, Leonard Cohen, then residing at a Zen monastery (more about that in a later chapter), contacted Jarkko about his unauthorized site – to offer to contribute unpublished poems, notebooks used to compose his songs, a passport from his student days, personal anecdotes, that kind of stuff.
That affiliation has persisted and appears stronger than ever. Leonard Cohen, for example, chose to officially announce his 2008 tour first at leonardcohenfiles.
While leonardcohenfiles is most often described as an “encyclopedia” of Cohen information, a more apt analogy would be to the Smithsonian Institute with a plethora of displays of widely varying but consistently fascinating content. Leonardcohenfiles now offers more than 800 indexed pages of material about Cohen and its 2.000.000th visitor landed on the site over a year ago.
Less heralded but of growing importance are Jarkko’s other roles, such as propagating other Cohen-dedicated web sites, whether as primary originator (e.g., leonardcohenforum.com) or as a facilitator for other members of the Leonard Cohen Web Ring. He has also been a prime mover in organizing meetings, conferences, and events celebrating Cohen’s work and serves as a communications network for Cohen fans.
The next chapters will focus on earlier parts of Cohen’s career. These names, for example, are likely to make an appearance in the next posts:
- Chelsea Hotel
- Mount Baldy
- Bob Dylan
- Lou Reed
- Rebecca De Mornay
- Judy Collins
- Jennifer Warnes
- Joni Mitchell
- Sharon Robinson
- Kelley Lynch
Next Leonard Cohen Primer Post: The Childhood Of Leonard Cohen
- A Leonard Cohen Primer is a simple, easy to understand introduction to Leonard Cohen for anyone who has recently tuned in to his music and for fans who may have listened to the songs for some time and now want to learn something about the singer-songwriter who produced them. The goal of this series of posts is to avoid both (1) overwhelming readers with details and tangents, however interesting those channels might be, and (2) omitting fundamental elements of Cohen’s life. [↩]
- Although frequently described as “oriental,” Hawaiian-born Anjani is actually a blend of German, French, Okinawan, Irish, Welsh, and Dutch bloodlines [↩]
- It is no secret that Anjani’s surname is Thomas; Anjani simply prefers to be known by only her Christian name [↩]
- On a pragmatic level, anyone who has read more than a couple of my posts cannot avoid the fact that I rarely fail to disclose my feelings about Anjani [↩]
- If “lovers” sounds awkward, feel free to substitute your preferred, equally awkward term, equally inadequate term: significant others, partners, girl friend and boy friend, … [↩]
- Leonard Cohen’s most recent CD on which he performs is Dear Heather, produced in 2004. [↩]
- This photo is from A Short Walk In Leonard Cohen’s Westmount, a web page which contains more photos of this home and a charming essay about the area, especially as it relates to Leonard Cohen growing up there and to references in his books, poetry, and songs. [↩]
- “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 [↩]
- 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 named after the … .” If so, I apologize for perpetuating the trend; it’s the kind of thing newbies need to know. [↩]
- Suzanne (the song) soared as high as #83 on the US charts [↩]
- OK, I am aware that he knew at least three Suzanne’s since he worked with singer Suzanne Vega. I’m just trying to keep things simple. [↩]
- See the previous reference, A Short Walk In Leonard Cohen’s Westmount, for specifics. [↩]
- Photo and caption from – of course – leonardcohenfiles.com [↩]
- OK, I suppose one could make the case that leonardcohenfiles could have been a site about a guy named “Leonard Cohenfiles,” but that would be wrong. [↩]