Like ages of weightless snow
on tiny oceans filled with light
her eyelids enclose deeply
a shade tree of birthday candles
From “Now of Sleeping” by Leonard Cohen (The Spice Box of Earth)
The Final Eight Things About Leonard Cohen
On Leonard Cohen’s 78th birthday, 21 September 2012, I began a list of, coincidentally enough, “78 Things To Celebrate About Leonard Cohen,” the Updated, New & Improved version of Tim de Lisle’s classic Who Held A Gun To Leonard Cohen’s Head? aka Hallelujah: 70 Things About Leonard Cohen At 70.1
Today’s post is the ninth and final sublisting, comprising items #71-78. (To present this material in a manageable format, the 78 entries have been divided into several posts, each of which contains no more than 10 items.) All posts in this series can be accessed through 78 Things To Celebrate About Leonard Cohen On His 78th Birthday: The Summary Page.
71. Leonard Cohen’s 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Leonard Cohen received aJan 30, 2010. The Grammy can be seen on display in the lower left corner of the trophy case at the Cohen home in Los Angeles.
Leonard Cohen Grammy Acceptance Speech – Jan 30, 2010
Video from Arlene Dick
For the less celebratory aspect of this award, see Grammys Award Leonard Cohen 30 Seconds Of Faint Praise For Lifetime Of Superb Achievement
72. His sizzling heart – shish kebab metaphor
It seems to be somewhat abated at the moment, but I don’t think one ever gets a handle on this matter; I think one is vulnerable at any moment to those emotions. One becomes more circumspect as one gets older about everything—I mean, you become more foolish and more wise at the same time as you get older, more careful and more careless. It all just deepens—but I don’t think anyone masters the heart. … It continues to cook like a shish kebab in everyone’s breast, bubbling and cooking and sizzling. [emphasis mine]2
73. Leonard Cohen’s refusal to kowtow to those infamous hobgoblins of foolish consistency
Mr. Cohen is capable of taking both sides in a debate, including one focused on the relationship of his songs and his poems:
… I regard everything I write as being set to music, almost as if I hear a giant guitar accompanying me!3
I never did set poetry to music. … I got stuck with that. It was a bum rap. I never set a poem to music. I’m not that hopeless. I know the difference between a poem and a song!4
74 & 75. Leonard Cohen stopped (74) smoking and (75) drinking – but he’s not a fanatic about it
Leonard Cohen’s famously deep, raspy voice was, according to Cohen himself, the result of “about 500 tons of whiskey and millions of cigarettes.”
Leonard Cohen’s smoking was certainly more than an incidental phenomenon. Consider these excerpts from interviews and articles.
Similarly, in I never discuss my mistresses or my tailors, Nick Paton Walsh describes Cohen’s behavior during the 2001 interview in relation to his stay at a Zen monastery.
The Leonard Cohen No-Step Stop Smoking Program
Cigarettes, once an obligatory accoutrement for Cohen, have apparently been vanquished. In a June 12, 2008 interview, Cohen discusses his drinking and smoking patterns on earlier tours and how he stopped smoking:
Q: You’ve been working in a room for years; now you’re on a stage. What are the pros and cons?
A: This way, without drinking and smoking, it’s a very, very different situation. Anyone who’s been a heavy drinker and heavy smoker and has the good future to survive that and give it up knows what a very different kind of daily existence one has. I was smoking a couple of packs of cigarettes a day. And I was drinking heavily on these tours.
Q: How did you stop drinking? Did you go into a program?
A: I lost my taste for it. Just like cigarettes. I lost my taste.
“I lost my taste for it.” Dramatic, eh?6
Losing his taste for excessive alcohol and tobacco does not, however, appear to have turned Leonard Cohen into an evangelist for the eradication of these societal demons. The following is an excerpt from “The Cigarette Issue” in The Book of Longing, published in 2006:
is the promise, the beauty
and the salvation
the little Parthenon
of an unopened pack of cigarettes
of forty years ago
is a city to smoke in
And from the same volume of poetry comes the poem, “What Did It:”
that the great sage
Once offered him a cigarette,
“Thank you, sir, but I don’t smoke.”
“Don’t smoke?” said the master,
“What’s life for?”
And perhaps most directly to the point is Cohen’s reply to a fan at his hotel in Belfast who wished him a happy 75th birthday,
I’m waiting for my 80th so I can take up smoking again7
As for the drinking,
It appears that Leonard Cohen, the inventor of the Red Needle,
… has miraculously recovered his taste for alcohol.
While Leonard Cohen did not, during his 2008-2010 World Tour, perpetuate his 1994 tour habit of “drinking about three bottles of wine before every concert,” early reports that he was “stoically devoted to song” and his own declaration that “I find I can’t even drink a glass of wine” appear to have been overstated.8
76. His future’s so bright, he’s got to wear shades
Credit Due Department: First photo found at ¿Saben lo que hacen cuando dan a Cohen el Príncipe de Asturias? No photographer or location named. Photo #2 contributed by Dominique BOILE. Image #3: cover art of Old Ideas album, photo by Kezban Özcan.
77. Cohen’s own reluctance to commit to marriage notwithstanding, his songs and poems can aid and abet a courtship
Testimony submitted by Duchess of Durham:9
When Allan, soon after I met him, wooed me with carefully selected passages from Chelsea Hotel #2 – a song I’d never heard before – I thought there might be something special going on. …
And when Allan convinced me that making the world aware of Do I Have To Dance All Night, a song never released on an album and one that Leonard Cohen, a singer-songwriter unknown to me before Allan and I met, last sang 30 years ago, was indeed a moral imperative, well, I knew I had been irreversibly assimilated into a strange and fantastic new world.
… I want to thank Leonard Cohen, whose songs and poems were a special – and effective – part of our courtship and have become such an important part of the life we share.
78. He looks good in photos
Credit Due Department: Photo by Lorca Cohen
All posts in this series can be accessed through
78 Things To Celebrate About Leonard Cohen
On His 78th Birthday: The Summary Page
- Who Held A Gun To Leonard Cohen’s Head? by Tim de Lisle. The Guardian, 16 September 2004 [↩]
- Songs Of Love, Not Hate by Sylvie Simmons (Launch: 10/08/2001) [↩]
- Leonard Cohen Seventeen. March 1968 [↩]
- “Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe?” by Adrian Deevoy, Q Magazine, 1991 [↩]
- New Musical Express, March 10, 1973 [↩]
- OK, “Waiting For The Miracle – Leonard Cohen’s Battle With The Demons Of Alcohol and Tobacco” isn’t likely to become a best-selling inspirational autobiography – or a Lifetime movie of the week – or a quickie on E!, but based on my experiences working with those trying to stop drinking or smoking, I believe the seldom articulated addiction treatment methodology of “lose your taste for it” would prove attractive to many clients. Leonard, how does the “Cohen Clinic Program To Stop Smoking – Eventually” sound? Have your people call my people. I smell franchise opportunity. [↩]
- leonardcohenforum.com • CONCERT REPORT Belfast, July 26 [↩]
- Cohen wore earplugs to a Dylan show? by Brian D. Johnson (Maclean’s: June 12, 200) [↩]
- A Thank-You Note To Readers And Leonard Cohen From Duchess Of Durham [↩]