Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen Nickname List 200th Entry: “Canada’s Numero Uno Agent Of Anguish”



200 (For Now) Sobriquets, Aliases, Bynames, Cognomens, Appellations, Alternative Names, and Monickers Denoting Leonard Cohen

Indeed, thanks to Judith Fitzgerald’s exuberant prose, the Heck Of A Guy Leonard Cohen Nickname List now numbers 200 with the addition of “Canada’s Numero Uno Agent Of Anguish,” a monicker discovered in this passage from The Return Of A Ladies’ Man:1

Leonard Cohen’s manager Kelley Lynch reports that Canada’s Numero Uno agent of anguish — who turned 66 last Thursday — has never felt better in his life. [bolding mine]

A few of my personal favorites follow:

  • God In The Black Suit
  • World’s Only Interesting Canadian
  • God’s Dearest Sunbeam
  • Badass Of Dark Verse
  • Mel Brooks Of Misery
  • Kafka Of The Blues2
  • Buster Keaton Of Despair
  • King Of Cool
  • Mel Torme of the Terminally Downbeat

Find these and many more at Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames

  1. The Return Of A Ladies’ Man by Judith Fitzgerald. The Globe And Mail, Sept 25, 2000 []
  2. From Bob Dylan []

Marianne Ihlen Corrects Misidentified 1960 Photos Of Leonard Cohen & Her In Hydra

The 1960 Time-Life Photos Of Leonard Cohen, The Jensens, And The Other Artists On Hydra

In 2009, photos (all bearing the date Oct 01, 1960) of individuals living on Hydra shot by James Burke for Time & Life began appearing online. Included in these photos were Leonard Cohen, Marianne Ihlen, Axel Jensen, and others artists, writers, and notables identified by captions provided by Time Life. Some of the captions, it turns out, were inaccurate. In 2012, Dr. Raichel Le Goff1 contacted me, identifying Charmian Clift, George Johnston, Jason Johnston, and the exact locations of these photos.

Now, Marianne Ihlen has graciously written, correcting some rather egregious errors in the first three photos displayed below.

Back of Katzikas Grocery Store: Leonard Cohen, Marianne and husband Axel Jensen with baby boy Axel Joachim

Original Caption: Leonard Cohen, Marianne Ihlen and friend sitting in Cohen’s home in Hydra, Greece. Baby Axel is in a baby carriage in the foreground. Hydra, Greece 1960

Corrected Caption: Back of Katzikas Grocery Store: Leonard Cohen, Marianne and husband Axel Jensen with baby boy Axel Joachim

Note: Marianne points out that the other photo Jim Burke took of this scene “is much better.”  That photo, along with many others from Hydra in the 1960s can be found in the English edition of  “So Long Marianne – A Love Story” by Kari Hesthamar2

Leonard Cohen and Marianne at taverna on the port with Norwegian artist/painter Berentz Pedersen (standing).

Original Caption: Leonard Cohen eating with Marianne Ihlen and her partner Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen, Hydra, Greece October 1960.

Corrected Caption: Leonard Cohen and Marianne at taverna on the port with Norwegian artist/painter Berentz Pedersen (not Axel Jensen, Marianne’s husband) standing.

Leonard Cohen with Marianne Ihlen, Norwegian artist/painter Berentz Pedersen (standing), and others outside Katsikas’ grocery store/taverna on Hydra’s port. The man seated next to Cohen is George Johnston. The woman second from the right is Charmian Clift.. Marianne’s son Axel is in the baby carriage. Hydra – Oct 1960

Original Caption: Leonard Cohen with Marianne Ihlen, her partner Axel Jensen and others outside Katsikas’ grocery store/taverna on Hydra’s port. The man seated next to Cohen is George Johnston. The woman second from the right is Charmian Clift.. Marianne’s son Axel is in the baby carriage. Hydra – Oct 1960

Corrected Caption: Leonard Cohen with Marianne Ihlen, Norwegian artist/painter Berentz Pedersen [not Axel Jensen, Marianne's husband] (standing), and others outside Katsikas’ grocery store/taverna on Hydra’s port. The man seated next to Cohen is George Johnston. The woman second from the right is Charmian Clift.. Marianne’s son Axel is in the baby carriage. Hydra – Oct 1960

Leonard Cohen and Marriane Ihlen at the Spilia swimming spot on Hydra’s main harbour in 1960. The clothed man is George Johnston; the youngster is his second son, Jason.

Leonard Cohen playing guitar on the whitewashed well top in the square outside Douskas Taverna in Hydra. The woman in the photo is Charmian Clift. October 1960

Leonard Cohen playing guitar on the whitewashed well top in the square outside Douskas Taverna in Hydra. The woman in the photo is Charmian Clift. October 1960


  1. Dr Le Goff is Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Newcastle, Australia, and first went to Hydra in 1981 and has had a home on the island since 1985. She researched the Johnstons in her early journalist days and recommends Charmian Clift’s book “Peel Me A Lotus” (1959) to those interested in ex-patriate life on Hydra circa 1960. []
  2. “So Long Marianne – A Love Story” by Kari Hesthamar originally carried a publication date of Oct 2014, but Amazon and other sites indicate it is in stock now. []

Photo: Leonard Cohen Receives Honorary Doctor Of Laws Degree At Dalhousie 1971 Convocation Ceremony


See Leonard Cohen & Commencement: Leonard Cohen As Student

Credit Due Department: Photo posted May 22, 2014 by Dalhousie News via Twitter

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows by Harvey Kubernik – Pre-Order American & German Editions



Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows – Pre-Ordering

Dominique BOILE alerts us that the German edition of Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows (cover seen above) by Harvey Kubernik is available for pre-order at the German Amazon site
Cost: EUR 34,95
Publication Date: Oct 2, 2014

The American edition is also available for pre-order at the US Amazon site.
Cost: $24.91
Publication Date: Sept 9, 2014

The book is also available for pre-order at Amazon-UK
Cost: £19.09
Publication Date: Sept 9, 2014

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows – The Book

The following information about the book is taken directly from the publisher’s site: Palazzo

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows
A retrospective
Harvey Kubernik
Illustrations: Over 200 colour and b&w
Extent:  224pp
Format: 275 x 215mm
Binding: Hardback
Territory: World excluding UK (Omnibus Press), US (Hal Leonard), Canada (Monti Publishing and More!), Germany (Knesebeck), Spain (Blume)

  • A celebration of the life, music and poetry of Leonard Cohen
  • Featuring new interviews with Cohen’s band, producers and collaborators
  • Released to celebrate Cohen’s 80th birthday in September 2014
  • Illustrated with hundreds of photographs, many previously unpublished


Leonard Cohen’s name may never have appeared in the same sentence as the word ‘prolific’, but no other contemporary songwriter has created a body of work of such consistent quality, such singular emotional and intellectual intelligence.


Too easily characterized as the ‘prince of gloom’ – music to slit your wrists to – his lyrically potent songs are actually full of romance, innuendo and humour. Too often written off as musically naïve, in reality his smoke-black vocal cords navigate the most sophisticated and arresting of melodies.


He arrived at the sixties’ pop-music party fashionably late, releasing his debut album – Songs of Leonard Cohen – in 1967. At thirty-three years of age, he was the adult in the room, a room brimming, then as now, with literary pretension and artistic self-importance. But Cohen, already established as a respected poet and novelist, was the real deal.

In the decades since, he’s battled with drugs, love and bankruptcy; become a Buddhist monk while simultaneously reaffirming his Jewish faith; and recorded eleven more albums of unfailingly affecting beauty.

Beginning with Cohen the young poet and author in his home town of Montreal, and ending with his 2012 release – Old Ideas – and his recent acclaimed live performances, Everybody Knows honours Leonard Cohen’s eightieth birthday by celebrating his genius and tracing his rice to stardom through 200 photographs and the thoughts, memories and comments of those who have worked with and been inspired by him.


Credit Due Department: All graphics except the cover of the German edition are from the Palazzo site. The cover of the German edition was found on the book’s ad page at the German Amazon site

The Leonard Cohen Commencement Speech Experience

As noted in the preceding post, Leonard Cohen & Commencement, educational institutions today face a commencement crisis – finding speakers for graduation ceremonies who will prove

  1. Acceptable to students and faculty who enthusiastically survey the records of scheduled speakers in hopes of finding evidence of political misdeeds and
  2. Important, famous, powerful, or, preferably, legendary enough to serve as indicators of the power and prestige of the inviting university.

(It’s considered a nice bonus if the speaker is capable of delivering a sentient talk.) Happily, DrHGuy offers a solution: The Leonard Cohen Commencement Speech Experience.

Now, as previously discussed, convincing Leonard Cohen to give a live speech is a daunting task and, frankly, were we that persuasive in dealing with the Canadian singer-songwriter, we would be talking about Mr Cohen warbling tunes in our backyard rather than chatting to a group of folks wearing robes and mortarboards. Consequently, the living, breathing icon that is Leonard Cohen is presented symbolically by what we like to call …

The Leonard Cohen Figure Of Speech

The Heck Of A Guy Leonard Cohen Commencement Speech Agency has contracted with Dominique BOILE, owner of the reasonable facsimile of Leonard Cohen shown atop this post, to rent the figure to speaker-challenged colleges for display during the commencement address. (We anticipate the availability of Leonard Cohen holograms for the 2015 graduation season.)  The use of the cardboard representation not only offers availability (including simultaneous appearances at multiple commencements) but also generates a considerable decrease in expenses (e.g., the cost of a FedEx Overnight Package Vs the cost of a United Airlines First Class Seat).

Of course, an implicit requirement for The Leonard Cohen Commencement Speech Experience is a speech. To wit, …

The Leonard Cohen Prefigured Speech

DrHGuy has constructed, from quotations by Mr Cohen, a suitable speech, chock-full of advice set forth in the eloquent yet pithy style favored on such occasions to be read by a dulcet-voiced narrator standing behind the representation of Cohen. The basic outline, with subject headings added but sans segues, follows:


I didn’t come to [insert name of institution] to fool ya.1

On Education & Culture

What our training, what our culture, our religious institutions, our educational and cultural institutions should be about is preparing the heart for that journey outside of the cage of the ribs. You know, I think we’re doing pretty well. I mean, it’s not the worst culture that I’ve ever heard about. We’re not, you know, dumping people in volcanoes.2

On Work

This is one’s work. Everything else is kind of shipwrecked, bankrupt. So all you have left is your work – and that’s what you’re doing most of the time. That’s the only area which you can somehow govern or clarify. All other things remain somewhat mysterious and messy.3

If a man doesn’t have a standard of excellence his work becomes meaningless.4


There are some people who come to me for some illumination on their problems, I guess they feel I’m writing about some of the things they themselves are going through. But I don’t usually have much help to give – there isn’t much you can say to someone in the midst of their own crises.5

If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day6

My advice is to learn a trade.7

Hang in there kid. [Advice the Leonard Cohen who created Ten New Songs would give the Leonard Cohen who created Songs of Leonard Cohen] 8

Never make a decision when you need to pee.9

[The best advice I ever received:] The older you get, the lonelier you become and the deeper the love you need – It’s something I can validate.10

My advice is highly valued. For instance, don’t piss on a large pine cone. It may not be a pine cone. If you are not clear about which spiders are poisonous, kill them all. The daddy long legs is not a true spider, it actually belongs to the Seratonio crime family. Although insects value their lives, and even though their relentless industry is an example for all of us, they rarely have a thought about death, and when they do it is not accompanied by strong emotions, as it is with you and me. They hardly discriminate between life and death. In this sense they are much like mystics, and like mystics, many are poisonous. It would be difficult to make love to an insect, especially if you are well endowed. As for my own experience, not one single insect has ever complained. If you are not sure which mystics are poisonous, it is best to kill the one you come across with a blow to the head using a hammer, or a show, or a large old vegetable, such as a petrified beet.11

I don’t like taking advice. It’s not that I don’t like it, it seems that I somehow can’t assimilate it when I get it. I never know when I’m getting advice whether it’s good or bad advice.12

This is the real human predicament. This universe is only to be tolerated, it’s not to be solved.13

The Future

First of all nothing will happen
And a little later
Nothing will happen again14

You may believe you have some control over [your] decisions, but certainly not the consequences. But you live your life as if it’s real … as if you’re directing it, but with the intuitive understanding that it’s unfolding as it should and you are not running the show.15

The dismal situation and the future – there’s no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards your self and your job and your love. Ring the bells that still can ring.16

People ask “What’s your advice on the future?” – and I say, “Duck!”17


This is not the place where you make things perfect. Neither your marriage nor your work nor anything. Nor your love of G-d nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect, and, worse: There is a crack in everything that you can put together — physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But, that’s where the light gets in; and, that’s where the resurrection is…that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation with the broken-ness of the thing.18


And I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can’t reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn’t worth a dime19

I guess that’s it friends. I had so much to tell you but it’s closing time. I hope you have the blessings of love, surrounded by family and friends throughout your life. But, if this is not your life, may the blessings find you in your solitude20

  1. From stage version of “Hallelujah” []
  2. From Leonard Cohen Interviewed by Anjelica Huston. Interview magazine: November, 1995. Accessed 11 May 2014 at Speaking Cohen []
  3. Leonard Cohen quoted in marketing material for Tower Of Song tribute album (1995) []
  4. From The Sounds Interview 1971 by Billy Walker. Sounds: October 23, 1971 []
  5. Suffering For Fan And Profit – The Return Of Leonard Cohen by Mick Brown. Sounds: July 3 1976, Accessed 26 April 2014 at LeonardCohenFiles []
  6. From Good Advice For Someone Like Me by Leonard Cohen []
  7. From “Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two” by James L. Harmon. See Leonard Cohen’s Advice To Youth. []
  8. Online chat with fans in October 2001 []
  9. From Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen []
  10. Q Magazine, September 1994 []
  11. From Book Of Longing By Leonard Cohen []
  12. From An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969. Found at Speaking Cohen. []
  13. From Interview / Leonard Cohen By Alan Twigg. Essay Date: 1979, 1984, 1985. ABC Bookworld []
  14. From Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen []
  15. From Look Who’s Back at 67: Gentle Leonard Cohen by Frank DiGiacomo. New York Observer: Oct 15, 2001. []
  16. Leonard Cohen’s The Future Interview by Bob Mackowitz. Transcript from a radio special produced by Interviews Unlimited for Sony Music, 1992. The transcript was prepared by Judith Fitzgerald. Found at the boundless Speaking Cohen. []
  17. From Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993. Found at Speaking Cohen []
  18. Leonard Cohen’s The Future Interview by Bob Mackowitz. Transcript from a radio special produced by Interviews Unlimited for Sony Music, 1992. The transcript was prepared by Judith Fitzgerald. Found at the boundless Speaking Cohen. []
  19. From Closing Time by Leonard Cohen []
  20. Final blessing at Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen concert in Austin []

Leonard Cohen & Commencement


Leonard Cohen As Student

While Leonard Cohen’s own record as a student is, strictly speaking, tangential to commencement speakers & speeches, the primary topic of this post, it seems worthwhile to use this opportunity to summarize Cohen’s academic career.

Westmount High School

Not only did Leonard Cohen attend Westmount High School in Montreal, but he and the rest of his 1951 graduating class were memorialized in the school yearbook, Vox Ducum. And, thanks to the efforts to peddle this publication via the Internet (asking price: USD $3500), one can view the senior photo and review the condensed high school biography of Leonard Norman Cohen, class of 1951.

The blurb beneath Leonard Cohen’s photo reads


“We cannot conquer fear yet we can yield to it in such a manner as to be greater than it.”

“Quin” says: “Sir, can I make an announcement?” Pet Avers.: The coke machine, Pastime: Leading sing-songs at intermissions. Ambition: World famous orator. Prob. Dest.: McGill Cheerleader. Prototype: The little man who is always there. Hobby: Photography.

Activities: Students’ Council President, Menorah Club, Art Club, Vox Ducum, Current Events Club, Y.M.H.A;. Cheerleader.

In addition, the sales pitch notes that the School Theatrical Production entries

… show “Len” Cohen in the cast “Comes The Revolution” – as Julius Caesar in “Death of Julius Caesar” & as the producer for “God Save The King”… as Chairman of the Students Production Committee for “You Can’t Take It With You” [and] as Ticket Sales Manager for the play.

So, we learn that the pre-iconic Leonard Cohen was President of the Students’ Council, enjoyed photography and leading sing-songs, and was heavily involved in the school’s theater program. We – or at least those who share DrHGuy’s perspective – are unsurprised to have found that young Len entertained an ambition to become a “world famous orator” but are unsure how he came to harbor an aversion to the coke machine. That the accuracy of the yearbook staff’s prognostic capacity, vis-à-vis Cohen becoming a McGill cheerleader, has proven faulty seems somehow reassuring.

McGill University

At 17, Leonard Cohen entered McGill University.  While not an excellent student with respect to his coursework, Cohen was considered a star in the English Department on the basis of his writing. He was also president of the debating union and the ZBT fraternity.


Leonard Cohen’s McGill Yearbook Entry

This excerpt from Poet Writer Singer Lover Cohen by Paul Grescoe1 is helpful:


Columbia University

After leaving McGill Cohen  enrolled in the Master’s level General Studies Program at Columbia University from 1956 to 1957. Cohen himself describes entering Columbia as “something of a lark, since I had finished McGill only by supplemental examinations and getting bare passes.”2 At Columbia, he wrote poetry, started a short-lived literary magazine called The Phoenix, began and ended at least three different romances (a fellow student, a care worker at a nearby children’s summer camp, and the same camp’s nurse), and, a year later, dropped out.

Honorary Degree

Cohen received an honorary LLD from Dalhousie University in University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Commencement Speaker As Endangered Species

College commencement speaker has become a high risk profession. The most recent examples of prominent victims of student and faculty protests are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, and Robert Birgeneau, the former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, all of whom have backed out of graduation gigs at prestige universities. Adding to the confusion, students, especially those at elite institutions, express loud disappointment if the speakers don’t reek of status. This instance, excerpted from Elite college students protest their elite commencement speakers by Amanda Hess (Slate: May 14, 2014) [bolding mine], outlines the problem:

When Smith announced that former president Ruth Simmons would be replacing Lagarde as commencement speaker, some students claimed that the choice of Simmons was equally offensive (when she was president of Smith College in the run up to the financial crisis, Simmons also served on the board of Goldman Sachs). But others expressed disappointment that their commencement had been downgraded to “forgettable.”

DrHGuy, whose college commencement speaker was Dennis Weaver, best known for his roles as Chester Goode, Matt Dillon’s trusty aide in Gunsmoke, and as the titular star of McCloud,3 is not unsympathetic to the plight of these silver-spooned graduates-to-be and has devised a solution that will confer upon any commencement ceremony the required dignity, elegance, erudition, apolitical appeal, and prestige: The Leonard Cohen Commencement Speech.

How The Light Gets In

Now, as Mr Cohen himself recommends, one should forget a perfect offering – i.e., convincing Leonard Cohen to give any speech of substance, let alone a commencement speech, turns out to be quite the task. When he won, along with Chuck Berry, the first PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award, his acceptance of the prize from Salman Rushdie, including the smooch with Rushdie and a speech consisting of a joke about his age, a thank-you, and two Chuck Berry compliments, took less than 2.5 minutes to deliver.4 His acceptance speech into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (March 10, 2008) was primarily a recitation of the lyrics of Tower of Song.5. Think an honorary degree will do the trick? Cohen turned down a proffered honorary doctorate from the University of Ghent.6 He did show up to accept the 2012 Glenn Gould Prize with its $50,000 check – then he donated the money to the Canada Council for the Arts and gave a four minute speech, most of which was an anecdote about his inability to write up his 1963 interview of Glenn Gould followed by his assurance to those about to perform in his tribute concert that they need not worry about singing his songs in front of him because “I go into an immediate, childish ecstasy and paroxysms of gratitude … whenever anyone covers one of my songs.”7

Happily, DrHGuy has a solution that will be revealed in the next post:

The Leonard Cohen Commencement Speech

Credit Due Department: Photo of Leonard Cohen receiving honorary degree posted May 22, 2014 by Dalhousie News via Twitter

  1. Poet Writer Singer Lover Cohen by Paul Grescoe. Canadian Magazine: February 10, 1968. Accessed at Speaking Cohen []
  2. Ten or More Questions I Should Have Asked Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel []
  3. Dennis Weaver is arguably the most famous alumnus of Joplin Junior College. Joplin Junior College became, some time after Weaver graduated, Missouri Southern College, which, by an incredible coincidence of Thomas Hardy proportions, is DrHGuy’s own alma mater. []
  4. See Video: Salman Rushdie Presents Leonard Cohen PEN Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award []
  5. See Video: Lou Reed Introduces Leonard Cohen At Cohen’s 2008 Induction Into Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame []
  6. See Leonard Cohen Turns Down Offer Of Honorary Doctorate From University Of Ghent []
  7. See Leonard Cohen Wins Hearts As Well As Glenn Gould Prize With Gracious Donation & Speech []