Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

“No comparison can be drawn between Leonard Cohen & any other phenomenon.” Read 1967 Sing Out! Articles About Leonard Cohen


Ellen Sander & Buffy Sainte-Marie Laud Leonard Cohen Before His First Album Release

The quote in the title is from “Leonard Cohen…The Man” by Ellen Sander, which was originally published in the Aug 1967 issue of Sing Out! magazine. To place this in context, Cohen’s first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen was released Dec 27, 1967. The opening lines follow:

Leonard Cohen, Canadian born author, poet, songwriter, singer, the subject of a film. Leonard Cohen, incredibly handsome, immensely articulate tough-tender young man of our times. Or possibly he is a man of his times, and we are just arriving.

The same issue carries a companion piece, “Leonard Cohen…His Songs” by Buffy Sainte-Marie. An excerpt follows:

There’s something uncomfortable about hearing a Leonard Cohen song for the first time. It seems to lack roots or direction or something. But be patient; that’s you, not him. The melodies are “unguessable,” but listen again. When you have gotten used to the idea of chord x following chord y, though it has possibly never dared to do so before, the pattern becomes clear to you, and clearly unique it is.


The magazine feature  also includes the lyrics & the music to Cohen’s “Suzanne.”

The texts of both of these very early, very prescient articles can be accessed at Speaking Cohen.

Credit Due Department: Images found at The Book Collectors Library

Book Review: “So Long, Marianne: A Love Story” in English Translation – Leonard Cohen’s Muse

Title: So Long, Marianne: A Love Story
Author: Kari Hesthamar
Translator: Helle Goldman
Publisher: ECW Press (Toronto)
Publication Date: June 10, 2014

Note: So Long, Marianne: A Love Story was originally published in Norwegian in 2008. According to author Kari Hesthamarm, “there are no significant differences in the text” between the two editions. There have been, however, some changes in the photo collection (including the cover) with more shots taken on Hydra and fewer family portraits.1

For Those Who Know & Care About Leonard Cohen & Marianne Ihlen

What follows is less a review of So Long, Marianne than comments offered to Cohen fans (most of whom probably already intend to purchase the book) about what to expect. Without foreknowledge of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, readers are unlikely to find the story engaging.2 For those of us with an emotional investment in the Canadian singer-songwriter and his earliest muse, however, this volume offers the opportunity to garner a more complete picture of their relationship and to gain an understanding of who Marianne was before she met Leonard Cohen and how she fared after that relationship ended.

Many fans, for example, will be familiar with the story of Leonard and Marianne falling in love on Hydra shortly after Marianne’s husband, Axel,3 precipitously left the island in pursuit of another woman. Fewer will know, as So Long, Marianne informs us, that afterward Axel would intermittently contact Marianne, both during the time she was living with Leonard and after the breakup, with advice, commiseration, criticism, offers or withdraws of financial support for their son, … .

Among the more important revelations are those relating to Marianne’s inner life. Marianne, who is often depicted as an even-tempered, stable element in Leonard Cohen’s sometimes chaotic world, is unsparingly forthcoming about the dramatic fluctuations in her psychological state caused by changes in the relationship. A representative excerpt follows:

She [Marianne] couldn’t help feeling small and insecure when she saw women flocking around him [Leonard]. When a beautiful young American came to Hydra, Leonard disappeared for an entire day as the two of them went up to the mountain together. Everything imaginable flooded Marianne’s mind. She curled up in a ball on the floor and thought she wanted to die, while she constructed an imaginary coffin around herself … She lay like that all day, without communicating with anyone, engulfed by her own morbid fantasy, which was as vivid as any of her girlhood daydreams. She awoke the next morning and regarded her own deadened gaze in the mirror. But Leonard had come home and she could breathe again.

Marianne’s accounts are augmented by interviews with and unpublished poems and letters by Leonard Cohen.

The Cons

From a reader’s viewpoint, the text suffers from distractions, including typos, shifts in tense, and, most significantly, irrelevant content (most of a page, for example, is given over to describing Marianne and Leonard’s serendipitous encounter in Athens with a Chinese man who had previously owned the car they were driving). While no single instance of these problems  is overwhelming, together they render portions of the narrative difficult to follow.

My complaints about tangential material notwithstanding, I am personally grateful that room was found in the pages for tidbits such as …

Marianne’s Magic Meatballs & More

So Long, Marianne abounds with quirky delicacies for Cohen aficionados. Examples follow:

  • Marianne’s Meatball Recipe: Once in a while, Marianne cut up some marijuana leaves and kneaded them into her meatball mix along with grated onions. Everyone was happy to be invited to dinner when Marianne’s meatballs were on the menu.4
  • A photo of Marianne wearing the jacket Leonard Cohen had worn as a member of the Buckskin Boys.
  • Leonard Cohen’s attempt to eradicate an infestation of lice he suffered consequent to a trans-Atlantic passage on a freighter in his journey from Montreal to Marianne’s apartment in Oslo.
  • Marianne’s LSD-facilitated session with Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing.
  • A scan of a check drawn on The Bank Of Nova Scotia for the sum of “one heart” from Leonard Cohen to be paid to the account of Marianne Ihlen.

So Long, Marianne: A Love Story is available from the standard book outlets, including Amazon, Indigo, Book Depository, and others.


  1. Kari Hesthamarm. personal communication. June 8, 2014 []
  2. In any case, it is difficult to imagine anyone other than a Cohen admirer coming to this site for a review of this book. []
  3. The book is helpful in referring to Axel, Marianne’s husband, as “Axel” and Axel, Marianne’s son, as “Axel Joachim.” []
  4. Until the government disallowed marijuana as a crop, Marianne and Leonard cultivated marijuana plants in their yard. []

Going Clear On Leonard Cohen & Scientology


Leonard Cohen At Scientology Dianetics Course – New York Org

Note: Leonard Cohen’s brief connection with Scientology is periodically rediscovered, triggering a flurry of sometimes contentious discussion and comments. Concerns about mind control are bandied about, lists of celebrity Scientologists are examined, and Cohen’s songs, poetry, and novels are assiduously searched for references to Dianetics. This post summarizes what is known about Leonard Cohen’s experience with Scientology as a convenience to readers. (The principles of Scientology, other than “clear,” are not directly addressed in this post but are easy to research online.)

Going Clear

Question: Some of the articles about you over the years have indicated that you’ve dabbled or more than dabbled in various kinds of spiritual paths. Is the line, “Did you ever go clear?” from Famous Blue Raincoat a Scientology reference?

Leonard Cohen: It was a Scientology reference.1 I looked into a lot of things. Scientology was one of them. It did not last very long. But it is very interesting, as I continue my studies in these matters, to see how really good Scientology was from the point of view of their data, their information, their actual knowledge, their wisdom writings, so to speak. It wasn’t bad at all. It is scorned, and I don’t know what the organization is like today, but it seems to have all the political residue of any large and growing organization. Yes, I did look into that and other things. from the Communist Party to the Republican Party, from Scientology to delusions of myself as the High Priest rebuilding the Temple.2

About that “going clear” thing …

Question: With Scientology, did you ever ‘go clear’?

Leonard Cohen: Probably.

Question: Officially?

Leonard Cohen: No.3

From The Biographies

Cohen’s dislocated situation in New York led him to exploring different sexual, spiritual and pharmaceutical pathways, and one was Scientology. In 1968, as he was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, with Joni Mitchell, she spotted a building with a number of women wearing saris and handing out material. Above the door a large sign which read “Scientology”. “What is Scientology?” she asked Cohen. “Oh, some crackpot religion,” he replied. A few weeks later, he called form New York to say that he’d joined them and that they were going to rule the world. But a few months later, Cohen told Mitchell he was disenchanted and that he’d had some difficulty extricating himself from it. Initially, Scientology offered the goal of a ”clear path”, (“Did you ever go clear?” he asks in “Famous Blue Raincoat”). Cohen had also heard that it was a good place to meet women. On June 17th, 1968, Cohen received a Scientology certificate awarding him “Grade IV – release.”4

More specifically, Cohen’s certificate confirmed him as a “Senior Dianetic, Grade IV Release.”  In addition to Cohen’s general disenchantment with Scientology, he was also angry that “the organization had begun to exploit his name.”5

It Turns Out The Scientology Center Was A Place To Meet Women

Suzanne Elrod, who is the mother of Leonard Cohen’s children, Adam and Lorca, gives this account of their meeting:

It was early Spring 1969. We both seemed to have signed up for a Scientology class the same day. He was getting into the elevator at the Scientology Center as I was coming out of it and our eyes locked. Some days later, we both took seats near each other. Although I had another person I was living with, I left that relationship immediately for Leonard and moved into the Chelsea with him.6

Scientology As One More Exploration

“I was always going off the deep end” – Leonard Cohen

Question: Your last album, The Future, was successful and you had a fiancee, Rebecca de Mornay — and you left to live in a monastery?

Leonard Cohen: Well, I was always going off the deep end, so it was no radical departure. When I finished my tour in ‘93 I was approaching the age of 60 and my old friend and teacher Roshi was approaching the age of 90, and I thought it would be the right moment to spend some more time with him. So I entered a monastery 6,500 feet up on Mount Baldy and I stayed there for six years as his cook, among my many duties. I’d always been associated with Roshi and his community — for 30 years. He’s 94, in radiant health. He’ll probably outlive most of his students.

Question: What were you looking for?

Leonard Cohen: I wasn’t looking for a new religion or another list of dogma.

Question: Since the ’60s you have often appeared to be enjoying the hunt — I Ching, Scientology…

Leonard Cohen: Yes, I participated in all those investigations. I even danced and sang with the Hare Krishnas. No robe — I didn’t join them! But of course I was interested in all these matters that engaged the imagination of my generation at the time.7

So, Leonard Cohen, the descendent of a long line of rabbis, a frequent attendee at his nanny’s Catholic church, an ordained Buddhist monk who spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, a student of Hinduism with a guru in India, a chanter of the Hare Krisna mantra, and a reader of the Bible and the Bhagavad-gita, was briefly involved with Scientology.8,9 As the man says, “It was no radical departure.”

Credit Due Department: Photo found at Blast From The Past


  1. The pertinent lyrics from Famous Blue Raincoat follow:

    Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
    She said that you gave it to her
    That night that you planned to go clear
    Did you ever go clear?

    From Wikipedia-Clear: “Clear” is the condition in which Scientologists say a person is free of the influence of unwanted emotions and memories of trauma. Source: Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950) []

  2. Jewish Book News Interview With Leonard Cohen by Arthur Kurzweil And Pamela Roth: 1994. []
  3. Felonious Monk by Sylvie Simmons. MOJO: November 2001. Accessed 27 June 2014 at Speaking Cohen []
  4. Various Positions by Ira Nadel. New York: Pantheon, 1996. P 60 []
  5. I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012 []
  6. I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012 []
  7. Felonious Monk by Sylvie Simmons. MOJO: November 2001. Accessed 27 June 2014 at Speaking Cohen []
  8. Given that Leonard Cohen seems to have never met a cult he didn’t like, I believe that if he had spent some time in my native Ozarks, there might be an album or two with references to Serpent Handling. Heck, that odd chanting he does in his stage performances of “Darkness” sound a lot like speaking in tongues to me. []
  9. Of course, Mr Cohen has been accused of heading his own cult. See Oh My Cohen! They’re Calling Us A Cult []

Download, Read “Luggage Fire Sale,” A Short Story By Leonard Cohen


In November 1962, Leonard Cohen accepted a $600 offer from CBC to moderate a panel (along with Malcolm Muggeridge, Mary McCarthy, and Romain Gary) in Paris on the question, “Is There A Crisis In Western Culture?”1 Cohen used this experience as the basis for a short story, “Luggage Fire Sale,” which was published in Parallel, 1, No. 2, May-June 1966 and Partisan Review, 36, No. 1, Winter 1969.2

While the novels and poems written by Leonard Cohen have benefited from his fame as a singer-songwriter, “Luggage Fire Sale” has remained obscure. Yet, this piece succeeds as a short story and offers hints about Cohen’s inner life at that time, including this excerpt:

I was doing it for money, and to get out of a very sunny place [Hydra] where thee were no books and no prospects and a couple of women who knew me too well.

A scan of the first paragraph is shown below. The complete story can be downloaded in PDF format from Maarten Massa’s site.


Credit Due Department: The image atop this post is from “Luggage Fire Sale” (Parallel, 1, No. 2, May-June 1966)

  1. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel. Random House, Oct 29, 2010 []
  2. Varying dates are given for the Partisan Review publication; 1969 appears most consistently. []

“Fat Man And Dancing Girl” By Suzanne Vega Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox


Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

- Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Heck Of A Guy feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Leonard Cohen with Suzanne Vega, after his July 6 1988 Carnegie Hall concert

Leonard Cohen with Suzanne Vega, after his July 6 1988 Carnegie Hall concert

In a 1992 interview,1 Suzanne Vega and Leonard Cohen discussed, along with many other topics (e.g., Howard Stern, Christmas gifts, politeness, the superior stylishness of wine and water compared to coke and orange juice), songs from Vega’s 99.9 album that had just been released. One of the songs with which Cohen is clearly taken is “Fat Man And Dancing Girl:”

I think it’s very, very beautiful, beautifully executed song ["Fat Man And Dancing Girl"] on the album [99.5F]. I think that there are lines in it that get right to the heart of your operating mode, and I’d really like to see what I could uncover for myself and for the listener

Credit Due Department: The photo of Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega is from a CBS Records publicity sheet and was taken by Nick Elgar.

  1. Suzanne Vega Interviews Leonard Cohen – October 1992. Posted Feb 1, 2012 on the Suzanne Vega website. []

Leonard Cohen’s Performance Of Tower Of Song At The 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert Is Online Again


Note: Not long after publishing And Also Starring Leonard Cohen – The 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert Tower Of Song, the video featured that post disappeared from YouTube. Linda Sturgess, however, has tracked down a video of the complete 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert, including the appearance by Leonard Cohen.

While Leonard Cohen (accompanied here by Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen) singing “Tower Of Song” is hardly a rare event, this specific performance is unusual in that it is one act in a concert featuring a multitude of musicians, including Eric Clapton, Elton John, Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straits, Joe Cocker, Queen’s Brian May, the Bee Gees, Howard Jones, Ultravox’s Midge Ure, Rick Astley, Wet Wet Wet, T’Pau, Peter Gabriel, and Phil Collins.


Indeed, one has to go back to the beginning of Cohen’s career, such as when he shared the stage with Judy Collins in his near-catastrophic public singing debut at the SANE Against The Vietnam War concert at New York Town Hall, on April 30, 1967 and his appearance July 16th of that year at the Newport Folk Festival to find other examples of him singing less than a full set as one of several entertainers at a concert.1


While the performance falls short of  Cohen’s very best, the unusual set of circumstances and the excellent video and audio quality of the clip compel its re-posting. This also affords the opportunity to post the show’s finale, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” featuring Joe Cocker accompanied by the entire concert cast, as a bonus.

From left: Julie Christensen (in unusually demure apparel), Perla Batalla, & L Cohen

The 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert


Leonard Cohen Meets Prince Charles at 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert

The 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert was recorded in Royal Albert Hall on the June 5 and 6, June in 1988; Cohen’s performance took place June 5, 1988.

Excerpted from Wolfgang’s Vault:

The Prince’s Trust was a charity organization formed by the Prince of Wales in 1976 after he completed his duty in the Royal Navy. Now in its 32nd year, the Trust has become the U.K.’s leading youth charity, offering a range of opportunities including training, personal development, business start-up support, mentoring, and advice. The first of the charity concerts began in 1982 and was headlined by Status Quo. After its success, several other mainstream superstars jumped on board, and between 1983 and 1987 the concerts featured such artists as George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, Pete Townshend, Joan Armatrading, Madness, Kate Bush, and Phil Collins.

… Musically, it [the 1988 Prince's Trust Concert] was a mix of legendary songs and current Top 40 hits of that time. Superstars such as Elton John and Mark Knopfler performed one song each, but flavor-of-the-month pop stars such as T’pau and Wet Wet Wet performed three or four songs, none of which were very big hits outside of the U.K. All in all, there was incredible music made at this show. … The entire show was broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1988, and was released as a home video some years later.

Leonard Cohen Tower Of Song Video

Leonard Cohen – Tower Of Song
1988 Prince’s Trust Concert
The video automatically begins at Cohen’s performance

Bonus: Joe Cocker With A Little Help From My Friends Video

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends
Prince’s Trust Concert 1988
Video from AndranikAzizbekyan

Other Posts Featuring The 1988 Prince’s Trust Concert:

  1. This is one of those “as far as I know” sort of facts/beliefs. Cohen aficionados are urged to note exceptions in the comments. Cohen has, of course, played many shows that were part of a festival comprising similar concerts given by other musicians, such as the 1970 Isle Of Wright Festival, the 2009 Coachella Music Festival, the 2008 Festival International De Benicassim, etc. []