Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

Alberto Manzano On Translating Popular Problems & Leonard Cohen’s Latin American Influences


Alberto Manzano & Leonard Cohen

Alberto Manzano has produced some of the most insightful, enlightening, and entertaining books and articles about Leonard Cohen as well as translating his lyrics and poetry and taking some of the most telling photos of the Canadian singer-songwriter.1  And, he is prolific, contributing over a dozen volumes to the Cohen bibliography.  Most of his work, however, is published in Spanish, severely limiting its accessibility. I’m posting Helen Ketcham’s English translation of this article about Monzano not only to communicate its content is significant but also to increase awareness in the Cohen fan community of this especially important journalist.

La conexión hispana de Leonard Cohen comenta el último regreso del músico

La conexión hispana de Leonard Cohen comenta el último regreso del músico
By Marcos Moraga
La Tercera: Oct 13, 2014

Translated by Helen Ketcham

Leonard Cohen’s Spanish Connection Comments On The Latest Return Of The Musician

Spaniard Alberto Manzano is the Canadian’s biographer and translator.

“It’s not because I’m old, it’s not the life I’ve led, / I always liked it slow, that’s how my mother taught me.” That’s the conclusion of the chorus of “Slow,” the first song on Popular Problems, the latest album by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released on September 20. He has his reasons: when his latest work hit the street, the author of Hallelujah had just crossed the barrier of 80 years.

“His Zen Master, Roshi died just a couple of months ago, at age 106, and his sister, Esther, died a couple of weeks ago. Leonard has seen many of his best friends depart lately: the Canadian poet Irving Layton, his publisher, Jack McClelland. It is normal for him to feel the wolf at his heels. But Cohen has been concerned about this issue since the mid-70s, when he published his book and album Death of a Lady’s Man. I think he has always considered himself old.”

The speaker is Alberto Manzano, editor, biographer and translator of most of Cohen’s work into Spanish. A few days ago, the author received an email in which the American bard requested his services, this time to put the verses of Popular Problems into Spanish. Manzano agreed, and as with previous albums by the musician, his work may appear in an edition prepared for Latin America (“I think that he wants to put it up on his website,” says the Spaniard).

Barring a few exceptions– Joaquin Sabina was commissioned to do the translation of Old Ideas, the previous album — Manzano has been a consistent collaborator with Cohen, where the Canadian has placed his interest: his daughter was named Lorca in honor of the poet of that name; in 2012, Cohen won the Prince of Asturias Prize, and upon receiving it, took off his hat to the flamenco tradition, singling it out as responsible for his approach to the guitar.

Manzano has been close to Cohen for more than three decades. From there he observes the latest verbal darts from his Canadian friend: “He’s succeeded in distilling the essence of things, their substantiality, with very few words, accurate, simple. He’s creating gold. I’m Your Man and The Future are albums of the 90’s on which he had, in effect, exchanged his guitar for electronic keyboards. And that continues, except now its rhythms are much more placid and silky, like a kind of balm for the wounds of the soul. You can tell he is a man who has found peace. “


For his previous album, Old Ideas (2012), Cohen put together an edition for Spain, with the lyrics translated by musician Joaquín Sabina. “Jorge Luis Borges has been widely criticized for his translations, for not being exactly true to the original text. It could be the same with Sabina. There are poets (because only a poet can translate another poet) who pour too much of themselves into foreign territory for which they feel some attraction or even identification,” comments Manzano.

Only Cohen knows whether the songs of Popular Problems will go out live on a world tour. Any interest in visiting South America, where the singer has never toured? “Honestly, it’s not likely,” Manzano responds, while reviewing the Latin American influences in his work: “I know he really likes the tango. He is a lover of Carlos Gardel. In the mid-80s, he asked me to write an adaptation in English of the song “Goodbye, Boys.” And I did one. He probably has it put away in some corner of his desk. He has also read Borges.”

Any option, then, depends on the mood of the North American, who appears to be stepping on the accelerator of productivity in the final stretch. He recalls the flirtatious remark Cohen whispers hoarsely from the stage whenever some young lady shouts out to him from the crowd: “If only I were two years younger.”


  1. Monzano has also written about and translated for other artists, including Dylan, Jackson Browne, Tome Waits, Lou Reed, and Jim Morrison. []

It’s Official: Leonard Cohen “Live In Dublin” DVD/CD/Blu-Ray Announced By Columbia


Lensed and recorded at Dublin’s 02 Arena on September 12, 2013

11-song first set, a 10-song second set and an 8-song encore – DVD features bonus live tracks recorded in Canada in 2013

Official Press Release1 follows:

Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings Set to Release Leonard Cohen – Live In Dublin, the Artist’s First High Definition Full Concert Recording, on Tuesday, December 2

Recorded at Dublin’s O2 Arena in September 2013, Evening’s Length Leonard Cohen Concert Available in 3CD/DVD, 3CD/Blu-ray and Digital Configurations

* * * * *

Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, will release Leonard Cohen – Live In Dublin, an extraordinary full-length concert recording and film, on Tuesday, December 2.

The first (and only) release of a complete Leonard Cohen concert to be shot in high definition, Live In Dublin will be available in 3CD/DVD, 3CD/Blu-ray and digital configurations.

Lensed and recorded at Dublin’s 02 Arena on September 12, 2013, Leonard Cohen – Live In Dublin documents a peak performance from the musician’s monumental sold-out 2012-2013 world tour, introducing Cohen’s then-latest release (2012’s Old Ideas) within a major canonical on-stage retrospective.

This state-of-the-art audio-visual HD presentation of a full-length concert from the Old Ideas World Tour delivers this artist’s repertoire (backed by a band recognized by critics as his best ever) with the intimacy, intensity and poetic beauty that have become hallmarks of a Leonard Cohen concert. Live In Dublin recreates the deep emotional connection that audiences felt so powerfully and critics praised universally with five-star reviews during Cohen’s most recent tour.

Live In Dublin is the singer-songwriter-novelist-performer’s second new release this year. On September 23, 2014, two days after Cohen’s 80th birthday, Columbia Records released Popular Problems, the Canadian bard’s 13th studio album of new material since his 1967 debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen. An international success, Popular Problems reached #1 on the iTunes chart in 31 countries and entered the Billboard 200 at #15 while debuting at #1 on the Austrian, Canadian, Dutch, New Zealand and Swiss album charts; the new album also debuted Top 5 in Belgium (#2), Finland (#2), Germany (#4), Italy (#5) and Sweden (#5)

An immersive viewing experience, Leonard Cohen – Live In Dublin’s three hours of music and magic includes an 11-song first set, a 10-song second set and an 8-song encore. The DVD features bonus live tracks recorded in Canada in 2013.

Leonard Cohen – Live In Dublin

Set 1
Dance Me to the End of Love
The Future
Bird on the Wire
Everybody Knows
Who By Fire
The Gypsy’s Wife
Come Healing
Lover Lover Lover

Set 2
Tower of Song
Chelsea Hotel #2
Waiting for the Miracle
The Partisan
In My Secret Life
Alexandra Leaving (Sharon Robinson)
I’m Your Man
Recitation w/ N.L.
Take this Waltz

So Long, Marianne
Going Home
First We Take Manhattan
Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will (Webb Sisters)
Closing Time
I Tried to Leave You
Save the Last Dance for Me

DVD Bonus songs
Show Me The Place – Halifax, NS, Canada – April 13, 2013 – Halifax Metro Centre
Anyhow – St. John’s, NL, Canada – April 20, 2013 – Mile One Centre
Different Sides – St. John, NB, Canada – April 15, 2013 – Harbour Station


  1. Source: LeonardCohenForum []

Now Online: Hear Leonard Cohen Speaking About Writing and Jewish & Canadian Identies In 1964

Leonard Cohen was a participant, along with Adele Wiseman, Ruth Roskies-Wisse, and Melech Ravitch, at the Symposium for English Language Jewish Writers held June 7th, 1964.

Unsurprisingly, Cohen is provocative, insightful, informative, provocative, entertaining, and – oh yeah – provocative.

The audio recording of this discussion has been digitized and made available online by the Jewish Public Library of Montreal at the link. Leonard Cohen’s portion of the program begins around 42:30

Update: Part 2 of this recording, comprising a Q&A between audience and panel members, is available at Symposium for English Language Jewish Writers (June 7th, 1964) Part 2

Online: Leonard Cohen: The Eloquence, The Songs Still Floating On The Air (1988) By R. Harrington

Leonard Cohen: The Eloquence, The Songs Still Floating On The Air
By Richard Harrington
Washington Post; Published in Gainesville Sun: Dec 25, 1988



Dance Me To The End Of Love: Remembering Don – October 12, 2014


By Penny Showalter

On October 12, 2009, Don, my cherished husband, died. I am still in love with Don and miss him every day, but things have changed. I am also deeply in love with Allan, who became my husband three years ago. Now we both miss Don.

Don only had two levels of interest in a given activity; he was either indifferent or passionate. His pursuit of those passions supplies my most vivid and abiding memories of him. Even as I write this, for example, I can picture him streaking down a mountain on skis. I can just as easily recall the intensity and skill he invested in building a superb, perfectly crafted wooden headboard.

Most of Don’s interests were embedded long before we met. Dancing was different, and that made it special to me.

I’ve loved dancing since I was a little girl shuffling my feet, following my Daddy’s lead. My most memorable learning experience in high school was the discovery that dance – which was more fun and involved more attractive uniforms than field hockey – could fulfill my physical education requirement.


Don wasn’t a dancer when we met. Over time, an implicit matrimonial arrangement of the sort couples routinely create to accommodate each other evolved: at gatherings, Don didn’t complain about me accepting dance invitations from other men, and, in turn, I didn’t complain about him sitting out most of the numbers. It wasn’t the kind of resolution that results in the relationship equivalent of the Age of Aquarius, but it served its purpose.

Then, ten years into our marriage, on our way home from a Christmas party where, true to form, I had spent most of the night on the dance floor while Don stayed in his seat at the table, he offhandedly suggested, “We should take dance lessons.” Assuming this was the product of too many holiday martinis, I didn’t pursue it. When, however, he made the same proposal while a tad hung over but clearly sober the next morning, I immediately contacted the good folks at Arthur Murray before he had the chance to revert to “I don’t dance” mode.

The dance lessons were – and I earn no commission from Arthur Murray Studios for this endorsement – a peak experience for us. Not only did we learn to waltz, foxtrot, rumba … but we made friends and, most importantly, found a new way to delight each other.

The lessons also led to me participating, with our instructor as my partner, in pro-am dance competitions. Don not only encouraged me but took an active role, attending the events, enduring hours of my rehearsals, setting up my music, and videotaping my performances.


Dancing remained a vital part of our life together long after the lessons and studio activities ended. A favorite date was a Saturday night spent waltzing to live music at the Balboa Bay Club.

I never asked Don why he suddenly decided on that trip home from the party that we should take dancing lessons. I suppose it could be that it really was those Christmas cocktails that loosened his inhibitions or maybe ten years of watching me dance while he was stuck at a table was enough to convince him. Heck, I suppose it could just be that cosmic serendipity thing Allan likes to invoke.

But actually I do know. I am absolutely certain that Don became interested in dancing simply because he knew I was interested in dancing.

It was a  marvelous act of love.

Allan put together a video using tapes Don took of me dancing along with still photos of me with Don and with Allan. The first time I watched it, I was moved to tears by my feelings for the two men that live in my heart and my realization of how very lucky I am. Now that I’ve seen this dozens of times – I feel exactly the same.

You’ll Carry Me Down On Your Dancing

And that’s how I remember Don – full of passion, support and love for his work, for his play and for me.

Intriguing Photo of “Leonard Cohen, Poet-Writer, Montreal, Quebec, 1967″


The Other Sam Tata Photo Of Leonard Cohen

The above photo was shot in 1967 (printed in 1968) by Sam Tata. The caption follows: “Leonard Cohen, Poet-Writer, Montreal, Quebec, 1967, printed 1968.” There is, of course, another photo Sam Tata took of Leonard Cohen (see heading below: The Sam Tata Photo Of Leonard Cohen Everybody Knows)

Leonard Cohen Goes For Broke

While Mr Cohen is characteristically spiffy in his double breasted jacket, black mock turtleneck, and demi-boots, I find myself drawn to the items in the background and the attendant question of where the photo was taken.

Leonard Cohen spent much of 1967 in New York singing his songs, working in the studio, following Nico around town, hanging out with the Warhol crowd, living at at the Chelsea and Henry Hudson hotels, and, well, being Leonard Cohen. He also performed at concerts and festivals in the US and Canada. His time in Montreal that year was, in short, limited.

And, he had not yet purchased his own home near the corner of Vallières and St. Dominique, across the street from Parc du Portugal.  He did visit his childhood home on at least one occasion in 1967 (we know because he took Joni Mitchell with him and she wrote “Rainy Night House” about it), but that room doesn’t look like it belongs in his mother’s home. The secretary’s chair in which he is seated and the folding desk, for example, seem unlikely accoutrements for the house in Westmount.

Cohen’s Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, his two guitars, and his cigarettes are easily recognizable. The only books I can identify with certainty are the copies of “Beautiful Losers” that fill one shelf. (The three large drawings directly behind Cohen seem familiar, but I can’t place then.)

The item I find most fascinating, however, is the Go For Broke game (brought to the market in 1965 by Selchow & Righter) in the shelf over Cohen’s right shoulder.  Board Game Geek offers this description:

Go For Broke is a roll and move game for 2-5 players [suggested ages: 10 and up]. Players receive one million dollars from the bank and race to be the first player to spend all of their money and go bankrupt. Players can risk money at the Racetrack, the Casino, play the Stock Market or make donations to charity. Outcomes are determined by spend and receive cards and by the spinners that represent the various locations.

It is difficult for me to come up with a scenario in which Leonard Cohen is temporarily using a room (perhaps his publisher’s office?) to write, keep extra copies of his novels on hand, play guitar, and carry out grownup activities that would also explain the presence of a child’s game, the goal of which is to lose all of one’s money and go bankrupt.

Clearly, the only possible explanation is that this game was an omen of the fiscal catastrophe Cohen was to experience some 35+ years later that the young, brash poet-writer ignored to his peril.

The Sam Tata Photo Of Leonard Cohen Everybody Knows

Sam Tata’s best known shot of the Canadian singer-songwriter is the 1973 photo shown below in its iteration as a CBS Records promotional photo. It has also  been used for ads, posters and album cover art. Leonard Cohen provides the location it was taken:1

It’s the upper duplex back-door of the house on Rue St. Dominique in Montreal where I used to live. Morton Rosengarten (Krantz in The Favourite Game), my old friend, lived downstairs and now occupies both floors.  We bought the place together around 1970.2


Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post was found at National Gallery of Canada.  The CBS promotional shot is from the private collection of Dominique BOILE.


  1. Source: LeonardCohenFiles []
  2. Note: According to Montreal homes: Leonard Cohen hangout goes up for sale by  Kathryn Greenaway (The Gazette: June 20, 2014) the purchase date is identified as 1973 []