75 Facts About Leonard Cohen You Might Not Know

75 Facts About Leonard Cohen You Must Know




1-   Leonard Cohen has been labelled “the poet laureate of pessimism”, “the grocer of despair”, “the godfather of gloom” and “the prince of bummers”. He has, none the less, given pleasure and even laughter to the million or so people who buy his records.

2 – He was president of his university’s debating society.

Cohen’s song “Everybody Knows” is often said to be a sardonic comment on the futility and corruption of politics. But, in spite of his cynicism he cared enough about public issues to be the president of the debate team at McGill University where he argued about some of Canada’s most controversial topics.


3-After college, he considered becoming a lawyer.

4- He spent almost two years living in a cabin in Tennessee that had been the home of Boudleaux Bryant, author of “Bye Bye Love.” For a long time, he lived on the Greek island of Hydra on less than a thousand dollars a year. Later he lived in a little trailer in the south of France.


5- He is mentioned in many songs
Other singers have found success performing songs penned by Cohen (most notably “Hallejuah”), but his colleagues’ admiration does not stop there. Cohen is mentioned in many songs by other performers, receiving name checks from, among others, Israelis Shlomo Artzi and Ehud Banai, the bands Nirvana and Mercury Rev, and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Leonard Cohen Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Leonard Cohen Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

6-  This is arguably the most obscure of the five facts listed, and I would wager that most fans know that the Canadian singer-songwriter is referenced in many songs.  Without resorting to Google, I can come up with three other songs that mention Leonard Cohen in the title:

  • Austin Lounge Lizards – Leonard Cohen’s Day Job
  • James McMurtry – You’d A’ Thought {Leonard Cohen Must Die}
  • Nancy White –  Leonard Cohen’s Never Gonna Bring My Groceries In

And I can offer three more that mention him in the lyrics:

  • Jeffrey Lewis – Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song
  • Lucinda Williams – Rarity
  • Electric Light Orchestra – Illusions in G Major

LeonardCohenFiles has a page full of these songs (although it seems to be missing the tunes by Lucinda Williams and ELO).


7- He went to Cuba just before the Bay of Pigs invasion — as a “foot solider,” he says.

8- Cohen’s albums regularly go to no 1 in Norway.

9- Since his mid-50s, his stock has risen steadily. Late middle-age tends not to be easy for pop stars, if they get there at all, but it has smiled on Cohen. There have been several tribute albums and covers by Bono, REM and Johnny Cash. His influence has been cited by Nick Cave, Suzanne Vega and Rufus Wainwright, who said recently: “I really believe he’s the greatest living poet on earth.”


10- In 2001 he said: “When Alberta Hunter was singing many years ago, at 82, I came to New York just to listen to her. When she said ‘God bless you’, you really felt that you had been blessed. It’s wonderful to hear a 20-year-old speaking about love. As the Talmud says, there’s good wine in every generation. But I love to hear an old singer lay it out. And I’d like to be one of them.”


11- Phil Spector once showed up at his door at 4 a.m. with a bottle of wine and a .45, which he cocked and shoved into Cohen’s neck.


12- His grandfather “helped found many of the institutions that defined Jewish life in Canada.”

13- Cohen was 32 and an established poet and novelist before deciding that songwriting might pay better. When he first touted his songs around New York, agents said to him: “Aren’t you a little old for this game?”

14-  He has never married – “too frightened”. He had two children with Suzanne Elrod, and also had a long relationship with the film star Rebecca De Mornay.


15 – The first time he went to his Zen monastery near L.A, he dropped out of line at breakfast, sneaked down to the parking lot, got in his car and drove to Mexico.

16- He has used many musical styles, from acoustic folk to electro-pop. But his lyrics have made only one stylistic leap, from lush lyricism to dry humour. His vocals have gone from a limited but appealing wail to a heroically smoky rumble. Soon, he may be audible only to dogs.

17- He invented a cocktail called Red Needle

18-His favorite song is “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino.

19- His father, who was in the garment trade, died when he was nine.

20 – He considers Jennifer Warnes the most underrated pop singer.


21- He once tried to type underwater in the bathtub, then flung his typewriter across the room and broke it.

22 His middle name is Norman.

23 His first band, formed when he was 17, was called the Buckskin Boys.

24 In his high-school yearbook, he gave his ambition as “world-famous orator”.

25 At McGill University, he was president of the debating society.

26 His friends were fellow poets. “Each time we met, we felt that it was a landmark in the history of thinking, let alone poetry.”


27.1 Cohen was a poet and novelist before he was a pop star. He published his first volume of poetry at 22, and won a $2,000 scholarship to travel around Europe when he was 25.

27.2 He liked the Greek island of Hydra so much that he bought a house there in 1960 for $1,500. It had no electricity or running water. He could live there for $1,000 a year, so he would go back to Canada, earn the money with his writing and head back to Hydra “to write and swim and sail”.

28 His second novel, Beautiful Losers, about a love triangle, was hailed by one reviewer as “the most revolting book ever written in Canada”.

29 His big break was meeting the folk singer Judy Collins. He sang Suzanne down the phone to her and she immediately promised to record it.



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1 Comment

  1. I worked at the CBC – Canada’s “BBC” – in the 60’s. They had a “hit” Sunday- night TV show called “60 Minutes”. ( it was started
    in Canada) Leonard was on – his first TV appearance. I was working on that night’s episode – about to go down on the elevator.
    The door opened – there he stood – our eyes met – THAT WAS IT. It was “all over” for me. I moved in with him, left my job (!), went to New York with him – stayed for a while. He had to leave, to go on tour – he called it the “never-ending tour” – his life.
    I returned to Toronto – fully prepared to be “unemployed” – because I had left without telling anyone. They didn’t know where I was. When I finally returned, I went in – to empty my desk. When they heard my “Leonard” story, they said “Please STAY !”

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  1. Música relajante para obtener tu dosis diaria de paz y tranquilidad

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