Saturday, December 1, 2018


Leonard Cohen: INDUCTION YEAR 2018
BORN: September 21, 1934
BIRTH PLACE: Montreal, Quebec
DATE OF PASSING: November 07, 2016

Leonard Cohen, a truly legendary poet, songwriter, performer and novelist, began his career as a poet and novelist during the 1950s and early 1960. In 1967, at the age of 33, he launched his music career with his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. He followed his debut with three more folk albums – Songs from a Room, Songs of Love and Hate and New Skin for the Old Ceremony. More albums followed and in 1984 he released perhaps his most famous song, “Hallelujah” on his studio album Various Positions. I’m Your Man in 1988 marked Leonard Cohen’s turn to synthesized productions and remains his most popular album. In 1992, Leonard Cohen released its follow-up, The Future, which had dark lyrics and references to political and social unrest.

Leonard Cohen returned to music in 2001 with the release of Ten New Songs, which was a major hit in Canada and Europe. His eleventh album, Dear Heather, followed in 2004. Following a successful string of tours between 2008 and 2013, Leonard Cohen released three albums in the final four years of his life: Old Ideas (2012), Popular Problems (2014) and You Want It Darker (2016), the last of which was released three weeks before his death.

Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. In 2011, Leonard Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize.

Intersting Facts: Leonard Cohen’s first band, formed when he was 17, was called the Buckskin Boys. He published his first volume of poetry at 22, and won a $2,000 scholarship to travel around Europe when he was 25.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Salman Rushdie presents the 2012 PEN New England Award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence to Leonard Cohen

Well this is a gig I wouldn't have missed for the world, I have to say. We were all having our picture taken backstage and I thought, this is the best photograph I have ever been in, and I've been in one or two. I really have to say I'm really grateful to PEN New England for the initiative of doing this, and to everybody who made it happen. When I was telling my friends that I was going to come and have the privilege of giving an award to Leonard Cohen, they began to insist that I did certain things. All of these friends were women. One of them said I should kiss him for her. Haven't done that yet, Leonard. Another of my friends said, "You know, I live on Clinton Street, and I'd really like him to come make music for me all through the evening, and I'll even wear a blue raincoat." This is a sign of how much regard and how deeply these songs have entered peoples lives. Yesterday, just as an experiment, I put on my twitter feed. I asked people what was their favorite Leonard Cohen line, and hundreds of people replied with an enormous diversity of lines from this extraordinary songbook. Several of them were among my favorites, but it was just both, the breadth of the response, how much different work was being responded to, how passionately it was being responded to, how much it meant to how many people. It was really very telling. I've been listening to Leonard Cohen's music ever since I was an undergraduate at Cambridge (the other Cambridge; the old one). It's really a thrilling opportunity to have a chance to tell him how much that music has meant to me for over four decades. I said to him before we came on that when we were kids he taught us something about how it might be to be grown up. How to have relationships that were in the real world, that were not kid stuff, but had the pain, the difficulty, the complexity, and the exaltation of real relationships to the real world of adult life.

Listening to his lyrics again before this evening, I was struck by something I had forgotten perhaps about how much religious imagery there is to be found in them. Jesus crops up in "Suzanne" and there are the "Sisters of Mercy" and of course there is the great Hallelujah. There has always been something anthemic, something hymn-like about Leonard Cohen's greatest songs, though when you start listening closely, you here his wit and his jaundice comedy and sometimes his disillusion undermining those hymnal qualities. Not many hymns would rhyme Hallelujah with what's it to ya. Not to mention all the other rhymes in that which are equally non-sacred. I think it's true that all great literature begins at the level of the line. If you can't write a good line, you can't write a good paragraph, you can't write a good page, you can't write a good book. At the level of the line for all these years, Leonard Cohen's work has been amazing us again and again. This is work of great beauty and depth, and to put it simply, if I could write like that, I would. I think of poets in the twentieth century who have had a real relationship with meter and rhyme, and who have loved the playfulness of those things, and I think of W.H. Auden and James Fenton, and I think that the kind of playfulness of those rhymes in Hallelujah, for example, is something that an Auden or a Fenton would respond to very immediately because it's the kind of language play that you find in their poetry, but there is only one man who writes like this, exploring melancholy and exhaultation, desire and loss, as nobody else can, and so it is with great respect and admiration I am able to present this award. Now it's my great pleasure to present the 2012 PEN Award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence to Mr. Leonard Cohen.

The Leonard Cohen Acceptance Speech

Thanks so much friends. Thank you for your gracious hospitality. Thank you PEN and the jury. I understand now on what basis these awards were given because the entire jury could be candidates for this award, but I understand they are awarding them on the basis of seniority. So there is Chuck Berry and then there is me, and I don't know who comes next, but it certainly is an inevitability. Thank you so much friends. Ever since I think the only exclamation in our literature that rivals Walt Whitman's declaration of his barbaric yawp is Chuck Berry's Roll Over, Beethoven. Those two expressions of American ingenuity are really what has defined our activity, and from Chuck Berry all the way down to us is a straight line from that Roll Over, Beethoven because if Beethoven hadn't rolled over, there wouldn't have been room for any of us. So friends, I am deeply grateful for this recognition, but I also want to say that in another sense, all of us are just footnotes to the work of Chuck Berry, and like a footnote, I want to keep it brief and light. So thanks a lot friends.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Leonard Norman Cohen, born in Montreal, Canada in 1934, was interested in literature from childhood, and in 1955 gained a degree in the subject at the McGill University of Montreal. He first came into contact with music at this time, forming part of the Buckskin Boys, an amateur country-folk group. He later moved to New York thanks to a scholarship that allowed him to study at Columbia graduate school. He received a grant from the Canada Council in 1956 to write a book, and published his first book of poems, entitled "Let Us Compare Mythologies" inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca, for whom he has always expressed great admiration. Author of thirteen books, in the '60s he set up home for a time on the island of Hydra in Greece and started to compose songs, though without forsaking literature. During these years, he published his second book, "Spice-box of Earth," his first novel, "The Favorite Game," and a new book of poems, "Flowers for Hitler." These were to be followed by the novel, "Beautiful Losers," the collection of poems "Parasites of Heaven" and the works, "The Energy of Slaves" and "Book of Mercy." "Book of Longing," a collection of poems, prose and drawings was the first poetry book to reach the top of list of best-selling books in Canada. He published "Poems and Songs" in 2011. From his debut album called The Songs of Leonard Cohen, his rare singularity earned him great prestige. In the '70s and '80s his reputation was definitively confirmed by several world tours and hits such as Hallelujah, which was later covered by hundreds of different artists. With four albums between 1992 and 2006, he has stood out inspiring millions of new listeners, readers and creators. After fifteen years away from live performances, in 2008 he returned with a tour of eighty-four concerts, which produced his latest disc, the live album, Songs From the Road. At its meeting in Oviedo, the jury for the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters has decided by majority vote to confer the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters on the Canadian poet and novelist Leonard Cohen for a body of literary work that has influenced three generations of people worldwide, through his creation of emotional imagery in which poetry and music are fused in an oeuvre of immutable merit.

Considered one of the most influential authors of our time, his poems and songs have beautifully explored the major issues of humanity in great depth. Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal (Canada) in 1934 into a family of Jewish emigrants. Interested in literature from childhood, he graduated in this subject from Montreal's McGill University in 1955. He first came into contact with music at this time, forming part of The Buckskin Boys, an amateur country-folk group. He later moved to New York thanks to a scholarship that allowed him to study at Columbia Graduate School.

He received a grant from the Canada Council in 1956 to write a book and published his first book of poems, entitled Let us Compare Mythologies, inspired by Federico García Lorca, for whom he has always expressed great admiration. This is a compilation of poems written between 1949 and 1954, in which Leonard Cohen reflects on the themes that are to be recurrent in his work, such as the persecution of the Jews, relationships and religion. Author of thirteen books, in the 1960’s he set up home for a time on the island of Hydra, Greece, and started to compose songs, though without forsaking literature. During these years, he published his second book, Spice-Box of Earth (1961), his first novel, The Favourite Game (1963) and a new book of poems, Flowers for Hitler (1964). These were to be followed by the novel Beautiful Losers (1966), the collection of poems Parasites of Heaven (1966) and the works The Energy of Slaves (1972) and Book of Mercy (1984). Book of Longing (2006), a collection of poems, prose and drawings, was the first poetry book to reach the top of list of best selling books in Canada. He published Poems and Songs in 2011.

He returned to the USA temporarily in 1967 and published his first record, Songs of Leonard Cohen, which included some of his best-known songs such as Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy. This album was followed by Songs from a Room (1969), which received great public acclaim, and Songs of Love and Hate (1971), which confirmed him as one of the most outstanding songwriters of the time. He toured worldwide throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, as well as publishing albums such as Live Songs (1973), New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974), Death of a Ladies’ Man (1977), Recent Songs (1979) and Various Positions (1984), whose song Hallelujah has cover versions by over 150 different artists. He subsequently published I’m Your Man (1988) and The Future (1992), in which he managed to convey the spirit of his time perfectly. Since then, he has recorded Ten New Songs (2001), Dear Heather (2004) and Blue Alert (2006). After celebrating his 40th anniversary as an artist, Leonard Cohen gave 84 concerts all over the world in 2008, attended by more than 700,000 people on a tour that meant his return to the stage after an absence of 15 years. He subsequently edited Songs from the Road, a live album recorded during the tour that includes his most emblematic songs. Admired by renowned artists, many have interpreted his songs and have recorded tribute albums like I’m Your Fan (1991), Tower of Song (1995) –in which singers such as Billy Joel, Sting, Elton John and Bono participate–, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (2006) and According to Leonard Cohen (2007).

He is an Officer and Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest-ranking civilian order, and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec. In 2008, he entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was distinguished with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize in 2011.

The Leonard Cohen Acceptance Speech

Your majesty, your royal highnesses, excellencees, members of the jury, distinguished laureates, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour to stand here before you tonight. Perhaps, like the great maestro, Riccardo Muti, I’m not used to standing in front of an audience without an orchestra behind me, but I will do my best as a solo artist tonight.

I stayed up all night last night wondering what I might say to this assembly. After I had eaten all the chocolate bars and peanuts from the minibar, I scribbled a few words. I don’t think I have to refer to them. Obviously, I’m deeply touched to be recognized by the Foundation. But I have come here tonight to express another dimension of gratitude; I think I can do it in three or four minutes.

When I was packing in Los Angeles, I had a sense of unease because I’ve always felt some ambiguity about an award for poetry. Poetry comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often.

I was compelled in the midst of that ordeal of packing to go and open my guitar. I have a Conde guitar, which was made in Spain in the great workshop at number 7 Gravina Street. I pick up an instrument I acquired over 40 years ago. I took it out of the case, I lifted it, and it seemed to be filled with helium it was so light. And I brought it to my face and I put my face close to the beautifully designed rosette, and I inhaled the fragrance of the living wood. We know that wood never dies. I inhaled the fragrance of the cedar as fresh as the first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me, “You are an old man and you have not said thank you, you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose. And so I come here tonight to thank the soil and the soul of this land that has given me so much.

Because I know that just as an identity card is not a man, a credit rating is not a country.

Now, you know of my deep association and confraternity with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I could say that when I was a young man, an adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not find a voice. It was only when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice, that is to locate a self, a self that that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.

As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. What were these instructions? The instructions were never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.

And so I had a voice, but I did not have an instrument. I did not have a song.

And now I’m going to tell you very briefly a story of how I got my song.

Because – I was an indifferent guitar player. I banged the chords. I only knew a few of them. I sat around with my college friends, drinking and singing the folk songs and the popular songs of the day, but I never in a thousand years thought of myself as a musician or as a singer.

One day in the early sixties, I was visiting my mother’s house in Montreal. Her house was beside a park and in the park was a tennis court where many people come to watch the beautiful young tennis players enjoy their sport. I wandered back to this park which I’d known since my childhood, and there was a young man playing a guitar. He was playing a flamenco guitar, and he was surrounded by two or three girls and boys who were listening to him. I loved the way he played. There was something about the way he played that captured me. It was the way that I wanted to play and knew that I would never be able to play.

And, I sat there with the other listeners for a few moments and when there was a silence, an appropriate silence, I asked him if he would give me guitar lessons. He was a young man from Spain, and we could only communicate in my broken French and his broken French. He didn’t speak English. And he agreed to give me guitar lessons. I pointed to my mother’s house which you could see from the tennis court, and we made an appointment and settled a price.

He came to my mother’s house the next day and he said, “Let me hear you play something.” I tried to play something, and he said, “You don’t know how to play, do you?’

I said, “No, I don’t know how to play.” He said “First of all, let me tune your guitar. It’s all out of tune.” So he took the guitar, and he tuned it. He said, “It’s not a bad guitar.” It wasn’t the Conde, but it wasn’t a bad guitar. So, he handed it back to me. He said, “Now play.”

I couldn’t play any better.

He said “Let me show you some chords.” And he took the guitar, and he produced a sound from that guitar I had never heard. And he played a sequence of chords with a tremolo, and he said, “Now you do it.” I said, “It’s out of the question. I can’t possibly do it.” He said, “Let me put your fingers on the frets,” and he put my fingers on the frets. And he said, “Now, now play.”

It was a mess. He said, “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

He came back tomorrow, he put my hands on the guitar, he placed it on my lap in the way that was appropriate, and I began again with those six chords – a six chord progression. Many, many flamenco songs are based on them.

I was a little better that day. The third day – improved, somewhat improved. But I knew the chords now. And, I knew that although I couldn’t coordinate my fingers with my thumb to produce the correct tremolo pattern, I knew the chords; I knew them very, very well.

The next day, he didn’t come. He didn’t come. I had the number of his, of his boarding house in Montreal. I phoned to find out why he had missed the appointment, and they told me that he had taken his life. That he committed suicide.

I knew nothing about the man. I did not know what part of Spain he came from. I did not know why he came to Montreal. I did not know why he played there. I did not know why he he appeared there at that tennis court. I did not know why he took his life.

I was deeply saddened, of course. But now I disclose something that I’ve never spoken in public. It was those six chords, it was that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music. So, now you will begin to understand the dimensions of the gratitude I have for this country.

Everything that you have found favourable in my work comes from this place. Everything , everything that you have found favourable in my songs and my poetry are inspired by this soil.

So, I thank you so much for the warm hospitality that you have shown my work because it is really yours, and you have allowed me to affix my signature to the bottom of the page.

Thank you so much ladies and gentlemen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011



SECTION 5B - Performing Arts - Criticism and Practice
Foreign Honorary Member -
Performing Arts - Criticism and Practice
Leonard Cohen, Montreal, Canada

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Book of Members 1780-Present
Leonard Norman Cohen (1934-)
Election: 2011, Foreign Honorary Member
Affiliation at election: Montreal, Canada
Residence at election: Montreal, Canada
Career description:
Musician (singer, songwriter); Novelist; Poet
Current Affiliations: Same

Friday, April 1, 2011


Announcement made on Friday, April 1, 2011
Ceremony held on Monday, May 14, 2012

For four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, relentlessly examining the central issues in human experience, and reporting with passion, insight and wisdom. His body of work is a reflection of the zeitgeist of the late twentieth century and beyond. His songs are works of great poetic depth and profound emotional force, and set new standards for quality, range and seriousness in pop music. Artists and music-lovers alike are drawn to the dignity, ambition and sheer power of his songs.

An accomplished literary figure before he began recording music in the late 1960s, his collections of poetry, including Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) and Flowers for Hitler (1964), and his novels including The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), had already brought him considerable recognition. His dual careers in music and literature have continued feeding each other over the decades – his songs revealing a literary richness rare in the world of popular music, and his poetry and prose informed by an intense musicality. Collectively, Leonard Cohen has published twelve books including Book of Longing (2006), a collection of prose, poetry and drawings which was the first book of poetry to reach the top of Canada’s bestsellers’ lists, and which formed the basis of a memorable musical and theatre collaboration with composer Philip Glass which premiered at Toronto’s Luminato festival.

Leonard Cohen is one of the most covered artists alive today, influencing generations of songwriters, and his music has earned the accolades of other artists in tribute albums in France, Norway, Canada, Spain, the Czech Republic, South Africa, and the United States. “Hallelujah”, one of Leonard Cohen’s best-known and best-loved songs has been covered by over 150 artists including Willie Nelson and Bono. Numerous documentaries, awards, and tribute albums acknowledge the far-reaching contribution Leonard Cohen has made to music. He continues to refine and deepen his art, and as a musician he is constantly exploring new territory.

The Leonard Cohen Acceptance Speech

Thank you so much friends. I actually met Glenn Gould. It was the end of the '50's or the early '60's. Holiday Magazine asked me to interview him and he apparently had heard of a little book I had written and he accepted the interview. I was cautioned not to shake his hand. I went to Toronto and we met at the apartment building where he was living, downstairs in the lobby. This was before the days of tape recorders. He began to speak and I began to scribble. The interview was supposed to be for just minutes but it lasted for a couple of hours. After a minute or two I was so engrossed with what he was saying and I stopped writing and stopped taking notes and thought these words were burned into my soul. After the interview was over, I thanked him. It had been really a memorable afternoon. I came back to my little room on Mountain Street in Montreal and I couldn't remember a thing. The editor of Holiday Magazine called me and asked me how it was coming along. I said it's coming very well. The editor called me a couple days later and I had the same answer. The editor called me a couple weeks later and I said it's taking me a little bit longer than I thought, and then finally I stopped answering the phone. It was in the days of telegrams. I finally joined the witness protection program. 

I met Glenn Gould again curiously enough about several years later. It was in a studio in New York, a Columbia Records studio. He was recording something sublime and I was recording something otherwise. I met him in the hall and we recognized each other. I was infected in those days with the new hip thing which was beginning to unveil among musicians and people in the entertainment world. I said "Hey man, what's shakin'?" He said, "I didn't know you were from Memphis, Tennessee." Thank you so much friends. I just I want to say to the musicians and singers, if there is any anxiety about singing my songs in front of me, let it dissolve immediately because I go into an immediate childish ecstasy and paroxysms of gratitude when an artist covers one of my songs. Thank you so much friends.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen turned to songwriting after establishing himself as an acclaimed novelist and poet. His resultant songs have earned him an adoring following of music fans and fellow artists, including Judy Collins, who expanded his audience in 1966 when she recorded his song "Suzanne" (actor/singer Noel Harrison also had a hit with it) and Jennifer Warnes, who had been a backup singer for Leonard Cohen before releasing her own acclaimed album of his material, "Famous Blue Raincoat," in 1987. His uniquely intelligent output was celebrated in 2006 with the documentary "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man." Key songs in the Leonard Cohen catalog include "Bird on the Wire," "Hallelujah," "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," "So Long, Marianne" and "Suzanne."

Born in 1934, Leonard Cohen was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist, and his work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships. Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1991) and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2006) as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2008) for his outstanding work.

Leonard Cohen always had an interest in music, but it wasn't until 1966 that his focus turned to songwriting after gaining international recognition for his poetry. Before he released a single song, Leonard Cohen sold the highly successful "Suzanne" to Judy Collins, which later was included on his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1967 along with "Sisters Of Mercy," and "So Long, Marianne." His next two albums, Songs from a Room (1969) and Songs of Love and Hate (1971) solidified Leonard Cohen's iconic status with the often recorded "Bird on the Wire" and "Famous Blue Raincoat."

His 1977 record Death of a Ladies’ Man was co-written and produced by 1997 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee Phil Spector, which was a move away from Leonard Cohen’s previous minimalist sound. In 1979 Leonard Cohen returned with the more traditional Recent Songs, which blended his acoustic style with jazz and Oriental and Mediterranean influences. “Hallelujah” was first released on Leonard Cohen’s studio album Various Positions in 1984. I’m Your Man in 1988 marked Leonard Cohen’s turn to synthesized productions and remains his most popular album.

In 1992 Leonard Cohen released its follow-up, The Future, which had dark lyrics and references to political and social unrest. Leonard Cohen returned to music in 2001 with the release of Ten New Songs, which was a major hit in Canada and Europe. In 2006 Leonard Cohen produced and co-wrote Blue Alert, a collaboration with jazz chanteuse Anjani Thomas.

Leonard Cohen's multidimensional lyrics have captured fans spanning generations and nationalities for decades. Leonard Cohen received the Grammy 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of his legendary career of artistic accomplishments in songwriting and performing. Over 2,000 covers of Leonard Cohen's songs have been recorded by artists such as R.E.M., Bob Dylan, Elton John, Judy Collins, Willie Nelson and most recently, Justin Timberlake.

Leonard Cohen's world tour, which inaugurated in May 2008, played to sold-out crowds. After the success of his 2008–2013 world tours, Leonard Cohen released the highest charting album in his entire career, Old Ideas, to positive reviews. On September 22, 2014, one day after his 80th birthday, Leonard Cohen released his 13th studio album, Popular Problems, again to positive reviews. Leonard Cohen’s fourteenth and final album, You Want It Darker, was released on October 21, 2016, a few weeks before he died.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


About the Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree

With a career that has spanned four decades and eighteen albums, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen has worked with the likes of such artists as Elton John, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, and Iggy Pop. Leonard Cohen has garnered a number of awards including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and just recently won a Grammy Award for his participation on the album Herbie Hancock: The Joni Letters, which won Album of the Year at the 50th Annual Grammys in 2008. This past February, Leonard Cohen launched an international tour that began with the reopening of the legendary New York City Beacon Theater.

The Leonard Cohen Acceptance Speech

Thank you so much friends. I want to thank the Academy for allowing me to be a part of this distinguished company. As we make our way towards the finish line that some of us have already crossed, I never thought I would get a Grammy award. In fact, I was always touched by the modesty of their interest to my work. Thank you friends.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The 2008 Grand Officer Of The National Order Of Quebec

Leonard Cohen grew up in Westmount. Early on, he became passionate about literary and musical writing. Although his work has taken him all over the world, he has always maintained a pied-à-terre in Montreal's Portuguese neighborhood. His poetry and songs have influenced many singer-songwriters. There are currently more than 1,200 covers of his songs, many of which have been performed, and sometimes translated into other languages, by well-known artists. Leonard Cohen has always celebrated his Jewish and Montreal roots, displaying a direct respect for the cultural and linguistic specificity of Quebec. In 2007, he published Book of Longing, a collection of poems reprinted in French under the title Livre du désir constant.

Leonard Cohen has a long and prolific career in pop music. He distinguishes himself by the intensity of his words, which scrutinize the human soul, and the commitment he dedicates to his art. Leonard Cohen was born in 1934 in Westmount, where he grew up in a Jewish family of Russian-Polish origin. In 1951, he joined McGill University and, during his studies, was part of a country band, The Buckskin Boys. Leonard Cohen had an early passion not only for music, but also for literature and poetry. His first collection of poetry appeared in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963, while his first album of songs was released in 1967. His folk music, baritone voice and lyricism of his songs have since marked the world of music. music and make it one of the great contemporary artists. Although his work has taken him to every corner of the planet, he has always maintained a pied-à-terre in the Portuguese district of Montreal, not far from his birthplace.

His poetry and songs have influenced many singer-songwriters, and his songs have been taken up by countless artists. Many albums around the world pay tribute to his work in languages other than English. The work of Leonard Cohen is rich and varied: about fifteen albums, two novels and a dozen books of poetry, including a collection, Book of Longing, which was published in 2007 and resumed immediately in French under the title Book of Constant Desire. Leonard Cohen joined the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. A documentary, entitled Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, was released in 2006; many artists pay tribute to the man of talent and passion.

Leonard Cohen had a long and prolific career in the song. Deeply versed in his art, he distinguished himself by the poetic, even mystical intensity of his words. The mix of styles that marked his career (folk, country western, popular, cabaret music, world music, electro …) defines the various decades that crossed the songwriter.

Leonard Cohen was born in 1934 in Westmount, where he grew up in a Jewish family of Russian-Polish origin. In 1951, he enrolled in history at McGill, the first English-language university in Montreal. During his studies, he was part of a country-folk trio, The Buckskin Boys.

Very early, this atypical artist was passionate not only for music, but also for prose and poetry. His first book of poems was published in 1956, thanks to a subscription launched in the journal of his alma mater, which he had just left after spending a quadrimester at his law school. His first novel was released in 1963, followed by a second and last, three years later. His first album of songs, meanwhile, was launched in early 1968, before projecting on the road to success in the United States and Europe, with classics in power (Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy and So Long, Marianne).

From then on, his faint baritone voice and the poignant lyricism of his songs marked the international musical universe. In his titles, Leonard Cohen often repeated the same themes: religion, love-passion, loneliness, sexuality and the complexity of interpersonal relationships. His intimate, witty and blackened words of sadness have influenced many singer-songwriters, and his songs have been taken up by countless artists. Many albums around the world pay tribute to his work in languages other than English.

Leonard Cohen's legacy is rich and varied: about fifteen albums (four studio albums for the only decade of 2010), two novels and a dozen books of poems, including a poetic book, Book of Longing, which was published in 2007 and resumed immediately in French under the title Book of
Constant Desire.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Ladies and Gentlemen, to induct Leonard Cohen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, please welcome Lou Reed

You know I first met Mr. Leonard Cohen at the Chelsea Hotel and at a place called Max's. Outside the Chelsea we were talking and he said-which I thought was really sweet-he said you wrote a song called "I'll Be Your Mirror" and it made me want to continue being a songwriter. Then we were sitting at Max's Kansas City. In the back room there you had to know somebody. So people weren't paying attention to Leonard. I said, this is Leonard Cohen, he wrote Beautiful Losers. So speaking of Beautiful Losers, which I never got a chance to tell Leonard this, and I was in the part of the tour "I'm Your Man" that wasn't filmed, so nobody got to see me except in Dublin, unless you flew there. You get to really appreciate someone's songs when you sing them, when you sing them out loud. That's when you can really hear it, but anyway. Beautiful Losers, Naked Lunch, I started thinking, Burroughs, Leonard, Allen Ginsberg, (those three), Hubert Selby, (maybe four), but Naked Lunch and Beautiful Losers were out more or less kind of the same time, but one got a lot more attention. I was always very surprised by that. We are so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is. Ladies and gentleman I very much want to welcome Leonard Cohen.

The Leonard Cohen Acceptance Speech

Oh thank you so much friends, and Lou thank you so much for reminding me that I wrote a couple of good lines. I inducted you into my own ghostly hall of fame many many years ago. You flourished there from then until this very day. Thank you so much. This is a very unlikely occassion for me. It is not a distinction that I coveted or even to dare dream about. So I am reminded of the prophetic statement of Jon Landau in the early '70s. He said, "I have seen the future of Rock and Roll and it is not Leonard Cohen." So very pleased to be here. Such an unlikely event. To stand here among the inductees tonight is a great privilege and a great honor. Thank you friends.

The Biography

Inductee: Leonard Cohen
(vocals, guitar; born September 21, 1934)
Induction Year: 2008; Induction Category: Performer

With the 1966 release of In My Life by Judy Collins, containing Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” Leonard Cohen became a folk rock icon of the singer/songwriter movement. Already an acclaimed poet and novelist in his native Canada, Leonard Cohen moved to New York in 1967 and released his classic album Songs of Leonard Cohen on Columbia Records. Its music launched Leonard Cohen into the highest and most influential echelon of songwriters. Leonard Cohen’s elegiac work is widely used in film and covered by artists from Jeff Buckley to Bono to Bob Dylan to R.E.M. As Kurt Cobain said, “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld so I can sigh eternally.”

There are few artists in the realm of popular music who can truly be called poets, in the classical, arts-and-letters sense of the word. Among them are Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. Leonard Cohen heads this elite class. In fact, Leonard Cohen was already an established poet and novelist before he turned his attention to songwriting. His academic training in poetry and literature, and his pursuit of them as livelihood for much of the Fifties and Sixties, gave him an extraordinary advantage over his pop peers when it came to setting language to music. Along with other folk-steeped musical literati, Leonard Cohen raised the songwriting bar.

Leonard Cohen’s recording career spans 40 years, commencing with the 1967 release of his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. He was in his early thirties and seven years older than Bob Dylan, and his age set him apart from the young musicians who dominated the rock and folk worlds. Leonard Cohen was born and raised in the city of Montreal, a city whose rich history and thriving culture served to train his writer’s muse on three fundamental preoccupations: romance, religion and politics. His first musical group, the Buckskin Boys, played traditional music at square dances. He studied poetry at Montreal’s McGill University and published his first collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, as part of the McGill Poetry Series. His favorite literary figures included the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, the Canadian poet Irving Layton, and Beat Generation figurehead Jack Kerouac.

In 1958, Leonard Cohen lived in New York, where he briefly attended Columbia University. He received a grant for his writing that allowed him to travel the world and make the Greek island of Hydra his on-and-off home for a fertile seven-year period. Leonard Cohen relocated to the States in 1966 and tried his hand at songwriting, largely as a reaction to having experienced the starving lot of the poet and novelist. By then he’d published four books of poetry and two novels (including the celebrated Beautiful Losers). “But I found it was very difficult to pay my grocery bill,” Leonard Cohen said in 1971. “I’ve got beautiful reviews for all my books, and I’m very well thought of in the tiny circles that know me, but…I’m really starving.”

Beyond the promise of better income, his entrée into the music world greatly increased the audience for his poetry. Leonard Cohen has always been adamant about the power of words to change individual lives and even entire societies for the better. “I always feel that the world was created through words, through speech in our tradition, and I’ve always seen the enormous light in charged speech,” Leonard Cohen told interviewer Robert Sward. “That’s what I’ve tried to get to [and] that is where I squarely stand.”

Leonard Cohen found an early supporter and sponsor in Judy Collins, who introduced his songs to the world via her recordings of “Suzanne” (still his best-known song) and “Dress Rehearsal Rag” on her 1966 album In My Life. Legendary A&R man John Hammond signed Leonard Cohen to Columbia Records, and his first three albums for the label – Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room and Songs of Love and Hate - represent the fruitful first phase in an episodic recording career. The hallmarks of Leonard Cohen’s style were his plainspoken vocals, spare arrangements, deep but accessible lyrics, and an abiding preoccupation with the feminine mystique. Leonard Cohen’s tightly constructed verses served the rhyming and meter demands of pop-song form without sacrificing the higher ends of poetry.

As a songwriter, Leonard Cohen seemed somewhat less comfortable in the Seventies than he had been in the Sixties, recording only four albums of new material – Songs of Love and Hate (1971), New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974), Death of a Ladies’ Man (1977) and Recent Songs (1979) – in that decade. The first and last of these were marked by strong songwriting and sympathetic production, whereas Death of a Ladies’ Man was marked by difficulties with producer Phil Spector.

Leonard Cohen’s output was lesser still in the Eighties, but the pair of albums he did release – Various Positions (1984) and I’m Your Man (1988) – are indisputable classics. The first of these found Leonard Cohen writing about spirituality; one of its songs (“Hallelujah”) is among his best-loved and most-recorded, having been covered by Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and Allison Krauss. The release of Various Positions was accompanied by the publication of Book of Mercy, a self-described “book of prayer.” I’m Your Man was arguably Leonard Cohen’s greatest set of songs since his 1967 debut, containing such classics as “Tower of Song,” “Everybody Knows” and “First We Take Manhattan.” In 1992, some of rock’s most respected acts, including R.E.M., the Pixies, and Nick Cave, contributed to the Leonard Cohen tribute album, I’m Your Fan. Another Leonard Cohen tribute album, Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1995), included cover versions from more mainstream artists, including Don Henley, Billy Joel and Elton John.

Leonard Cohen’s most disenchanted and apocalyptic work, The Future, appeared in 1992. In the title track, he sang, “Get ready for the future, it is murder.” Not surprisingly, Leonard Cohen retreated to a mountaintop monastery in Southern California for five years, during which he studied with and served his Zen master, Joshu Sasaki-Roshi. “It was one of the many attempts I’ve made in the past 30 or 40 years to address acute clinical depression,” he acknowledged in a 2001 interview. That year, he released Ten New Songs, his first studio album in nearly a decade. He has since issued Dear Heather (2004) and produced Blue Alert (2006), an album by backup singer Anjani Thomas. Between their releases came the documentary I’m Your Man, which featured live performances of Leonard Cohen’s songs from U2, Beth Orton and others.

On his ties to Columbia Records, similar in mutual loyalty and longevity to the careers of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen told writer William Ruhlmann: “I never sold enough records to make them dependent on my next record or to make them anxious about it. On the other hand, I never lost them any money. [The records] seem to sell themselves in modest quantities with very little money necessary for promotion.”

Leonard Cohen has earned a better living as a singer/songwriter than he would have as a poet and novelist alone. Yet he’s enjoyed the poet’s advantage of not having to compromise his dignity by indulging in the often-distasteful rituals of pop celebrity. In other words, he’s drawn the best from both worlds, forging a wholly unique and remarkable niche for himself. There’s no denying that Leonard Cohen’s voice has deepened and coarsened over the years, but there’s still a marvelous musicality to his phrasing and poetical lilt to his lyrics that attests to an unquenchable spirit.

In his notes for The Essential Leonard Cohen, writer Pico Iyer noted, “The changeless is what he’s been about since the beginning…Some of the other great pilgrims of song pass through philosophies and selves as if through the stations of the cross. With Leonard Cohen, one feels he knew who he was and where he was going from the beginning, and only digs deeper, deeper, deeper.”

Leonard Cohen’s artistic outlook might best be expressed in his own words with this lyric from “Anthem”: On Anthem (1992), he wrote: “There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” He remarked, “That’s the closest thing I could describe to a credo. That idea is one of the fundamental positions behind a lot of the songs.”

"I always experience myself as falling apart, and I'm taking emergency measures," Leonard Cohen said fifteen years ago. "It's coming apart at every moment. I try Prozac. I try love. I try drugs. I try Zen meditation. I try the monastery. I try forgetting about all those strategies and going straight. And the place where the evaluation happens is where I write the songs, when I get to that place where I can't be dishonest about what I've been doing."

For four decades, Leonard Cohen has been a model of gut-wrenching emotional honesty. He is, without question, one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. His songs have set a virtually unmatched standard in their seriousness and range. Sex, spirituality, religion, power – he has relentlessly examined the largest issues in human lives, always with a full appreciation of how elusive answers can be to the vexing questions he raises. But those questions, and the journey he has traveled in seeking to address them, are the ever-shifting substance of his work, as well as the reasons why his songs never lose their overwhelming emotional force.

His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), announced him as an undeniable major talent. All quietness, restraint, and poetic intensity, its appearance amid the psychedelic frenzy of that year could not have made a starker point. It includes such songs as "Suzanne," "Sisters of Mercy," "So Long, Marianne," and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," all now longstanding classics. If Leonard Cohen had never recorded another album, his daunting reputation would have been assured by this one alone. However, the two extraordinary albums that followed, Songs From a Room (1969), which includes his classic song "Bird on the Wire," and Songs of Love and Hate (1971), provided whatever proof anyone may have required that the greatness of his debut was not a fluke.

Part of the reason why Leonard Cohen's early work revealed such a high degree of achievement is that he was an accomplished literary figure before he ever began to record. His collections of poetry, including Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) and Flowers for Hitler (1964), and his novels, including Beautiful Losers (1966), had already brought him considerable recognition in his native Canada. His dual careers in music and literature have continued to feed each other over the decades – his songs revealing a literary quality rare in the world of popular music, and his poetry and prose informed by a rich musicality.

One of the most revered figures of the singer/songwriter movement of the late sixties and early seventies, Leonard Cohen soon developed a desire to move beyond the folk trappings of that genre. By temperament and approach, he had always been closer to the European art song – he once termed his work the "European blues." Add to that a fondness for country music, an ear for R&B-styled female background vocals, a sly appreciation for cabaret jazz, and a regard for rhythm not often encountered in singer/songwriters, and the extent of Leonard Cohen's musical palette becomes clear. Each of Leonard Cohen's albums reflects not simply the issues that are on his mind as a writer but the sonic landscape he wishes to explore, as well. The through-lines in his work, of course, his voice ("I was born with the gift of a golden voice," he has sung) and lyrics (he has described himself as "the little Jew who wrote the Bible"), are as distinctive as any in the world of music.

Leonard Cohen's 1974 album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which includes "Chelsea Hotel #2," a pointedly unsentimental account of his early years in New York City that included a tryst with Janis Joplin, found him making bolder use of orchestration, a contrast to the more stripped-down sound he had earlier preferred. Death of a Ladies' Man, his 1977 collaboration with Phil Spector, constitutes his most extreme experiment. Phil Spector's monumental "Wall of Sound" – the producer, Leonard Cohen once quipped, "was in his Wagnerian phase, when I hoped to find him in his Debussy phase" – proved an uncomfortable setting for Leonard Cohen's typically elliptical and almost painfully intimate lyrics (terms that, admittedly, would not apply to "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On," on which Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg provide backing vocals. Over the years, Leonard Cohen has bitterly complained about Phil Spector's high-handed – and gun-wielding-ways, while occasionally expressing a kind of grudging affection for the album's uncharacteristic excesses. He has summed it up as "a grotesque, eccentric little moment."

Recent Songs (1979) and Various Positions (1984) returned Leonard Cohen to more recognizable sonic terrain, though the latter album is a perhaps misguided nod to the trend at the time of its release, prominently incorporated synthesizers. The objections didn't particularly bother Leonard Cohen. "People are always inviting me to return to a former purity I was never able to claim," he has said. Though not initially released in the States, Various Positions includes "Hallelujah," which has since become one of Leonard Cohen's best-known, best-loved, and most frequently covered songs, (Versions by Jeff Buckley and John Cale are especially notable.)

As the eighties and their garishness began to wane, Leonard Cohen's star began to rise again. The listeners who had grown up with him had reached an age at which they wanted to reexamine the music of their past, and a new generation of artists and fans discovered him, attracted by the dignity, ambition, and sheer quality of his songs. It is remarkable to this day how often Leonard Cohen's name comes up when young songwriters discuss their inspirations. Indeed, his work often seems to reside in that realm of the human heart that exists outside of time. Hence, it is timeless and always ripe for discovery and rediscovery.

Leonard Cohen rose to the opportunity that his new audience provided by releasing two consecutive albums, I'm Your Man (1988) and The Future (1992), that not only rank among the finest of his career but perfectly capture the texture of particularly complicated times. Leonard Cohen had long documented the high rate of casualties in the love wars, so the profound anxieties generated by the AIDS crisis were no news to him. Songs like "Ain't No Cure For Love," the wryly titled "I'm Your Man," and, most explicitly, "Everybody Knows" ("Everybody knows that the Plague is coming/Everybody knows that it's moving fast/Everybody knows that the naked man and woman are just a shining artifact of the past") depict Leonard Cohen surveying the contemporary erotic battleground and reporting on it with characteristic perspective, insight, wryness, and wisdom.

Similarly, in the title track of The Future, his immersion in Jewish culture, obsession with Christian imagery, and deep commitment to Buddhist detachment rendered him an ideal commentator on the approaching millennium and the apocalyptic fears it generated. Along with the album's title track, "Waiting for the Miracle," "Closing Time," "Anthem," and "Democracy" limned a cultural landscape rippling with dread but yearning for hope, "There is a crack in everything," Leonard Cohen sings in "Anthem," "That's how the light gets in." Our human imperfections, he seems to be saying, are finally what will bring us whatever transcendence we can attain.

In a 1993 Rolling Stone profile, Leonard Cohen described writing the songs on The Future and revealed a good deal about his notoriously painstaking process of composition. "The song will yield if you stick with it long enough," he explained. "But long enough is way beyond any reasonable idea you might have of what long enough is. It takes that long to peel the bullshit off. Every one of those songs began as a song that was easier to write. A lot of them were recorded with easier arrangements and easier lyrics...'The Future' began as a song called "If You Could See What's Coming Next." That point of view was a deflected point of view. I didn't have the guts to say, "I've seen the future, baby/It is murder."

Since then, Leonard Cohen has released Ten New Songs (2001) and Dear Heather (2004), as well as Blue Alert (2006), a collaboration on which Leonard Cohen produced and co-wrote songs with his partner and former background singer Anjani Thomas, who provides the vocals. All three albums have only solidified his place in the pantheon of contemporary songwriters. At seventy-three, Leonard Cohen continues to produce compelling work, while enjoying the honors that deservedly come to artists who have achieved legendary status. Documentaries, awards, tribute albums, the ongoing march of artists eager to record his songs, and, finally, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame all acknowledge the peerless contribution Leonard Cohen has made to what one of his titles aptly calls "The Tower of Song."

And he is still laboring hard in the tower. "I think as long as you can crawl into the workshop, you should do the work" he has said. "I always saw those old guys coming down to work, whatever job I happened to be in. Something about that always got to me. I'd like to be one of those old guys going to work."


September 21, 1934: Leonard Cohen is born in Montreal, Canada.

1956: Let Us Compare Mythologies, Leonard Cohen’s first book of poetry, is published in Canada as part of the McGill Poetry Series.

1966: Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen’s second novel, is published.

July 16, 1967: Leonard Cohen's Newport Folk Festival debut with Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and Columbia Records' John Hammond.

December 1967: Songs of Leonard Cohen, the poet/novelist’s debut as a singer/songwriter, is released. It contains “Suzanne” and “Sisters of Mercy,” among his best-known songs.

April 1969: Songs from a Room, Leonard Cohen’s second album, is issued. From it comes “Bird on the Wire” and other favorites.

March 1971: Songs of Love and Hate, Leonard Cohen’s third album, is released. It is highlighted by “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Joan of Arc.”

November 1974: New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Leonard Cohen’s fourth album of original material, is released. Its original cover is banned in the U.S.

November 1977: Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man – a Phil Spector production – is released. It will be followed by Leonard Cohen’s book Death of a Lady’s Man.

September 1979: Leonard Cohen’s Recent Songs, is released. The Songs of Leonard Cohen, a documentary, is filmed in Canada and Europe the same year.

December 1984: Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions is released abroad. PVC Records issues it in the U.S. two months later after his label, Columbia Records, passes on it.

January 1987: Jennifer Warnes, who has sung backup with Leonard Cohen as Jennifer Warren, issues Famous Blue Raincoat, an album of covers from Leonard Cohen’s songbook.

April 19, 1988: I’m Your Man, by Leonard Cohen, is released. Arguably the poet-singer’s best album since his first, it includes “Tower of Song” and “Everybody Knows.”

November 10, 1989: Songs of Leonard Cohen, the singer/poet’s 1967 debut, is certified gold by the RIAA.

November 26, 1991: The Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan is released. It includes cover versions by R.E.M., the Pixies and other indie-rock acts.

November 24, 1992: Leonard Cohen releases The Future, a dyspeptic album reflecting a mental state that inspires a five-year retreat.

November 2, 1993: Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs, by Leonard Cohen, is published by Pantheon Books. The 432-page collection was assembled by the poet/singer himself.

September 26, 1995: Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen is released. Contributors include Don Henley, Billy Joel, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, and other stars.

October 9, 2001: Leonard Cohen releases Ten New Songs, his tenth studio album, his first new album in nine years, and his first to chart in the U.S. since 1973’s Live Songs.

October 22, 2002: The Essential Leonard Cohen, a double-disc retrospective compiled by the artist, is released.

August 31, 2004: Judy Collins, whose recordings of Leonard Cohen’s songs introduced the world to the singer/poet in the late Sixties, releases Democracy: Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen.

October 26, 2004: Dear Heather, Leonard Cohen’s second studio album of the new millennium and the 11th of his career, is released shortly after the artist turns 70.

September 2005: Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man, premieres at the Toronto Film Festival. The documentary includes tribute-concert footage from Sydney, Australia.

April 24, 2007: Leonard Cohen’s first three albums – Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room and Songs of Love and Hate – are reissued in expanded editions to mark his 40th anniversary as a recording artist.

December 11, 2007: Composer Philip Glass’ Book of Longing – a double-disc song cycle based on the poetry and images of Leonard Cohen – is released on the Orange Mountain Music label.

March 10, 2008: Leonard Cohen is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 23rd annual induction ceremony and dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Lou Reed is the presenter. Damien Rice performs "Hallelujah."