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The Incomparable Leonard Cohen

"There is a Crack in Everything...That's How the Light Gets In"

By Linda RivenbarkPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 5 min read
The Incomparable Leonard Cohen
Photo by Gaétan Marceau Caron on Unsplash

“You look around and you see a world that cannot be made sense of. You either raise your fist, or you say Hallelujah!” -- Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen- Live in London

The above song of Leonard Cohen's is #1 in popularity of all his musical creations. At least five years in the making, it contains a wealth of truth, wisdom, beauty, and life lessons. It is reported that the writer composed 80 verses and chose fifteen of those for the recorded song. During concerts, he was more apt to perform 7 or 8 stanzas.

This masterpiece, Hallelujah, was first released in 1984 on his album entitled "Various Positions".

Many acclaimed musicians and countless ones just starting out (competing on Television star-search shows) have offered their personal renditions of "Hallelujah" with amazing results.

It has been recorded by Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, K.D. Lang, John Kale, and many more. One of my favorite renditions of Cohen's masterpiece, Hallelujah, is performed by Bon Jovi. The video is accompanied by lyrics in Spanish.

To this Leonard Cohen fan, however, no other version can match the first one above where the heart and soul of the creator merge with the awesome beauty of the words to create an incomparable masterpiece.

Would you like to know more about the musical genius that created this amazing song? I would too. Here is some of what I know so far.

Early Life of Leonard Cohen

On September 21, 1934, Leonard Norman Cohen was born in a suburban area of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His parents were Nathan Bernard Cohen and Marsha Klonitsky Cohen.

Leonard had an older sister, Esther, who was 4 years his senior and with whom he enjoyed a close relationship, especially during their mature adult years. Esther passed away two years before Leonard.

When Leonard was nine years old, his father died - the first life-changing event of his 82-year lifetime. He and Esther were raised by their mother who, according to Leonard, loved to sing for them and her singing had a great impact on his future venture into the music world.

Intellectual pursuits were important to both of Leonard's parents, and after his father's death, his mother encouraged him in his academic studies, including his ongoing interest in poetry, mythology, Jewish religious life, writing song lyrics (at which he excelled in later years), and performing as an artist and musician. He began writing poetry in elementary school and got his first musical experience around the age of 13 when he got some gigs playing country music in Montreal cafes.

Leonard had another lifelong interest - women - and to begin his exploration of this interest, he started a musical band at the age of 13. Choosing the name Buckskin Boys for their band, the group regularly played traditional music at square dances.

As much as he enjoyed making music with his friends, Leonard Cohen's greatest passion at this time of his life was poetry. The work of Federico Garcia Lorca became his North star. Other poets like Jack Kerouac spoke to him powerfully as well and guided him on his poetic journey.

His mother encouraged Leonard in his interest in and love for poetry and novel writing. His post-grade school education was largely focused on his writing, and he gained his first literary commercial success with the publication of a book of poems entitled “The Spice-Box of the Earth”, published in 1961.

As time went by, Cohen found that the money he made from his writing of poetry books and novels was not sufficient for the life-style he desired for himself. He decided to move to the United States to explore opportunities for a career in singing/song-writing.

He settled first in New York where he made some friends in the pop rock world, including Judy Collins, who was instrumental in helping him break into the music world of the early 1960s.

His great talent and unique persona led to momentous achievements in poetry and music that made him one of Montreal’s favorite sons.

Other Places Leonard Cohen Called Home

His life led him to make his home on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra during most of the 1960s. It was here that he met Marianne Ihlen, who became his muse and girl friend. Though they went their separate ways, they stayed in touch and remained friends for the remainder of their lives.

By Mauricio Muñoz on Unsplash

He later lived in the United States, first in New York and then in Los Angeles, California. Cohen’s home in L.A. revealed some things about the man himself. His modest, two-story apartment home on a quiet, tree-lined street was a striking contrast to the Hollywood Hills’ mansions inhabited by many successful music artists living in California.

On November 10, 2016 the world received the news that Leonard Norman Cohen had passed away in his sleep in the middle of the night on Monday, November 7 at the age of 82. He had apparently sustained a fall during the hours immediately preceding his death.

It had been reported in the months leading up to his passing that he suffered from leukemia, and this was announced as the cause of death, causing some confusion and questions.

It has been explained by medical professionals since then that accidental falls are more common among leukemia patients than with people the same age without serious medical conditions. Because the blood vessels are compromised and weakened by the disease, a fall (especially with a head injury) is more likely to develop internal bleeding that can lead to death.

On Thursday evening, November 10, 2016, his passing was announced by Sony Music, Canada, as Cohen was a favorite son of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The announcement included the words: “It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.

The following two songs reveal powerful evidence of the person Leonard Cohen was, and I invite all who read this to listen to them.


I am sharing this story now because I want it to be my first published work for 2023.

I cannot overstate how much the life of Leonard Cohen and the abiding music he left as a gift to the world mean to me. How much they have enriched my life.

I hope my readers will enjoy this tribute to Leonard Cohen.


humanityfeaturecelebrities90s music80s music

About the Creator

Linda Rivenbark

I believe in the magic of words, love, and tenacity. There is a world out there that needs to be explored, researched, and written out to try to make some sense of it, and to make a better place for the children of tomorrow.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (6)

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  • Naomi Gold2 months ago

    Wow, I love him so much but I never knew about his life. I didn’t know he started out writing poems and literature. It makes sense. He’s a masterful songwriter in addition to having that unique, haunting, seductive voice.

  • C. H. Richard5 months ago

    Wow, thank you for writing this piece. I have always been mesmerized by the song "Hallelujah" . I did not know there a list of stanzas. Had not heard Bon Jovi version which was impressive. Great Job!

  • Always liked Leonard, thanks for writing

  • I love Leonard Cohen, use him for inspiration and had the good fortune to see him live in the 1970s. great story.

  • Heather Hubler5 months ago

    I loved getting to read a bit about his life and of course, listen to his wonderful voice. Thank you for sharing! A great tribute to start off the year :)

  • Cathy holmes5 months ago

    Great tribute. Really well done.

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