Kaddish for Leonard Cohen

Kaddish for Leonard Cohen

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

November 07, 2021

He died five years ago today.



  • MR says:

    My personal favorite Leonard Cohen recording is “Joan of Arc” as interpreted by Judy Collins on her live “Living” album.

  • E says:

    It is strange how the image of fire here joins that in the video
    of Gwynneth Jones, singing in Götterdämmerung, where the
    darkness was, at least, redeemed.

  • Jennie Tourel ( sings Ravel ) – Kaddish – YouTube
    Jennie Tourel ( sings Ravel ) – Kaddishצֹפֶן חדש בעברך http://wp.me/pNxVb-83

  • MR says:

    “I happened to be listening to Leonard Cohen’s rendition of Lorca’s poem, “Take This Waltz” tonight and wanted to share the story of how I had a very little part in the creation of it.

    In the early 1980s, while still living in Europe, I found myself in an interesting party in the house of a French aristocrat in Paris. I did not know the aristocrat personally and was taken there by a friend. Anyway, the party warmed up and I happen to like the wine they were serving. As the evening wore on and proceeded to the whee hours of the morning, I, in a drunken stupor, began to recite this Lorca’s poem (with the original title of “Pequeno Vals Vienes”).As you know, Federico Garcia Lorca, the poet and playwright, who remains one of my favorite (Surrealist) poets, was killed at a young age in the Spanish Civil War, in 1936. Anyway, a few days after the party, I got a surprise call from Leonard Cohen, you know, the Canadian poet singer, who, unbeknown to me, had been in the party and had heard my very loosely based recitation of Lorca’s poem (that I had improvised out of memory), and had later sought and found my phone number. He asked me about the poem and the poet and if I could send him a copy of it. I told him what he had heard was loosely based on the poem. He wanted both versions, the original and my “take” of it. So, a few days later I sent a few pages of my ramblings and included Lorca’s poem and also went into some detail of how I understood the poem. After that I didn’t hear anything from him for some time. Until one day I received a check in the mail. I don’t remember if it was from him or from the company he was associated with. I sent the check back and said in a note that since I had nothing to do with the poem and was only a minor conduit, I felt that I did not deserve to get paid. I never heard anything from him again, But heard and liked the song, which went into many variations. I also learned that Cohen had named his daughter Lorca. The song you hear in the link below, is the final version, and I’m quoting the lyrics for you. The lyrics are very close to the original poem and perhaps contains a few races of my verbal idiosyncrasies. I hope you will enjoy it.”

    The above is part of an email I received in 2013 from a neighbor I met in Los Angeles outside on our street on a rare rainy day there. Oblivious to the rain, our initial conversation included him reciting a poem he had recently composed, He was born in Iran, and several years after we met, he and his wife, who was born in Germany, moved to the Netherlands, joining their daughter.

    What an extraordinary song and video posted above, this being my introduction to the song, bringing back a flood of Leonard Cohen-related memories, and will no doubt lead to my revisiting his music.

    • V. Lind says:

      Nice anecdote, but I seriously doubt that a poet who had been as recognised as Cohen long before he took up songwriting was hearing about Lorca for the first time, as this story seems to suggest.

      I studied Cohen poetry in schooldays, and it was in school that I wrote my first paper about the poetry of Lorca, an essay I would expand upon years later in a fourth-year university modern poetry course.

      I think if I knew enough about Lorca at age 16 to write an essay on him (and I had by then read all his plays as well) then the well-educated Cohen would have, too.

      As teenagers, we were all obsessed with Cohen, who made poetry sexy, and devoured all his poetry, his (ghastly) novels and his every published utterance. I’m pretty sure it was through reading about Cohen that I started to read Lorca.

      Halcyon days, when a poet was a celebrity.

      • MR says:

        My former neighbor’s email does not state that Leonard Cohen did not know of Lorca, only that he wasn’t familiar with the specific poem, or variation of that poem, recited that night, and that is why he contacted Arsalan to find out.

        • MR says:

          I took the opportunity to actually read this poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, if translated into English, for the first time, finding it hauntingly beautiful beyond words, and truly original. I noticed “Pequeño Vals Vienés” includes mention of pigeons and cognac. My former neighbor, who became a friend, was fond of feeding scores of pigeons on the grounds of LACMA very early at 6 AM or so, and even invited me to join him, which wasn’t very practical given how I often went to bed at 4 or 5 AM at the time, keeping very late hours. Arsalan also had one entire wall of his dining room filled with bottles of wine – there must have been hundreds – and perhaps there were some bottles of cognac in the vicinity. Now, I think I will contact him for the first time since he moved at least five years ago.