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Ten Things You May Not Know About Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen has become somewhat of a living legend and the singer celebrates his 79th birthday tomorrow, Saturday September 21st.
To mark the occasion and to celebrate his contributions to rock ‘n’ roll, we put together a list of ten things you may not know about him – and happy birthday Mr. Cohen!
1. His entrance into music came late, and as such he dealt with some criticism.
At 32, Cohen was already an accomplished poet and novelist when he decided to try his hand at music. When he introduced his musical compositions to some agents in New York, some of them said things to him such as ‘aren’t you a little old to be starting a music career?’
2. His home on Hydra was very economical.
In the early 1960s, Cohen purchased a house on the Greek island of Hydra. He said he could live on the island for about $1,000 a year, and used his time there to write some poetry and be creative. While there, though, he had no running water or electricity (according to various sources).
3. Columbia Records didn’t believe in him.
Various Positions, the album that featured Cohen’s iconic song Hallelujah, wasn’t appreciated by Columbia Records – so much so that the label head told Cohen “we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good”. A smaller label, Passport Records, then picked up distribution duties for the album.
4. Hallelujah took a long time to be written.
Cohen is known for his tedious songwriting process, and it is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that he allegedly told Bob Dylan that it took him ‘two years’ to write the song.
5. It also required a lot of editing.
Another testament to Cohen’s work ethic is the fact that the full version of Hallelujah has fifteen (15!) verses. Now that’s dedication.
6. The Israeli Defense Force is a huge fan of Hallelujah, too.
Another fact about Cohen’s signature song: the Israeli Defense Forces’ radio network plays the song at 2:00 am every Saturday.
7. Cohen isn’t a fan of the album he made with Phil Spector.
The 1977 album Death of a Ladies Man was produced by infamous (and accomplished) music figure Phil Spector. At one point, Cohen referred to the album, which sounded drastically different from Cohen’s usual output due to Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ as ‘grotesque’.
8. He made a guest spot in a popular television program.
In 1986, Cohen appeared on an episode of the long-running cop drama Miami Vice, portraying the head of Interpol.
9. He formed his first musical act early.
While he wouldn’t get into the music business professionally until his thirties, Cohen’s first band was a group called the Buckskin Boys – which he formed when he was 17.
10. His most recent album was his most successful in the States.
2012’s Old Ideas debuted at #3 on the Billboard Albums Charts, easily making it Cohen’s strongest debut of his career. The previous high? 1969’s Songs from a Room, which hit #63.
Happy birthday Mr. Cohen and let us know if you have any other Cohen facts in the comment section below!