What Leonard Cohen – The Most Passionately Gracious Person On The Planet – Told Me Backstage In Chicago: 2009

Leonard Cohen (yes, that Leonard Cohen – the poet-singer-songwriter-icon guy) invited me to watch the soundcheck, meet him backstage before the October 29, 2009 Chicago Rosemont Theatre concert, and attend the green room get-together afterward


Let me tell you about it1

Update: Also see How To Impress Fans At A Leonard Cohen Concert – With A Little Help From Lorca & Leonard Cohen about this event

Now, this is not another article that claims to be an interview with Leonard Cohen but is actually a self-aggrandizing report of the soi-disant interviewer on the experience of being wonderfully received by the reporter’s new best friend, Leonard “I call him Lenny” Cohen.

Indeed, the vigilant reader will quickly discern that this post is completely interview-free.

After all, there are already books, videos, hundreds of articles, and, I am told, entire web sites dedicated to Leonard Cohen. Why waste time and risk diffusing the viewer’s attention by publishing one more set of questions and the tenuously associated permutation of anecdotes, philosophical points, and autobiographical data Mr. Cohen selects as his alleged responses to those queries?

By eliminating the nonessential insight into Leonard Cohen gibberish, we can concentrate directly on the gloriously narcissistic aspect of the program: Me Meeting Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen: The Gray-haired, Gravel-voiced Grandee Of Graciousness

I confess to being unaware of the most elemental musicological knowledge. I am likewise ignorant of the basics of songwriting, and I haven’t a clue about iconicity. I do, however, know graciousness when I’m overwhelmed by it.

And, Leonard Cohen is the most passionately gracious person on the planet.

But first…

The Leonard Cohen–DrHGuy Back Story

For those who don’t routinely follow Cohencentric, I should explain that, after attending soundcheck and being led through the warren of hallways and rooms backstage, I am about to meet a world-renowned artist whom I deeply and sincerely admire but whom I have also, on occasion — well, used as a means to a cheap laugh.

I once, for example, wrote that

Leonard Cohen’s inspiration for the song, “Suzanne,” was actually Dolly Parton: This explains not only why the opening line in the earliest drafts of “Suzanne” (then, of course, called “Dolly”) was “Dolly takes you down to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry,” but also why the line from the final version of “Suzanne” that reads “And she feeds you tea and oranges” was originally “And her breasts are big as melons.”

Heck, my first contact with Mr Cohen resulted from my publication of several posts featuring exchanges between Anjani, Leonard Cohen’s romantic partner, and me, triggered by my suggestion that she dump him in favor of joining me in a proposed three-way or four-way  (the number and identity of the other female singer-songwriters participants, were issues being negotiated in the posts).

A post titled Leonard Cohen Finds Love – Quiescently Frozen On A Stick ostensibly revealed that the original words to “Everybody Knows” were Popsicle-inspired and went something like this:

Everybody licks raspberry ‘sicles
Everybody licks lime and pistachio
Everybody licks blueberry and chocolate
Even with a mustachio.
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many flavors you just had to eat
You must come quick,
I’ll give you one more lick.

Everybody licks, everybody licks
When it drips it sticks
So everybody licks

Everybody licks, everybody licks
To get their kicks
Everybody licks

With impeccable timing, I proposed an International Showdown – Title Match For Goofiest Leonard Cohen Music Video in an early morning post the same day the title of a later entry read Report Of Leonard Cohen Collapsing On Stage In Valencia.

It goes on. While others applauded Cohen’s entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I chose to focus on the difficulty he and the other candidates had finding the route to the stage for the induction ceremony (see Leonard Cohen, Ventures, Mellencamp Induced To Enter Wrong Hall At 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Madonna Guided Safely To Stage). I’ve also offered to fix his problematic lyrics, improve the staging of his concerts, and salvage his merchandising, the solution to which included the creation of The Leonard Cohen Bobble Head.

There is much more, but you get the idea.

In any case, some folks don’t take well to such joshing. I wouldn’t recommend this strategy for garnering an audience with, for instance, Mike Tyson.

I Meet Leonard Cohen – And He Meets Me

Yet, when I am introduced to Leonard Cohen, he – and there is no other word that fits – beams,2 appears genuinely excited, as though there is nothing else he would rather be doing than making my acquaintance, and reaches out to shake my hand while announcing

“It’s Dr. Heck”

I suavely respond with my carefully rehearsed lines, a judiciously chosen, endearing admixture of incomprehensible babbling and repetitions of nonsensical exclamations, all generously sprinkled with stuttering. I am fairly certain, for example, that I effusively, insanely complimented the scarf he wore during soundcheck. Twice.

With no small effort, I finally convey the notions that (1) I am outrageously impressed by his poetry and music and (2) I am grateful for the opportunity to meet him.

Leonard Cohen then gazes intently into my eyes and gently, tenderly tells me – in a manner not unlike that one might use to communicate with a likable but not particularly bright four year old:

“No, I wanted to meet you. You’ve given me so much laughter in the past two years.”

It is possible he said something else after that. Things got a little fuzzy for a while.

In fact, the next thing I recall is Leonard (note we’re on a first name basis now) urging me to have something to eat from the crew’s buffet. This is accomplished by him taking my arm to lead me through the line of covered dishes, opening each of the 6-8 main offerings, describing the contents, and adding his recommendations.

Should I ever awaken in a post-apocalyptic desert with starving mobs battling over any edible morsel, my plan is to track down Leonard Cohen. If there is food to be had, he will, I am certain, find it and insist that his guest, even if the status of guest is self-appointed, dine from the bounty.

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Nov 3, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.


  1. Actually, it would be difficult to stop me from telling you about it. I have proven incapable of participating in any conversation lasting more than four minutes, regardless of the original purpose of the discussion, including being questioned by an officer of the Indiana State Police about my predilection for traveling at a velocity considerably in excess of the posted speed limit, without launching into anecdotes about this event. []
  2. I once knew a woman who could, with a glance, make any man feel as though he was the only person in the universe of significance to her. My assumption is that is that she and Leonard Cohen never met because if they had, they would have been perpetually locked in each others traction beams. []

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