I have been asked if Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison ever met or worked together. I can now provide an authoritative answer to that query.
In solving this riddle, I first uncovered the fact that, early in their careers, Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison had the same manager, Mary Martin, albeit not at the same time:
About the time she [Mary Martin] stopped managing Cohen [in the late 1960s], the Band’s Richard Manuel suggested to Van Morrison that Martin would be a good manager for him. She did not know much about Morrison’s music before he approached her, but she said, “With Moondance, I was blown away.” She talked of his reluctance to tour and admitted that he could be “difficult,” but was quick to add that when his concerts clicked, it could be transcendent. “The hairs on your arms would appear and you would be so swept into it,” she said. “It was very powerful, wonderful music.” Martin also helped Morrison free himself from what she described as a contract “that was as close to slavery as I’ve ever seen.” Not long after she helped him greatly improve his situation, Morrison told her he didn’t have money for her. So she sent him a telegram that simply said, “I quit.”1
Unsurprisingly, Cohen is a fan of Van Morrison. When asked to name those he admired on the “contemporary music scene today ,” the Canadian singer-songwriter’s response included
I also like Van Morrison very much, including his superb ‘Veedon Fleece’ effort.2
And in a 2001 online chat with fans, Cohen declared
As the Talmud says “There’s good wine in every generation.” I love to hear what Dylan has to say and Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits and many others. [Bolding mine.]
He clarifies the situation in a 1974 interview:3
Interviewer: Could I ask you about other people in the music business like Van Morrison?
LC: I’m very fond of his work. I don’t know him. I love his work as a matter of fact.
In the penultimate investigative step, I discovered that both Van Morrison and Cohen share a fascination with Yeats. As Leonard noted,
My two great heroes are W.B. Yeats and Federico Garcia Lorca.4
And, as reported in Van Morrison and daughter shine in Sligo by Anita Guidera (Belfast Telegraph Oct 29, 2012):
[In his 2012 Sligo concert] Van Morrison invoked the spirit of WB Yeats
To finally break the case, however, it was necessary to question Leonard Cohen personally. After years of viewing interrogations on Law & Order, The Mentalist, Columbo, CSI… I was prepared with my slyly crafted query:
DrHGuy: Did you ever meet or work with Van Morrison?
And the suspect fell into my trap:
Leonard Cohen: I once phoned him years ago about doing a project together but nothing came of it.
Another Leonard Cohen mystery solved.
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 16, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
- Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum: Mary Martin by Tori Tarvin. Country Music Hall of Fame: November 17, 2009 [↩]
- Cohen’s New Skin by Harvey Kubernik & Justin Pierce. Melody Maker, March 1, 1975. Bolding mine. [↩]
- September 15, 1974 by Robin Pike. ZigZag, Oct 1974. Bolding mine. [↩]
- A Secular Saint by Brian Goyd. Irish Times: Jan 28, 2012. [↩]