Leonard Cohen Comments On The Cigarette He’s Holding On His “You Want It Darker” Album Cover

Leonard Cohen Is Smoking – At Least Figuratively

Leonard Cohen has smoking issues. For example, “Everybody Knows,” a Leonard Cohen song1 delivered in his famously deep, raspy voice, the final result, as Leonard himself puts it, of “about 500 tons of whiskey and millions of cigarettes,” was chosen as the music for a major anti-smoking ad. Cigarettes, once an obligatory accoutrement for Leonard, were apparently vanquished in 2003 when he quit smoking on doctor’s advice.2

Then, there was the “start smoking again at 80” stage shtick, which itself led to this photo and its caption, “Leonard Cohen enjoying his first (and last) cigarette on the occasion of his 80th birthday,” from the booklet accompanying the Leonard Cohen Can’t Forget album.

The announcement of Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker album on Aug 12, 2016 presented a new traffic sign on the Canadian singer-songwriter’s personal tobacco road. A number of fans have remarked on, lamented, defended, and debated the cigarette in Leonard’s hand on the cover of that album (shown atop this post). In response, Cohencentric, always eager to help, created a New & Improved alternative cover, You Want It Healthier (shown below).

That brings us up to the email Leonard sent DrHGuy about that alternative cover. In addition to a gracious compliment, “Why didn’t I think of Healthier? So funny!” he explained

It is an unlit cigarette
An instructive gimmick
for those who want to quit
I recommend it

So what some of us (OK, what I) thought was a darkly jaunty, audacious celebration of individualism turns out to be a quit smoking PSA.

Just when you think you’ve got Leonard Cohen figured out…

Also See Leonard Cohen’s Own Proposal For The “You Want It Darker” Album Cover Art


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 Aug 14, 2016.


  1. Authorship of “Everybody Knows,” first released in 1988 on Cohen’s I’m Your Man album, is co-credited to Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson []
  2. He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson. Shambhala Sun: Nov 2007 []

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