Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Leonard Cohen

Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen has had one of the most notable careers in Canadian literary history -- and would have even if he'd never sung a song. But as the poet became a novelist, so the novelist became a singer and the singer became an icon. He published his first book of poetry more than five decades ago and recently released his latest album, Old Ideas. As highlighted in Exclaim!'s newly published Timeline, here are five facts you may not know about Leonard Cohen.

Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Leonard Cohen:

1. He was a "ladies man" from an early age.

After a girlfriend's father hypnotizes him, Leonard is fascinated with the practice. He manages to hypnotize the family maid and convinces her to undress; his mother's unexpected arrival home cuts the session short. He gets lucky with a 19-year-old neighbour about to be married; because of him, she breaks off the engagement, though he refuses to commit to her.

2. His failures are better than your successes.

The first draft of Cohen's first novel, The Favourite Game, is rejected by Jack McClelland; his editors found it "too tedious, not to say disgusting." Cohen himself describes it as "miserable," and "an important mess." It would not be published until 1963.

3. His friends never encouraged him.

In 1965: One day at Toronto's King Edward Hotel, Cohen plays harmonica and sings for a friend while a couple in the adjacent room make love noisily. He tells his friend, "I think I'm going to record myself singing my poems." "Please don't," she replies. And again in 1966: On February 20, he goes to see Bob Dylan and the Hawks at Place Des Arts in Montreal. At intermission, Cohen tells [Canadian poet and friend Irving] Layton that he's seen his own future. Layton laughs.

4. His own label refused to release the album containing "Hallelujah," his most famous and most covered song.

Various Positions is a top 10 album in Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal, but Columbia refuses to release it in the States. Notoriously cantankerous record executive Walter Yetnikoff told him, "Look, Leonard; we know you're great, but we don't know if you're any good." It comes out on a tiny U.S. indie, with only a few thousand copies pressed.

5. He's beloved in high places.

In 2000, he is an honorary pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau's funeral, along with Fidel Castro, Jimmy Carter and the Aga Khan.