leonard cohen

I have no idea why I leave for a few days and none of our Canadians picked up this story. They brag about loving maple syrup and hockey, but for heaven’s sake folks, this is Leonard Cohen from Montreal! If he ain’t Jewlicious, who is?

This man creates visions of Jewish Canada by simply existing. Sure, he grew up in Westmount instead of the poor streets of St. Urbain – commemorated forever by another winner of the Canadian Governor General’s award, Mordecai Richler – and has allegedly gotten laid by more non-Jewish women than Tom Jones. Not only that, but he’s now a Buddhist monk, although I have no idea whether that means he now no longer beds non-Jewish women, especially since his latest girlfriend is quite a hottie (they’re putting out an album together soon). But let’s face it people, just hearing the name “Leonard Cohen” conjures up visions of circumcized snowflakes generations of Canadian Jews toiling in the hard Montreal winter.

By the way, allow me to pause here for a second:

Leonard Cohen –
Jewish, Canadian, Montrealer, winner of Governor General’s award

Irving Layton –
Jewish , Canadian, Montrealer, winner of Governor General’s award

Mordechai Richler –
Jewish, Canadian, Montrealer, winner of Governor General’s award

A.M. Klein –
Jewish, Canadian, Montrealer, winner of Governor General’s award

Saul Bellow –
Jewish, Canadian, American, Montrealer, winner of Nobel Prize for Literature

Okay, truth be told, Cohen conjures up Jewish Montreal, but also lazy days lounging on Greek islands while figuring out what life is about and writing poetry between steamy sessions with Marianne. The dude got lessons in life and love from Irving Layton, and then went out and DID IT. He took his Canadianism, his Judaism, his cosmopolitanism and somehow managed to influence millions of people with his music and poetry. How many poets actually become known by millions for their poetry? Leonard did it. And he did it with style.

Unfortunately, it seems that the 70 year old living legend finds himself virtually broke after a lifetime of work. Yup, it happened to Billy Joel (Jewlicious), Sting (Roman Catholic) and countless other stars, and now it’s happened to Cohen – he’s apparently been ripped off, allegedly by his longtime manager and possibly by his investment manager. The story in all its gory details is available in this Macleans article.

The bare essentials are: lifetime of work; millions of dollars; trusting others to manage funds; going up a mountain to spend some years becoming a Buddhist monk; learning accidentally, after coming down from the mountain, that the $5 million slated for one’s retirement and inheritance to kids is gone and nobody is willing to accept responsibility; getting one’s lawsuit of advisor pre-empted by advisor’s lawsuit; getting one’s lawsuit of manager pre-empted by friends claiming she’s imbalanced and on verge of possible suicide. He’s now facing a mess, the prospects of all that money lost, having to work hard at an advanced age, and the ugliness of lawsuits.

Fortunately, it seems that Cohen doesn’t live it up so it may not be all that bad.

That second article also notes that the Buddhist has not given up his Judaism. It seems he enjoys traditional Shabbat dinners with some singing beforehand, in Hebrew. Now imagine that deep voice that you heard as a teenager, just before going out on a date with Becky, as it sings “shalom aleichem mal’achei hashalom,” preparing to bite into some brisket and matzo ball soup…and among the beauty, you might hear the torment of a man betrayed.

God, I hope for his sake that he’s not celibate.

About the author

themiddle

46 Comments

  • Middle, don’t most eminent, talented Montreal Jews end up leaving, a la Bellow?

    Anyway, sorry to hear about Cohen’s troubles. Hopefully, he’ll be able to mine these experiences (hmm, tantric sex?) and create more great music.

    He’s really one of the great underrated singers– think of the folks he influenced: Tom Waits, Greg Brown, maybe even Paolo Conte, among many others… Middle, too (you doom-and-gloomer).

  • He should be getting royalties for some of his hit songs, Suzanne, if that what is is called. for example, is a rock classic.
    St. Urbain is now much yuppified, many of the 2 story apartments have been redone, tho not all. I was just there last Shabbos, thought I would try to find a shule amongst the Chassidim in that area. QUite a walk from Downtown, I finally saw some Beautiful Chassidic children playing so I asked in Yiddish which I hardly speak, Vaye is de shule? and the little girl goes, which one? Can you believe I would care after a 2 hour walk? Then she goes, Belz? Yeah sure whatever, so we go there another couple of blocks. But I had missed Mincha, so watching the little boys in their silly caps laughing at me, I decided to split. Shame there is no synagouge at all downtown for tourists. The little alleys there still look forboding though.
    Montreal is really beautiful though.

  • Tom Jones has been married to the same woman his entire life and contrary to popular belief, really didn’t sleep with fans. He has, however, appeared in the fantasies of millions. You can take Rav Elishav’s name in vain all you want but don’t go slandering The Voice.

  • Middle,

    I will give you CK. But Mr. Charney is at this point, infamous. And judging by the name of his company, he is not as attached to his Montreal identity as you fellahs are.

    So you are up to six.

  • Minyan material? Hey, there’s the famous art dealer/collector/Jewish owner of Les Expos, Jeffrey Loria…

    Oh- wait. He’s in Florida now. With the Marlins (who are gonna win the NL wild card).

    And the Expos… uh… They left Montreal, too.

  • Frankly,
    I lived in Mtl 22 years and never associated Leonard Cohen too much with Mtl.

    But anyway,
    this is so much more interesting than the 9000 homeless setters ripped out of their homes and given a whole 10 days to stay in hotels at the best.

  • Josh, the settlers always knew this could happen. Israel decided they don’t want to be an old South Africa. All Israeli governments want to be loved by the world, maybe Beb Gurion would have acted differently, maybe Shamir, but no one else.

  • Um, the settlers who are stuck now are stuck because they refused to interact with the Disengagement Authority for months.

    Anyway, how about the Bronfmans? Isn’t Moshe Safdie also from Montreal?

    And Tom, how do you mean “doom and gloomer?” I bring to you memories of your youth when you were visualizing yourself sunbathing next to an attractive woman on a Greek Island, pausing from time to time to sip on a cool lemonade, feast on some delicious fresh veggies and fish, and perhaps writing a poem or two with which to mesmerize the next blond sunbathing beauty. Ain’t life grand?

  • Jeffrey Loria (tfu tfu yimach shemo) is decidedly NOT a Montrealer. He’s an art dealer from New York. Moshe Safdie is from Montreal and, get this, he’s Dov Charney’s uncle. Jobber, next time you’re in Montreal an ortho shul closer to downtown is the Bagg street shul a few blocks south of where you were at. Bagg is parallel to St. Laurent and its like near Mont Royale street. Another option is the ghetto shul which is rollicking and open for services during the school year. Click on the link above for addresses etc. There’s also a Chabad House on Peel street above Sherbrooke but they have a hard time getting a minyan during the year and I don’t know if they are open in the summer at all. The Belz dudes are funny though …

    Oh yeah and I knew about Leonard’s troubles but seriously, what an idiot. Takes his $5 million in royalties and puts it in a company 98% owned by his business manager – get this – for tax purposes. That’s a ripoff waiting to happen. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Well, Leonard’s loss is his fans’ gain as he is hard at work on another album so he can make some money – seeing as he is down to $150,000. Sheesh.

  • Middle,

    Are you really going to start including rich Jews as proof of Montreal’s cultural importance?
    Just admit it – you don’t have a minyan.
    You have a mezumin.

  • I don’t see what is wrong with including Bronfman Pere, Samuel. Look how many Bronfman kids still get to be rich thanks to him. Safdie is definitely worthy of mention.

    Come on ck, help me out…

  • Middle,

    You know there is a difference between culture and patrons of culture. That’s why you didn’t include them in the first place.

    More importantly – I understand, at least simplistically, the problems of the separatists, and how that would favor Toronto, but I hear great things are happening there. Is that true? Why the sudden boom? It isn’t just the separatists, is it? So what is it?

  • Oy. Toronto experienced a boom starting in 1976 when after the election of the separatist Parti Quebecois, Jews moved there in droves from Montreal. That having been said, Toronto is a sucky place to live. It is huge and impersonal and expensive and suffers from an ingrained culture that embraces commercialism and frowns of fun.

    Montreal in the meantime, is, simply put, awesome. Affordable, fun, totally yummy. It remains in my mind, one of the premiere cities in North America. Yeah it’s not perfect but that European/Latin vibe it reportedly exudes does indeed make it the closest thing to Europe in North America with the added benefit of, you know, not so many actual Europeans. Jews have made and continue to make a big mark on the city. Folks rave about the (treiff) smoked meat at Schwartzs (kosher varieties are available) and our unique Montreal bagels are unparalleled (in the mostly french east end I was in a diner that advertised them as beignets juif: Jewish doughnuts. Heh.

    Add to that The Jazz Fest (best in the world), Just for Laughs Comedy Fest (best in the world), Cirque du Soleil, Francofolies, Nuits D’Afrique and so so many cutting edge cultural events, well, ’nuff said, eh?

    Anyhow, in summary, Toronto sucks, Montreal kicks ass. That’s all you need to know.

  • I beg to differ about Sam Bronfman. The dude was an artist if there ever was one. Richler tried to capture this over the years, but it was elusive. Not all business is corporate suits in air-conditioned buildings. Anyway, if you go back to post #3, your criterion was famous Jews, not famous artists. Bronfman pere et fils certainly meet this requirement.

  • William Shatner was born in Montreal- does that count? And Steven Cojocaru, the fashionisto, is also a local.

    Leonard Cohen is just one more example of why entertainers shouldn’t be allowed to earn that much money- they go and do really dumb things with it. Look at Michael Jackson (or don’t…). And everyone else who has ever sued their manager/financial advisor/record label. They just aren’t built to handle that stuff.

    That aside, “Hallelujah” is probably one of the most hauntingly profound tracks ever laid down, especially when you count in the Jeff Buckley version. Cohen’s undoubtedly a genius, albeit a naieve and eccentric one.

  • Ah well, maybe he’s a little less full of himself now. I’ve rarely seen a more pretentious artist than Cohen.

  • William Shatner is SOOOOO Jewlicious! (With the possible exception of the time he may or may not have drowned his wife) He is still HOT in my book!Moment of Silence for James Doohan who died in July. Live Long and Prosper Judi!

  • I was there in Montreal recently. You guys ever take the Hassidic overnight bus service? Somewhat interesting.

    If y’all want to set up singles events, NY-Montreal let me know, I can arrange the bus part. I am looking for any excuse to visit there again, it is like going to Amsterdam.

  • Shatner’s got a new album about, as he continues to reinvent himself as a lounge lizard-style crooner. Sort of a slacker’s take on LA. Funny and noir at the same time.

  • Heard that Shatner album. I prefer Cohen. Listen to the way he reads The Man on a recording and compare it to Shatner and you see the Captain pales in comparison.

  • middle,
    I welcomed the golden people of netzarim to my city. They are doing okay besides the fact that they have nothing to do all day. They were the lucky to have an extra few days to organize themselves to stay together.
    The disengagement authority’s solutions didn’t need prior cooperation to be minimally acceptable (like paying bus drivers to take people half-way http://www.katif.net/ro_new.php?id=9057)

    Leonard Cohen should make aliyah. I know that he’d be very, very welcomed here with a smal but strong fan base.

  • Middle, there’s no comparison with Cohen, for sure. You Canadians are too self-effacing! It’s hard to imagine the folk music/singer-songwriter scene without Cohen’s influence.

  • CK,

    If you contact me when you come to New York, I will treat you to what a real bagel tastes like.

    f-ck it. I’ll treat you to what a real beer tastes like.

  • Kelsey, Muffti lives near new york. If you think there is anything in NYC that rivals Canuck greatness, he’d like to know what it is.

  • Not to interrupt– but it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Middle and Mr. Kelsey have patched things up. It’s quite moving, actually.

    Jewlicious. Bringing People Together.

  • Bagels would be an easier contest for me. I don’t really mean to suggest New York is king of beer land. I don’t really drink beer, just meant it as a general, grab a drink sort of thing.

    But if you are looking for proof of New York’s yiddish culinary dominance, I can help you find that.

  • kelsey and middle patced things up? really? wow. where?

    and kelsey? i’m no little provincial country bumpkin. i am in and out of new york all the time.i even used to live in park slope. i’ve had your bagels from the vaunted H&H to the lowly ones sold in carts by the JTA. Y’all have nuthin kelsey. but i will take you up on that beer. send me an email. you know the address, same as the one b4

  • Not calling Kelsey a moron.

    Jewish translation: not calling Kelsey a moron

    Gentile translation: Middle and Kelsey patching things up. 😉

  • Mmmmm. Never mind ‘ol Leonard, I’m hungry & in need of a Montreal bagel. One with so many sesame seeds, it glitters in the sunlight- as warm and sweet as the day is long…

    (A few years ago, I visited Montreal to experience a Neshei Chabad winter convention- and what an experience it was. I escaped early Sunday morning and took a drive around the city at 5:30 a.m. in search of the mythical Montreal Bagel. I not only found some, I got to try making them- cutting the dough, rolling it out, flipping it around the hand and flicking it onto the table. I gave up after three landed on the floor 😉 I also hit Montreal Kosher Bakery, which beats the kapota off of anything I can find around my neighborhood…)

    ck- do you guys deliver to Connecticut?

  • Montreal Kosher Bakery is very good indeed. Unfortunately i did not know about the bagels there, I will have to put that on my todo list. The challah I had heard about. Also this place Cheskie’s is a good bakery and open real late on Friday, like 6PM ish? Cuz this was the closest food place to downtown. Just have to take the #80 bus at Bluery, 10 minutes you’re there.
    What is the big deal w/ St. Denis I did not see that much going on there?
    The water area is very good, the best, right before Old Montreal starts, Parc something.
    Food wise, we cooked ourselves, from stuff we bought at Montreal Kosher, convenient to the bus stop from NY on the overnight. Then there is a nice park nearby going on Van Horne back towards East end, right past the Beit Avot. Was able to sleep 3 hours then. Gotta love that 10% alchohol Labbat’t tho, that I brought back cuz I wasn’t into drinking much when there, I do too much walking and hiking in Montreal so am too tired to drink.
    Well, it was a low budget trip, so I didn’t go much besides the downtown, Outremont, VAn Horn, Cote DeNeige, Sherbrook drive.
    I cannot quite explain why it is such a gem of a place.

  • while were on the subject of food, could anyone get pizza pita to stop selling crap pizza.
    End kosher pizza monopolies!
    I have found, eerily enough, that the Jewish General Hospital serves the best kosher pizza in town.
    p.s. even though pizza pita is crap, its mint compared to J2
    i am now very hungry

  • Whilst on the subject of Montreal Kosher rest. can some give me a complete list of what there is, a link would be fine.

  • Eyal, that site is about 5789 years old. I wanted something more contemporary, never mind. I am planning to visit again in December.

  • Toronto totally rocks as a premiere city of Canada and the world. Montreal used to be a world class city in the 70’s – in the past – where sadly many Montrealers and their faded glory still live.
    Toronto is a true multicultural and respectful city to minorities and all. Toronto and its healthy and welcomed Jewish population is where it’s at in Canada.

    The standard of living is low in Montreal cause there aren’t as many well paying jobs as in Toronto. Toronto welcomes minorities and minorities are welcomed and thrive in Toronto. Montreal ain’t all that – well not since the 1970’s – get over it.

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