As he approaches his 80th birthday (on September 21), Leonard Cohen continues to delight and surprise audiences. He surprises offstage, too. And, I suspect, even a few longtime fans will learn a thing or two from this list of facts, all gleaned from the interviews in my recently released book:
1. After college, he considered becoming a lawyer.
2. His brilliant album, Various Positions, which includes the classic “Hallelujah,” was deemed not good enough for U.S. release by Columbia Records.
3. He named his daughter Lorca for Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.
4. He spent almost two years living in a cabin in Tennessee that had been the home of Boudleaux Bryant, author of “Bye Bye Love.” For a long time, he lived on the Greek island of Hydra on less than a thousand dollars a year. Later he lived in a little trailer in the south of France.
5. He went to Cuba just before the Bay of Pigs invasion — as a “foot solider,” he says.
6. Phil Spector once showed up at his door at 4 a.m. with a bottle of wine and a .45, which he cocked and shoved into Cohen’s neck.
7. He regrets having revealed that “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” concerned his sexual encounter with Janis Joplin.
8. He considers caviar his sole extravagance.
9. His grandfather “helped found many of the institutions that defined Jewish life in Canada.”
10. The first time he went to his Zen monastery near L.A, he dropped out of line at breakfast, sneaked down to the parking lot, got in his car and drove to Mexico.
11. He invented a cocktail called Red Needle.
12. His favorite song is “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino.
13. He considers Jennifer Warnes the most underrated pop singer.
14. He once tried to type underwater in the bathtub, then flung his typewriter across the room and broke it.
Jeff Burger (byjeffburger.com) edited Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters, both published by Chicago Review Press.