National Treasure #18: Leonard Cohen

As Leonard Cohen says goodbye to Marianne for the last time, it’s a good day to treasure this melancholic poet and gravelly-voiced singer.

It would be hard to be a Canadian of my age and not have a favourite Cohen song. I say that as if I know it to be true, and I certainly don’t. But I feel it to be true. There are, after all, so many wonderful songs to choose from . . .

So long, Marianne

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye

Bird on a wire

First we take Manhattan

Everybody knows

Dance me to the end of love


I’m your man

Coming back to you

And, of course, a song of which he says, in this clip, that the rights were stolen from him, and he thought that was OK. Because it would be wrong to get to write this song and to get rich from it, too.



This is one of a series on Canadian national treasures – my sesquicentennial project. They reflect people (living and dead), places and things that I think are worth celebrating about our country, and are done in no order of precedence.

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8 Responses to National Treasure #18: Leonard Cohen

  1. Ian says:

    Yes…he touched her perfect body with his mind.

  2. John Whitman says:

    Isabel: Things you learn as you get older. I never knew that Leonard Cohen wrote some of the songs that I’ve always liked. Can’t say that I like his singing style though.
    John W

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – No, I get that. It’s like Dylan – some great songs, but I don’t much care for his voice, even when it was at its best.

  3. Tom Watson says:


  4. You know these icons of creativity led Byronesque lives and sing like crows because they have audio-processing deficits in their right ears. Genius and addictions and that difficulty with upper-frequency vocal sounds go hand in glove. Cohen recognizes his limited tone range with regret and talks about his son’s quite different singing ability. The attractions of genius, including excesses, tend to generate tolerance in their audience, unless you have to wake up to it every morning. You would think their immersion in sound would correct their vocal range, but they have lived in an era of hyper amplification that undoes the positive effects on the ears of the stringed instruments they play. Each achieved more satisfying lifestyles and peace of mind eventually by withdrawing from the performing circuit — not coincidentally but predictably.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Well, no, I didn’t know that about Cohen and Dylan and (I’m assuming?) others as well. Performing is a drug in itself, I think – and the demands of the lifestyle work against any sort of balance or normalcy, which even geniuses need some of!

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