From fetching smoked meat to sidewalk encounters: Your stories of Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen was a songwriter, poet, author and artist. He loved to create and he loved to tell stories. Today we turn the tables. Here are your stories about him.

Leonard Cohen loved to tell stories; here are your stories about him

Montreal singer-songwriter Neema was mentored by Leonard Cohen. (Submitted by Neema)

Leonard Cohen was a songwriter, poet, author and artist. He loved to create and he loved to tell stories.

One day after news broke of his death, we turn the tables. Here are your stories about him.

Have one to share? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Toronto musician Lou Pomanti, who toured with Cohen:

He had invited us to his house after a gig, and it was late. A few of us were sitting around drinking wine in his kitchen and he was regaling us with stories of his youth. How his father had worked in the shipbuilding yards and how he used to go down and visit him. 

All of a sudden, Leonard says he's hungry. He asks if I would go down and pick up some smoked meat sandwiches. "Tell them Leonard Cohen sent you."

Toronto musician Lou Pomanti toured with Leonard Cohen in 2006. (Submitted by Lou Pomanti)
I get to the restaurant and an older Jewish man greets me in a white hat and apron smeared with pastrami and mustard. I order a bunch of sandwiches and a brisket for myself to take with me the next day, as I was flying home. 

Then I say: "Leonard Cohen sent me."

The man says: "Lenny Cohen, the lawyer down the street?"

I say: "No."

The man says: "Lenny Cohen, the tailor?"

I say: "No. Leonard Cohen, the songwriter."

The man shrugs and says: "There are a lot of Leonard Cohens around here."

One night after a show, Cohen sent Pomanti to get smoked meat sandwiches. Pomanti was told to name drop Leonard Cohen, which didn't work out so well. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

I take the sandwiches back to the house, hand Leonard my brisket and say, "Leonard, put this in your fridge for me, but please don't let me forget it when I leave!" He says no problem.

Sure enough, I leave the brisket. I call him from the cab ride home and he says to swing by on my way to the airport in the morning. I tell him it'll be very early, but he says no problem.

My cab pulls up the next morning at 7 a.m. and there is Leonard Cohen in his suit and fedora standing on the sidewalk holding my brisket. As we pull away, I wave goodbye to him through the back window of the cab.

That's the way I'll always remember him.

Simon Rosson, who owns Bagel Etc., a café steps from Cohen's home:

Simon Rosson could make coffee for Leonard Cohen, sometimes before his cafe was open. (CBC)

He'd peek out his house window and I'd be outside having my morning cigarette before I open. And he would peek and he wouldn't come by until I open the doors. I'd see him peek through the window and wave for him to come over and would make him an allongé [coffee] before we even opened sometimes.

He was a sweet man — gentle, funny. Always had his notebook with him. No matter what was going on, he would always stop, in the middle of conversations, his notebook would come out and [he would write] a few little lines. And he'd put it in his coat pocket.

Bagel Etc. is a popular diner located on St. Laurent Boulevard near Leonard Cohen's duplex in Montreal. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Elizabeth Shapiro, who worked at his home:

I was struck by the minimal surroundings in his home. Very little furniture and clothes neatly piled on the floor. I believe he was a very genuine and wonderfully talented being. I am very saddened by his death and will be listening to his songs this weekend.

Elizabeth Shapiro used to work for Leonard Cohen and says he was a hospitable, kind man. (Submitted by Elizabeth Shapiro)

Mark Abley, Montreal-based poet and journalist, who interviewed Cohen for the Montreal Gazette in the 1990s. His story on the first time they met:

Of course, I was a little nervous. Although I had the usual journalistic constraints, he immediately put me at ease. He brewed me the most incredibly strong cups of coffee I think I've ever drank.

When he signed a book for me, he thanked me, and I was thinking, "My gosh, why is he thanking me? Why is Leonard Cohen, of all people, thanking me?"

Montreal singer-songwriter Neema, who was mentored by Cohen:

We were both walking on the Main [St-Laurent Boulevard] and I was on the phone and had my head down. And we literally bumped into each other. I said, "Hi, I'm Neema." And he said, "Hi, I'm Leonard." And I was like, "I know!"

We met again and again and developed a beautiful friendship. He ended up helping me with my album.

He taught me to dig deeper, taught me to speak from a more personal voice, to really work a lot more and get to that place every artist wants to get to. He had a huge impact on my writing.

Montreal singer-songwriter Neema produced her album, Watching You Think, in conjunction with Leonard Cohen. (Submitted by Neema)

Do you have a story to share? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Compiled by Kamila Hinkson


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