Navigate to News section

Is Leonard Cohen the Jewish Barry White?

A question from last night’s four-hour Leonard Cohen concert

Adam Chandler
December 21, 2012


I probably shouldn’t write about anything Leonard Cohen because my brilliant office-mate Liel Leibovitz knows more about Cohen that anyone else in the world–including Cohen himself. BUT…Liel isn’t in the office today and I am still riding a high from the concert that Cohen put on in Brooklyn last night.

A few quick thoughts about seeing the 78-year-old man perform for four hours in a three-month-old arena:

1. There is no substitute for the experience of walking through a stadium filled with people of all ages speaking in French, Hebrew, Spanish, German, and Russian.

2. There is nothing quite like hearing a crowd roar mid-song when Cohen bellowed the lyric “I was the little Jew who wrote the Bible.”

3. The concert did start just after 8. It did end just before midnight. There was a 20-minute intermission, but otherwise, Cohen outlasted a big portion of the crowd.

4. During the intermission, an usher–who was probably about 20–approached me and a friend and asked if we thought that Leonard Cohen’s music was available on iTunes. After we said definitely yes, he replied “Good. I like him, he’s mellow. Kinda like Barry White. Some alone time music.”

5. This prompted the question: Is Leonard Cohen the Jewish Barry White? I think the answer is probably that Barry White is the black Leonard Cohen.

6. Leonard Cohen did play an Ozark harp. If that’s unfamiliar to you, it’s probably because it’s still better known by another name.

7. Cohen pulled out “Lover, Lover, Lover,” which has to be one of the best of his least-known songs. See the clip below from French television where Cohen explains that he wrote the song in Sinai during the Yom Kippur War when he was assigned to perform for the IDF troops.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

Thank you for reading Tablet.

The Jewish world needs a place like Tablet where varying—even conflicting—viewpoints can exist side by side. Our times demand an engagement with big ideas and not a retreat from them. Help us do what we do.