Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister and prolific author has observed: "Yearning is a compass that guides us through life. We may never get what we really want, that's true, but every step along the way will be determined by it." That certainly seemed to be true for the veteran singer and songwriter who was born on this day in 1934.

Leonard Cohen wrote many songs and poems which conveyed his vast longings and the shadow side of disappointment. Even though he has been called the poet laureate of pessimism, he could also create melodic ballads about the marvels and pleasures of the intimacies of sex.

To Name This Day:

If you want to gain deeper comprehension of Leonard Cohen we recommend two books and two documentaries.


  • In Book of Longing, Cohen curated a collection of poems and musings accompanied by his playful line drawings. He writes about the five years he spent as a Zen monk in a California monastery. But Cohen discovered that he has "no gift for spiritual matters." Of course there are many of us who feel otherwise: take another listen to "Suzanne," which shows a sensitivity to intimate relationships that can only be described as spiritual.
  • Another great resource on the man and his adventures is A Broken Hallelujah by Liel Leibovitz, who teaches media and culture at New York University. It offers a fetching overview of the life, the music, and the meaning of Leonard Cohen as a spiritual seeker.


  • Watching Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, we learned a lot about the Canadian singer and songwriter. He was a poet and novelist before he entered the music world. We loved hearing about his adventures on a Greek island and his delight in wearing suits since his father was a tailor. This film contains covers of many of Cohen's best songs, and singers discuss his impact on their lives.
  • In Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, the gutsy singer and songwriter demonstrates his moral fiber by calming down a riotous crowd with a mesmerizing rendition of "Bird on a Wire" and his own commanding presence.

These are vibrant examples of what this poet and songwriter says in his song "Anthem":

"Ring the bells that can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

Photo credit: By Rama - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr