The tiny Greek island that so enchanted Leonard Cohen in the 1960s still captivates today.
Legendary songwriter and Philhellene Leonard Cohen, the hugely influential singer and songwriter whose work spanned nearly 50 years, passed away on November 7, 2016 at the Age of 82.
Among the many fans who mourned the passing of Cohen were the residents of Hydra, the small Greek island which held a special place in the heart of the iconic musician and poet.
In September in 1960, six days after his twenty-sixth birthday, Cohen bought a house in Hydra for $1500, using a bequest from his recently deceased grandmother. This was a “big deal” in the words of one of his friends, a commitment to place and a world that was mysterious and unusual. Buying the house was a complicated act, needing the assistance of his friend Demetri Gassoumis as translator, adviser, and witness to the deed.
Cohen later said that it was the smartest decision he ever made. The tree-story, ancient whitewashed building, with its five rooms on several levels, was run down and had no electricity, plumbing or running water. Yet it was a private space where he could work, either on the large riled terrace or in his music room on the third floor.
Cohen described his home to his mother:
“It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of sea-.men must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.”
Here Leonard discovered the Greek way of life – its alternating rhythms of work and leisure, both on the seasonal and daily basis, which are so conductive to creative thought and achievement.
It was on the island where he worked on some of his best poetry, writing and songs, (or it was here that he was reborn, where he truly began to find himself, where not least, the music of Greece entered his soul, evoking earlier memories and melodies, combining with them to suggest a new style, a new mystique.
And it was here, that he met Marianne, a young woman and together for 10 years or so and the song “So Long, Marianne” was written to and about her.
Cohen had a relationship at the beginning of the 70’s with artist Suzanne Elrod, with whom he had two children; a son Adam and daughter Lorca.
Days of Kindness
Greece is a good place
To look at the moon, isn’t it
You can read by moonlight
You can read on the terrace
You can see a face
As you saw it when you were young
There was good light then
Oil lamps and candles
And those little flames
That floated on a cork in olive oil
What I loved in my old life
I haven’t forgotten
It lives in my spine
Marianne and the child
The days of kindness
It rises in my spine
And it manifests as tears
I pray that a loving memory
Exists for them too
The precious ones I overthrew
For an education in the world
*Some of this information & images first appeared and was sourced from- leonardcohenfiles.com/hydra2.html
This post was last modified on November 12, 2022 12:43 pm