Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan were two of the most prominent singer-songwriters to emerge out of the folk scene of the 1960s. Both men were mercurial in their interests, tastes, and personalities, and both had hard-earned reputations for aloofness and eccentric behaviour. But that’s not to say they couldn’t have a laugh, especially with each other.
As his son Adam remembers him, Cohen could be humorous and even a bit of a trickster at times. When speaking to BBC Scotland back in 2019, the younger Cohen recounted a story that involved his father, Bob Dylan, a Paris coffee shop, and details about Cohen’s eternal ballad ‘Hallelujah’.
“A lot of people have made the comparison between Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen over the years and there’s some hilarious stories,” Adam remembers. “Like the two of them are sitting in a cafe in Paris and Dylan says to him, ‘How long did it take you to write Hallelujah?”
“And my father completely lied to Dylan and said, ‘Oh you know couple of years.’ I think it was seven years,” Adam adds. “And then my father returned the favour and said, you know, ‘How long did it take you to write ‘[Just] Like a Woman’?’ and Dylan said ‘Fifteen minutes’.”
“And that’s very much about process, I think. Dylan had this quality where he would ‘from the hip’, you know spit and polish, spit and vinegar and then this old man of mine was much more like chiselling marble.”