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Leonard Cohen is broke.
September 5, 2005 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Leonard Cohen is broke. The legendary singer's manager allegedly helped herself to more than $5 million of Cohen's savings while he was busy training as a Buddhist monk. Cohen's manager also convinced him to sell his back catalogue and continuing royalties—profits from both sales were allegedly taken by the same manager.

At the age of 70, Cohen's retirement savings have been depleted to under $150,000 and he is being forced to return to full-time touring and recording.
posted by huskerdont (67 comments total)

 
This is really a sad, sad development. At the same time, can't a Buddhist monk live pretty comfortably on $150,000?
posted by verb at 6:16 PM on September 5, 2005


If you meet the Buddha by the roadside, knock him out and steal his wallet.
posted by nightchrome at 6:17 PM on September 5, 2005


His manager was just some Joseph looking for a manger.

I hope the accusations about his personal lifestyle aren't true. I don't want to imagine Cohen as a mean, vindicative old man.
posted by Falconetti at 6:18 PM on September 5, 2005


Yeah, I think there are plenty of 70 year olds who would love to have savings "depleted" to 150K and would feel no need to un-retire.
posted by duck at 6:18 PM on September 5, 2005


150k is practically nothing to retire on. Are you kidding?
posted by nightchrome at 6:20 PM on September 5, 2005


Too bad his last few albums have been mostly schmaltzy dreck, thanks to his girlfriend's influence. If he could afford Rick Rubin, it'd be nice to hear a stripped-down Cohen album akin to the late Johnny Cash's last several records.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:22 PM on September 5, 2005


The reality check bounced.
posted by alteredcarbon at 6:26 PM on September 5, 2005


If he could afford Rick Rubin, it'd be nice to hear a stripped-down Cohen album akin to the late Johnny Cash's last several records.

Brilliant.

Hey Rick, reduce your rates and record Leonard!
posted by billder at 6:27 PM on September 5, 2005


duck - if you're planning to live till 85, 150K gives you 10K a year - that's more than 20% below minimum wage. But thanks for your well thought out comments.
posted by jonson at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2005


1) First we take Manhattan, then we take Leonard Cohen for $5 million

2) Now was that $5 million Canadian? 'Cause in US dollars that's only...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2005


I feel bad the first thing I thought when I read the post was excitement at getting the chance to see Cohen tour. It's really a sad story though, but I'm struck by how cool Cohen comes off in his statements.

He watched her real-life Dachau, knew his career was ruined.
Was there anything else to do? He sold his bag and tongs...
posted by I Foody at 6:39 PM on September 5, 2005


Rick Rubin or fellow Quebecquois Daniel Lanois, how 'bout?

That really sucks. I wonder if he still has that house in Bonnieux (S. of France)...
posted by vhsiv at 6:39 PM on September 5, 2005


2) Now was that $5 million Canadian? 'Cause in US dollars that's only...

Pre-Bush you mighta had a point but now? Your dollar's in the toilet with the rest of your country. C$5M is more than US$4.2M.
posted by dobbs at 6:41 PM on September 5, 2005


It's weird that after all we do for the States, you guys still feel the need to lord it over us whenever possible.
posted by nightchrome at 6:47 PM on September 5, 2005


vhsiv, that would be awesome!
posted by carmen at 6:51 PM on September 5, 2005


Is this the same Leonard Cohen mentioned in Nirvana's song "Pennroyal Tea"?

Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld,
So I can sigh eternally

posted by StarForce5 at 6:53 PM on September 5, 2005


> that would be awesome!

Lanois is supposed to be a good guy, too — he might be up for it.

From the article's mention of the new g'friend, I guess that he's finally broken it off with Rebecca DeMornay...

But from what I suspect, Cohen's probably got enough friends in Vancouver, Paris and other parts of the world that he shouldn't have to worry about money for the rest of his life.
posted by vhsiv at 6:58 PM on September 5, 2005


He should recite a revenge mantra in a meditative state. I hear all the Buddhist monks do that before going into battle.
posted by Rothko at 7:02 PM on September 5, 2005


I was feeling really bad for him. Until I saw a picture of his girlfriend. Lucky old bastard.
posted by Blue Buddha at 7:16 PM on September 5, 2005


Is this the same Leonard Cohen mentioned in Nirvana's song "Pennroyal Tea"?

Oh dear god and saints preserve us from the young and bereft of clue.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:18 PM on September 5, 2005


So sad. There's a Dylan bio that opens with "Businessmen, they drink my wine"
posted by minkll at 7:29 PM on September 5, 2005


I'm sure (that bitch!) Suzanne would be more than happy to serve him up some tea and oranges, that come all the way from China.
posted by shoepal at 7:32 PM on September 5, 2005


I realize it's not a lot to live on. It's more than many people have. My parents will surely not have 150K to retire on.

In fact, the average net worth of a person 70-74 in 2000 was $258,936. On average $115,486 is the equity in their own homes (and thus not generating retirement income). So the average 70-75 year old has something like*
$143K in assets, not including the home in which they live. Not all of that $143K is liquid or can generate income. For example it also includes equity in cars (9.5K on average) and of course all sorts of "stuff".

It's worth noting two things: These stats are net worth not "retirement savings". Presumably Cohen's net worth is greater than his retirement savings (everyone has other assets, some worth more, some worth less).

Second, these stats are mean figures. Since wealth and income tend to be extremely positively skewed, the median will be much lower. In other words, a strong majority of 70 year olds have less then 150K to retire on.

So as I said, many 70 year olds would love to have 150K for the remainder of their retirement. You're welcome for my thoughtful comments.

So yes, it sucks, and it's not a lot of income, but I don't see why I should feel any worse about how poor he is than about how poor other 70 year olds are. And yes, if the manager stole she should be prosecuted.

* I say something like because I realize you can't just subtract these too.
posted by duck at 7:37 PM on September 5, 2005


2) Now was that $5 million Canadian? 'Cause in US dollars that's only...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:33 PM EST on September 5 [!]


From the article linked to:

Still, when he discovered last fall that his retirement funds, which he had thought amounted to more than $5 million (all figures U.S.), had been reduced to $150,000, he wasn't so sanguine.
posted by juiceCake at 7:55 PM on September 5, 2005


The Toronto Star (bugmenot) had a piece on this last Sunday, but it was more about his effect on women:

Women, young and old alike, get a strange look in their eyes, a look of mixed emotions. As if they were thinking of gruesome puppy-mill abuse and perfect dates with perfect food and perfect sex at the same time. The women also shake their heads, but in a way indicating perfect sadness, and make a poignant sound I like to call the sound-of-a-woman-who-wants-to-keep-Leonard-Cohen-
safe-in-the-hope-he-might-still-have-it-in-him-to-ravish-
her-once-he's-well-again sound.

posted by amarynth at 8:00 PM on September 5, 2005


I don't see why I should feel any worse about how poor he is than about how poor other 70 year olds are

I thought the issue was him being swindled, which is why it's a horrible thing to happen (to anyone), and when you contrast the sum he has left (which he can't get access to) to the sum he could have had, the degree of swindling is rather large.

I fail to see how this post is a plea for people to feel any worse about how poor he is than other 70 year olds.
posted by juiceCake at 8:00 PM on September 5, 2005


Good points, duck. Also, consider that few 70 year old men can go out and tour the world for a few months/years and rake in a cool mil, like Mr. Cohen should be able to. It's a shame this happened to the guy, but it truly isn't the end of the world for him.
posted by shoepal at 8:02 PM on September 5, 2005


Well then yes, I feel bad about his being swindled.
posted by duck at 8:07 PM on September 5, 2005


nightcrome: it's just the bullies and fools who feel that way. They've realized they're not so menacing anymore. Most of them don't even have a clue about 1812.

stavros: thank you for my only laugh today.

Cohen sounds like yet another artist who was swindled by his management. You would think the story is so old that artists would be more careful. Neal Greenberg's suit gave me the feeling of a preemptive attack.
posted by ?! at 8:30 PM on September 5, 2005


Dick Dale still tours. I don't know the story, but I bet he'd have retired by now if he could.
posted by Balisong at 8:30 PM on September 5, 2005


150k is practically nothing to retire on. Are you kidding?

Not kidding. $150K, if that is all he has, isn't jack. At current interest rates of about 4% that will generate about $6K of income a year. Eat into the principal and the sum will be gone in a few years.
posted by caddis at 8:33 PM on September 5, 2005


caddis; yes, you & nightjack are saying the same thing. You are saying 150K is not a lot of money. Nightjack is saying 150K is not a lot of money. the "Are you kidding" was in reference to duck's contribution of "lucky bastard! I bet loads of 70 year olds would love to have 150K!!"
posted by jonson at 8:46 PM on September 5, 2005


As a Cohen fan I find this sad. Maybe if some of the artists who've covered his songs, or been influenced by him threw a concert they could raise some money.
posted by btwillig at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2005


I Like the Rick Rubin idea too.
posted by btwillig at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2005


Michael Gira, of the Angels of Light (formerly from the Swans) has remarked in the past how much he'd enjoy producing a Leonard Cohen album...

If someone can just convince him that the music is as relevant as the words, maybe he'd drop this waffling adult contemporary crap...
posted by hototogisu at 8:52 PM on September 5, 2005


Gee, an awful lot of you have reading difficulties, it seems...

Regarding the $150,000, the article says, "All that remained of his retirement savings was the $150,000, funds that today he can't get at as a result of the tangled legal web he finds himself in."

So it's not like he's sitting on $150,000. If you read the article, he's got $150,000 in an account somewhere he can't touch and millions in tax liabilities. Trust me, very few 70 year olds would want to be in that position.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2005


Metafilter: Oh dear god and saints preserve us from the bereft of clue.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:37 PM on September 5, 2005


Balisong - awesome to see Dale and Les Paul in the same photo.

Leonard lives in my neighborhood in LA. I've seen him at the local coffeehouse.

I also saw him driving down the street about three weeks ago. He was driving a 1992 Nissan Pathfinder and had this befuddled look on his face. Now I know why.
posted by goalyeehah at 9:37 PM on September 5, 2005


$150K may seem like a lot, but considering this man' career and his impact on music, I think he deserves to walk away with more than that.
posted by aclevername at 9:46 PM on September 5, 2005


Oh dear god and saints preserve us from the young and bereft of clue.

thats asshole for 'yes'
posted by Satapher at 9:51 PM on September 5, 2005


Ditto, aclevername. Apparently several people posting to this thread don't know who Leonard Cohen is. The guy is 20th century music royalty!

Satapher: The response might have been asshole-ish, but seriously: does google no longer exist that that question couldn't have been answered easily outside of this thread? Posting a question like that is nearly akin to "Is this something I'd need a tv to understand?"
posted by hincandenza at 9:57 PM on September 5, 2005


Goalyeehah glad you piped up. I do believe he owns his house here in LA. And I don't know whether Dale tours for the money or not, he's made quite a bit in the last years me thinks, but when he's out on the road he certainly appears to be enjoying himself immensely. It would be cool to see Jack White produce a Cohen CD.
posted by filchyboy at 10:06 PM on September 5, 2005


I'm not able to open the original article in Safari or Firefox. Is the site down? Mirror, anyone?
posted by al_fresco at 11:30 PM on September 5, 2005


Leanard Cohen and Laura Nyro were pop royalty in the old days. You younguns
wouldn't understand.
posted by faceonmars at 11:34 PM on September 5, 2005


I'm not able to open the original…

Nevermind. Working now. Carry on.
posted by al_fresco at 11:42 PM on September 5, 2005


Rick Rubin sucks.
posted by angry modem at 12:46 AM on September 6, 2005


Dick Dale handles all of his booking himself. i have twice been called out of the blue by Dick Dale, booking a tour for himself, at the venue where i work.

Dick Dale also refers to himself as Dick Dale, as you might expect he would. "it was a big secret until just a bit ago," he recently told me (calling from one of his "several boats") "but Dick Dale is on the new Black-Eyed Peas single."

later that night i saw the best buy commercial with that song "Pump It" which uses Dick Dale's "Miserlou."

i totally dig the stripped-down one man, one guitar, rick rubin production idea (care to back up your "Rick Rubin sucks," angrymodem?) for Leonard. that said, isn't losing your money like that in the spirit of buddhism? one might even say it's some sort of blessing for one seeking spiritual enlightenment. i think of sand mandalas that are destroyed as soon as they are completed, or the monks that build elaborate sculptures of castles and such with vegetable shortening, and destroy them as soon as they finish them. something about the transitory nature of all things.
posted by Hat Maui at 1:59 AM on September 6, 2005


thats asshole for 'yes'

Sweet shitmittened clownshoes! Someone else who understands my native tongue!

C'mere, satapher, lemme kiss ya.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:18 AM on September 6, 2005


Rick Rubin?

If he truly wants to bounce back from the financial brink he needs the Neptunes, or at least Kanye West. And a good choreographer.
posted by fire&wings at 2:19 AM on September 6, 2005


This is an interesting counter-example to the theory of intellectual property laws (e.g. copyright) increasing the production of intellectual property, though it could be argued that without copyright Coen would not have entered or remained in the music business. I'm making the assumption that an author signing away her IP rights is equivalent to the author having no IP rights in the first place.
posted by alasdair at 2:52 AM on September 6, 2005


He just needs to record one of those "sings with all his friends" albums. Ten of his best songs sung as duets. "So Long, Marianne" with Marianne Faithful. "Sisters Of Mercy" with the Sisters Of Mercy. "Suzanne" with Suzanne Vega. "First We Take Manhattan" with the Manhattan Transfer. "Bird On A Wire" with Wire.

Also, touring should not be hard if people take care of him, and people would take care of Leonard Cohen, and he's very popular in places you might not imagine. Poland, for example.
posted by pracowity at 4:34 AM on September 6, 2005


This sucks. I am sad for him, but also for his kids. I went to camp with them when we were young and the whole family was nice and not at all celebrity-esque. I'm a big fan of his music too, although I have to admit I enjoy covers more than his singing voice.
posted by miss tea at 5:10 AM on September 6, 2005


I guess I should feel sorry for him, even though his net worth is about thirty times mine. I'm hoping I drop dead before I reach retirement age.
posted by alumshubby at 5:23 AM on September 6, 2005


Is this the same Leonard Cohen mentioned in Nirvana's song "Pennroyal Tea"?

Actually no, I think the Leonard Cohen they're referring to is Stephin Merritt, or maybe Ween.
posted by Peter H at 6:20 AM on September 6, 2005


Is this the same Leonard Cohen mentioned in Nirvana's song "Pennroyal Tea"?

If you're fan enough of Nirvana to know lyrics by heart, why not check out all the bands they used to name-check? Off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure that, besides Cohen, you'd get to hear Daniel Johnstone, the Raincoats, and the raw burst of wondrous ultra-genius that was the Vaselines. And then, er, you won't have to listen to Nirvana anymore!

Um, on topic: Poor Leonard.
posted by jack_mo at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2005


He just needs to record one of those "sings with all his friends" albums. Ten of his best songs sung as duets.

That is a brilliant idea, pracowity. How about Tower of Song with Tower of Power, and Who By Fire with (what's left of) The Who. And it would be great if he could figure out a way to do Bird on a Wire with recordings left behind by Charlie Parker.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2005


One of Dick Dale's hobbies is raising exotic animals. I don't think he's hurting.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:58 AM on September 6, 2005


There is a crack in everything.
That's how the money gets out.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:54 AM on September 6, 2005


Thank you satapher for clearing that up. I didn't realize Leonard Cohen was also a signer and so I humbly apologize to all you hipsters and promise to spend more time researching obsure celebrities of bygone eras so that I may achieve the maximum intellectual awesomeness that so many of you here so obviously posses.
posted by StarForce5 at 12:31 PM on September 6, 2005


Leonard Cohen isn't obscure.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:34 PM on September 6, 2005


Starforce, you're going to last really long around here with that attitude. Five dollars well spent, huh?

Dick.
posted by item at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2005


er, there is a difference between being a hipster and having a clue.

Ok, ok, that was unkind. lets just say just because one has not heard of a given person doesn't mean they are not well known, talented and famous.
posted by edgeways at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2005


Hey now! No need to call him a dick, item. Guy just didn't know who Leonard Cohen is, and the collective thread did kind of beat him up about it. He just returned the snark to the aging wish-they-were-still-young hipsters wanna-be's.

He still should have used google first, though. :)

Although this?
Peter H: Actually no, I think the Leonard Cohen they're referring to is Stephin Merritt, or maybe Ween.
Cracked me the hell up. :)
posted by hincandenza at 2:31 PM on September 6, 2005


It's weird that after all we do for the States, you guys still feel the need to lord it over us whenever possible.

Actually, nightchrome, I was doing a caricature of a typical 'mercan tourist. Guess that was lost on you, eh? :)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:29 PM on September 6, 2005


There is a crack in everything.
That's how the money gets out.


ouch! :)

but seriously

Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
posted by dreamsign at 10:23 PM on September 6, 2005


ZenMasterThis, that's like telling a racist joke and then saying you were just making fun of people who think racist jokes are funny.
posted by nightchrome at 2:38 AM on September 7, 2005


You've got me dead to rights, nightchrome; you've totally seen through my fascade. Damn, you're good.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:16 AM on September 7, 2005


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