How Leonard Learned

The true story of how Leonard Cohen learned his guitar style …

Leonard walked in Murray Hill Park 
And heard a young man play
Circled by listeners and courting them
In some mysterious way

With black hair and acoustic guitar
By the tennis courts stood he
Picking out a lonely-sounding
Spanish melody

As Leonard listened, Leonard wished
And when he took a bow
And Leonard got his chance he asked
The man to teach him how

But neither sung the other’s tongue
So they fixed up teaching sessions
With gestures and with broken French
And so began the lessons

The minstrel strolled through Montreal
To Belmont Avenue
To Westmount from his boarding house
The Spaniard taught the Jew

First lesson day, he tuned then played
Such magic on the strings
So sweet that Leonard, he pretended
He didn’t know a thing

The young man held the poet’s fingers
In chord shapes on the frets
And next day moved to lesson two:
Guitar’s flamenco steps

Then on the third day Leonard learned
To play some tremolo
Still craving more from lesson four
His teacher did not show

When Leonard phoned the lodging home
The news came like a knife
Landlady said the man was dead
He’d taken his own life

Fifty years and ten from then
Leonard spoke in Spain
Accepting an award he told
Of how he learned his playing

He knew so little of this man
Why he come to Montreal 
Why he played those chords by the tennis courts
Why he chose to end it all

But those six chords that he had taught
The patterns to the song
Had laid the base of Leonard’s work
His life’s vocation long

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