The Leonard Cohen Estate has sold his music catalog and announced the publication of a previously unpublished novel later in 2022.
Photo: Courtesy Hipgnosis Songs
06 March 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
05 March 2022 | Jem Aswad | Variety
Hipgnosis Song Management has acquired the song catalog of Leonard Cohen, poet, novelist, performer and one of the most influential songwriters of the past 50 years. The Canadian-born artist, who died in 2016 at the age of 82, is an inductee of both the Songwriters Hall Of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Hipgnosis has acquired rights in all 278 songs and derivatives written by Leonard Cohen, including “Hallelujah,” which has been covered more than 300 times. Within those rights, 127 songs are from Cohen’s Stranger Music catalog, for which Hipgnosis has acquired the songwriter’s share of royalties.
It covers the period from the inception of his career through to the year 2000 and includes all derivative works, making a total of 211 songs. The company also has acquired the ownership of 100% of the copyrights, publisher’s share and songwriter’s share of royalties in the Old Ideas catalog, which consists of all 67 songs plus derivative works written by Cohen from 2001 until his death in 2016.
Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition has been made on behalf of Hipgnosis Songs Capital ICAV, a partnership between Hipgnosis Song Management and Blackstone LLP.
The Cohen Estate was represented by long time Leonard Cohen manager, Robert Kory, KR Capital Partners and Jonathan Friedman at Stubbs, Alderton and Markiles LLP.
Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934 and released his first studio album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen,” in 1967 and his 15th and final one, “Thanks for the Dance,” posthumously in 2019.
He began his career as a poet and novelist but moved to New York in the mid-1960s to try his luck as a singer-songwriter.
His work first attracted attention when Judy Collins began covering his classic composition “Suzanne,” which became a hit in 1967.
John Hammond, who’d also signed or worked closely with Bob Dylan, Aretha Frankli, Billie Holiday, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, signed him to Columbia Records in 1967. He released albums at a slow and steady pace over the following decades, including such classic songs as “So Long, Marianne,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “First We Take Manhattan” and many others.
However, he did not issue “Hallelujah,” his most famous song, until 1984. The song, like many of his compositions, did not become a hit until it was covered by others, most famously by Jeff Buckley and, later, John Cale, whose version was an unusual addition to the animated feature film “Shrek.”
Cohen took occasional hiatuses from performing but played hours-long concerts up until 2013, and released two albums in the final years of his life.
Merck Mercuriadis, founder and CEO of Hipgnosis Song Management, said, “To now be the custodians and managers of Leonard Cohen’s incomparable songs is a wonderful yet very serious responsibility that we approach with excitement and fully understand the importance of. Leonard wrote words and songs that have changed our lives, none more so obvious than ‘Hallelujah,’ but there are so many more that we look forward to reminding the world of on a daily basis. He is revered all over the globe because of the magnitude of his work and we are delighted that the Cohen family and Robert Kory have chosen Hipgnosis in this most important decision of who to entrust with Leonard’s legacy.”
Kory said, “Merck Mercuriadis is unique in the music publishing world with his background as an artist manager. We know he cares about artists, and as a Québécois he has a particularly deep appreciation of Leonard’s unique status in popular music. The catalog is in good hands. The Hipgnosis team has been a pleasure to work with throughout the transaction.”
A previously unpublished novel by Leonard Cohen is due for publication this autumn.
Written in Montreal in 1956 – the year Cohen published his first poetry collection – A Ballet of Lepers focuses on “toxic relationships and the lengths one will go to maintain them”, according to a press release.
As detailed in the Cohen biography Various Positions by Ira B Nadel, the 91-page book “tells the story of a 35-year-old sales clerk who takes in his elderly grandfather” to live together in a cramped boarding house … The grandfather is given to fits of violence, and the narrator (who remains unnamed) finds an awakening violence within himself.”
It opens with the lines: “My grandfather came to live with me. There was nowhere else for him to go. What had happened to all his children? Death, decay, exile – I hardly know.”
The novel demonstrated “a growing sense of Jewish history and tragedy”, wrote Nadel, a theme that would develop in Cohen’s subsequent poetry, and reflected the “difficulties that Cohen faced with his own senile grandfather, although without the degree of violence”.
The book was originally rejected by two publishers. Cohen, who died in 2016, once said that A Ballet of Lepers was “probably a better novel” than his celebrated first novel, The Favourite Game, published in 1963.
The new publication of the novel will be accompanied by 15 short stories and the script for a radio play from Cohen’s archives, all written between 1956 and 1961, and titled A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories.
The works explore themes “from shame and unworthiness to sexual desire in all its sacred and profane dimensions to longing, whether for love, family, freedom, or transcendence”, and “probe the inner demons of his characters, many of whom could function as stand-ins for the author himself.”
The collection was assembled by Cohen scholar Alexandra Pleshoyano, who has written an afterword.
Robert Kory, trustee of the Leonard Cohen family trust, said: “Leonard said before his death that his life’s true masterwork was his archive, which he kept meticulously for the benefit of fans and scholars one day to discover. I’m pleased that, with this book, his readers and listeners can begin that rich journey.”
Canongate will publish A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories in the UK on 11 October 2022.