Cohen went to Camp

Hey, Camp People!

Lots of folks who were once summer campers like yourselves have gone on to become celebrities whose names are popular in our very own households. I’ve written about nearly 100 famous folks so far who have roots in the summer camp community. Another name to add to our ongoing list is Leonard Cohen. I was waiting for the miracle to come.

He was 10 years old when he set off for his summer camp stay at Camp Hiawatha near Montreal. There he had a fine time in the mid 1940’s running around among the Canadian wilderness and enjoying friends that were his age. And even back then, Leonard had taken an interest in writing.

Born and raised in the Canadian town of Westmount, Quebec, Leonard, throughout his life, would become a singer, songwriter, musician, poet, novelist, and painter. And, though he is most known for his musical career, he aimed to be a poet and novelist from his days as a teenager until his early 30’s. In fact, he didn’t do anything with music until he turned 33 years old.

He completed his elementary and high school education throughout enrollment in three different schools—the Roslyn Elementary School, Herzliah High School, as well as Westmount High School. He was very involved in extra-curricular activities in his later days of high school and he developed a great interest in studying music as well as poetry.

By 1951, Leonard started college at McGill University, where he became president of the debate team. He also won the Chester MacNaghten Literary Competition for his poems “Sparrows” and “Thoughts of a Landsman.” He published his first poems in a magazine by the spring of 1954. Around this time, he also taught himself to play acoustic guitar and he formed a folk group called ‘Buckskin Boys’.

Things went on this way for more than ten years, using writing for his main source of income and playing music for fun. But Leonard, becoming increasingly discouraged with his low income as a writer, decided one day in 1967 that he would move to the United States in an attempt to pursue a career as a folk music singer/songwriter.

Consequently, Leonard’s writing started to diminish with fewer publications and long gaps between them as he concentrated more and more of his energy on writing and recording songs. Networking with other big names of the time like Lou Reed and David Bowie, Leonard discovered a certain amount of marketability for his own music and it wasn’t long until he created an image and a name for himself.

With his own roots in summer camp, patience and desire brought Leonard Cohen a life of fulfillment that the world can now enjoy. What will grow from the roots you stretch at summer camp? As always, thanks for reading.

- John

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