Greek islanders pay homage to lovely Leonardos Cohen

News Hour:

The islanders of Hydra in Greece Saturday paid their own respects to the man they knew as a good-natured neighbour, ‘Leonardos’ Cohen, the melancholy musician and poet who died this week at age 82.

At the stone house that Cohen bought decades ago in the heart of Hydra’s port capital, neighbours and friends came to reminisce and leave small offerings on the doorstep.

“Mr Leonardos would hang out in my father’s garden and my mother would bring him mountain herbs, olive oil and fish,” said 53-year-old sailor Yiannis Armadouros, who lives just across the winding cobbled street from Cohen’s house.

“He was a lovely man, the entire island adored him,” he added, noting how at ease the musician-poet was in the company of simple fishermen and port workers.

Cohen had bought a 19th century stone house on Hydra, a 90-minute hydrofoil ride from Athens, in the early 1960s, a time when the island was a haven for bohemian artists.

It cost him $1,500, a sum he later claimed was one of the best investments he had ever made.

During a seven-year spell there, he wrote “Flowers for Hitler”, one of his most controversial poetry collections, his first novel “The Favorite Game”, and “Beautiful Losers”, a book about religion and sexuality that prompted comparisons to novelist James Joyce.

And the song “Bird on a Wire” was inspired by an electricity cable right outside his window.

The island was also where he met his Norwegian muse and lover Marianne Ihlen, to whom he dedicated the ballad “So Long Marianne”.

“We took care of his house,” said Armadouros, who carries a photo of Cohen in his wallet.

“He would come regularly during summer, winter and even Easter occasionally… My mother would care for his children, I grew up with (his son) Adam,” he told AFP.

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