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First He Took Manhattan: Leonard Cohen’s Breakthrough Years in NYC

(Photo: @sashaandlucca on Instagram)

(Photo: @sashaandlucca on Instagram)

We remember him well in the Chelsea Hotel, but Leonard Cohen’s New York City existence spanned beyond just the hotel where a makeshift memorial sprung up on Thursday after his death at the age of 82. Cohen came to New York City in 1966, just a year before the Summer of Love, and his breakthrough years there brought him into the orbit of Warhol and the Velvet Underground, the Beats, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix. He wrote songs for Nico and penned “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” after a night with Janis Joplin.

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The Day Lou Reed Went Back to the East Village

Velvet Underground lyrics posted on the window of the Bedford Cheese Shop yesterday: "No kinds of love are better than others."

Velvet Underground lyrics posted on the window of the Bedford Cheese Shop yesterday: “No kinds of love are better than others.”

When he was in his twenties, Colin Summers was a computer consultant whose clients Penn & Teller introduced him to other notable New Yorkers, like Lou Reed. Summers, now an architect living in Santa Monica, shares a story about strolling through the East Village with the late musician. 

In the early nineties I returned to New York City to live with my girlfriend, which turned out to be a mistake. One of the highlights of those years of torture was the time I spent with Lou Reed. He was going through a divorce and had a LOT of time to spend with his computer hacker (me). We had many dinners and lunches and it was only at the first one that my hands shook because I was having a burger with an artist who had helped me get through the hell of architecture school. He was such a hero to me.
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Nightclubbing | John Cale Band, 1979

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

John Cale on the road. (Photo: Robert Medici)

Five Favorite Facts about John Cale:

  • He studied musicology at London’s Goldsmiths College in the early 1960s, where his teachers dubbed him “Most Hateful Student” before awarding him a prestigious Leonard Bernstein scholarship to study with the Boston University Orchestra.
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