I’ve lost count how many songs by Leonard have appeared here and I don’t see that abating, but this is one of the few early ones presented so far. I do not consider it a top-tier output like the accompanying So Long, Marianne seen above, but Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye is a soothing meditative piece containing gorgeous poetry. It seems to be about the imperfect goodbye that’s common with broken relationships.
This song comes from his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen. It was first released in November 1967, in a version by Judy Collins on her album Wildflowers and was covered in 1969 by Roberta Flack on her debut album First Take.
I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm
Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm
Yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new
In city and in forest they smiled like me and you
But now it’s come to distances and both of us must try
Your eyes are soft with sorrow
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye
Cohen wrote the song when staying at the Penn Terminal Hotel on 34th Street in New York City in 1966. He wrote: ‘The room is too hot. I can’t open the windows. I am in the midst of a bitter quarrel with a blonde woman. The song is half-written in pencil but it protects us as we manoeuvre, each of us, for unconditional victory. I am in the wrong room. I am with the wrong woman‘.
Less successful in the US than in Europe, Songs of Leonard Cohen peaked at number 13 on the UK Albums Chart, spending nearly a year and a half on it. It was more of a sleeper hit in the US where it achieved gold status in 1969. Originally Coen was admired as a Poet and novelist, but always had an inclination for music. His intention was to become a Country songwriter in Nashville, but he got caught up in NYC’s folk-scene. He came to the attention of record producer John Hammond who signed Cohen to Columbia Records.