Leonard Cohen On His Poems, Zen, Hallelujah, His 6 Good Songs, Money, America, And The Squirrel

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Note: Originally posted Oct 4, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The Leonard Cohen Post-Financial Loss, Pre-World Tour Interview, 2006 Montreal Norwegian TV Version

Those familiar with Leonard Cohen interviews of this period may notice they have certain elements in common with this 2006 video done for Norwegian TV in Cohen’s Montreal home with reporter, Helle Vaadland.  Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • A female interviewer with the obligatory crush on Cohen
  • Comments on and explications of: Book Of Longing, the loss of Cohen’s retirement fund, Zen and Mount Baldy, growing old, …
  • The anecdote re Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan discussing how long it took Cohen to write “Hallelujah” Vs how long Dylan required to write “I And I”

Of course, while having previously heard these tracks from the Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Interviews album may blunt the novelty of the lyrics, it does not diminish the charm of their delivery.

And, there is some unique material.

Cue The Squirrel

squirrel

For those viewers who treasure the unique, this is, I believe,  the only Leonard Cohen  interview in which he is known to introduce a squirrel (seen in the above screenshot exiting stage left behind the smitten interviewer) or, indeed, any rodent.

Cut To The Cooking

cuttingfood

The video also showcases Leonard Cohen as casually gracious host, opening a bottle of wine and topping  fig slices with cheese to share with the interviewer.
settingsViewers also have the opportunity to observe Cohen’s furnishings in the room in which the interview is conducted, including the wooden table (which he points out with pride), microwave, table radio, paper plates, small refrigerator,  jar of almonds, …

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… and the item in the cabinet at the top right of the screenshot below that looks suspiciously like a knickknack but on closer examination proves to be a representation of Kateri Tekakwitha, the 17th-century Mohawk saint featured in Beautiful Losers.

artifact on shelf

Lines Of A Potential Song That Became A New Yorker Poem

After discussing the “half-dozen” songs of quality he has written, Cohen reads, in response to the interviewer’s query about his new album, his recently scribbled lines directly from his pocket-sized Selectum 100 page spiral notebook:

It’s gonna be September now
for many years to come
Every heart adjusting
to that strict September drum
I see the ghost of culture with numbers on its wrist
Salute some new conclusions
that all of us have missed
So let’s drink to when it’s over
and let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on the corner
where it used to be a street.

After which, Cohen notes, “That’s one of the new songs.”

While those lines may or may not be part of the new album that may or may not be recorded after the Tour, they have already reappeared nearly intact as part of “A Street,” a poem which appeared in the March 2, 2009 New Yorker:

A Street
by Leonard Cohen

I used to be your favorite drunk
Good for one more laugh
Then we both ran out of luck
And luck was all we had

You put on a uniform
To fight the Civil War
I tried to join but no one liked
The side I’m fighting for

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

You left me with the dishes
And a baby in the bath
And you’re tight with the militias
You wear their camouflage

I guess that makes us equal
But I want to march with you
An extra in the sequel
To the old red-white-and-blue

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

I cried for you this morning
And I’ll cry for you again
But I’m not in charge of sorrow
So please don’t ask me when

I know the burden’s heavy
As you bear it through the night
Some people say it’s empty
But that doesn’t mean it’s light

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

It’s going to be September now
For many years to come
Every heart adjusting
To that strict September drum

I see the Ghost of Culture
With numbers on his wrist
Salute some new conclusion
Which all of us have missed

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

Video – Leonard Cohen, 2006 NRK Montreal Interview

Video contributed by kaarekjohnsen

Leonard Cohen, 2006 NRK Montreal Interview (Part 1)

Leonard Cohen, 2006 NRK Montreal Interview (Part 2)

Leonard Cohen, 2006 NRK Montreal Interview (Part 3)

4 Replies to “Leonard Cohen On His Poems, Zen, Hallelujah, His 6 Good Songs, Money, America, And The Squirrel”

  1. Poppy

    I looked at a lot of interviews when I first got interested in LC – which is quite recent – and this one really struck me, absolute knock out charmer here, your website is great BTW

  2. mnkyface

    I remember seeing this on the NRK website (very difficult site!) but it’s great to see it again and have it on YouTube. When he is preparing the figs he says “These won’t hurt us.” Love it.

  3. sturgess66

    Aha, the squirrel! 🙂

    Wonderful videos. I have seen other video where he talked about his preference for simplicity – just a desk, a chair, a bed. I love that he finds a good solid table “voluptuous.”

    There is ever so much in his simplicity.