Video: 2007 Leonard Cohen Interview – Personal Changes, Life As Zen Monk, The Pilfering Of His Money, Al Gore & Anjani

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Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas Appear On  2007 Norwegian Talk Show

This video covers the appearance of Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas as guests on the March 30, 2007 edition of “Først & sist” (“First & last”), the Norwegian talk show hosted by Fredrik Skavlan.1 (A second video of Anjani singing Innermost Door on the program is no longer available.)

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Left to Right: Al Gore, Leonard Cohen, Fredrik Skavlan ( host,) Anjani Thomas, and Gro Harlem Brundtland

My recommendation of this interview segment is based in large part on Cohen’s low-key explanations of the reasons he devoted a few years to living in a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy and the events surrounding the pilferage of his retirement fund, both of which demystify the circumstances without denying the significance of the episodes.

As always, Cohen is well-spoken, poised, and witty, especially in regard to his loss of his retirement fund of several million dollars.

Money has a way of disappearing if you don’t watch it very, very closely.  That’s a certain wisdom I acquired. I wasn’t absolutely certain of this [before the loss], but now I am. It’s enough to put a dent in your mood.

[Responding to the host’s observation that Cohen seems “quite happy” despite having very little money following the loss:]  Well, I don’t recommend this as a spiritual exercise, …

As I’ve pointed out, beginning with the first Cohencentric post that addressed a Cohen interview, Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her [the interviewer’s] words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:

Leonard Cohen: I always thought I would change my name and get a tattoo

Interviewer: Where?

Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.

The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.

As one might expect, Cohen has, in the 39 years that separate the two interviews, become more subtle and sophisticated in his technique, but he still shepherds the conversation into the path he chooses, content to follow the lead of the interviewer only if it fits his needs.  This is, I hasten to add, invariably a benefit to the quality of the interview.2

norr4Two brief Cohen expositions are worthy of special note:

1. In a few sentences, he makes Al Gore, who is also a guest on the show, sound principled rather than ponderous and spiritual rather than self-righteous. Mr Gore, unfortunately, proves himself equally efficacious in undoing this rehabilitation when he responds to Cohen’s comments.

2. An interesting contrast exists between Cohen’s characterization of his relationship with Anjani in this interview and that contained in his introduction of her in the video of the 1985 Kalvøya, Norway performance of “I Tried To Leave You.”The  1985 introduction follows:

Now we come to the girl I love, even though she has a mean streak. She translates that mean streak into passion and fire. That’s why I love her. The Pearl of the Pacific, from Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms Anjani Thomas.

Compare that with his response to the host’s phrase, “This is a long love story,” which was spoken simply as an invitation for Cohen to provide the history between Anjani and him. Instead, Cohen first finds it necessary, with notable stuttering and stops and starts,  to correct the improper application of  “love story” to the relationship:

It wasn’t always a love … It was an affectionate story for a long time, and it ripened into something deeper. But I found it’s best not to name a relationship.

It is important to acknowledge that this shift does not seem the consequence of any change in Cohen’s relationship with Anjani, to whom he appears deeply attached during the interview. In fact, just prior to his halting pronouncements on the nature of the connection, Cohen had spontaneously segued from Anjani as his backup singer to Anjani as his romantic partner:

I depended on that [Anjani’s] voice, I leaned on it, I slept on that voice.

Instead, the difference appears the result of Cohen’s insistence, which has intensified with age, of speaking in a knowledgeable manner only about matters concerning which he is indeed knowledgeable.

Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007

 

Anjani Sings “Thanks For The Dance”

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Reflecting the power of ratings, the lion’s share of the interviewer’s attention is on Cohen. The primary question asked Anjani is, in fact, “How is it to work and live so close to Leonard Cohen?”

It turns out that “It’s a lot of fun.”

On the other hand, Anjani does a star turn on the show, performing “Thanks For The Dance.”

Update: As is apparent, Part 2 of Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 has been removed by the YouTube user. I have sent a message asking that the segment be restored but have received no response. As far as I can determine, the video is not available elsewhere.

Note: Originally posted Aug 10, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. The other two guests are American environmental activist and former vice president Al Gore and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who from 1984-87 was chairman of the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (also former prime minister of Norway and director-general of the World Health Organization). []
  2. One of the several reasons I desperately long to interview Leonard Cohen is my conviction that, if I can muster the presence of mind to stutter out a discernible query of any sort (currently, I’m thinking of going with “So, Leonard, how’s tricks?”), the interview will be a pristine, elegant discussion of whatever Cohen wanted to talk about – which would be the same result regardless of what I had asked, so it would be, as they say, all good. []

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