1997 Video Interview: Leonard Cohen On Zen, Depression, Women, Children, Headhunters, Loneliness, & Tennis

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Great Content, Poor Video, & Valerie Pringle

This 1997 CTV interview with Leonard Cohen is much debated among fans, many of whom argue that the interviewer, Valerie Pringle, a well known personalty in Canadian TV broadcasting, is ill informed about Cohen while others describe her as malignantly disrespectful and only secondarily ill informed. A few others feel she is only a reporter doing her job.

From my perspective, she is fairly aggressive but seems less interested in attacking Cohen than in trying hard to find an angle to exploit for her story.

There is also a striking difference in the language she uses when reading from a prepared script (e.g., during the introduction) and that used when she is off-script (e.g., following up on Cohen’s response to a question).

For example, in the lead-in to the questioning, she notes that “[Cohen’s] songs are rich with metaphor and melancholy” and ” … themes of love, death, and salvation have made him an anomaly in the world of light pop music.”  Her questions are more abrupt: “Tell me about women.”

And, she does seem to have slacked off on her homework for the interview, confusing, for example, the Suzanne who is the mother of Cohen’s children (Suzanne Elrod) with the Suzanne who was the inspiration for the song of that name (Suzanne Vaillancourt). While a common and understandable mistake, it seems a significant error for someone with a reputation as a professional interviewer to make in a scheduled program featuring a well known national figure whose biographical material is easily accessible.

And, her attempt to perpetuate the myth that the elimination of an artist’s depression will also eliminate his creativity is just embarrassing.

In any case, Leonard Cohen, as he has done routinely since he was an up and coming young poet, covers the material he wishes, regardless of the questions asked.

He does, however, appear ill at ease on occasion. My reading of that discomfort is that Cohen is less concerned that the interviewer is asking deeply probing, difficult questions than that she is a loose cannon.

Update: Gordana Stupar has located  superior version of this video at CTV News Video Network

Note: Originally posted Sept 5, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

3 Replies to “1997 Video Interview: Leonard Cohen On Zen, Depression, Women, Children, Headhunters, Loneliness, & Tennis”

  1. Marie

    Thanks so much for posting this interview. It is probably my favorite of all time. There are two things that Cohen says about writing that are noteworthy and I’m not sure have ever been discussed in any other interview. Cohen forcefully dispels the myth that a writer must suffer for his art. “Good work is produced in spite of suffering…and as a victory over suffereing.” (Part I, 3:23 mark) And on the writer’s relationship with his work: “Generally if he is good, he is working on a level that is better than he knows and better than himself.” (Part II, 3:32 mark) Anyone who has ever looked to Cohen as their mentor when it comes to writing has been given a gift here.

  2. sturgess66

    Every time I watch this, I am left wanting to see Part III – where Leonard takes her at arm wrestling. 🙂