Video – Leonard Cohen Talks About His Life On Hydra: Why He Came, How He Met Marianne, Writing Books & Songs There …

I met a girl and I stayed for eight or ten years.
Yeah, that’s the way it was in those days.

Leonard Cohen

“This was the laboratory of my youth”

In this video, excerpted from the 1988 film Songs From The Life Of Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen, accompanied by his backup singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, revisits the home in Hydra that he shared with Marianne of So Long Marianne  In addition to a discussion of his life on Hydra, this clip includes performances  of Who By Fire, Bird On The Wire, So Long Marianne, Partisan, and Famous Blue Raincoat.

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs The Law – Radio Télévision Suisse 1985

The good news is that this is a video of a rare live performance of The Law by Leonard Cohen. The bad news is that the performance is interrupted by interview segments, either spoken or overdubbed in French. Why did anyone ever think that breaking up a song for a Q&A was a good idea?  (Note; I’ve been informed by Francis Mus, a French-speaking Leonard Cohen authority, that the interview portions offer little new to viewers.)

From the YouTube introduction [via Google Translate]:

Invited to the Midi Public stage in 1985, Leonard Cohen sings “The Law” and talks about his music. The Canadian singer is on a European tour for the release of his latest album “Various Positions”.

Video: 1988 Leonard Cohen Interview With Matt Zimbel: I’m Your Man, Songwriting, European Popularity, Jennifer Warnes & More

From the YouTube description:

This is the raw footage of an interview I did with Leonard in 1988 in Toronto at the Four Seasons Hotel. for a BBC/ABC/CBC co-production documentary music show I co-hosted called “Wired”. The interview has never been seen in it’s full length before. At times it will require your patience as the tape was quite degraded and we have done our best to restore, but felt the content should rule and therefore there are some spotty moments. Since this is a television interview one must quickly note that while the subject looks timeless, the interviewer is clearly the victim of vintage 1980’s “hairdressing”, which was shortly thereafter considered a fashion crime.

Leonard is a master interview subject; present, measured, funny, philosophical. His vocabulary is striking, but not in a pretentious way; for example he might call a tour, “an enterprise” or an abandoned idea would “overthrown”, to get out of something, one might “extract “ themselves…He speaks slowly, allowing himself time… to… consider… what… to… say. next. It is a journalistic seduction – one starts to wait for the considered words of the poet with great anticipation. But unlike so many of the famous, his willingness to connect appears so genuine. During our interview I truly believed there was no place he would rather be than talking to me.

I bragged to my journalist friends, ‘oh man, wait until you hear the interview I did with Leonard, it was incredible, he was so charming, so engaged…no question this is the best interview I have ever heard him do”. “Really?” they would say, “he did a pretty great one on our show too”. “Yeah, right!” And then I would hear the interview on their show and it would be the same interview, just as warm, just as revealing, just as exclusive feeling… but not exclusive at all, God damn it.

A Must-Read: Leonard Cohen’s 1995 Interview With Anjelica Huston

Part wolf, part angel, [Leonard Cohen’s] music speaks to the soul, his love songs from the dark recesses of the heart. quotedown2

Anjelica Huston

This interview, originally published November 1995 in Interview magazine, is now online at Remembering Leonard Cohen by Anjelica Huston (Interview: Nov 11, 2016). Photography Dana Lixenberg.

Topics include

  • Leonard’s stay at the Mt Baldy Zen Center
  • His feelings about those who cover his songs
  • Dealing with passion, panic, depression, & growing old
  • Cultural violence
  • The Future album
  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Voluptuous seriousness
  • Happiness

It’s an easy, informative read: Remembering Leonard Cohen by Anjelica Huston

Video: “I always had this feeling that new things were beginning” Leonard Cohen CBC Interview – 1966

My choice for Best Of Show in the CBC archive of Leonard Cohen video interviews is On The Road To Singing Sensation, which was originally broadcast in conjunction with the publication of Cohen’s novel, “Beautiful Losers,” in 1966 on This Hour Has Seven Days.1

Beryl Fox – Interviewer

Cohen’s interviewer, Beryl Fox,  was a pioneer in investigative reporting and as an accomplished documentary filmmaker. While working for the CBC, she was known for her insightful and critical examinations of U.S. politics, the feminist movement, and racial conflicts. She was also a groundbreaking critic of the role of the U.S. in the Vietnam War.2 She continued making documentaries and, later, feature films after leaving the CBC in 1966.

The Interview

Accordingly, the interview is not a puff piece nor are her queries to Cohen softballs lobbed over the plate to make the star look good. The conversation is challenging, engaging, personal, and even edgy in a place or two.

In addition, there seems to be, especially on Ms Fox’s part, elements of sexual tension and flirtatiousness.3

Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:

Leonard Cohen: I always had this feeling that new things were beginning, and I thought that I would change my name and get a tattoo.

Beryl Fox: Where?

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

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

Cohen is provocative, claiming, for example, that Canada has no government and that any couple not in love should be divorced. Fox presses (at one point she asks how Cohen’s mother reacted to reviews calling his book pornographic) but does so politely and does not redirect her interviewee when he flares off on his tangent of choice.

It is rewarding viewing.

The Video

Note: Originally posted Feb 24, 2007 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. This Hour Has Seven Days was a CBC Television newsmagazine inspired by the British satire series That Was The Week That Was. It was also controversial enough that after a two year run, it was taken off the air following the 1966 season. []
  2. The AV Trust Of Canada lauds her 1965 documentary, “The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam,” in this excerpt:
    Beryl Fox’s The Mills of the Gods remains the quintessential example of Canadian documentary filmmaking. Fox takes us into the Vietnam War and allows us to see first hand the futility, sorrow and inhumanity at its core. Her theme of the conflict between people and ideologies is a universal and timeless one, told through haunting sound and visual images. Today, 34 years after it was first telecast, scenes of brutal civilian casualties, torture of POW’s, and gleeful napalm bombing still shock and outrage us. Contrasted with this horror are scenes from the everyday life of the Vietnamese peasantry, working in the fields, shopping in the market, going to school. Fox creates for the viewer a sense of tension and foreboding, ultimately borne out in images of death, destruction and bodybags on the nightly news. The Mills of the Gods transcends the banality of mass media images of war and still retains its extraordinary power and poignancy.
    A clip of the film is available at ~The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam~ []
  3. Note: It does appear that on the date of the interview, either Ms Fox had the misfortune to experience a catastrophically bad hair day or a small mammal somehow landed on her head and took up residence there. The composite photo below provides a more balanced perspective on her appearance.


Hear Leonard Cohen Sing, Recite Poems & Prose, Talk About His Influences, Feminism, Artists Who Cover His Songs, & More – 1974 Pacifica Interview

Leonard Cohen’s December 4, 1974 WBAI interview with Kathleen Kendel is a delight. Leonard was then touring in support of New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

The Leonard Cohen interview as a whole is amazing because of how early it was in his career and how intelligent and compelling the line of questioning was by Kathleen Kendel, but a few things stand out in this interview.

1. 1974 was basically at ground zero in the middle of the second wave of Feminism, and Kathleen Kendel takes the opportunity to engage Leonard Cohen on the possibility of sexism in his song Joan of Arc. The questions stirs Cohen to a thoughtful response.

2. Lenoard Cohen reads from an unpublished manuscript which I had to research to find out what it was by searching one line of poetry that I like which goes…”I won’t accuse you of ruining your absence.” I discovered that it was a poem called The Unclean Start (an early working version that would be changed before printing) and would be contained in a future book of poetry called Death of a Ladys’ Man… and it was published by a boutique publisher in Canada 1978 and in New York and London on Viking/Penguin in 1979.. That means we have Leonard Cohen reading his own poetry from a not yet published manuscript 4 years before publication (5 years before US publication)…!!!

And finally
3. Interviewer Kathleen Kendel prompts Cohen to read an amazing poem Two Went To Sleep from his FIRST book of poetry…!!! Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956)

From KKFI-iLeonard Cohen 1974

DrHGuy Note: A transcript of this interview is accessible at Leonard Cohen-Kathleen Kendel – Pacifica Radio

Leonard Cohen 1974 Pacifica Interview


Credit Due Department: Photo atop post taken at 1974 Leonard Cohen Amsterdam Concert by Pete Purnell