Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Songwriting, Poetry & Zen – 2007 Interview

lcfileLeonard Cohen speaks to Mark Lawson in a rare interview from 2007

This is a solid, albeit not spectacular interview, coming in 2007 while the 2008 Tour was in planning. Contents include:

  • The recently published Book Of Longing
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep as an example of a poem that became a song
  • Cohen’s use of notebooks
  • Suzanne as an example of a song in which the chords preceded the lyrics
  • Cohen’s realization that his “voice sounds better surrounded by female voices”
  • The translation of Take This Waltz
  • The Dylan anecdote about the time it takes him and the time it takes Cohen to write a song
  • Cohen’s use of a rhyming dictionary to prime his mind
  • Cohen’s admiration of rappers as the modern masters of rhyme
  • The notion that the ear is delighted by rhymes and near rhymes
  • The use of “go clear” and its Scientology reference in Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Cohen’s use of Christian references
  • Leonard Cohen’s fascination with many forms of religion
  • The journalistic approach to songwriting
  • Cohen’s relationship with Roshi
  • The reasons Cohen entered the Zen monastery
  • The lack of encouragement in childhood to be writer
  • Planning the 2008 tour
  • Cohen’s stage fright and the consequent drinking
  • The embezzlement of his funds

Credit Due Department: I discovered this interview in a Facebook post by Gordana Stupar

Must See Video: Full Version Of Leonard Cohen Appearance On 1992 Danish Talk Show

talkshowetLeonard Cohen was the only guest on S2E5 of the Danish talk show, Talkshowet (Dec 5, 1992).  Videos of this show of various lengths and quality have been intermittently available online but then disappear. Martin alerts us that the entire 1 hour, 5 minute episode in good resolution can be accessed – until February 8, 2017.

This is a must-see for Leonard Cohen fans.  Featured are

  • Leonard Cohen demonstrating how to make his Red Needles cocktail
  • A discussion of the myth of Leonard Cohen as ladies’ man
  • The differentiation of depression and seriousness
  • The necessity of destroying old versions of one’s self to make an album
  • Leonard Cohen on Miami Vice

One word of advice: don’t let the talk show host annoy you. Leonard takes him on stride; you can, too

If the above video player doesn’t work for you, you can view this video on its host site at DR-Talkshowet

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who alerted me to this video appearing on YouTube.

Video: Leonard Cohen On Being A Jewish Writer, A Canadian & A Seeker Of G-D (1964)

Note: This is a companion piece of sorts to Video: Leonard Cohen Speaks About G-D Consciousness And Judaism (1964)

From the YouTube Description:

Leonard Cohen speaks about being a Canadian Jewish writer. His profound statements still resonate, today, 50 years later.  I have culled these comments from a recording of a seminar held at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal in June 1964. Cohen participated in a panel along with the great Canadian Jewish writers Melech Ravitch, Adele Wiseman and Ruth Wisse. It took place three years before Cohen’s 1967 transition from being a Canadian poet to an internationally known singer-songwriter. Also included are some of Cohen’s dialogue with the audience during the question and answer session.

Cohen had a life-long, passionate engagement with religious Judaism. It began with the hevruta (study pair) he had with his grandfather, an important rabbi and talmudist. In mid-life Cohen became renowned for his practice of Zen Bhuddism (a non theistic practice) and eventually became a bhuddist monk. But Cohen never stopped studying Torah or practicing mitzvoth that he found meaningful. Many of his best songs offer profound midrashim (homiletic interpretations) of Torah and apply them to the problems of life.

A strange coincidence : the women with a Yiddish accent who challenges Cohen during the Q&A is Hava Rosenfarb, a respected Yiddish novelist and holocaust survivor. Her then husband is the man with a Polish accent who questions Cohen’s belief that the Jewish people have a unique mission. This man was Dr. Henry Morgantaller, who a decade later would become a household name in Canada for his campaign to legalize abortion.

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who first alerted me to this video

Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Life In The Chelsea Hotel, His Depression, & Meeting Lou Reed


In these previews to the broadcast of Leonard Cohen’s never-been-released conversation with Bill Flanagan at Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel in 2006, hear the Canadian singer-songwriter talk about his early career. The broadcast of the full interview airs Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 7 pm ET on SiriusXM VOLUME (Ch. 106). 

More information at Hear Bill Flanagan’s never-before-heard interview with Leonard Cohen

Life In The Chelsea Hotel


Leonard Cohen On Meeting Lou Reed

Leonard Cohen On His Depression

Credit Due Department: Photo by Historystuff2 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons