Video: Leonard Cohen Confesses To Having “Lifted” Lines From Ibsen In 1985 Interview

nrk1Gordana Stupar has again uncovered a gem of a Leonard Cohen interview. In this brief question and answer question, Leonard touches on the difference between a singer and a writer (“They seem to be part of the same racket”), pessimism and seriousness (“We live in a butcher shop”), and stealing lines lines from Ibsen. He reports that he “lifted” the notion of a self being an onion with layers covering its nonexistent core from Ibsen’s Peer Gynt to produce these lines for Wishing Window from Night Magic

Your famous heart is like an onion,
All layers and layers of wild distress
All gathered into rings round nothingness.

The interview, from the NRK Archive, also includes a performance of Suzanne from the February 6, 1985 Oslo concert. Tore Johannessen’s interview with Leonard Cohen, first broadcast February 9, 1985, can be accessed at NRK: Johannessen-Cohen Interview

“Politics in a very, very personal sense” 1992 Video Interview With Leonard Cohen

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Gordana Stupar’s latest discovery of Leonard Cohen arcana, a 1992 NRK interview with Agnes Moxnes, is especially timely given the impending US presidential election. The background is a performance of Democracy, and the notions invoked by this song are the primary topics of the interview.

Watch Leonard Cohen point out what he finds attractive about Ross Perot – and George Bush – and Bill Clinton (and Bill Clinton’s “lovely wife”). Hear the Canadian singer-songwriter explain that he sometimes feels that he is the leader of a “small constituency” of those who do not feel represented and are consequently, if not rebellious, at least “irritated” and “saddened.”  Marvel as he references G. K. Chesterton, noting that democracy is like a religion in that it’s never really been tried.1

Most enlightening, however, are Cohen’s comments on his characterization of politics as used in Democracy: “It’s politics in a very, very personal sense.”

Politics in a personal sense.It’s as if you’re asked to think of democracy the way you think of a lover or a friend or a child or a parent … It’s a very personal and useless view. The things of the heart are really useless and that’s their value. They can’t be put to work. You just live with them.”

This video can be accessed at 1992 NRK Leonard Cohen Interview

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  1. The Chesterton quotation is actually “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” []

Hear, Download 1994 Interview With Leonard Cohen, Jennifer Warnes, & Suzanne Vega

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Leonard talks about his platonic relationship with Suzanne Verdal, the then-girlfriend of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt and the inspiration for the song, Suzanne, his life with Marianne, his collaboration with Phil Spector, and more. Offering insights and observations are Jennifer Warnes , who sang in his live band and recorded an album of his songs, and Suzanne Vega, who was moved by his music while a teenager.

This Nov 26, 1994 BBC program can be heard at or downloaded from

BBC Kaleidoscope: Leonard Cohen 1994

Listen To Leonard Cohen Voice Of Experience Interview – NPR 1988

619px-Leonard_Cohen17b[Tower of Song is] one of the three or four real songs I’ve ever written
Leonard Cohen

This Leonard Cohen interview, given in support of his I’m Your Man album includes a discussion of specific tracks from the album, the significance of “experience” in the voice of the singer, poetry Vs songs, and the importance of interpreting “a song as a song” (at 5:26).

Leonard Cohen’s Voice Of Experience on Listen Now at NPR: April 09, 1988

Credit Due Department: Photo atop post by Roland Godefroy – Own work, CC BY 3.0, via Wikipedia

Video: Leonard Cohen Talks About Book Of Longing, Buddhism, Critics, Going On Tour, & More With Philip Glass – London 2007

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Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass met for a conversation with John L Walters and to answer questions from the audience prior to the UK premiere of The Book of Longing, the Song Cycle based on the poetry and artwork of Leonard Cohen with music by Philip Glass.

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While much of the program dwelt on the Book Of Longing production, several other topics arose as well, including a recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep by Cohen, Cohen’s retelling of the critic’s characterization of him as a “boring old drone,” Cohen’s report of his first interview with Roshi, and Leonard Cohen’s announcement that he would be going on tour in 2008. The entire discussion is studded with Cohen’s humor.

Note: The video is divided into five parts (total time: 34 minutes). All five parts will play in order automatically. Also, be aware that because of some audio reverb following the dialogue requires some effort at points.

Leonard Cohen & Philip Glass
Barbican Hall, London: October 20, 2007
Video by videodharma

Note: Originally posted Aug 24, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Must-Read 1976 Leonard Cohen Interview

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Leonard Cohen – 1976

The release of Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas album motivated Bill Conrad “to relive an afternoon and evening I shared with him [Leonard Cohen] in Nashville, Tennessee” in the autumn of 1976.

Conrad met Cohen in the latter’s fourth floor room at Roger Miller’s King of the Road Inn to discuss Cohen’s negative assessment of his own novel, Cohen giving Willie York (his Franklin, Tennessee neighbor)  LSD, Cohen’s enchantment with  “one of those founders of the Dining Car Porters and Waiters Union—black guy, around sixty-five … [who] sounded like Moses,” and, as always, much more.

There is a review of Cohen’s concert, his four piece band, and his two backup singers, who are described as “a pair of sirens—slinky showgirls with angelic voices.”1

There is mention of a Cohen show not listed in any reference (“The clean-shaven, hair trimmed close, Mr. Cohen was in Music City for a two-night stand at the cozy Exit-In, a club with less than 150 seats.”) and  Cohen quotes I’ve never heard before, such as “I like a place that serves liquor. Uh, you know, there’s something happens to the audience when they’re drinking.”

Like I said, it’s a must-read. William Conrad’s 1976 conversation with Leonard Cohen can be found at

LEONARD LATELY – A Leonard Cohen interview

Leonard Lately – A Leonard Cohen interview-article by Bill Conrad
No Depression: May 7, 2012

Photo Credit: Roloff Beny / Library and Archives Canada / PA-196331

Note: Originally posted May 8, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. In 1976, Cohen’s backup singers were Cheryl Barnes and Laura Branigan. []