Hear 1985 Interview: Leonard Cohen Gives Occupation As “Sinner,”Talks About Songwriting, Cantor’s Singing, Aging, Wine … Performs Night Comes On & In The Eyes Of Men


Leonard Cohen Interview: April 28, 1985
Mixed Bag with Pete Fornatale (WNEW-FM, NYC)

Part 1 – Selected Contents

  • Leonard Cohen’s persona as a stranger.
  • Leonard Cohen on Songwriting: “I never operated from a very deluxe position. I never thought of myself standing in front of a buffet table, choosing between the caviar or the herring. I feel more like a rat in the bottom of the barrel, trying to sink his teeth into something, and whatever yields, that I follow.”
  • The early influence of a Cantor in synagogue listing ways to sin and die
  • Leonard Cohen on wine: “The red wine has been good to us”
  • Asked to name his occupation, Leonard Cohen replies “sinner”

Part 2

  • In-studio acoustic performance of Night Comes On by Leonard Cohen and “three-fifths” of his band

Part 3 – Selected Contents

  • Discussion of Cohen’s “Marita Please find me I am almost 30″ and the graffiti he found in the CBC men’s room: “Marita Please find me I am almost 50″
  • Irving Layton’s take on aging: “The inescapable lousiness of growing old”
  • Book of Mercy written with author’s “back against the wall”
  • Leonard Cohen on artistic skills: “If the gift is there, it reveals itself very early”
  • Recitation: In The Eyes Of Men

In the eyes of men he falls, and in his own eyes too. He falls
from his high place, he trips on his achievement. He falls to you,
he falls to know you. It is sad, they say. See his disgrace, say the
ones at his heel. But he falls radiantly toward the light to which he
falls. They cannot see who lifts him as he falls, or how his falling
changes, and he himself bewildered till his heart cries out to bless
the one who holds him in his falling. And in his fall he hears his
heart cry out, his heart explains why he is falling, why he had to
fall, and he gives over to the fall. Blessed are you, clasp of the
falling. He falls into the sky, he falls into the light, none can hurt
him as he falls. Blessed are you, shield of the falling. Wrapped in
his fall, concealed within his fall, he finds the place, he is gathered
in. While his hair streams back and his clothes tear in the wind,
He is held up, comforted, he enters into the place of his fall.
Blessed are you, embrace of the falling, foundation of the light,
master of the human accident.

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


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



  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


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


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.


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