“[Old Ideas] represents a kind of distilled essence of Cohen, like a martial arts form conducted by a wizened master who reduces each movement to its sparest, most essential gesture.” Cory Doctorow

From Leonard Cohen’s new Old Ideas: pure distilled Cohen, the apotheosis of gravelly poetry by Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing: Jan 31, 2012)

Listen To/Download Rolling Stone Podcast: Life and Music of Leonard Cohen

Rolling_Stone_logo.svgThis podcast features Andy Greene, who has written about Leonard Cohen for many years. The content reviews Leonard’s career along with clips from several albums. Hard core Cohenites are unlikely to discover new information and there are a few errors (such as noting that Leonard was “divorced” when he was never married), but the account is well organized, respectful, and instructive for those less familiar with Cohen’s work.

The podcast may be heard and downloaded at Rolling Stone Podcast: Life and Music of Leonard Cohen

Judy Collins Talks About Bob Dylan And Leonard Cohen, Also Covers Joan Baez

Judy Collins on Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen

At the July 26, 2009 Folks on the Island concert on Governor’s Island, Judy Collins recalls some of her early experiences in the folk-singing community, including her first meetings with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Judy Collins Sings Diamonds and Rust

While most of the folk songs Collins performed at this concert were those with special connections to her, “Diamonds and Rust” is a Joan Baez song released in 1975 which deals with the romantic relationship between Baez and Bob Dylan.

The frame of  “Diamonds and Rust” is an unexpected phone call from the singer’s lover of 10 years ago. The lyrics of the second verse include these lines:

My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust

And the final verse reads,

Now you’re telling me
You’re not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It’s all come back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid

For her 1995 performance of the song as a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Baez changed the end lines,

And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid


And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
Well, I’ll take the diamonds1

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  1. Wikipedia []

Leonard Cohen And “The Nearness Of The Wound To The Gift”

A Discerning Perspective On Leonard  Cohen

Reading Mummy Dearest, a review of Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” by Kathryn Harrison (New York Times Sunday Book Review: March 22, 2012), I came across this line, found near the end of Winterson’s mebook, which the reviewer appropriately identifies as especially significant:

What we notice in stories
is the nearness of the wound to the gift.

That this elegantly articulated and profoundly poignant insight (It would be easy to believe, in fact, that this is a phrase Cohen himself might have written in a song or a poem) is specifically relevant to Leonard Cohen’s music and poetry appears to me so inescapably self-evident, no less axiomatic in Cohen’s case than it would be for Oedipus, that I  will limit this post to simply offering the concept to readers, my usual prolix explication having been obviated.

Note: Originally posted Apr 5, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

10 Things American Blues Scene Thinks You Didn’t Know About Leonard Cohen

This time last year, it was 5 Things AXS Thinks You Didn’t Know About Leonard Cohen and Sony Legacy listing 12 Things You Need To Know About Leonard Cohen.  Now it’s American Blues Scene’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Leonard Cohen by JD Nash (American Blues Scene: May 3, 2017).  In this case, many of the 10 “Things” are composites. Cohencentric readers who are unfamiliar with any of this items just haven’t been paying attention. I’ve included one to give a sense of what to expect. The full list can be found at the link.

2. Cohen had a habit of living as a semi-recluse. In the 1960s, he purchased a house on the Greek island of Hydra. With intermittent electricity, he shared the house with his girlfriend, and muse, Marianne Ihlen. During this time, Cohen wrote more books of poetry, at least one novel, and music for his first two albums. Songs From a Room, contained the tune, “Bird on a Wire”, which became one of his most covered songs. At least 78 versions of the song have been recorded by other artists. When he and Ihlen broke up, he wrote the song, “So Long Marianne”. Ihlen died of leukemia on July 28th, 2016. Upon news of her illness, he wrote her a letter saying, “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.” Cohen died just over three months later, on November 7th.

DrHGuy Note: I’m not convinced Leonard’s behavior while residing on Hydra qualifies him as a “semi-recluse,” given that he lived with Marianne and her son during most of that time, spent much time with other friends, such as Charmian Clift and George Johnston, and was often found socializing in the local community. Heck, Leonard even gives a shout-out to his friends at Bill’s Bar on the island in Night Comes On:

I’ll go down to Bill’s Bar
I can make it that far
And I’ll see if my friends are still there

These residents of Hydra remember Leonard Cohen as a part of the community.


And, check out these photos of Leonard et al in Hyidra.

Finally, during that same period, he made several trips back home to Montreal to earn money working in various jobs.

Mighty odd behavior for a semi-recluse.

“Leonard Cohen’s voice is so whiskey-gravelley [in Old Ideas] that he goes all the way through Tom Waits at times and enters Isaac Hayes territory, challenging the woofer under my desk” Cory Doctorow

Leonard Cohen: Born With The Gift Of A Golden Voice

Leonard Cohen’s distinctive voice has been described so often and so strikingly that I’ve collected these characterizations under their own tag: Leonard Cohen’s Voice

The excerpt in this post is from Leonard Cohen’s new Old Ideas: pure distilled Cohen, the apotheosis of gravelly poetry by Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing: Jan 31, 2012) Photo by Ted McDonnell.