The Agony And The Ambivalence Of The Leonard Cohen Admirer

I have often walked down this street before;
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I
Several stories high,
Knowing I’m on the street where you live.1

We’d All Love To Speak With Leonard

In I’d Love to Speak with Leonard, the March 5, 2012 post on her blog, Cinematherapy, Sharon Moore writes about her semi-serendipitous2 discovery that the shortcut she drives to her office takes her by the home of Leonard Cohen.

Her suspicion that the “man in a suit and hat” she saw “sitting in front of a duplex” who “looked unmistakably like Leonard Cohen” was indeed the Canadian singer-songwriter was confirmed when the cover art on the Old Ideas album portrayed “that chair, that lawn, those stairs.”  She, in fact, took a photo of the lawn that she published on her site and which is seen on the left side of the composite graphic atop this post.

The Dilemma Of The Devoted

All the above, however, is only exposition, setting the stage on which a dramedy, featuring themes, motifs, plots, tropes, props, and stock characters already familiar to many Cohen fans, plays.

Two incidents described in the post can be converted easily enough into scenes:

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  1. From “On The Street Where You Live” by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, written for My Fair Lady (1956) []
  2. Friends of hers who once lived nearby had told her that Leonard Cohen resided on that street. []

“You got the feeling that half of the nearly 2,000 fans in the cathedral-sized theater would have genuflected if Cohen did nothing more than read the Western Avenue bus schedule.” 1985 L.A. Concert Review


Pop Music Review: Leonard Cohen: Mainly, A Man Of His Words by Robert Hilburn (Los Angeles Times: June 11, 1985)

Credit Due Department: The photo of the Wiltern Theatre was taken by Carol M. Highsmith, who has stipulated it part of public domain. It was found at Wikipedia.

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

to

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