“It takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is.” The Atlantic Features Leonard Cohen – & 24 Other Songwriters – On The Art Of Songwriting

The July 10, 2012 Atlantic article, 25 Great Songwriters on the Art of Songwriting by Tom Hawking, demonstrates superb editorial perspicacity in featuring a photo of Leonard Cohen in the banner for the piece and placing Cohen first among those 25 songwriters, a list that includes John Lennon, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Björk, Patti Smith, and others.

The entire article is an interesting and worthwhile read. As a random example of the content, I’ve chosen the Leonard Cohen sagacity quoted there:

I’m writing all the time. And as the songs begin to coalesce, I’m not doing anything else but writing. I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is.

Note: Originally posted July 11, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I touched her [Suzanne’s] perfect body with my mind, because … there was no other way that you could touch her perfect body” Leonard Cohen on Suzanne

The song was begun, and the chord pattern was developed, before a woman’s name entered the song. And I knew it was a song about Montreal, it seemed to come out of that landscape that I loved very much in Montreal, which was the harbour, and the waterfront, and the sailors’ church there, called Notre Dame de Bon Secour, which stood out over the river, and I knew that there’re ships going by, I knew that there was a harbour, I knew that there was Our Lady of the Harbour, which was the virgin on the church which stretched out her arms towards the seamen, and you can climb up to the tower and look out over the river, so the song came from that vision, from that view of the river. At a certain point, I bumped into Suzanne [Verdal] Vaillancourt, who was the wife of a friend of mine, they were a stunning couple around Montreal at the time, physically stunning, both of them, a handsome man and woman, everyone was in love with Suzanne Vaillancourt, and every woman was in love with Armand Vaillancourt. But there was no… well, there was thought, but there was no possibility, one would not allow oneself to think of toiling at the seduction of Armand Vaillancourt’s wife. First of all he was a friend, and second of all as a couple they were inviolate, you just didn’t intrude into that kind of shared glory that they manifested. I bumped into her one evening, and she invited me down to her place near the river. She had a loft, at a time when lofts were… the word wasn’t used. She had a space in a warehouse down there, and she invited me down, and I went with her, and she served me Constant Comment tea, which has little bits of oranges in it. And the boats were going by, and I touched her perfect body with my mind, because there was no other opportunity. There was no other way that you could touch her perfect body under those circumstances. So she provided the name in the song.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

For Suzanne Verdal’s point of view about the song, see Video: Suzanne Verdal Talks About Leonard Cohen & The Song He Wrote About Her

From 1993 Interview On BBC Radio 1FM. Found in Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music… from Hank Snow to the Band by Jason Schneider ECW Press, Dec 15, 2010) Originally posted February 19, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“There’s enjoyment that comes through seriousness …” Leonard Cohen explains “why I write such sad songs”


Why I Write Such Sad Songs: It isn’t that I choose to. This is what I am. Seriousness, rather than depression is, I think, the characteristic of my work. I like a good laugh, but I think there’s enjoyment that comes through seriousness. We all know when we close the door and come into your room and you’re left with your heart and your emotions, it isn’t all that funnyquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Yakety Yak: Midnight Confessions and Revelations of 37 Rock Stars & Legends by Scott Cohen (Fireside: June 21, 1994). Photo by Rama (Own work) [CeCILL or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons. Originally posted May 4, 2010 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I love everything that Dylan does and I love to hear the old guys lay it out. Love and Theft produces tremendous energy.” Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, on being asked what he “thought of Love and Theft – Bob Dylan’s new album” in the Sony 2001 online chat. Thanks to Tom Sakic, who alerted me to this.

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at

Clarity, Mystery, And Keeping Your Mouth Shut – According To Leonard Cohen

Clarity is one of the things I like to go for. I don’t think we’re ever free from this mysterious mechanism, though. Mystery can go all the way from not knowing what to do with yourself to standing in awe at the vast activity of the cosmos which no man can penetrate. I don’t think we’re ever free from any of that. On the other hand, you can’t go around continually expressing your awe before these celestial mechanics. These are things that maybe we should keep to ourselves. I think that we’re surrounded by, infused with and operate on a mysterious landscape, every one of us. It’s something to keep your mouth shut about if it really is a mystery.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabatoge Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview). Originally posted January 6, 2015 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.” Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – Los Angeles 1992 from Songwriters On Songwriting By Paul Zollo. Found at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo by Paul Zollo. Originally posted December 26, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric