Leonard Cohen’s Commendation Of John Ralston Saul On Completion Of His Term As President of PEN International (2015)

John Ralston Saul, a Canadian novelist, was the President of PEN International, until October 2015.  Photo by Tavis from Canada – John Ralston Saul keynote speech at the 2006 Parkland Conference, CC bY 2.0, via Wikipedia

“Dylan’s a Picasso–that exuberance, range, and assimilation of the whole history of music.” Leonard Cohen


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Most music criticism is in the nineteenth century. It’s so far behind, say, the criticism of painting. It’s still based on nineteenth century art–cows beside a stream and trees and ‘I know what I like.’ There’s no concession to the fact that Dylan might be a more sophisticated singer than Whitney Houston, that he’s probably the most sophisticated singer we’ve had in a generation. Nobody is identifying out popular singers like a Matisse or Picasso. Dylan’s a Picasso–that exuberance, range, and assimilation of the whole history of music.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From an interview with Mark Rowland published in Musician (1988)

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

“I might sense a deep resentment to Mr Walter Yetnikoff, who has been playing Salieri to my Mozart these many years” Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen’s introduction of Jennifer Warnes at her Famous Blue Raincoat LP Showcase, Park-Café, Munich, West Germany; April 15, 1987.

DrHGuy Note: Cohen’s label Columbia Records refused to release Various Positions in the US. Walter Yetnikoff, president of the company, called Leonard to his office in New York and said, “Look, Leonard; we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.” Various Positions was subsequently picked up by the independent label Passport Records. The album was finally included in the catalog in 1990 when Columbia released the Cohen discography on compact disc.

The Mozart – Salieri relationship is summarized nicely by this excerpt from Mozart and Salieri Rivalry by Jessica Lorey (Clef Notes: February 18, 2014):

Mozart and Salieri were competitors within the music realm. Salieri worked as the Kapellmeister for Emperor Joseph II. Believing he was better qualified for the post, Mozart applied for the job following the emperor’s death. He was astounded when they turned him away. As to be expected, the two men’s paths crossed as they composed in similar mediums vying for public approval. Though Salieri admitted to close friends in confidence that he did not like his competitor or his work, he never wanted to make his sentiments known as to avoid attracting attention. Historians also note that Salieri grew bitter toward Mozart with age as his works continued to gain fame following his premature death. Despite these supposed negative reactions toward Mozart, did Salieri perhaps have a deeper respect for his rival’s talents? Following Mozart’s death, Franz Xaver Niemetschek quoted Salieri in his Mozart biography: “It is indeed sad, the loss of so great a genius; but well for us that he is dead. For had he lived longer, verily, the world would not have given us another bit of bread for our compositions!” Perhaps Salieri revered Mozart but feared his ability would soon drown out his contemporaries’ work in the public eye.

What seems a relatively harmless rivalry between Mozart and Salieri started what became a gruesome rumor that many people still believe today. Not long after Mozart’s death, people began to gossip that Salieri killed Mozart with poison due to jealousy. Historians now know that evidence proves that the great composer actually died at a young age as a result of acute rheumatic fever, an ailment he suffered multiple times throughout his life before it ultimately proved fatal. Despite the inaccuracy of the rumors, most people remember Salieri as Mozart’s enemy rather than associating him with his own work.

Leonard Cohen’s discontent with Columbia Records was also expressed in his comments about the CBS Building on New York’s 6th Avenue, aka Black Rock,

“I might burden my heart with a sense of bitterness toward that great, dark building on 6th Avenue, known to many as the Black Rock but which I prefer to call ‘the Tomb of the Unknown Record.'” Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen’s introduction of Jennifer Warnes at her Famous Blue Raincoat LP Showcase, Park-Café, Munich, West Germany; April 15, 1987.

The CBS Building in New York City, located at 51 West 52nd Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue, is also known as Black Rock. The CBS Building was, of course,  the headquarters of CBS Corporation, including Columbia Records, which was Leonard Cohen’s record label (Columbia Records has since been purchased by Sony Entertainment).

Update: Mr Cohen also expressed his discontent with Walter Yetnikoff, President of Columbia Records.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Americasroof at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons

Leonard Cohen on Jennifer Warnes “Her voice is like the California weather, filled with sunlight. But there is an earthquake behind it.”

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Her voice is like the California weather, filled with sunlight. But there is an earthquake behind it. It is that tension that I think defines Jennifer’s remarkable gift.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel. (2007)

“[Janis Joplin] stood for something beautiful & nervous & high … and yet she couldn’t have those things, she couldn’t manifest simple beautiful things in her own life” Leonard Cohen


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I think there are people that make their work beautiful in a way that they can never make their lives or their bodies beautiful. I mean I know Janis Joplin, you know, she was that classic pop star, as embodied by the rose in that movie, she really would sing to 20 or 30 thousand people who were drooling at her feet and you know, I’d see her wandering around the Chelsea Hotel at 3 in the morning trying to find you know somebody to have a cup of coffee with. So how do you reconcile those things? I don’t know. She stood for something beautiful and nervous and high, and surrendered completely, and yet she couldn’t have those things, she couldn’t manifest simple things, simple beautiful things in her own life, that’s really what I mean.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Also see

From How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns – Interview With Leonard Cohen Presented By John McKenna. RTE Ireland, May 9 & 12, 1988.  Photo of Janis Joplin by Columbia Records (Billboard page 5) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174, Originally posted Dec 3, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric