Yes, it is true that a lot of people burn themselves out. A lot of people die, especially in rock and roll. But on the other hand, there are people who continue to perfect their art. Curiously enough — and this is probably a very unpopular example — I think the last album by Mick Jagger [Wandering Spirit], who is a figure who is not really taken seriously… That’s a guy who is somehow not considered to be at the cutting edge of his own spirit any longer. Somehow, he has dissolved into the celebrity that he so ferociously courted. But you know, I had occasion to look carefully at the lyrics of his last album [Wandering Spirit]. They’re really quite surprising. They’re pretty good. It’s been a long time since I’ve turned to Mick Jagger for spiritual information! I wanted to see what Mick Jagger was doing these days, ’cause all you hear of him is he shows up with a beautiful woman here or there, or he’s having marital problems, or he’s signing a $60 million contract. It seems not to have anything to do with what we’re interest in. But when I looked at that album, he says, ‘I’ve seen a whole lot of shit, I’ve seen more than most guys.’ He’s speaking the truth. He says, ‘I really have been on those mountains. I really have had dinner with those kings and princes and slept with those beautiful women. And now, from the point of view of this experience. I’m asking you: Is there nothing beyond the kisses? Is there anything better than fucking? I’d like to know because it isn’t very good.’ He’s saying something that is heavy and beautiful, and he’s saying it beautifully. And then … Nobody listening. You know it’s just like another little Mick Jagger record. And it’s cool. It’s OK. We don’t have to worry about the guy, either. We know he’s a billionaire, and we know he has these women. Putting all these things aside, which is difficult to do in a case like Mick Jagger, you see that this guy’s still on this trip at the age of 40 odd.
From Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993.