Recommended Online Reading: Conversations From A Room (Leonard Cohen Interview) by Tom Chaffin

Conversations from a Room by Tom Chaffin (Canadian Forum: August/September 1983) is an outstanding interview that makes for rewarding reading. It is saturated with significant Cohen quotations on performing concerts, Montreal, poetry, politics, songwriting, and housecleaning. As a sampling, I offer the final words of the article, in which Leonard responds to the critics’ charge that “his recent celebrity has blunted his powers on the printed page:”

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There’s something about daily life that threatens [artistic integrity], and you’re not going to be able to do anything about that. I find that kind of speculation totally irrelevant. You have to ham it up when you go out and apply for a job. The fact is, we live in this world. This is the vale of tears. This is the plane we operate on. What everybody’s talking about is the loss of innocence. So — deal with your innocence as you will. You’re probably in trouble, anyway, if you’re in this [singer-songwriter] racket. So fame becomes just another thing to look out for.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

“America has its own version of the blues. What I do is the European blues. That is, the soul music of that sensibility – White Soul.” Leonard Cohen 1975

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From Leonard Cohen: Cohen’s New Skin by Harvey Kubernik (Melody Maker:1 March 1975). Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo by Guido Harari. Originally posted May 21, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with rock” Leonard Cohen On His Relationship To Rock Music

What’s your relationship to rock music?

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I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with rock. Personally, I’ve lived that life more than any other, so my friends are in it. I’m probably more of a classical musician, but rock ‘n roll has been my cultural avenue. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Rebirth Of A Ladies’ Man by Steven Blush. Seconds No 22: June/July 1993. The image atop this post is the cover of Rock & Folk No. 131, Dec 1977 (illustration by Dominique Lechaud) from the private collection of Dominique BOILE.

“I never felt alien from popular culture…” Leonard Cohen On Artistic Work Connecting With The World

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I’ve never had a strategy. To me it was perfectly natural that my work would penetrate and find an audience in the popular culture and I think you can approach it in any way you want. I think it’s important not to let it tyrannize you. I don’t think we’re completely creatures of that culture and neither are we creatures of our own personal culture. We’re continually moving back and forth between those two areas. I never had a strategy because I never felt alien from popular culture. You just set the thing up in the way you can handle it. I don’t have the kind of mind to do anything else. I think Irving Layton once described my mind as ‘unblemished by a single idea.’ I never had a plan. I had a certain kind of faith although. I would never have given that word to it. If the work was good enough or, more specifically, if the work was appropriate to move into the world, it would move into the world. There are certain kinds of work that stay with you. You don’t develop any kind of chip on your shoulder because that kind of work doesn’t move out or gain hundreds of admirers. I have a clear idea of the process, of a song, say, in the popular realm. The world can use certain kinds of work at certain times and at certain times it can’t. You can’t develop an ideology about the world or about yourself in regard to how your work is accepted. You just do what you have to do to satisfy a certain hunger or loneliness, in order to make contact with the world. There is a tradition of contact that has been going on for thousands of years. It’s not just your solitary effort in the matter but generations of men before you who have done the same thing and have tended to connect the same kind of way. So that tradition is there. You can lean on it and be encouraged by it and sustained by it. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen: Working for the World to Come. The interview (probably from 1982) was published in the book In Their Own Words: Interviews with fourteen Canadian writers, by Bruce Mayer and Brian O’Riordan, 1984. Found at LeonardCohenfiles. Originally posted Dec 20, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen on Pop Music (1992): “I can’t understand half the songs”

A good friend of mine actually said if Leonard Cohen started out today, he would be rapping.

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I can’t understand half the songs in the centre which is supposed to be the pop world. Either they’ve moved into a new stage of cryptology that I’ve been unable to follow and penetrate or it’s just lazy or it’s gotten slack or people just aren’t workin’ hard enough on the craft. I don’t understand what they’re saying most of the time. A lot of the stuff is, I think, just… lazy; but, because of the social urgencies that produce rap — and because of the demands of rhyme and rhythm — you get coherent statements and you get the impression of a mind, of a mind that has formed and gathered around a topic and is ready to manifest it. Another thing is that we’ve had twenty years or so of dance music which I think we deserved because the self-indulgences of the sixties got pretty intense. I mean, there were few geniuses like Dylan or Phil Ochs who are writing great complex songs with lots of words in them. But, lots of people scrambled and scratched up the bandwagon and, you know, we got a kind of language in our popular music that was intolerable after a while. You really couldn’t figure out what they were saying. The stuff was so mystical, so obtuse, so arcane, so self-indulgent. People just got weary of listening and I think they wanted to start dancing. Well, we’ve been dancing for twenty years and I think everybody’s tired and they want to sit down again and I think that’s the way the pendulum swings. And we really want to figure out, now, what people are thinking about the way things are going.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen’s The Future Interview by Bob Mackowitz. Transcript from a radio special produced by Interviews Unlimited for Sony Music, 1992. The transcript was prepared by Judith Fitzgerald. Originally posted Jun 27, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric