“I feel most comfortable when I think of myself as the leader of a government-in-exile…It gives me a position that I can work from.” Leonard Cohen

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I feel most comfortable when I think of myself as the leader of a government-in-exile. Sometimes I like to think of myself that way. It gives me a position that I can work from. It is not whether I take it seriously or not seriously, we are not speaking about a rational operation. It is just that one feels that one can embody the unspoken aspirations of both oneself and the people you know as somebody who takes responsibility for the predicament, and presents not a solution but an approach. That leads you to some interesting kinds of positions.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted May 22, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

So Long, R.E.M. – Leonard Cohen & R.E.M.

It’s The End Of R.E.M.

Last week [at time of original posting: Sept 28, 2011], the members of R.E.M. posted this notice on their official site,

To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.

R.E.M.

R.E.M. has long admired and sometimes emulated Leonard Cohen. On the occasion of  the band’s breakup, a retrospective look at the Leonard Cohen-R.E.M. connection seems an appropriate tribute to this groundbreaking group credited by many as the inventors of alternative rock.

R.E.M.’s Hope = Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

The link between “Hope” by R.E.M. and “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen is intriguing because the melody of both songs is nearly identical and the lyrics, while dealing with dissimilar topics, are largely parallel.  In addition, the lyrics of “Hope” have also been lauded  by fans and reviewers as some of Michael Stipe’s strongest work.

According to Wikipedia,

The band R.E.M. gave Cohen a joint songwriting credit for their song “Hope” (on their 1998 album Up), in light of the similarity between the two songs. R.E.M. describe themselves as realising that similarity only after completing the song.

From Ask Michael Stipe: Finale!, posted September 28, 2008:

[Fan:] One of my favorite REM-songs is HOPE, because I really love the background sound, as well as the energy it transports and the rate. The lyrics are great, I especially love the line ” and you want to cross your DNA with something reptile”, so what is the song about and what was the idea about this special line? …

[Michael Stipe:] felt very futuristic/21st c. to me that someday we will use prehistoric ‘living fossil’ animal dna to bolster our own immunity; the guy in the song is facing some very difficult questions about longevity and survival, and basically grabbing at any possibility to stay alive. I obviously lifted most of the song from Leonard Cohen, along with the imagery ideas from World Leader Pretend

For a convenient comparison of the two songs, a video of R.E.M. performing “Hope” and Albert Noonan’s video of Cohen singing “Suzanne” at the November 12, 2009 Las Vegas concert are provided below.

R.E.M. – Hope: Video

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Leonard Cohen On The Significance Of Who Sent The Monkey And The Plywood Violin In First We Take Manhattan

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I thank you for those items that you sent me,
the monkey and the plywood violin.
I practiced every night, now I’m ready.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

From First We Take Manhattan by Leonard Cohen

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[The sender of the monkey and the plywood violin is] that part of ourselves that diminished that voice that . . . was demanding a spiritual aspect to our lives . . . . We gave that aspect of ourselves that was hungry some kind of perverse and obscene charity. We made him into an organ grinder . . . . We gave that part of us a monkey and a plywood violin, so that it would screech away and amuse us with its anticsquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted Mar 22, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen talks about the rhetoric in his “demented…manifesto” First We Take Manhattan

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My song was really political, a certain demented . . . manifesto, which addresses a constituency that really exists in the world, which cannot be defined by left or right, that is a radical perspective of a great many people, internationally, who feel that there is no . . . political expression that represents us, that the language, the rhetoric of politics today has become so divorced from anybody’s feelings and heart that it invites a new and radical rhetoric which in a kind of humorous and demented and serious way I touch upon in ‘First We Take Manhattan.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted March 25, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On Extremism In First We Take Manhattan

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I felt for some time that the motivating energy, or the captivating energy, or the engrossing energy available to us today is the energy coming from the extremes. That’s why we have Malcolm X. And somehow it’s only these extremist positions that can compel our attention. And I find in my own mind that I have to resist these extremist positions when I find myself drifting into a mystical fascism in regards to myself. So this song, what is it? Is he serious? And who is we? And what is this constituency that he’s addressing? Well, it’s that constituency that shares the sense of titillation with extremist positions. I’d rather do that with an appetite for extremism than blow up a bus full of schoolchildren.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Paul Zollo, Songwriters on Songwriting, Da Capo Press, 2003, p. 345. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Roland Godefroy (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Originally posted Aug 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric