Leonard Cohen is Artist X; Bob Dylan is Artist Y

cdiThe latest entry in the Leonard Cohen is Artist X; Bob Dylan is Artist Y was published yesterday:

Were Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen the Mozart and Beethoven of 20th-Century Folk Rock? By Sara Schabas (Musical Toronto: February 22, 2017

Before that was

Leonard Cohen is John Donne to Bob Dylan’s Shakespeare by Edward Docx (The Guardian: Nov 19, 2016)

And Leonard himself put it this way:

“Dylan’s achievement is so monumental. He was the Picasso. I’m the Matisse. I love Matisse, but I’m in awe of Picasso.” Leonard Cohen1

And, just to mix things up, let’s change Bob Dylan to Phil Collins:

In 1995 Cohen’s manager, Kelley Lynch, put together Tower of Song, a set of his compositions sung by bigger stars including Sting and Bono. She asked Phil Collins, who turned her down.

Cohen himself sent Collins a fax, saying: “Would Beethoven refuse the invitation of Mozart?” Collins faxed back: “No, unless Beethoven was on a world tour at the time.”

Cohen understood: “It’s kind of a pain in the ass, to think about somebody else’s dismal songs when you’re not even in the studio.”2

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

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  1. From “Cohen’s Future Is Now” by Jim Slotek: Toronto Sun, November 19, 1992 []
  2. From  Who held a gun to Leonard Cohen’s head? by Tim de Lisle (The Guardian, 17 September 2004) []

Leonard Cohen Interprets Bob Dylan’s Comparison: “As far as I’m concerned, Leonard, you’re Number 1. I’m Number Zero.”

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After a while, he [Bob Dylan] told Cohen that a famous songwriter of the day had told him, “O.K., Bob, you’re Number 1, but I’m Number 2.”

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Then Dylan says to me, ‘As far as I’m concerned, Leonard, you’re Number 1. I’m Number Zero.’ Meaning, as I understood it at the time—and I was not ready to dispute it—that his work was beyond measure and my work was pretty good.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016)

Bob Dylan & Alan Ginsberg Sing Back-Up On Leonard Cohen’s Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On

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When Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan showed up during the recording of Death Of A Ladies’ Man in 1977, Phil Spector ordered them to sing background vocals on “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-on.” They complied, and the resulting version of the song became a track on the album.

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

Leonard Cohen On Conveying Irony In Songs Vs In Poems

Interviewer: It strikes me that there’s sometimes more irony in your songs than in your poems. I’m thinking of lines like ‘He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.’ The inflections in your singing voice convey a variety of different attitudes, and in some instances an attitude like irony comes through more clearly in the songs.

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Yeah, I see what you mean. I think of Bob Dylan, who gets the inflections of street talk, the inflections of conversation, and does that with such mastery … where you can hear a little tough guy talking. You can hear somebody praying. You can hear somebody asking. You can hear somebody coming onto you. When you’re composing that material and you know that it’s going to occupy aural space, you can compose it with those inflections in mind. And of course it does invite irony because that irony can be conveyed with the voice alone whereas on the page you generally have to have a larger construction around the irony for it to come through. You can’t just write, ‘What’s it to ya? ‘ If you sing, ‘What’s it to ya?’ to some nice chords it really does sound like, ‘Well, what’s it to yah, baby?’ But,  just to see it written, it would need a location. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen as interviewed by Robert Sward. Montreal: 1984. Found at LeonardCohenFiles

“Like watching a game of chess” Nana Mouskouri Describes Conversation Between Leonard Cohen And Bob Dylan

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Leonard came to see one of my concerts in Canada and after the show, he invited me over to his house for coffee… We became friends and in February 1974 we were hanging out together in LA. We’d been to one of those music business parties where everybody is smiling and glamorous. We left early because we were going to see Bob Dylan, who was playing in town.You should have seen Leonard and Bob together! Neither of them is what you would call a talker, so when they had a conversation it was like watching a game of chess. Everything happened very slowly and each word had so much meaning.

Read the entire article at My favourite photograph: Greek singer Nana Mouskouri by Danny Scott. Sunday Express: Sept 21, 2014.

Credit Due Department: Photo by SpreeTom – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia

“It’s a very strange event” Leonard Cohen Attends 2008 Bob Dylan Concert

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I went to his [Bob Dylan’s] concert. It was terrific. I’ve been to many Dylan concerts. This one, there was a walkway from the hotel to the auditorium, so you could enter into this private area, the people who had boxes. We were in one of those boxes. First of all, I’ve never been in a private box in an auditorium. That was fun. And a lot of members of the band came. But it was very loud. Fortunately, Raphael, our drummer, had earplugs, and he distributed them. Because our music is quite soft and that’s what we’ve been listening to for three or four months. As Sharon Robinson said, Bob Dylan has a secret code with his audience. If someone came from the moon and watched it they might wonder what was going on. In this particular case he had his back to one half of the audience and was playing the organ, beautifully I might say, and just running through the songs. Some were hard to recognize. But nobody cared. That’s not what they were there for and not what I was there for. Something else was going on, which was a celebration of some kind of genius that is so apparent and so clear and has touched people so deeply that all they need is some kind of symbolic unfolding of the event. It doesn’t have to be the songs. All it has to be is: remember that song and what it did to you. It’s a very strange event.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Cohen wore earplugs to a Dylan show? by Brian D. Johnson (Maclean’s: June 12, 2008)