“Leonard’s songs were a combination of very real details and a sense of mystery, like prayers or spells.” Suzanne Vega Compares Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen


It was the way he [Leonard Cohen] wrote about complicated things. It was very intimate and personal. Dylan took you to the far ends of the expanding universe, eight minutes of ‘one hand waving free,’ and I loved that, but it didn’t sound like anything I did or was likely to do—it wasn’t very earthly. Leonard’s songs were a combination of very real details and a sense of mystery, like prayers or spells.quotedown2

Suzanne Vega

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

Credit Due Department: By Richard Huber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia

Bob Dylan Compares Leonard Cohen To Irving Berlin


I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening. He’s very much a descendant of Irving Berlin, maybe the only songwriter in modern history that Leonard can be directly related to. Berlin’s songs did the same thing. Berlin was also connected to some kind of celestial sphere. And, like Leonard, he probably had no classical-music training, either. Both of them just hear melodies that most of us can only strive for. Berlin’s lyrics also fell into place and consisted of half lines, full lines at surprising intervals, using simple elongated words. Both Leonard and Berlin are incredibly crafty. Leonard particularly uses chord progressions that seem classical in shape. He is a much more savvy musician than you’d think.quotedown2

Bob Dylan

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

Credit Due Department: Photo by Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz – Bob Dylan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia

Must-Read New Yorker Profile Of Leonard Cohen By David Remnick

newykrrr David Remnick’s profile of Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker, in the October 17, 2016 edition of The New Yorker, provides a succinct history-by-anecdote of the Canadian singer-songwriter, a consideration of his impending album, You Want It Darker, an intriguing section devoted to Bob Dylan’s take on Cohen, and an insight-laden perspective on the 82 year old musical icon. These excerpts offer a sense of the quality of the piece; the entire article is available at the link.

“For some odd reason,” he [Leonard Cohen] went on, “I have all my marbles, so far. I have many resources, some cultivated on a personal level, but circumstantial, too: my daughter and her children live downstairs, and my son lives two blocks down the street. So I am extremely blessed. I have an assistant who is devoted and skillful. I have a friend like Bob [Robert Faggen] and another friend or two who make my life very rich. So in a certain sense I’ve never had it better. . . . At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”

“When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius,” Dylan said. “Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. Even the simplest song, like ‘The Law,’ which is structured on two fundamental chords, has counterpoint lines that are essential, and anybody who even thinks about doing this song and loves the lyrics would have to build around the counterpoint lines.

When I asked him if he intended his performances to reflect a kind of devotion, he hesitated before he answered. “Does artistic dedication begin to touch on religious devotion?” he said. “I start with artistic dedication. I know that if the spirit is on you it will touch on to the other human receptors. But I dare not begin from the other side. It’s like pronouncing the holy name—you don’t do it. But if you are lucky, and you are graced, and the audience is in a particular salutary condition, then these deeper responses will be produced.”

All available information about You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen is collected and updated at Info & Updates: Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker

Leonard Cohen On Bob Dylan: “He put the word back into the jukebox, which is really where you have to have it, or at least where I like to have it.”


Cited in Michael Ondaatje, Leonard Cohen (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970). Found in Introduction to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen – Rock Poets by David Boucher (New York: Bloomsbury Academic,April 1, 2004)

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

“We were dying to be Dylan / to be beggers worth a million / to be nowhere & suddenly arrive” – Leonard Cohen Lyrics (Unused)

cylanclosingWe were dying to be Dylan
to be beggers worth a million
to be nowhere & suddenly arrive

From “Closing Time” — Indepth Study Page Four

I suspect these unused lines from an early draft of “Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen refer to a specific Dylan song and, in fact, can coerce a handful of his tunes into fitting but doing so requires Procrustean tactics. I am hopeful a Dylanologist can identify the allusion’s reference (if one exits).

Note: Originally posted July 29, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric