Leonard Cohen ranks himself a “minor poet” compared to King David, Homer, Dante, Hank Williams, Milton, Wordsworth, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman …

quoteup2
I’ve always had the sense of, if you’re going to think of yourself in this game, or in this tradition, and you start getting a swelled head about it, or exactly where your place is, then you’ve really got to think about who you’re talking about. You’re not just talking about Randy Newman, who’s fine, you’re not just talking about Bob Dylan, who’s sublime, you’re talking about King David, you’re talking about Homer, you’re talking about Dante, you’re talking about Milton, you’re talking about Wordsworth, you’re talking about some spirits who are… we haven’t come up for descriptions for their contribution, for their embodiment of our highest possibility. So I don’t think it represents a particularly modest or virtuous assessment of one’s own work to think of oneself as a minor poet. It’s not bad, I’ve loved the minor poets, I mean Herrick, a poet like Herrick, who’s not considered one of the great ornaments of the tradition, but a small gem in the crown, and I really do feel that, I feel that you know, the enormous luck I’ve had in being able to make a living, and to never have had to have written one word that I didn’t want to write, to be able to have satisfied that dictum I set for myself, which was not to work for pay, but to be paid for my work, just to be able to satisfy those standards that I set for myself has been an enormous privilege. But I don’t fool myself, I know the game I’m in, and I know the tradition I’m in, I feel very privileged to have been accepted at whatever level, and when I wrote about Hank Williams “a hundred floors above me in the tower of song”, I’m not trying to present some kind of inverse modesty, I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song. Your Cheating Heart, songs like that are sublime, in his own tradition, and I feel myself a very minor writer. You know, I’ve taken a certain territory, and I’ve occupied it, and I’ve tried to maintain it and administrate it with the very best of my capacities. And I will continue to administrate this tiny territory until I’m too weak to do it. But I understand where this territory is.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From the transcript of a BBC Radio 1 programme about Leonard Cohen, broadcast Sunday 7/8/94.

Note: Originally posted Oct 23, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Bob Dylan’s “I And I” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

jukebox700

Note: Originally posted April 2, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Bob Dylan And Leonard Cohen Talk Shop

infiedels

One of the anecdotes in the standard catechism all good Leonard Cohen acolytes learn has to do with the contrast in the time required by Bob Dylan and Cohen to compose a song. The story appears in several Cohen interviews. The following iteration is from Leonard Cohen, Los Angeles 1992, a section of “Songwriters On Songwriting” by Paul Zollo:

That [“Hallelujah”] was a song that took me [Leonard Cohen] a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Then I praise a song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, “Fifteen minutes.” [Laughter]

Bob Dylan – I And I
From Infidels

Coming Attractions: More Dylan

St Dylan and the High Priest Of Pathos1 have been members of a mutual admiration society.  At least two more Bob Dylan songs have been listed among Cohen’s favorites and will be featured in upcoming Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox posts.

  1. Another nickname for Leonard Cohen; see Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames []

Leonard Cohen on choosing musicians differently than Dylan: “Also, Dylan is a multimillionaire. I’ve got to make a living”

studioperFrom WZMF Interview With Leonard Cohen by John Houghton (Fallout: March 4-17 1975). Also see “The best concert Milwaukee has experienced” Fallout Covers 1975 Leonard Cohen Milwaukee Concert

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Dominique BOILE, who discovered and shared this otherwise unavailable interview.

Allen Ginsberg On Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen

allen_ginsberg_and_bob_dylan_by_elsa_dorfman

quoteup2
Dylan blew everybody’s mind, except Leonard’squotedown2

Allen Ginsberg

 

Many articles refer to this quotation, but this excerpt from Songwriters On Songwriting by Paul Zollo has the advantage of offering context:

Like Dylan, Simon, and few others, Leonard Cohen has expanded the vocabulary of the popular song into the domain of poetry. And like both Simon and Dylan, Cohen will work and rework his songs until he achieves a kind of impossible perfection. He didn’t need Dylan’s influence, however, to inspire his poetic approach to songwriting. He’d already written much poetry and two highly acclaimed novels by the time Dylan emerged, leading the poet Allen Ginsberg to comment, “Dylan blew everybody’s mind, except Leonard’s.”

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

Credit Due Department: Photo by Elsa Dorfman – Transferred from en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia

Note: Originally posted April 29, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen differentiates his songwriting from Dylan’s

quoteup2
Dylan wrote really long lines, and I want to write really short lines.

Leonard Cohen

The Wisdom Of Leonard Cohen by Kevin Perry. GQ: Jan 19, 2012

Note: Originally posted Aug 8, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen On Fedoras, Lawyers, Dylan, Antidepressants, Drinking Professionally, Smoking Heavily, Zen of Cognac, & The Difficulty of Singing Suzanne

cohen-interview-composite

Leonard Cohen’s Only Interview Since Start Of 2008 Tour

Brian Johnson has posted the full transcript and partial video of his backstage interview with Leonard Cohen that took place June 4, 2008 at Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ontario.1

I’ve included a couple of excerpts below to give the flavor of the piece:

Q: After 14 years off the road, what brought you back?

A: Well, one of the things was that pesky little financial situation, which totally wiped me out. So I’m very grateful that I had a way to make a living, because that was indicated in very powerful terms. It wasn’t the prime motivator. Thanks to the help of Robert Kory, who is unique among lawyers in that he deferred his fees until the situation was resolved, which is not just unusual but unheard of, I would say, for a lawyer in Los Angeles. So he was able to somehow right the shipwreck. As it turned out, I could have gotten by. But all the time, even when I was in the monastery at Mt. Baldy, there were times when I would ask myself, “Are you really never going to get up on a stage again?” It was always unresolved. It would arise. Not daily, not even monthly. But from time to time, I’d see my guitar. I was still writing songs. But the idea of performing was starting to recede further and further back. One of the reasons was that I was so wiped out physically by the end of my last tour because I was drinking heavily. I was drinking about three bottles of wine by the end of the tour.

Q: Three bottles a day?

A: Before every concert. I only drank professionally, I never drank after the concert. I would never drink after intermission. It was a long tour. It must have been 60 to 70 concerts.

Q: Why did you need to drink?

A: I was very nervous. And I liked drinking. And I found this wine, it was Château Latour. Now very expensive. It was even expensive then. It’s curious with wine. The wine experts talk about the flavour and the bouquet and whether it has legs and the tannins and the fruit and the symphonies of tastes. But nobody talks about the high. Bordeaux is a wine that vintners have worked on for about 1,000 years. Each wine has a very specific high, which is never mentioned. Château Latour, I don’t know how I stumbled on it, but it went with the music, and it went with the concert. I tried to drink it after the tour was over, and I could hardly get a glass down. It had no resonance whatsoever. It needed the adrenaline of the concert and the music and the atmosphere, the kind of desperate atmosphere of touring—desperate because I was drinking so much! I had a good time with it for a while, but it did wreck my health, and I put on about 25 pounds.

Q: What’s the song that presents the toughest challenge?

A: The tough one for me is Suzanne. My chop has not come back completely. I’m playing an acoustic electric guitar. It’s pitched right. It’s right for my voice. People have asked me what’s it like to sing Suzanne. It’s a question I don’t fully process, because I don’t have the sense that I’m just doing it again. It’s hard to sing it. It’s hard to enter it. Because it’s a serious song. I’m alone singing it. And it brought me. . . in my own curious magical universe it is a kind of doorway. So I have to be very careful with it. I can’t speak too much about it because I can’t put my finger on the reason, except to say it is a doorway, and I have to open it carefully. Otherwise, what is beyond that is not accessible to me.

Q: It’s not special because it’s about one particular woman?

A: It was never about a particular woman. For me it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal, and my life wandering alone in those parts of Montreal that are now very beautifully done up and in those days, it was the waterfront. I used to wander around down there and I used to go to that church a lot.

The full transcript can be found at Cohen wore earplugs to a Dylan show?

Leonard Cohen Macleans Magazine Interview June 4, 2008

Credit Due Department: The graphic is composed of still shots from the interview’s video

Note: Originally posted Jun 13, 2008 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

_____________________

  1. Update: Until 24 Feb 2009, this was the only live interview with Leonard Cohen done during the World Tour. Shortly after the Beacon Theater Concert in New York, Cohen granted interviews to several periodicals. []