Leonard Cohen’s Songwriting Shifts From “I’ve had to scrape them out of my heart” (1972) To “Scavenging” (2001)

1972: “I’ve had to scrape them out of my heart”

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I’ve never written [lyrics] with the kind of luxury of choice. I’ve never sat down at my table and said ‘there are people starving and there are people who are being tortured and brutalized, I must write a song to redeem them’. My songs have come to me, I’ve had to scrape them out of my heart. They come in pieces at a time and in showers and fragments and if I can put them together into a song and I have something at the end of the excavation I’m just grateful for having it. It tells me where I am and where I’ve been. I can’t predispose the song to any situation or anything in the political realm, but if I live in the political realm and I’m aware of what is going down and my songs come out of that awareness of ignorance. A lot of my songs come out of ignorance. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From “Complexities And Mr. Cohen” by Billy Walker (Sounds, March 4, 1972).  Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles

2001: “Scavenging”

Sylvie Simmons: You had said previously that songs had to be ‘scraped’ or ‘torn’ from your heart. Is writing still that bloody?

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Did I say that? That romantic image has somewhat evaporated. Now I’d say it’s the work of a scavenger. … The content of whatever it is you write is a matter of scavenging around and trying to satisfy this appetite to make something.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Felonious Monk by Sylvie Simmons, (MOJO: November 2001) [underlining mine]

Note: Originally posted June 19, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“One is always wrestling with one’s doubt, indifference and Dionysian appetite …” Leonard Cohen On The Elements Of His Work

lc-good dublin2-1024 Interviewer: Was there ever complete disillusionment?

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Every day. Whatever I’m studying, I have the sense that this isn’t it. One is always wrestling with one’s doubt, indifference and Dionysian appetite: You know – let’s go get drunk and forget this stuff. Maybe this doesn’t lead to anywhere. These are just the elements of my work. I don’t think they’re great. They’re just all I have.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Conversations from a Room by Tom Chaffin. Canadian Forum: August/September 1983. Photo by Armando Fusco. Originally posted Feb 6, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“One is distracted by this notion that there is such a things as inspiration” Leonard Cohen On Songwriting

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So to penetrate this chattering and this meaningless debate that is occupying most of my attention, I have to come up with something that really speaks to my deepest interest. Otherwise I nod off in one way or another. So to find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat. But why shouldn’t my work be hard? Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a things as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff to come up with the payload.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen – Los Angeles 1992 from Songwriters On Songwriting By Paul Zollo. Originally posted Apr 25, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“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 try to write good songs that move along” Leonard Cohen On Songwriting


Leonard Cohen: I try to write good songs that move along. I just take the subject matter for granted. It’s from my own visions. I would think that’s the way anybody writes a song.

Interviewer: But Cohen’s visions, full of mystical figures such as Joan of Arc and allusions to such things as Scientology and Zen [both of which he’s “plugged into” at one time or another] are not what most people in popular music write about.

Leonard Cohen: Hmm, yes, that’s true. But then, my music isn’t very popular, is it?

For Cohen, Grief Is Joy by Lynn Van Matre (Chicago Tribune: Nov 23, 1975). Thanks to Rike, who discovered and contributed the article from which this quote is taken.

“Each one of my songs is above me” Leonard Cohen on Songwriting

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When I write a song, and it becomes a finished work, to me it becomes an incredible achievement. Each one of my songs is above me. When I say above me, I mean almost as though it was better than me. With the books and the poems, it’s a different feeling. My God, to do a song is a total mental process.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen Talks To Roy Hollingworth by Roy Hollingworth (Melody Maker: Sept 5, 1970). Photo Credit: Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174. Thanks to Rike, who contributed this article.