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


  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) []

2 Replies to “Leonard Cohen is Artist X; Bob Dylan is Artist Y”

  1. Peter Winkler

    While the article by Sara Schabas comparing Dylan and Cohen to Mozart and Beethoven is interesting and quite valid in many ways her categorisation of Dylan’s latter career work is flippant and cursory. Yes, there were strange abherations like his Christmas album and some brand endorsements but questioning Dylan’s integrity is drawing a very long bow and disregarding Dylan’s latter career masterpieces including but not limited to Time Out Of Mind and his most recent album of original songs Tempest shows a wilful lack of recognition of some of Dylan’s greatest works. Her evaluation of Dylan’s latter career works is quite absurd and detracts from the validity of her premise that Cohen and Dylan are great artists of our time.

  2. Peter Winkler

    PS. The article by Edward Docx comparing Cohen and Dylan to Donne and Shakespear is beautifully written and shows great insight in the works of the two greatest songwriters of our era.