Q: Do you enjoy the process of writing itself? Leonard Cohen: “I feel very distant when I’m doing it. I feel like there’s someone across the room who is very diligently filling in the blanks of a questionnaire. It’s hard.”

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From Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead (and other things I learned from famous people) by Neil Strauss (The Truth About Lies: July 9, 2011). Image from back cover of Flowers for Hitler by Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Cape (UK): 1973. Photo by Sophie Baker.

“I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best” Leonard Cohen Talks About That Line From Chelsea Hotel #2

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Leonard Cohen Explains “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best”

Because time also is a degree in the estimation of love

Leonard Cohen

The quotation is part of Leonard Cohen’s discussion of the nature of the his relationship with Janis Joplin portrayed in his song, “Chelsea Hotel #2.” The interview is found in “The Song Of Leonard Cohen” by Harry Rasky (1979).

That key line from the final version of Chelsea Hotel, “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,” and, indeed, the entire final verse on which the sense of the song turns, is absent from Chelsea Hotel #1.

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

In contradistinction to the confession, “I don’t even think of you that often,”  the final verse of Chelsea Hotel #1, as it was played by Cohen in Tel Aviv in 1972,1 is a reluctant leave-taking:

Making your sweet little sound, I can hear you now
So, into the jukebox [?], choose your records
Listen all night now
Making your sweet little sound, baby,

Making your sweet little sound on the jukebox.
Guess I got nothing more to say to you, baby
I mean – so long, gotta leave you,
Little sound

This is in keeping with my contention, previously presented at Video: Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1 (Tel Aviv 1972), that Chelsea Hotel #1 is thematically a much different song than Chelsea Hotel #2:

Chelsea Hotel #1  focuses on the death of the singer’s (i.e., Leonard Cohen’s) lover (i.e., Janis Joplin), with whom the singer identifies primarily  as an admired fellow artist and colleague and only secondarily as an object of affection or, at least, of reciprocated lust.  In Chelsea Hotel #2, the situation is reversed with the key issue becoming the  singer’s unambiguous  examination of his own feelings for and perception of the woman at the Chelsea Hotel – even if doing so results in an ignoble self-characterization.

Chelsea Hotel #2, in fact, aligns well with other Leonard Cohen songs that mark the end of  a romance, such as So Long, Marianne and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, with unflinching observations on the psychological factors causing him to flee the relationship.

But in comparing Chelsea Hotel #1 and Chelsea Hotel #2, the kicker is that Cohen is kinder to and much more sentimental about the Janis Joplin of Chelsea Hotel #1, a singer “making a sweet little sound,” than he is to the Janis Joplin of Chelsea Hotel #2, a lover who affectionately jokes with Cohen (“You told me again you preferred handsome men/but for me you would make an exception”).  He is also – and, not incidentally – far less protective of himself in the second version.

Leonard Cohen On Chelsea Hotel #2 (1979)
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Chelsea Hotel #1

The video of Chelsea Hotel #1 and an earlier discussion of the differences between the two versions of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel song can be found at Video: Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1 (Tel Aviv 1972)

Also See “I remember you well at the Chelsea Hotel / That’s all. I don’t think of you that often” Leonard Cohen Talks About The Final Lines Of Chelsea Hotel #2

Photo of Janis Joplin by Columbia Records (Billboard page 5) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174. Originally posted Aug 16, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. There is no standard version of Chelsea Hotel #1.  Leonard Cohen repeatedly changed the lyrics and rearranged the order of the verses in performances. []

Léonard Constant Covers Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To End Of Love

 

From the Facebook description:

“Dance Me to the End of Love” (Leonard Cohen) in Episode 1 of the “Quick and Dirty on the Couch” Sessions. No fuss, no special tools, no yoga, no steroids. Just the computer’s little iSight camera. Didn’t even check if the guitar was in tune before hitting the Record button… which I know will be a bugger for some, but this one was REALLY a quick and dirty one!

Thanks to Laurence of Paris, who alerted me to this video.

“I went through an anti-intellectual stage… it purifies the language. But I also lost my discipline, and my literary antecedents.” Leonard Cohen 1973

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I went through an anti-intellectual stage. It was an interesting experience — it purifies the language. But I also lost my discipline, and my literary antecedents.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From The Trials Of Leonard Cohen By Jack Kapica. Montreal Gazette: Aug 25, 1973. Photo by Sam Tata from the Library and Archives Canada. Originally posted July 3, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

An Especially Clean-Cut Leonard Cohen Beside One Of His Sculptures – Montreal 1963

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In these three photos, a 29 year old Leonard Cohen, attired in a white button down shirt (with a spot on the collar) and a conservative jacket accessorized with a pocket handkerchief in what appears to be a modified two point fold, poses, according to the photo captions, “beside one of his sculptures.” A stylish band-aid on Mr Cohen’s neck completes the ensemble.

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a190165-v8Credit – All Photos: Allan R. Leishman/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170173

Ray Charles & Marianne – “Still companions of the heart / as I measure myself once more / against the high sweet standards / of my youth” Leonard Cohen 1978

While not as well known as his poem, “Days of Kindness,” Leonard Cohen’s “Much Later” from Book Of Longing also evocatively describes his days with Marianne, in this case, listening to Ray Charles in sun-drenched Hydra.

Much Later
From Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen

Ray Charles singing You Win Again
in the sunlight
twenty years ago
Ray Charles the singer I would never be
and my young wife
‘the wife of my youth’
smiling at me from an upstairs room
in the old house
Ray Charles and Marianne
dear spirits of my Greek life
now in the sunshine of every new summer
Marianne coming down the steps
‘the woman of the house’
Ray Charles speaking fiercely
for our virgin humanity
Twenty years ago
and again in this Hollywood summer
still companions of the heart
as I measure myself once more
against the high sweet standards
of my youth

– Los Angeles 1978