Joni Mitchell Accuses Leonard Cohen Of “Lifting Lines” From Camus; Leonard Cohen Responds

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But, unfortunately, in the Camus, I found he [Cohen] lifted lines. ‘Walk me to the corner, our steps will always …’  That’s literally a Camus line. So I thought that’s like Bob Dylan … When I realized that Bob and Leonard were lifting lines, I was very disappointed. And then I thought that there’s this kind of a self-righteous quality about — you’re a plagiarist and I’m not. So I plagiarized from Camus in ‘Come In from the Cold’ intentionally. I forget which verse it is, but when I put the single out, I edited that verse out. I just took it out. Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life — it’s up for grabs, right? So I put something that he said in one of my songs and he got real irritable, [saying], ‘I’m glad I wrote that.’quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014

Note: “Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme” is from Leonard Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. I haven’t been able to discover (nor can anyone else apparently) the Camus line to which Joni Mitchell refers.

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I found a lot of Lorca and Camus in his [Leonard Cohen’s] lines. And he was living the life of Camus, even down to the way he dressed, and his house in Hydra. It was disappointing to me, because as far as I could see, he was an original. I have this perverse need for originality. I don’t really care for copy, second-generation artists. I’m not a traditionalist. It’s the discoverers that excite me. Not ‘new’ like a new face, the way ‘new’ is used to sell something. They’re not new at all. They’re a new person doing the old shit. ‘Suzanne’ is a beautiful song, though.quotedown2


From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

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I read somewhere that she [Joni Mitchell] felt I had tricked her in some way because I hadn’t told her that Camus had written a book called The Stranger and that I’d written a song called ‘The Stranger.’ The song had nothing to do with the book, nor was I the first person to call a song ‘The Stranger.’ She felt that I’d plagiarized She felt that I’d plagiarized Camus.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

Note: In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Yaffe also observes that Joni Mitchell “(wrongly) believed that ‘Walk me to the corner / Our steps will always rhyme’ was ripped off from Camus.”

Also see

Credit Due Department: Photo by Crossett Library

“The song is just brilliant: raw, shocking honesty, protest in the face of the dark night of evil—spoken before the face of God” Tom Neal On You Want It Darker By Leonard Cohen

You Want It Darker by Dr. Tom Neal (Word On Fire Blog: April 17, 2018) is an exuberant, insightful essay on one of Leonard Cohen’s final songs. I’ve included a couple of excerpts below, but the entire piece, available at the link, is highly recommended reading.

Cohen’s music is searching, pained, edgy, gritty, socially engaged, and religiously dissident, but he relentlessly clings to a Jewish biblical landscape. It was his Judaism, eclectic as it was. Right to the end of his life, he inhabited and was inhabited by his Hebrew faith—its language, worship, narratives—as he grasped for meaning at the very edge of meaning. At the edge of the grave, his grave. This was one of the final songs written and recorded just before his death in 2016. It utterly captivated me last night: “You Want It Darker.” I dreamt of it and then woke up at 3:00 a.m. to write…

The song is just brilliant: raw, shocking honesty, protest in the face of the dark night of evil—spoken before the face of God. It does not sound to me as rebellion, but a laying before God the cursed evil without submitting it to an easy resolve. Not cushioned, romanticized, coated, softened, but prayed out of dark faith into God.

The author, Dr. Tom Neal, is Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, LA

“There were dogs barking, birds singing, garbage trucks. Also, occasionally Leonard [Cohen] would forget to turn off the Jacuzzi that is adjacent to the studio” Leanne Ungar On Recording Ten New Songs

Tracking final vocals in Cohen’s home studio (which, despite its reasonably high-tech trappings, [Leanne] Ungar says “is not acoustically isolated”) was an environmental challenge. “There were dogs barking, birds singing, garbage trucks. Also, occasionally Leonard would forget to turn off the Jacuzzi that is adjacent to the studio — the studio resides in a second story Cohen added above his garage, next to his Los Angeles home. When you’re involved in doing vocals and your ears are full of track, it is easy to not notice these noises,” Ungar says. She removed most of these sounds, but says she can still hear their remnants on the finished CD.

Leanne Ungar is a sound engineer and producer, who worked on several Leonard Cohen albums, beginning with New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

Leonard Cohen by Eric Rudolph (Mix: Feb 1, 2002)

Sharon Robinson Describes Leonard Cohen’s Preconcert Rituals “All Designed To Bring Us Together For The Performance” + “We’re Walking” Video

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Before the concerts, we had these rituals that Leonard sort of designed. A half hour before the show, the band would gather in the green room and he would put essential oil on our wrists. Sometimes there were beverages, smoothies passed around. And we would do a chant as we walked to the stage, singing this Latin folk song as a round. We walked slowly, as if we were monks. But it was all designed to bring us together for the performance. Leonard always encouraged me not to look to other people for guidance, but to do what I felt in my heart. He told me, ‘You know what to do.’quotedown2

Sharon Robinson

 

From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016), Video posted on Sharon Robinson’s Facebook page.

“Leonard’s tone was Montreal” Stephen Lack On His Cousin, Leonard Cohen


 
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We used to have a lot of parties, and Leonard would appear like a shadow, trolling. And then we’d all hang out at the Main deli. Leonard didn’t like [the famed Montreal deli] Schwartz’s—he said, ‘Oh, no, I eat at the Main,’ across the street. You’d go to the Main if you were hungry and at a certain stage of your intoxicants having kicked in. It had my favorite class of people: low-life criminals. People who were hired by political parties to intimidate voters, taxi drivers who had a baseball bat in an attache case. Leonard loved mutants; he loved extremes. I think that’s what makes his work so great; if he saw a dwarf, he became the dwarf—he knew there was a dwarf living inside him. If he saw a dictator, he knew he could be in a bad mood and with the stroke of a pen kill a million people. He was aware of the frailties of all of us at our worst. It was the celebration of that, rather than the denial or repression, that makes his work so long-lasting. And Montreal gives you those people. It’s a very unique place; there’s a church on every street corner, and right next door a tavern. Hence, you’ve got Leonard making a lot of Catholic references in his work. It was that bit of outlawness; you’ve got an authority above you, but it doesn’t interface with you completely, so stray strands start to exist independent of that authority. Leonard’s tone was Montreal.quotedown2

Stephen Lack

 

From Remembering Leonard Cohen: Close Friends, Collaborators & Critics on How He Changed Music Forever by Sasha Frere-Jones (Billboard: November 17, 2016). Photo by Ros Pan.

“Like Scripture and great poetry, every time you hear [Leonard Cohen’s work]… it tends to resonate and hit you where you need it most, like it was written just for that moment in your life that you think nobody else could possibly understand.” Lian Lunson

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He [Leonard Cohen] belongs with that band of minstrels and sages and spiritual wanderers who head out in to the desert in search of salvation and take you along with them, so you won’t be alone. I hope that this movie [I’m Your Man documentary] brings a new audience to Leonard’s work. I felt when I had finished the film that it was like a great book that I had read and that I wanted to give it to all my friends. I am not talking about my film-making. I’m talking about the gift that Leonard Cohen brings; the gift of companionship that his music and words offers.There has not been a period in my life where I have not listened to his music – and like Scripture and great poetry, every time you hear it or pick it up it tends to resonate and hit you where you need it most, like it was written just for that moment in your life that you think nobody else could possibly understand. And we could all do with more of that.quotedown2

Lian Lunson

 

I’m your fan: Leonard Cohen and me by Lian Lunson (Guardian: 21 Nov 2006). Thanks to Lian Lunson for permission to use the photo atop this post.

“He was aware of how much his music was loved, and he appreciated it.” Sharon Robinson On The Special Rapport Between Ireland & Leonard Cohen

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There was definitely a special rapport between him and Ireland. Leonard and myself often spoke about the beautiful events that took place there: the dancing in the rain at Lissadell and being close to where his hero, W.B. Yeats, is buried. That was definitely one of his favourite concerts. He was aware of how much his music was loved, and he appreciated it.quotedown2

Sharon Robinson

 

Quotation from Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen by Abby Steward. Hot Press: Sept 2017.

Javier Mas First Learns Of Leonard Cohen’s Illness: “He [Leonard] did not think it was so serious… he even left the instruments in Los Angeles thinking we would go on tour again”

The first time that [Javier Mas] had news that the singer-songwriter was sick  was a telephone call from Leonard Cohen himself: “I have many pains, especially in my back. I find it hard to get up and I’m tired. I have gone to the doctor and they are giving me tests.” But he did not think it was so serious, and he even left the instruments in Los Angeles thinking we would go on tour again, as the author of “Chelsea Hotel # 2” told him. In his last year of life, while recording “You Want It Darker,”  [Mas] spoke with his son Adam, producer of the album. “My dad is not well,” he told me. It was then that I came to the idea that the situation was more serious than I thought.

From Javier Mas: «Hablé con Leonard Cohen 15 días antes de morir y me dijo que estaba animado» by Israel Viana (ABC: 07/11/2017) via Google Translate. Photo by Anders Ø. Gimse, Rock Photography. Thanks to Maria Viana, who alerted me to this article.