Leonard Cohen Newsletter #4 – July 22, 1985: North America Tour Dates, Book of Mercy Wins Award, Cohen’s Favorite 5 Recordings, Bootleg Album

Before Cohencentric, the official Leonard Cohen site, Facebook fan pages, LeonardCohenFiles, Instagram, etc., there was the Leonard Cohen Information Service Newsletter. For the story behind the Leonard Cohen Information Service Newsletter, see Ancient Texts From The Tower Of Song: Leonard Cohen Information Service Newsletter #1 – Dec 16, 1984

Originally posted June 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“If you want to see Leonard Cohen’s writing, you have to travel [to the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Library], request boxes of papers, and flip through the letters and worn notebooks, written in Montreal, Greece, and on the road, one by one.”

If you want to see Cohen’s writing, you have to travel there, request boxes of papers, and flip through the letters and worn notebooks, written in Montreal, Greece, and on the road, one by one. That may seem archaic and slow, and it is surely less efficient, from a time perspective, than a Google search. But it also is a process of discovery that leads the researcher to unexpected and revealing places. It requires more effort but may lead to more learning. It slows down the process of information absorption and encourages a connection between the text, document, and reader. That can lead to greater insights or even a subtle sense of one letter’s context among many.1

I don’t believe this is a random request on Leonard’s part. He was given to the notion of using his own writing as a means of discovering new information, as per his quotations below. It seems likely that he thought those researching his work might analogously unearth more insight by rummaging through his written work than a Google search.

quoteup2
I wish it didn’t take so long to finish a song and to make a record . . . it seems to be a long process … it’s trying to discover how I really feel about something.2quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

quoteup2
I think that sensibility is nothing you can summon, but it really arises if you keep uncovering the song and trying to get beneath the slogan – either the emotional slogan or the political slogan. So much of the work that I hear, there’s nothing wrong with it, but much of it has the feel of a slogan or an agenda that’s already been written. It’s a perfectly good slogan, and there are interesting variations on it. But if you’re interested in forming yourself through your work, which I think is more interesting, then you have to keep uncovering and discarding those slogans until you get something. When you have those moments where you inform yourself of something that wasn’t immediately apparent, that’s when it becomes interesting.3quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Photo atop this post “Thomas-fisher-library-3” by Jphillips23Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. How Digital Archives Delete the Human Experience by David Sax (The Walrus: June 6, 2018). []
  2. Leonard Cohen, speaking “for German television in 1997,” quoted in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia by Michael Gray (2006) []
  3. 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) []

Is This What You Wanted: Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen – Spiritual Themes

Introduction: Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen

The paradoxical popularity of Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen has prompted a consideration of a decade of writing about Leonard on my own sites and turns posting on LeonardCohenForum, Facebook fan groups, YouTube, and the official Leonard Cohen Facebook page, to determine1 which aspects of Leonard Cohen’s life and work are most favored by fans.

Note: For the purpose of this series, I’ve eliminated what could be described as “breaking news,” e.g., announcements about album releases, tours, books, etc.

#3 Leonard Cohen On Spirituality

The third most popular category of posts among Leonard Cohen fans is his take on matters spiritual. In this case, “spirituality” extends to Leonard’s thoughts on and musical and poetical allusions to Christianity (especially Catholicism), Zen Buddhism, Judaism, Hindu philosophy, Hare Krishna…2 It’s notable that Leonard refuted the notion of himself as religious:

I’ve never thought of myself as a religious person. I don’t have any spiritual strategy. I kind of limp along like so many of us do in these realms. Occasionally I’ve felt the grace of another presence in my life.3

In fact, the demand for this species persists in spite of Leonard’s protestations that

I am not an expert on either sex nor spirituality.4

Below are a handful of representative Leonard Cohen quotations in this category that have proved especially popular:

The ideas in Zen, I’m not sure what they are, because I’ve only known one old man [Roshi]. I don’t know how authentically he represents his tradition. I just know that he’s provided a space for me to kind of dance with the Lord, that I couldn’t find in a lot of the other places I went to.5

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Continue Reading →

  1. “Determine” connotes observations on my part that lack rigid, scientific statistical verification but which I am am convinced – and on which I would wager significant sums of cash – are accurate []
  2. I participated in all these investigations that engaged the imagination of my generation at that time. I even danced and sang with the Hare Krishnas—no robe, I didn’t join them, but I was trying everything. From Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016) []
  3. From Leonard Cohen Corrects Himself: ‘I Intend to Stick Around Until 120’ by Chris Willman (Billboard: Oct 14, 2016) []
  4. Je Ne Suis Qu’un Poete Mineur [I’m Just A Minor Poet] by Gilles Medioni, L’Express (France): October 4, 2001 [via Google Translate] Found at Leonard Cohen French Web Site. []
  5. “I Am The Little Jew Who Wrote The Bible” — A Conversation Between Leonard Cohen And Arthur Kurzweil held November 23, 1993. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. []

Is This What You Wanted: Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen

Introduction: Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen

The paradoxical popularity of Things Cohenites Don’t Like About Leonard Cohen has prompted a consideration of a decade of writing about Leonard on my own sites and turns posting on LeonardCohenForum, Facebook fan groups, YouTube, and the official Leonard Cohen Facebook page, to determine1 which aspects of Leonard Cohen’s life and work are most favored by fans.

Note: For the purpose of this series, I’ve eliminated what could be described as “breaking news,” e.g., announcements about album releases, tours, books, etc.

Surprise: Leonard Cohen’s Music & Writing Are Laggards In Popularity

Perhaps most striking is the counterintuitive discovery that audio and video recordings of Leonard Cohen’s songs and poetry, while popular on YouTube and other video sites, don’t rank in the top five on other platforms (such as Facebook and blogs) except when posted for the first time (e.g., Listen To Special Pre-Release Broadcast Of Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker Album) or contemporaneously (e.g., First Performance Of “Feels So Good” By Leonard Cohen – Chicago 2009).

The Big Three

Three Leonard Cohen topics/themes have proved overwhelmingly popular with readers. These issues will be featured in the next Is This What You Wanted: Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen posts.

Update: More Things Cohenites Like Most About Leonard Cohen

All posts in this series are collected at

Credit Due Department: Photo of Leonard Cohen’s final bow at the Dec 12, 2010 Las Vegas show atop this post taken by J.S. Carenza III.

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  1. “Determine” connotes observations on my part that lack rigid, scientific statistical verification but which I am am convinced – and on which I would wager significant sums of cash – are accurate []

“[I’m Your Man By Sylvie Simmons is] the best book I’ve read about Leonard Cohen. It’s one of the best music books I’ve ever read; one of the best biographies I’ve read. It’s one of my favourite books.”

And her book is worth celebrating. It’s the best book I’ve read about Leonard Cohen. It’s one of the best music books I’ve ever read; one of the best biographies I’ve read. It’s one of my favourite books. She writes like a dream, the research is there – she’s managed to get people to go on the record who have not, previously, spoken about Cohen. And there’s a weight, a gravitas to Leonard’s life and work. Simmons addresses this with full respect, allows it to shine.

Dr Heck Note: I think he likes it.

From Interviewing Sylvie Simmons by Simon Sweetman. Stuff.ca.nz: May 20, 2013. Originally posted June 4, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“An object lesson in performance manners.” Franz Nicolay On Leonard Cohen At Coachella – 2009

Cohen’s Coachella Performance From Another Perspective

I don’t follow PunkNews.org as well as perhaps I should. Aubin introduces the April 30, 2009 entry, Dispatches: Franz Nicolay: Episode 1: “Today, we’ve got a brand new set of tour diaries coming from Franz Nicolay, multi-instrumentalist and member of The Hold Steady and World/Inferno Friendship Society. In the pertinent section of the post, Nicolay describes his experiences at Coachella, where The Hold Steady played earlier the same day (April 17, 2009) that Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, and Paul McCartney performed.

Nicolay On Morrissey And McCartney At Coachella

In the tour diary itself Nicolay proves himself no sycophant, opening his report of Morrissey’s performance, for example, with this unambiguous line:

So it pains me to report … that Morrissey, who played next on the main stage, was, and I wish I could come up with a more eloquent way to put this, a pissy little bitch.

And about the headliner, Paul McCartney, Nicolay’s full report is contained in two brief paragraphs:

On my way to the stage for Cohen’s set, I was stopped by a security guard, as a motorcade of black Escalades pulled up to a gate. While we waited on the sidewalk, out stepped Paul McCartney, in a baggy grey suit. And red sneakers.

Which I suppose is the kind of thing the richest entertainer in the world can get away with, though two and a half hours of McCartney was an adult dose. For a guy worth half a billion dollars it was an admirably simple stage show (especially the ukulele take on “Something”). Except for the flash-pots and fireworks deployed for “Live And Let Die”: a subtle display of the kind of fuck-you money that brings a full pyro setup for one song.

Franz Nicolay On Leonard Cohen At Coachella:
“A more gracious performance I’ve never seen”

On that topic – the ridiculous to the sublime, the snowy to the sun-baked, or something to that effect – we played the giant Coachella festival in a desert polo grounds in southern California … and I saw an object lesson in performance manners. Perhaps you’ve heard that Leonard Cohen recently suffered a severe financial setback. He spent six years studying in a Zen monastery, during which time he left his affairs in the hands of a personal manager – who took him for five million dollars, essentially his life savings. So, at 74, he’s back on the road, and a more gracious performance I’ve never seen. All ten or twenty thousand people waiting for him on a second stage, waited in a hushed silence, like a church service. And indeed, one of the notable details was that this was the quietest PA sound I’ve ever seen at a festival show, so the religious atmosphere held, up to a really chilling mass singalong to “Hallelujah”. One detail that really pleased me was that, every time a member of the band took a solo, he removed his fedora and held it over his heart for the duration, as a gesture of respect.

The first set of entertaining and instructional dispatches from Nicolay’s tour diary can be found at Dispatches: Franz Nicolay: Episode 1

Other Leonard Cohen At Coachella Posts:

Credit Due Department: Photo atop post by David Telford from London, UK – franz nicolayUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link. Leonard Cohen photo by Fred von Lohmann

Originally posted May 2, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“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)
Uploaded by

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. []