Joni Mitchell References Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche In Her Coming To Terms With Success


I had difficulty at one point accepting my affluence, and my success, even the expression of it seemed to me distasteful at one time, like to suddenly be driving a fancy car. I had a lot of soul searching to do. I felt that living in elegance and luxury cancelled creativity, or even some of that sort of Sunday school philosophy that luxury comes as a guest and then becomes the master. That was a philosophy that I held onto. I still had that stereotyped idea that success would deter it, that luxury would make you too comfortable and complacent and that the gift would suffer from it.

But I found that I was able to express it in the work, even at the time when it was distasteful to me… The only way that I could reconcile with myself and my art was to say, “This is what I’m going through now; my life is changing. I show up at the gig in a big limousine and that’s a fact of life.”

I’m an extremist as far as lifestyle goes. I need to live simply and primitively sometimes, at least for short periods of the year, in order to keep in touch with something more basic. But I have come to be able to finally enjoy my success, and to use it as a form of self-expression.

Leonard Cohen has a line that says, “Do not dress in those rags for me, / I know you are not poor.”1 When I heard that line, I thought to myself that I had been denying, which was hypocritical. I had been denying, just as that line in that song, I had played down my wealth.

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

Also see Book Review: Joni Mitchell Talks About Growing Up, Art, Songwriting, Love – And Leonard Cohen


  1. From the lyrics of Avalanche []

The Leonard Cohen Istanbul Concert Story You Should Read – Whether Or Not You’re A Leonard Cohen Fan

Istanbul – A Tale of Two Cities: Another Way The Light Gets In

Ohad Avidan Kaynar, the Deputy Consul General for the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, has posted Istanbul – A Tale of Two Cities, an essay which references the Sept 19, 2012 Leonard Cohen Istanbul concert to offer insight into the perplexing political/personal dichotomy that is played out in many places but is especially evident in cities such as Istanbul. The opening lines are excerpted below:

Here’s a math equation I’ve been wreaking my head on solving the last few days: Twenty people shouting “Destroy Israel” in Istiklal, seeming like 70 million, are ≤ or ≥ To Ten thousand [seeming like a drop in a displaced ocean] singing “hallelujah” with Leonard Cohen in Ulker Arena?

The post, which is written in English, can be accessed at Istanbul – A Tale of Two Cities

Credit Due Department: Photo by SolMur

Originally posted Sep 22, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“After [Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Paris show], there can be no doubt that he’s no longer an exciting foreign entertainer treasured by a growing number of initiates but rather a full-blown star performer on the French scene.”

Leonard Cohen, Canada’s poet-singer of the lovable and livable, had young Paris at his feet… Overflowing the 2,000 seats of the Olympic Theatre, they squatted in the aisles and even on the stage to listen raptly to the warm-blooded, cool-hearted lyrics.

…After [Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Paris show], there can be no doubt that he’s no longer an exciting foreign entertainer treasured by a growing number of initiates but rather a full-blown star performer on the French scene.

Excerpted from Leonard Cohen Scores In Paris by Tim Creery. Montreal Gazette: May 14, 1970. Photo by Patrick Younes.

More excerpts from this article can be found at

“I love to see you naked” Leonard Cohen On Nakedness


Leonard Cohen owns the phrase ‘naked body,’ for example; it appears in every one of his songs.1

Joni Mitchell

Somehow, Joni made this seem like a bad thing – go figure.

On the other hand, none of Leonard’s albums offer cover art that feature him unclad as Ms Mitchell is depicted on the inside cover of her 1972 album, For The Roses (shown atop this post). Again, go figure.

Tom Robbins, writing liner notes for the Tower of Song tribute album, addressed the Leonard Cohen’s employment of “naked” from a different perspective:

It is a voice raked by the claws of Cupid, a voice rubbed raw by the philosopher´s stone. A voice marinated in Kirschwasser, sulfur, deer musk and snow; bandaged with sackcloth from a ruined monastery; warmed by the embers left down near the river after the gypsies have gone. It is a penitent´s voice, a rabbinical voice, a crust of unleavened vocal toasts – spread with smoke and subversive wit. He has a voice like a carpet in an old hotel, like a bad itch on the hunchback of love. It is a voice meant for pronouncing the names of women – and cataloging their sometimes hazardous charms. Nobody can say the word “naked” as nakedly as Cohen. He makes us see the markings where the pantyhose have been. [underlining mine]

Back in 2011, these observations by Joni Mitchell and Tom Robbins sparked my investigation of Leonard Cohen’s thoughts on nakedness and his employment of “naked” and its equivalents in his songs, poems, art, and novels. For example, “I love to see you naked” is, of course, a phrase from Take This Longing by Leonard Cohen. But, there is much more to follow. These posts will be published forthwith (fifthwith at the latest) on Cohencentric. Stay tuned.

Note: These posts will be collected at


  1. This statement is quoted in Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell – Just One Of Those Things;” the original source is Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period by Michelle Mercer. Free Press; 1st Edition, April 7, 2009 []

“Within 30 seconds, I know that everything that has ever been said about the grace and generosity of Leonard Cohen is true.”

I’m standing outside of Cohen’s house in downtown Montreal on a sunny and crisp morning. There is little to indicate this is the longtime home of a national hero. It’s a startling insight into the proletarian nature of Canadian celebrity: No gate or security checkpoint. There’s barely a path separating the sidewalk from the front door. It is a modest old building that is comfortably integrated, like Cohen himself, into this east-end neighbourhood where he spends part of the year. I check with my crew to make sure we have arrived at the right residence. I’ve seen this place in photographs, but it looks even smaller now. And yet, as with much of Cohen’s circumstance, it very much makes sense…

Cohen has agreed to do only one broadcast interview in North America during his world tour… There have been weeks of high-level negotiations about everything from who and how many will be in the room when the cameras are rolling to the exact number of minutes that I will have with him (20, sharp). We are originally slated for Los Angeles, then Austin and then confirmed with two day’s notice to record at his home of 35 years in Montreal. That’s what Leonard wants, we’re told. I am feeling a weight of responsibility… What if we have no chemistry? Will the infamous Ladies’ Man be disappointed with a male interrogator? Will he be tired or unreceptive? Will he take umbrage at queries around mortality… 

Back in front of the house in Montreal, we knock on the door at the agreed-upon moment (also negotiated). Then, the clouds immediately lift. There is no handler or publicist to greet us. Cohen himself answers. It is clear he wants it this way. Within 30 seconds, I know that everything that has ever been said about the grace and generosity of Leonard Cohen is true. The aforementioned concerns disintegrate in the face of his largesse. He gently welcomes us into his tiny home and we end up staying there for over two hours.

Leonard Cohen: The bard on a wire by Jian Ghomeshi. Canwest News Service: April 15, 2009. Photo by Lilian Graziani.

1969: Leonard Cohen First Meets Roshi – In A Kitchen, Of Course

In 1969, [Steve Sanfield was] married in a ceremony presided over by Roshi at the Cimarron Zen Center in south central Los Angeles… Sanfield asked Cohen to be his best man. Cohen, who was now in Nashville, never replied to his request. He did, however, send Sanfield an unusual photo of himself apparently hunting; hanging from his belt were the guts of some animal. But when Sanfield walked into the Cimarron center on the day of the wedding, Cohen was there. In the kitchen before the ceremony, Cohen was helping with the dishes when a small Japanese monk came in, took some food from the refrigerator, propped up his feet and ate. He then left and in hushed tones Cohen was told that that was the Roshi. At the ceremony there was much celebration of the Ten Precepts of Zen—a decalogue that includes no killing, no misuse of sex, no lying, and no indulgence in anger—but after the fifth precept, which states no dealing in intoxication, they broke out the saki and enjoyed themselves. Cohen’s twenty-eight-year relationship with Zen was baptized on this ambiguous note, one that would define his continued involvement.

From Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel

Descriptions Of Leonard Cohen’s Voice: “That deep, slow, seductive whisper that makes him sound like Barry White for over-educated white folks”

Cohen’s still singing [in the album, The Future] — well, sort of singing — in that deep, slow, seductive whisper that makes him sound like Barry White for over-educated white folks.

Leonard Cohen: Born With The Gift Of A Golden Voice

Leonard Cohen’s distinctive voice has been described so often and so strikingly that I’ve collected these characterizations under their own tag: Leonard Cohen’s Voice

This excerpt is from Where the Past Meets the Future by Chris Dafoe. Toronto Globe & Mail: November 30, 1992. Photo by Ted McDonnell.