Leonard Cohen: From “You fucking whore, I thought you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful” To “But you don’t really care for music, do you?”


Cohen is the poet who wrote, in “The News You Really Hate,” “You fucking whore, I thought you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful” and later transformed and compressed the sentiment into the line “But you don’t really care for music, do you?” — a great dramatic gesture and a stunning hilarious rhyme (one of hundreds in Cohen’s work) to “Hallelujah,” his remarkable mid-rash on epic agonies of Samson and David.  The sacred and the profane, the holy and the broken, the personal and the universal comingle in Cohen’s poetry as he struggles, baffled, toward the light. Between the “Nameless and the Name” (“Love Itself”) nothing can be unified before it is broken, nothing created or granted “where death is forgotten, and the new thing grin” (“All My Life”).

From Robert Faggen’s foreword to Poems and Songs (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets edition) by Leonard Cohen.

The News You Really Hate

“The News You Really Hate,” from which the soundbite, “You fucking whore, I thought you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful” is taken, is a prose piece by Leonard Cohen first published in Death of a Lady’s Man, a 1978 volume of poems and also found in the 1994 volume, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs. While Robert Faggen uses the selected passage to good effect in illustrating his thesis that Cohen “eroded an artificial boundary between poetry and song,” there is the risk that  the savage, painful qualities of the original lines will be implicitly dismissed as no more than a rough prototype of that final elegant, sly, sarcastic rhetorical question, “But you don’t really care for music, do you?” One forgets that this excerpt from Faggen’s foreword to Cohen’s Poems and Songs itself employs only an excerpt from”The News You Really Hate,” which deserves to be read in its entirety:

You fucking whore, I thought that you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful. I might have gone with you under the desk and eaten a soft-boiled egg. I’m going to tell my baby brother not to do what I have done. I’m going to tune you until the string breaks. The Communists do not know how evil you really are.

We are different from you. That’s the news you really hate. That’s the news to ring the bells and start the fires while your boyfriend serves you the hairball lunch. I have been admitted through the stained-glass shadows where your stench is unwelcome. How dare you pay us any attention? I’m going to eat now. I have declared war on you forever and ever. Disguised as a hat I will rip off your eyebrows. I am going to be here in the sun for a long time. The fragrance comes up again. It does not reach you. It does not invite you to close your eyes in the storm. The trumpets cry up inside me and my king is home. I am judged again with mercy.

Originally posted Oct 21, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“If you love Leonard, you know what you’re getting; if you don’t, what, are you deaf?” Linda Thompson’s Review Of Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems

Linda Thompson Talks Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems by Linda Thompson. The Talk House: Sept 29, 2014. The full review is available at the link. Originally posted October 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I’m only a groupie for Picasso and Leonard [Cohen].” Joni Mitchell

Remark made by Joni Mitchell to another guest over dinner with Leonard Cohen in Los Angeles in 1975. From I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012.

Joni’s connection with Leonard was complicated. For a comprehensive look at the Leonard Cohen-Joni Mitchell relationship, see Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things. Originally posted September 3, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Neil McCormick Ranks Leonard Cohen’s Albums: Worst To Best

“I would say there is no such thing as a bad Leonard Cohen album (well, with one dishonourable exception, perhaps) but here are my rankings of his entire recorded output, (relatively) worst to best.”

Neil McCormick

I’ve excerpted the section on the “Old Ideas” album (ranked # 8 of 14) below as a sampling. The entire article can be read at Leonard Cohen’s albums: worst to best by Neil McCormick (The Telegraph: )

8. Old Ideas (2012)
5/5 stars

Mortality may have fascinated Cohen throughout his songwriting career but, at 77, his ruminations on age, the shedding of desire, loss of power and speculation on the final destination took on a more elegiac tone. After a long keyboard-based period, Patrick Leonard’s production reintroduced more organic, live instrumentation to support Cohen’s voice, resulting in a richly autumnal sound palette. The result was a work of powerful wisdom, a meditation on the inevitable dimming of the flame, lightened by wry, sly, sardonic humour.

Key lyric: “He will speak these words of wisdom / Like a sage, a man of vision / Though he knows he’s really nothing / But the brief elaboration of a tube” (Going Home)

Also See

Photo Credit: Ian Cook www.iancookphotography.com

Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Recommended Reading: Origins Of & Insights Into Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad Of The Absent Mare”

Lyric Of The Week: “Ballad Of The Absent Mare,” Leonard Cohen by Jim Beviglia (American Songwriter: September 2nd, 2014) is a thoughtful, insightful, clear explication of one of Leonard Cohen’s lesser known gems. I’ve included three excerpts as a sampling of the quality. The complete article can be accessed at the link.

… frequent collaborator Jennifer Warnes wrote about the song’s creation in an essay on her website: “Leonard had found some old pictures somewhere,” Warnes recalled. “They were called The Ten Bulls, old Japanese woodcuts symbolizing the stages of a monk’s life on the road to enlightenment. These carvings pictured a boy and a bull, the boy losing the bull, the bull hiding, the boy realizing that the boy was nearby all along. There is a struggle, and finally the boy rides the bull into his little village. ‘I thought this would make a great cowboy song,’ he joked.” [See Zen’s 10 Oxherding Pictures & Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”]

It’s typical of Cohen that he muddies up the metaphor just enough to make us wonder about the object of the cowboy’s quest. After all, those who don’t know the allusion to the bulls might easily interpret the song as an endless cycle of recrimination and reunion that typifies a tumultuous romantic relationship. No one has ever mixed the spiritual and sexual as deftly as Cohen, and “Ballad Of The Absent Mare” is just another brilliant manifestation of this ability.

… Cohen then knocks down the fourth wall and reveals that this entire story has taken place within his head as he and his wife witness “That old silhouette/On the great western sky.” In that moment, he unites his old ideas of romance and transcendence and hints at the difficulty of lassoing either one. “Ballad Of The Absent Mare” is, as Leonard hoped it would be, a great cowboy song, one as vast and elusive as the horizon itself.

Originally posted September 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[At the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival] they were booing everybody except Leonard Cohen” Kris Kristofferson

Tension had been rising at the festival for days. The promoters had expected a hundred and fifty thousand people but half a million more turned up, many with no intention of paying. Even after the promoters were forced to declare it a free festival, ill will remained. During a set by Kris Kristofferson, bottles were thrown and he was booed offstage. “They were booing everybody,” says Kristofferson. “Except Leonard Cohen.”

From I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. Promotional photo contributed by Dominique BOILE. Originally posted Sept 29, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

How The Internet Impacted Leonard Cohen’s 2008 Renaissance

There’s the newsgroup. There’s a kind of family that is gathered around my work; it’s not fixed in my work but merely uses it as a reference to their own lives and to their own very amusing and touching flirtations, communications, confessions, exchanges.1

Leonard Cohen 1998


In 2014, Harvey Kubernik, who was then working on his book, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, asked for my thoughts on the causes of Leonard’s 2008-2013 renaissance. Part of my response had to do with the internet’s effect on the music industry. Since then,I’ve become even more convinced that the notion that Leonard’s rise in popularity beginning in 2008 owes much to the internet is valid, and, because one of the prized prerogatives peculiar to a lame duck blogger (see Cohencentric: Leonard Cohen Considered – The Farewell Tour) is feckless pontification, I’m publishing an enhanced and updated version of my original note to Harvey.

Leonard Cohen & The Internet

Leonard Cohen’s last tour before the 2008-2013 concerts took place in 1993, the same year Marc Andreessen developed Mosaic (later renamed Netscape), the first browser that was simple to install on a a number of office and home computers and could be operated by non-technical users, a breakthrough that enabled sparked an explosion in the popularity of the Web and led to a recognizable early version of the internet today,

Before 1993, the only organized effort to employ the internet on behalf of Leonard Cohen fans was the Leonard Cohen Mailing List, launched Nov 8, 1990 by Susan Cole.2 The most widespread source of ongoing communication among Cohen aficionados was The Leonard Cohen Information Service Newsletter, which, mimeographed on A5 paper, was mailed to its 200 subscribers from Dec 16, 1984 until Dec 1994.

nl1-1nl1-2For the most part, however, prior to 1993, Leonard Cohen concert schedules were announced by posters and periodicals. Articles about Leonard and his shows could be found – with luck – in music journals and, occasionally, in newspapers and general interest magazines. Audio and video recordings of his performances were heard or viewed only by those who serendipitously caught them on TV (e.g. the 1988 and 1993 appearances on Austin City Limits) or by those with access to bootlegs.

In September 1994, Perry Metzger set up alt.music.leonard-cohen, a Usenet3 discussion group.4 alt.music.leonard-cohen is preserved today in Google Groups, and one can also access The Unofficial Alt.Music.Leonard-Cohen FAQ. More detail can be found at The History Of Them All: The Fans On- Line by Geoffrey Wren (LeonardCohenFiles: July 2001).

LeonardCohenFiles.com, the longest continuously operating private Cohen-dedicated website, went online in 1995.5

LeonardCohenFiles as it appeared in 1997

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  1. Leonard Cohen by Susan Nunziata. (Billboard Tribute to Leonard Cohen: November 28, 1998). []
  2. The History Of Them All: The Fans On- Line by Geoffrey Wren (LeonardCohenFiles: July 2001) []
  3. Usenet resembles a bulletin board system (BBS) in many respects and is the precursor to Internet forums that are widely used today. Discussions are threaded, as with web forums and BBSs, though posts are stored on the server sequentially. Source: Wikipedia []
  4. The History Of Them All: The Fans On- Line by Geoffrey Wren (LeonardCohenFiles: July 2001) []
  5. There were a few earlier Leonard Cohen sites in that era, most notably that administered by Carter Page at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Engineering, which was eventually republished on Speaking Cohen, but only LeonardCohenFiles has survived. []