Leonard Cohen writing from Hydra in 1962 to his friend Daniel Kraslavsky in Montreal. From Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen By Ira B. Nadel (Random House of Canada: 1996). Originally posted July 24, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Interviewer: Did you always dress this well? Or is it something you’ve developed?”
Leonard Cohen: “No, I always wore a suit, pretty much. I grew up before blue jeans hit. I always felt better in a jacket.”
Interviewer: “So you put on a jacket even if you’re not going out?”
Leonard Cohen: “Especially if I’m not going out.”
Evidently, wearing a jacket and tie was a matter of discipline, a poet’s version of a uniform. The jacket, which was purchased at a thrift store on Fairfax, cost $7, and most of Cohen’s suits are years, sometimes decades old. “I don’t like shopping,” he explained, showing me a threadbare Armani in his closet. Next to it was another jacket with a small gold badge on the lapel. The badge said: Canadian Border Patrol.
From Angst & Aquavit by Brendan Bernhard. LA Weekly: September 26, 2001. Photo by Michael Donald.
He was discussing a book he’d read on Auschwitz. Some scholars, he explained, wondered why the Jews didn’t rush forward and try to overpower the handful of machine gunners about to shoot them when they were being led to mass graves. According to the book he was reading, the answer was:
It’s because that’s not what they wanted to do. They wanted to reflect on their life and prepare to die. And that’s what I’m doing. Preparing to die.
On The Loss Of A Great Artist & Inspiration… by Neil Strauss (NeilStrauss.com: November 11, 2016). The quotation is from a 2008 interview. Photo by Maarten Massa.
Leonard Cohen, Lian Lunson, & “Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man” Appear At 2006 LA Film Festival
While this video of Leonard Cohen speaking before the 2006 LA Film Festival screening of “Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man” comprises only Leonard’s brief acknowledgment of his gratitude for the tribute, it merits watching as yet another demonstration of the singer-songwriter’s self-effacing graciousness and as a lesson in expressing sincere gratitude without resorting to the kind of treacle that serves as the primary constituent of, say, acceptance speeches at awards shows for performers.
Heck, it’s worth watching if only to hear Leonard Cohen’s describe his intention to retire to the green room in order to
fortify myself with a drink in order to confront the inevitable moral pneumonia that follows on a blizzard of praise.
Lian Lunson, the film’s director, describes what happened after she and Leonard slipped behind the screen at the end of his speech:
This screening was the only public screening Leonard attended. It was a windy night at the Ford amphitheater and Leonard and i sat alone behind the screen with a bottle of wine. The audience could not see us. And, because we were watching the film from behind the screen the film was reversed. It was beautiful to see it that way.
An Evening with Leonard Cohen
LA Film Festival at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre: June 24, 2006
Thanks to Lian Lunson for her charming account of this scene.
This video was originally posted May 3, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
There are forces of evil in this world that are too great. And they will push forward, no matter how many protests there are. Just like in Iraq, the war was an inevitability. Even with people protesting it all over the world, it was going to happen.
Neil Strauss: They were words that weren’t pleasant to hear: I prefer to think that all it takes is one person to create a change. He took an unhurried sip of mushroom tea, and responded with…
You become what you resist.
In ‘Everybody Knows’, Cohen sounds the death knell (in more ways then one) for the style of man – and woman – who does seek salvation through untrammelled sexual activity thus: “Everybody knows / that the naked man and woman/ just a shining artifact of the past.”
That interpretation might be pushing things too far, but certainly we do know that people will never lie down again with each other in our lifetime with the same sense of abandon that we have at this moment. The development of AIDS is the reason – but I tend to see AIDS as symptomatic of a deeper breakdown in our psychic immune system…
From Read Leonard Cohen’s exclusive interview with Hot Press from 1988 by Joe Jackson (Hot Press: 11 Nov 2016)
A curious Canadian thing has happened. The University of Saskatchewan has established a Poetry Research Centre or something and they want to buy all my manuscripts, letters, laundry lists, and so forth. So I need your help. Would you get all that shit in the cabinet in the studio and send it to me. It’s suddenly worth about a thousand dollars.
Excerpt from Leonard Cohen’s Dec 11, 1963 letter to Redmond Wallis, a writer from New Zealand, who was Cohen’s friend as well as his fellow resident on Hydra. At the time this letter was written, Leonard Cohen was living in Montreal, and Wallis was at his home on Hydra. This letter is archived at the National Library of New Zealand – Wellington.
To put the “about a thousand dollars” in perspective, three years earlier, Leonard had purchased his house in Hydra for $1500.
Photo of University of Saskatchewan Credit: The original uploader was Parihav at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.