“Phil [Spector] had a lot of guns all over the place. You’d always be tripping over bullets that had fallen out of guns.” Leonard Cohen

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Phil [Spector] had a lot of guns all over the place. You’d always be tripping over bullets that had fallen out of guns. Once I challenged one of Phil’s bodyguards to draw on me. It got that tense. My state of mind was only slightly less demented that Spector’s at the time.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview).

A Fresh, Cogent Take On Leonard Cohen’s Currently Trending “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” Poem

If you’re weary of reading Twitter-sized appraisals of Leonard Cohen’s currently trending “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” poem (e.g., “Leonard Cohen is right,” “Leonard Cohen sucks,” “Who’s Leonard Cohen?”), take a look at  Leonard Cohen’s Kanye West Poem Wasn’t an Insult; It was a tribute by Carl Wilson (Slate: Oct 12, 2018), which offers a more comprehensive, nuanced, and coherent take on the issue. I’ve excerpted a bit below, but the entire article, available at the link, is worthwhile reading.

But that’s getting the poem exactly wrong. It’s not an insult to Kanye West (nor to Jay-Z, who’s also mentioned). It’s a tribute. Cohen isn’t around to confirm this, but remember that the poem is dated March 2015, when West’s right turn off the rails was still in the distant future. Clearly, it was inspired by several occasions when West compared himself with Picasso, including earlier that month in a speech at Oxford University. But its language is closer to the “rants” of the Yeezus tour, during which Ye (the name he now prefers) regularly issued such direct declarations as “I am Henry Ford. I am Michelangelo. I am Picasso.” Thus Cohen’s poem begins, “Kanye West is not Picasso/ I am Picasso.”

He continues, “Kanye West is not Edison/ I am Edison/ I am Tesla”—bringing up two other self-comparisons West made during that same period. (For someone who supposedly had no use for West, Cohen certainly seemed to keep up on his Ye news.) And then comes perhaps my favorite couplet in the whole poem, a response to Jay-Z calling himself “the Bob Dylan of rap music” in the 2013 track “Open Letter”: “Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything/ I am the Dylan of anything.” (By Cohen’s own account, Dylan once told him, “As far as I’m concerned, Leonard, you’re No. 1. I’m No. 0,” meaning, “that his work was beyond measure and my work was pretty good.” In other words, Cohen knew artist rivalries.)

Kanye West photo by the_mlKanye West concert, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

“I had no conscious desire to have offspring. I didn’t really want to have children. Their mother, Suzanne, wanted children, I obliged.” Leonard Cohen

Did you want to leave something behind you, a descendant?

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Oh no, not at all. I had no conscious desire to have offspring. I didn’t really want to have children. Their mother, Suzanne, wanted children, I obliged.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

Note: Although he hadn’t wanted children, they became a focus of his life: see Lessons From Leonard Cohen: Your Children Are Your First Priority.

“When I went to record the vocal for [I Can’t Forget] I found I couldn’t get the words out of my throat. I couldn’t sing the words because I wasn’t entitled to speak of the emancipation of the spirit.” Leonard Cohen

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I Can’t Forget began as a song about the exodus of the Hebrew children from Egypt, which was intended as a metaphor for the freeing of the soul from bondage. When I went to record the vocal for the track, however, I found I couldn’t get the words out of my throat. I couldn’t sing the words because I wasn’t entitled to speak of the emancipation of the spirit. I was at the point of breaking downquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Interview by Kristine McKenna (L.A. Weekly: May 6, 1988). The Leonard Cohen I Can’t Forget single depicted atop this post is from the private collection of Dominique BOILE.

More About I Can’t Forget: A comprehensive examination of this song can be found at I Can’t Forget By Leonard Cohen: A Dossier.

“The trouble that I find is that I have to finish the verse before I can discard it.” Leonard Cohen On Revising His Songs

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The only advice I have for young songwriters is that if you stick with a song long enough, it will yield. But long enough is not any fixed duration, its not a week or two, its not a month or two, its not necessarily even a year or two. If a song is to yield you might have to stay with it for years and years. ‘Hallelujah’ was at least five years. I have about 80 verses. I just took verses out of the many that established some sort of coherence. The trouble that I find is that I have to finish the verse before I can discard it. So that lengthens the process considerably. I filled two notebooks with the song, and I remember being on the floor of the Royalton Hotel, on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, ‘I can’t finish this song.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen on Hallelujah by Neil McCormick. The Telegraph: December 19th, 2008. Photo of Leonard Cohen taken at the 2008 Fredericton show by J. Gordon Anderson.

“Coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad.” Leonard Cohen On Writing

lcerite

Have you always found it easier to write about women?

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I’ve never found it easy to write. Period. I mean, I don’t want to whine about it or anything but… it’s a bitch! It’s terrible work. I’m very disciplined in that I can settle down into the work situation but coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad. Before you know it, you’re crawling across the carpet in your underwear trying to find a rhyme for ‘orange.’ It’s a terrible, cruel job. But I’m not complaining.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe? by Adrian Deevoy/ Q Magazine: 1991. Found at LeonardCohenFiles.

“My standard of living deteriorated considerably as I made money” Leonard Cohen


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My standard of living deteriorated considerably as I made money, and that was a kind of trap for me because I noticed that before I had any money I was really much better.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From The Strange, Sad and Beautiful World of Leonard Cohen By Andrew Furnival. Petticoat: December 30, 1972. Originally posted Oct 26, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Suzanne] has a real place in my so-called career, and people do want to hear it… It can stand up.” Leonard Cohen 1988


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You go in and out of affection for old material, and you’d like to be loved for things you’re doing now. But it [Suzanne] has a real place in my so-called career, and people do want to hear it… It can stand up.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen: The Eloquence, The Songs Still Floating On The Air by Richard Harrington (Washington Post; Published in Gainesville Sun: Dec 25, 1988)