Leonard Cohen Differentiates Songwriting And Torture

Question: In song-writing, the idea of longing, of being in search of an answer, of questing for some unquestionable truth, is often, I think, seen as signifying a state of frustration and unhappiness, and even delusion – which maddens me. The potter and the sculptor shape, hone, rework – and these habits and routines are rarely likened to serving a sentence, or being forced endlessly to stare into the same abyss. Rather, the pursuit seems noble, stoical, and capable of producing a state of serenity. Do you accept that the song-writer is, of all artists, the most likely to be labelled ‘Tortured’?

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As I write this, there are human beings being tortured. Let us not trivialize the unspeakable horror by adding songwriting to the category.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From the Dan Cairns – Sunday Times Culture questionnaire Leonard Cohen sent me Oct 17, 2016. While portions of that questionnaire were incorporated into Leonard Cohen: Hey, that’s some way to say goodbye by Dan Cairns (The Sunday Times: October 23 2016); this specific response was not used in the final article.

Leonard Cohen Lists Possible Responses To “For You’ve Touched Her Perfect Body With Your Mind:” “You say ‘Yeah, that’s the way it is,’ or you puke.”

Perhaps your most famous line is, “For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind” from “Suzanne.” Is it special to you?

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People have quoted that a lot. It’s one of those lines where you either say, ‘Yeah, that’s the way it is,’ or you puke.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).

“Is sex the most sacred? I dunno. I forget.” Leonard Cohen


What are the sacred things? Sex most of all? Love. Intimacy. The Eyes. The Intensity. The secret? The first kiss. Anything else?

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Well, in all these things, you stand the risk of being rejected. I think that’s mostly what constitutes danger for people, the sense that it’s not going to work. Outside of famine, war, torture, sickness and death, that’s probably the thing on a daily level that we worry about the most. Is sex the most sacred? I dunno. I forget. [laughs]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).

“I did learn how to read music in a half-assed way” Leonard Cohen On His Early Musical Training

Gerrit Terstiege: I wondered if you made music before joining the Buckskin Boys. Let’s talk a little about music in your youth.

Leonard Cohen: I had piano lessons. Like everybody else in my world, I was forced to take piano lessons. That wasn’t very successful, but I did learn how to read music in a half-assed way. In the school band I played clarinet. Then, I got a harmonica, and I bought a guitar at a second hand store in Montreal.

Gerrit Terstiege: How old were you roughly?

Leonard Cohen: I think I bought my first guitar when I was about fifteen.

Gerrit Terstiege: And people didn’t play guitar at that time?

Leonard Cohen: In my little world there weren’t too many guitar players. Most of the guitar players were socialists who were singing protest songs or folk songs or songs by Woody Guthrie. Most of the people I bumped into in the early days of guitar were leftist thinking people who were interested in the people’s music.

Gerrit Terstiege: Did you write your own music or were you mostly singing Woody Guthrie songs?

Leonard Cohen: Sure I was learning the songs of Woody Guthrie and old songs written by anonymous geniuses, Scottish border ballads, songs on the Appalachian mountains, Canadian folk songs.

Excerpted from Gerrit Terstiege’s interview with Leonard Cohen (July 2001). Buckskin Boys photo published in Songs of Leonard Cohen, Herewith: Music, Words and Photographs, Amsco Music Publishing, New York, 1969.

“[KD Lang] sings without any obstacles between her and the listener, and because of that she sings for all of us.” Leonard Cohen, 2013 Juno Awards

Embed from Getty Images

Video: Anne Murray Presents Juno To KD Lang

The video automatically begins with Leonard Cohen’s statement praising k.d. lang.

Note: The photo of k.d. lang and Leonard Cohen was taken by George Pimentel at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 2006 Inductees Welcome Dinner.

Note: Originally posted April 22, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Songwriting] comes down to nudging the guy next to you and saying, ‘That’s the way, isn’t it?’” Leonard Cohen

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How did I ever get into this racket? I dunno! What am I exactly doing in it? I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue. I think it just comes down to nudging the guy next to you and saying, ‘That’s the way, isn’t it?’ They can either agree or not agree. One is continually trying to affirm something with the man in the next seat. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

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From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview).  Photo “Leonard Cohen, 1988 01” by GorupdebesanezOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons. Originally posted Feb 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric