From Melancholy Baby by John Walsh. The Independent Magazine: May 8, 1993. Originally posted Jan 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Interviewer: My father and I are both deeply involved in music, and I got so much of my love for it, and I suppose gift for it, from him. That created discord as well as harmony, though the former has long departed. Working with your son, did any tensions surface? And if so, how easily were they resolved? I imagine it must have been an intense – and intensely joyous – experience. But these things are rarely straightforward.
You live much more intensely than I. In my family we all enjoy the normal superficial relationships
From the Dan Cairns – Sunday Times Culture questionnaire Leonard Cohen sent me Oct 17, 2016. 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), but this specific response was not used.
Photo from Adam Cohen Facebook Page
In the Soviet Union, there’s the KGB; in our country there’s the RCMP; in the USA, there’s the FBI. But above all these agencies there’s a superagency called the “Jazz Police.”They govern everything; they rule everything; they are behind every plot and every resolution. This is my homage to them.
Toronto: Nov 9, 19881
This next song [Jazz Police] is a very curious song. I hope you will forgive me for indulging in some augmented fifths and diminished ninths. I know that I am only supposed to use three chords, but sometimes the devil just gets hold of me.
Portland: Oct 28, 19882
Jazz Police: The Least Loved Leonard Cohen Song?
According to another of my incredibly unscientific yet uncannily accurate surveys, Jazz Police is the Leonard Cohen Song Most Likely To Be Loathed On The I’m Your Man Album. Regardless, today’s celebration of the release of that album affords an opportunity to present this rarely heard tune.
In a thoughtful analysis of Jazz Police, Fragmented Absurdity: An Analysis Of Leonard Cohen’s Jazz Police,3 Jason Murray describes the origins of the song:
In an interview in Musician Cohen gives the story. It began during the making of the record Recent Songs when he worked with the fusion group Passenger. Often the band would sneak bits of jazz riffs into the songs, which Cohen admitted he had to watch out for. Between Cohen and the band grew an understanding that if he caught them playing jazz riffs (augmented fifths or sevenths is the example he gives) he would call them on it. Initially he was himself the jazz police! The intent was to then take the idea of a ‘jazz police’ and let it run on into some type of fruition, be it absurdity or full expression. It took 9 years (1979-1988) for the song to develop and be recorded; a testament to Cohen’s well know practice of working and reworking pieces of poetry and songs in time consuming detail
When Anjani Thomas, who herself describes Jazz Police as “kind of Manhattan Transfer-meets-Star Trek,” asked Leonard Cohen to “clarify it,” his response was that
‘Jazz Police’ is a lighthearted look in the post-modernist style, on judgment of any kind in all art forms. I recall it felt surreal while I was writing it–the choruses were trying to wiggle away from being crushed by the boot of judgment.
As Anjani concludes, “I sure hope that clears it up for all you fans out there.”4
Leonard Cohen – Jazz Police
Austin City Limits: 1988
Originally posted February 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
The Old Ideas album was released Jan 31, 2012, more than seven years after Leonard Cohen’s previous studio album. It was enthusiastically received by critics (see Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Hits “Best Album Of 2012” Lists) and by music lovers, whose purchases made Old Ideas #1 on the charts across the world (see Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Hits The Charts – And Why That Matters (Maybe))
Old Ideas Billboard – Times Square NYC
Leonard Cohen – Show Me The Place
The first Old Ideas track pre-released was Show Me The Place.
Titular quote is from The Wisdom Of Leonard Cohen by Kevin Perry. GQ: Jan 19, 2012. Billboard photo by Kezban Özcan. Originally posted Aug 7, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Is “Lord Byron Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” An Oxymoron?
The consensus sentiment arising from the kerfuffle over Leonard Cohen winning the Grammy for You Want It Darker in the Best Rock Performance category is something along the lines of “Leonard Cohen was a great musician, but he wasn’t a rock musician.”1 As we shall see, this is not a issue that arose with the 2018 Grammys.
First, one should note that it’s not unusual for journalists, committees conferring honors, and ranking systems to include Leonard Cohen under the heading of Rock. Consider these example culled from Cohencentric:
- Leonard Cohen Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame – 2008
- Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah Hits Billboard Hot 100 & Hot Rock Songs Charts For First Time
- Salon On Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker: “One of the rock genre’s greatest-ever meditations on love & loss, and a reminder of how much eloquent, heartbreaking work he’s given us”
- “Get a load of Leonard Cohen, the world’s most improbable (and perhaps final) rock star”2
As always, however, Leonard’s own thoughts on the subject are the most elegant and insightful (if not always perfectly congruent).
What’s your relationship to rock music?
I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with rock. Personally, I’ve lived that life more than any other, so my friends are in it. I’m probably more of a classical musician, but rock ‘n roll has been my cultural avenue.3
I have never belonged to rock’n’roll, but I enjoyed its hospitality. I grew up with folk music and blues. I always hoped that one day I would be able to accomplish the feat of the simplicity of great songs like Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino. I was very moved at that. This is the great modern writing. I started to play guitar to it.4
- Interestingly, none of the articles and comments criticizing You Want It Darker being labeled a rock performance have suggested a more appropriate Grammy category. [↩]
- Leonard Cohen: the world’s last rock star?, Brad Wheeler’s review of The Holy or the Broken – Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah,” by Alan Light (The Globe And Mail: Dec 5, 2012) [↩]
- From Rebirth Of A Ladies’ Man by Steven Blush. Seconds No 22: June/July 1993. [↩]
- From Leonard Cohen et la mesure du temps [via Google Translate] by Jean-François Nadeau. Le Devoir: June 21, 2008. [↩]
What structured your life at Mount Baldy? Did you read or write poetry?
There was very little reading. I did have time to scratch away, to scribble away now and then. But at a place like that mostly one has responsibilities and duties… It is a converted boy scout camp. It’s on a mountain 6500 feet up, so you take care of yourself, shovel snow in winter. There is cooking for the monks, there is painting, repairing, plumbing, carpentry, candle making, sweeping, cleaning. To keep the place going involves everyone’s efforts, and everyone has an assigned duty. I ended up as Roshi’s cook and personal attendant, cooking three meals a day and looking after him.
Excerpted from Gerrit Terstiege’s interview with Leonard Cohen (July 2001). Photo by LinSu Hill from Whittier, California – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia Commons