“That’s why I say free will is overrated.” Leonard Cohen

At one point, in an exchange about his artistic life, he admits that he “drifted into things. I suppose there has been an undercurrent of deliberation, but I don’t really navigate it.” According to legend, it wasn’t until he encountered folk singer Judy Collins, in 1966, that he decided to perform publicly songs he had played for friends. The following year, she introduced some Cohen songs on her album, including his big hit “Suzanne.” In 1968 he released his first album.

Cohen didn’t seek out a musical career as much as it seems to have found him. Which is what is happening now with his drawings. He appears to have fallen into a whole new career.

He takes in this observation, looks out the window for a moment, and then brings his attention back into the room.

“That’s why I say free will is overrated,” he drawls in his smoky voice.

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007).

More Leonard Cohen quotations on free will can be found at

Leonard Cohen: “I remember a little [5 year old] girl running… out into the campus. I thought, What a beautiful child.” Rebecca De Mornay: “How do you know that child was me?” Leonard Cohen: “You have the same light as that child.”

Here’s the setup: In 1993, Leonard Cohen, the singer-songwriter and poet who was perhaps the world’s greatest interviewee, switched roles to interview Rebecca De Mornay, the gorgeous movie actress who was, for a time, Mr. Cohen’s fiancée. The following excerpt is from From Knowing Rebecca de Mornay Like Only Leonard Cohen Can by Leonard Cohen with William Claxton. Interview magazine. June 1, 1993:

Leonard Cohen: What are your recollections of Summerhill, your school in England?

Rebecca De Mornay: Summerhill, founded by A.S. Neill, was the beginning of many of the experimental schools in the West. You visited a friend’s son there, who was there exactly the same year as I was. You have a recollection that you saw me when I was five.

Leonard Cohen: That’s right.

Rebecca De Mornay: Do you really remember that?

Leonard Cohen: Yes, I do.

Rebecca De Mornay: You promise?

Leonard Cohen: There’s no reason that I would want to deceive you. I remember looking through a doorway and seeing a woman, half-clad, sweeping the floor…

Rebecca De Mornay: That was Sheila, our housemistress. It was the ’60s. She had very large, tan breasts.

Leonard Cohen: …and I remember a little girl running from behind her skirt, out into the campus. I thought, What a beautiful child.

Rebecca De Mornay: How do you know that child was me?

Leonard Cohen: You have the same light as that child. One doesn’t see this light so often. Now, it may have been another child there, but I think it’s highly unlikely. I think it was you.

“A monastery is rehab for people who have been traumatized, hurt, destroyed, maimed by daily life that they simply couldn’t master.” Leonard Cohen

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[The other monks are] not saints, and you aren’t either. A monastery is rehab for people who have been traumatized, hurt, destroyed, maimed by daily life that they simply couldn’t master. I had been studying with Roshi for thirty or forty years, but when I actually decided to live with him and really commit myself to the daily life—I always did that for several months of every year—but when I decided to do it full-time, I had just come off a tour in 1993, and yes, I felt dislocated. I had been drinking tremendous amounts on the road and my health was shot.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007).

“I never mind a sleeping audience. If they’re not sleepy when I get there I sure make sure they are when I leave.” Leonard Cohen

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Don’t an audience have to be wide awake and attentive to take in your material?

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When you’re sleepy also your enemy is sleepy, your internal enemy. So that when that enemy is generally on guard it’s so alert that he stops you from hearing most things, so when he’s sleepy a lot of things get past him so I never mind a sleeping audience. If they’re not sleepy when I get there I sure make sure they are when I leave.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Also See: “There’s something happens to the audience when they’re drinking.” Leonard Cohen

From The Sounds Interview 1971 by Billy Walker. Sounds: October 23, 1971. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo by Guido Harari. Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I now write songs that people can understand.” Leonard Cohen Compares Various Positions (1984) To Recent Songs (1979)

Various Positions became a new turning point for Leonard Cohen. Suddenly he jumped straight from the cult status to the super-status, and in the transition he brought a fan base without age limit… In Bergen yesterday he was stopped on the street by teenage girls who wanted his autograph…

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I think it’s great fun! I take it as a sign that I now write songs that people can understand. Recent Songs (1979) was a difficult LP full of symbolism and oriental music. People did not understand anything, and it had a direct result on the album sales. I did not go to the studio again in five years. I was losing my footing – and I admit it willingly.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Bård Oses intervju med Leonard Cohen by Linn Gjerstad [via Google Translate] (BA: March 26, 2012). From May 4, 1988 interview.

“There is no point in trying to forestall the apocalypse. The bomb has already gone off. We are now living in the midst of its aftermath. The question is: How can we live with this knowledge with grace and kindness?” Leonard Cohen

From Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents by Mikal Gilmore. Simon and Schuster, Nov 11, 2008. The interview with Cohen from which this quotation is drawn took place in 1988. Originally posted Aug 7, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

“I like a [concert venue] that serves liquor… There’s something happens to the audience when they’re drinking.” Leonard Cohen

Leonard’s show was a soft-focus reflection of his somber side. Even his song introductions were sweet prose: “This examines betrayal from a point of view,” and “This is a dialog between you and your perfect lover…a song of unrelenting pessimism.” His tender-cold lament for the late Janis Joplin included her rejection of his advances: “I knew you well in the Chelsea Hotel…You told me again/You prefer handsome men/But for me you’d make an exception.” Cohen’s mastery of the facetious rhyme was woven throughout his melancholy. It was his recurring effort to “kinda wash the place out, change the air.” He mused, “I like a place that serves liquor. Uh, you know, there’s something happens to the audience when they’re drinking.”

Also See: “I never mind a sleeping audience” Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Lately – A Leonard Cohen interview-article by Bill Conrad. Posted May 7, 2012 at No Depression. Note: Although not published until 2012, the article is based on an interview that took place in autumn 1976.

“God, whenever I see her ass, I forget every pain that’s gone between us” Leonard Cohen On Suzanne Elrod After Their Breakup

From Leonard Cohen Says That to All the Girls by Barbara Amiel. Maclean’s: Sept 18, 1978. Now available at From the archives: Leonard Cohen and the Casanova paradox. Originally posted Jan 31, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric