“[Joni Mitchell’s] beauty was a very accurate manifestation of her whole being. She was not just another pretty face, although that, too, of course, at my age, occurred to me, too.” Leonard Cohen

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

“I remember being overwhelmed by the fertility and the abundance of her artistic enterprise” Leonard Cohen On Joni Mitchell’s Musical Mastery

quoteup2
She [Joni Mitchell] doesn’t read music and it really is fully developed from the god’s head. She just came out that way. When I When I saw her detune a guitar, for me, just tuning the guitar is an ordeal, worrying if I can tune the damn thing. I was so relieved when I finally had guitar techs. It was always an issue for me. To see Joni just twist those little knobs, tuning the guitar in about thirty seconds, into all different strings that nobody had ever heard, and nobody’s ever played it. That indicated to me immediately that there was something very remarkable going on. Same with the piano. I was staying with her in Laurel Canyon when her piano arrived. She sat down and played the piano. Just to hold all those tunings in her mind indicates a superior intellect. I remember being overwhelmed by the fertility and the abundance of her artistic enterprise, because it was so much more vast and rich and varied and seemingly effortless than the way I looked at things. Naturally, I was very impressed and somewhat intimidated.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017). Photo by Whoknoze – Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

“I am as constant as the Northern Star” From Leonard Cohen (& Shakespeare) To Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You

No lover gave her poetry like Leonard, and even after their affair ended, she continued to communicate with him in song; most memorably in “A Case of You.” She recalled that Cohen told her, “I am as constant as the Northern Star.” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar says this to Brutus, and it’s not far from there to “Et tu, Brute.” “I knew it was from Julius Caesar,” Cohen recalled, “but I didn’t say it with Shakespeare’s irony. I think I actually meant it in relation to her.”

“When I played ‘A Case of You’ for him, he said, ‘I’m glad I wrote that,’” Joni recalled. The song begins: Just before our love got lost you said, “I am as constant as a northern star.” And I said, “Constantly in the darkness Where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.” It was a tension that spoke to a schism in their songwriting …

Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life – it’s up for grabs, right?

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

DrHGuy Note: Included in Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things: is a discussion of songs Mitchell wrote which have been identified by some as having been inspired by her relationship with Leonard Cohen: “Rainy Night House,” “That Song About The Midway,” “The Gallery,” and “A Case Of You.”

Continue Reading →

Hear TLV1 Podcast: Malka Marom’s Great Canadian Songbook: Joni, Leonard and I

When Malka Marom, a Canadian-Israeli musician and broadcaster, walked into a destitute Toronto night club in 1966, she was swept off her feet. The music, played by Joni Mitchell, mousy-looking and still unknown, was unlike anything she had heard before. Soon thereafter, they became lifelong friends; Marom’s book Joni Mitchell in Her Own Words is a compilation of conversations they had over a 40-year period. She is now working on another book, featuring conversations with another great Canadian singer-songwriter: Leonard Cohen.

From podcast description

The April 23, 2018 podcast can be heard at Malka Marom’s Great Canadian Songbook: Joni, Leonard and I

“You Changed the Way Women Sing, and the Way Men Listen” from A Few Lines For Joni by Leonard Cohen – 2013

Joni Mitchell at the 2013 Luminato Festival

Master Poet. Master Painter. Most Subtle Technician of the Deep.
You are indeed Queen Undisputed of Mind Beauty.
Star-breasted, Disguised as a Ravishing Piece,
You Changed the Way Women Sing, and the Way Men Listen.
What an Astonishing Victory over the Unforgiving Years!

A Few Lines for Joni by Leonard Cohen
Written for the 2013 Luminato Festival, Toronto

 

Note: Back in 1967, when she and Leonard were still together, Joni changed the name of her publishing company from Gandalf (a nod to The Lord of the Rings) to Siquomb. “So,” Joni told me, “based on the Tolkien books, I invented this kingdom: Queen SIQUOMB (She Is Queen Undisputedly of Mind Beauty), HWIEFOB (He Who Is Especially Fond of Birds). They lived in Fanta on the border of Real (Ree-al).”

Both the lines by Leonard Cohen and the explanatory note are from Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017). Photo by David Leyes – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

“For me, it was [Joni Mitchell’s] physical beauty that touched me more than her music. The two are connected, but as a young man in the midst of the hormonal avalanche, she was a radiant presence.” Leonard Cohen

quoteup2
She existed as a presence for most people who met her. For me, it was her physical beauty that touched me more than her music. The two are connected, but as a young man in the midst of the hormonal avalanche, she was a radiant presence. The music was part of that, but from my perspective, it was just Athena with the heart. It was just the heart was part of the beauty. I didn’t feel competitive with Joni. I was on my own trip. I was a young man entranced by this radiant person. It was already current at that time that Joni was some kind of musical monster, that her gift somehow put her in another category from the other folksingers. There was a certain ferocity associated with her gift. She was like a storm.  She was a beautiful young woman who had a remarkable talent. She was a great painter. I love her paintings. Her self-portraits are amazing. She turned several of her paintings into beautiful tapestries. She gave them to a weaver. She’s a great spirit. She is a formidable presence. I wasn’t vulnerable to her complications. Mostly, I saw her as a desirable woman, with whom I had a lot in common because of the musical connection.
quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017). Photo  of Joni Mitchell by Matt Gibbonshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/ultomatt/3126812062/, CC BY 2.0, – Wikipedia

DrHGuy Note: I wasn’t there so I didn’t hear what was said, but have to wonder if Leonard’s allusion was not “Athena with the heart” but rather  “Athena with the harp,” which would better fit the context.

A comprehensive summary of the Leonard Cohen-Joni Mitchell relationship is available at

Was A Joni Mitchell Painting The Inspiration For Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire?

And Joni was convinced that “Bird on the Wire” was inspired by a painting she showed Cohen, an eccentric statement about not fitting in with her husband’s family. She thought Cohen would appreciate it.

quoteup2
I had this painting I did for the Mitchells. I was such a misfit in that family, and I did painting, which I showed to Leonard. In this painting, there are these sparrows sitting on a wire. It’s got a hot-pink background, and there are sparrows with peacock tails. There are all these fictitious birds. And there was one for each Mitchell, and one of them was hanging upside down. Guess who? I think that had some input on ‘Bird on the Wire.’ I showed it to Leonard. It was something I did on a Sunday about how I how I didn’t fit in. They were the first Yuppies that I met. They were pedigreed consumers. They all had the same education. They were brand-name people. A suit had to be Brooks Brothers. No, you don’t drink Canada Dry, you drink Vernors. Ice cream has to be Häagen-Dazs. Cars have to be a Chevy Corvair. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and Danish modern furniture.They were so materialistic in such an unfamiliar way to me, and I didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

Also see “If the bird can get used to the wire, I told him, you can get used to the wire.” Marianne Ihlen On Why, Of All Leonard Cohen’s Songs, She Felt Closest To Bird On The Wire

Joni Mitchell Accuses Leonard Cohen Of “Lifting Lines” From Camus; Leonard Cohen Responds

quoteup2
But, unfortunately, in the Camus, I found he [Cohen] lifted lines. ‘Walk me to the corner, our steps will always …’  That’s literally a Camus line. So I thought that’s like Bob Dylan … When I realized that Bob and Leonard were lifting lines, I was very disappointed. And then I thought that there’s this kind of a self-righteous quality about — you’re a plagiarist and I’m not. So I plagiarized from Camus in ‘Come In from the Cold’ intentionally. I forget which verse it is, but when I put the single out, I edited that verse out. I just took it out. Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life — it’s up for grabs, right? So I put something that he said in one of my songs and he got real irritable, [saying], ‘I’m glad I wrote that.’quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014

Note: “Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme” is from Leonard Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. I haven’t been able to discover (nor can anyone else apparently) the Camus line to which Joni Mitchell refers.

quoteup2
I found a lot of Lorca and Camus in his [Leonard Cohen’s] lines. And he was living the life of Camus, even down to the way he dressed, and his house in Hydra. It was disappointing to me, because as far as I could see, he was an original. I have this perverse need for originality. I don’t really care for copy, second-generation artists. I’m not a traditionalist. It’s the discoverers that excite me. Not ‘new’ like a new face, the way ‘new’ is used to sell something. They’re not new at all. They’re a new person doing the old shit. ‘Suzanne’ is a beautiful song, though.quotedown2


From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

quoteup2
I read somewhere that she [Joni Mitchell] felt I had tricked her in some way because I hadn’t told her that Camus had written a book called The Stranger and that I’d written a song called ‘The Stranger.’ The song had nothing to do with the book, nor was I the first person to call a song ‘The Stranger.’ She felt that I’d plagiarized She felt that I’d plagiarized Camus.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

Note: In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Yaffe also observes that Joni Mitchell “(wrongly) believed that ‘Walk me to the corner / Our steps will always rhyme’ was ripped off from Camus.”

Also see

Credit Due Department: Photo by Crossett Library