Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. The Gallery is one of four songs held by some to be inspired by Joni Mitchell’s experiences with Leonard Cohen.
Mitchell directly confirmed that “Leonard is an influence on that song [The Gallery]” in Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom (ECW Press: Sept 9, 2014). Joni Mitchell and Malka Marom discussed Leonard Cohen’s role in this song:
J: Some of them [Cohen’s lyrics] are very unflattering portraits. They scared me. He could be so harsh on women.
M: Harsh in what way?
J: In the songs. “Your thighs are a ruin, you want too much / let’s say you came back some time too soon” [from Master Song by Leonard Cohen] That’s harsh. I countered it with thinking of the pleasure I’m gonna have watching your hairline recede, which is a similar line. I think both of those things are mean. But Leonard gets funny. When you take him seriously, eventually, you start to …
M: Yes, he’s got this ironic twist in him that I like.
The sentiment behind these words from The Gallery seems clear:
When I first saw your gallery
I liked the ones of ladies
Then you began to hang up me
You studied to portray me
In ice and greens
And old blue jeans
And naked in the roses
Then you got into funny scenes
That all your work disclose
Lady, please love me now, I am dead
I am a saint, turn down your bed
I have no heart, that’s what you said
You said, I can be cruel
But let me be gentle with you
Joni Mitchell – The Gallery