Leonard Cohen On Aging & Creativity

The idea that your creative impetus is over by 30, that you immolate yourself on this pyre of energy and sexuality and can then go back to cleaning up and doing the dishes…it just ain’t so. The fire continues to burn fiercely as you get older. It’s passionate.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Growing Old Passionately by Alan Jackson (Observer, November 22, 1992).

DrHGuy Note: At the time of the interview, Leonard Cohen was 58.

Note: Originally posted November 9, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Lays Out His Mission In 1974: “To Become An Elder”


Leonard Cohen performing in concert: 1974 & 2013

I love to hear an old guy laying out his situation.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

A recurrent theme in Leonard Cohen’s discussions of his preferred singing style has been the notion that his performances fall into the category of the story-teller:

There is a whole tradition of music where you just want to hear the man telling a story as authentically as you can. That is why there is a place for singers like me.1

In addition, however, he has long admired singers whose songs are invested with age and experience:

Have you heard George Jones’ last record, Cold Hard Truth? I love to hear an old guy laying out his situation.2 He has the best voice in America.3 [emphasis mine]

Leonard Cohen’s Lifetime Mission Articulated At 40


Janis Ian & Judy Collins drop in on Leonard Cohen after his Dec 1, 1974 show at the Bottom Line

While Cohen has made similar statements on several occasions, a quotation from an interview after his Dec 1, 1974 show at the Bottom Line offers the most poignant and articulate expression of Leonard Cohen’s goal as a singer:

If one’s health holds out, then doing this [giving concerts] forever would be marvelous. To really bring the information of the older ages – you don’t hear that on the concert stage. Maybe we’ll be able to hear John Lennon in 40 years on his experience of maturity. That’s what I’d like to hear and that’s what I’d like to be. Every man should try to become an elder.4

And, this goal of becoming an elder “laying out his situation” – his experience of maturity – is precisely what Leonard Cohen has accomplished.

Damn impressive, Leonard.

Update: This 1974 interview was not the first time Leonard touched on this concept. See “I see a time when Elders will be honored…” Leonard Cohen, 1968

Credit Due Department: Photo of Leonard Cohen in 1974 taken by Pete Purnell at the Oct 2, 1974 Leonard Cohen Jaap Edenhal, Amsterdam show. Photo of Leonard Cohen in 2013 taken at the June 18, 2013 Leonard Cohen Bercy, Paris show by Ted McDonnel. Bottom Line photo by Peter Cunningham.

Note: Originally posted Dec 20, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. The Profits Of Doom by Steve Turner. Q Magazine: April 1988 []
  2. George Jones was born September 12, 1931, making him only 3 years older than Leonard Cohen, who was born September 21, 1934. It was because Jones began his professional career at 16 and was singing on Texas stations in the 1940s that his songs could possibly have been available on radio while Cohen was still an adolescent. I haven’t been able to track down when Jones began singing at WWVA, but, according to allmusic, the first George Jones recording (a single called “No Money in This Deal”) was released in early 1954, just after Jones returned from a stint in the Marines, on a local Texas label where it received no attention. At that time, Leonard Cohen would have been 19 years old. []
  3. Q&A: The New Leonard Cohen – by Mark Binelli. Rolling Stone. Posted Oct 19, 2001. []
  4. Rolling Stone: Leonard Cohen by Larry Sloman, The Sunday Citizen: May 25, 1975. []

“I have a real appetite to hear work from people my age. I mean, it’s wonderful to hear from a guy talking about his first love – especially if it’s Rimbaud.” Leonard Cohen

I have a real appetite to hear work from people my age. I mean, it’s wonderful to hear from a guy talking about his first love – especially if it’s Rimbaud. If it isn’t Rimbaud, it’s not so interesting as you get older.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


No Mercy – Leonard Cohen’s Tales from the Dark Side by Anthony DeCurtis. Rolling Stone: January 21, 1993. Photo: Arthur Rimbaud by Étienne Carjat (1872). Originally posted Jan 5, 2015 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On Achieving Emotional Buoyancy (Albeit Transiently)

Now that I’m in advanced middle-age* I’ve discovered a certain buoyancy. Life weighs heavily upon one’s shoulders, but then you find that, with a certain kind of shrug, it will just lift off for a moment or two.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

*At the time of this interview, Leonard Cohen was 58 years old

Growing Old Passionately by Alan Jackson (Observer, November 22, 1992). Photo by Dominique Issermann: Library and Archives Canada. Originally posted August 27, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On Relationships #10: Advice On Relationships Later In Life

Believe me, what you want [from a relationship later in life] is someone to have dinner with,  sleep with from time to time, telephone every day or write. It’s what you set up that is defeating. Make it very modest. And give yourself permission to make a few mistakes. You know, blow it a bit. Have a few drinks and fall into bed with somebody. It doesn’t have to be the final thing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Life Of A Ladies’ Man by Sarah Hampson. Globe and Mail: May 25, 2007.

More Leonard Cohen quotations about relationships can be found at  Leonard Cohen on Relationships

“I would love to hear me [singing] at 82” Leonard Cohen

qtvIn the March 2009 QTV interview, the interviewer recalls Leonard Cohen’s story about going to see 82 year old Alberta Hunter singing love songs in New York (c 1978). Cohen responds with praise for Hunter and then observes

I would love to hear me at 82

Mr Cohen will turn 82 on Sept 21, 2016.

Leonard Cohen on QTV
The video should automatically begin at the pertinent point in the interview

The interviewer’s reference is to the following excerpt from Look Who’s Back at 67: Gentle Leonard Cohen by Frank DiGiacomo. New York Observer: Oct 15, 2001.

When Alberta Hunter was singing in this town many years ago-she was 82-I came to New York just to listen to her. When she said ‘God bless you’ at the end of the set, you really felt that you had been blessed. It’s wonderful to hear a 20-year-old speaking about love or the loss of it or the finding of it. As the Talmud says, there’s good wine in every generation. But I love to hear an old singer lay it out. And I’d like to be one of them.

Credit Due Department: Thanks go to Annie from Scotland, who pointed out the Alberta Hunter reference.