From Have You Heard The One About Lenny In The Sandwich Bar? by Andrew Tyler. Disc: September 2, 1972. Photo by Lars Sandblom. Originally posted Oct 15, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
You were very involved in the pop culture of the sixties. How do you feel about the present pop culture that has been generated or engendered by punk rock and approaches like that?
Leonard Cohen: I feel there’s been a general vulgarization of society — which I can’t get too upset about one way or the other.
You’ve probably been accused of it yourself at one point or another.
Leonard Cohen: Oh, I’ve been accused of selling out ever since I played a guitar chord in public.
I guess by “vulgar” I was referring to responses you received to Beautiful Losers in particular. The sacred and the profane…
Leonard Cohen: That elegant book?
That’s going back a ways, I realize.
Leonard Cohen: It’s still around. I guess “vulgar” is the wrong… Things seem rather dull. I think we might hope for vulgarity. It seems rather dull and repetitive. But maybe that’s just the observations of middle age.
From Encountering Cohen: A Reminiscence on the Eve of a New World Tour by Steve Venright. Mondo, Aug 15, 2008. Original interview, A Conversation With Leonard Cohen, took place May 1983. Photo taken November 1980 by Alberto Manzano. Note: Originally posted July 29, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
It’s due to the process of cultural advertising which has the same effect as commercial advertising. Certain words [in this case, ‘poet’] become devalued and, not only that, but many people rush to embrace the description and I just don’t like the company.
From Harry Rasky’s The Song Of Leonard Cohen, filmed in 1979. Originally posted May 21, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
I went [to Columbia University] with the idea of doing something because I had this continual sense of unemployment. I was maybe twenty-one or twenty-two at the time. I thought I’d better start taking things seriously, you know, you’re twenty-two and you’re not doing anything, what are you going to do in this world? And so in some corner of my mind I thought, well, post graduate studies in English. But I couldn’t make that for more than two or three weeks. I mean, I always had this sense of unemployment; I think that’s what our disease is. That somehow some of the most imaginative people in our society are unemployed. That’s bad. Now, I mean, unemployed both in the strict sense and in some more symbolic sense. We just are not working at our full capacity. And some people feel, you know, we have to tear the whole thing down and begin it again, that, in a sense is a kind of employment. I think that idea is very inviting to unemployed people; it really is a job. Revolution will employ a lot of people. It won’t employ me, unfortunately. I would love to be employed by it. I think that as one of the alternatives open to young men and women today, revolution is an excellent job. And an excellent discipline, excellent training. But it’s not for me. I’ve gone into it in some ways. I even went down to fight in Cuba. I think I explored it to my own satisfaction. I know that unless I can get straight with myself no enterprise is going to be very meaningful. I think a lot of people are going to discover that too. A very good friend of mine who wanted to be a writer and who found that he had made a mistake and he didn’t really want to be a writer, is a gardener now and very happy. I think a lot of people who simply couldn’t make it in the society as we see it now, turned to art first. And it’s still happening in this present generation. A lot of people who look at the world as they see it and look at the jobs that are offered them, simply can’t imagine themselves doing any of those things and because there aren’t many alternatives, they turn to art. They see in art the freedom and the kind of life they would like to lead, that organized society doesn’t present. But there are very few people who really have the aptitude for art. A lot of people would be a lot happier as gardeners and carpenters and cabinet makers, and I think I might be one of them. It’s certainly on my list of the things that I’m going to try. I feel a lot closer to that now, than I ever did. I hardly pay attention to what we call art. I don’t read poetry and I don’t think of myself as an artist. I’m looking around for a job. I thought it might be as a singer.
An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969. Photo from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, Identifier: ASC01709.
Do you like pop culture?
Sure. When it’s good. I don’t feel separated from it. I listen to radio a good deal. I have my views as to whether the music is good and is speaking to me, but I certainly recognize that I’m part of it. I never felt ‘that’s going on and I’m not with it.’ I always felt it was mine and I always felt it was good and there’s always something good happening in that realm at all times.
From Leonard Cohen: Working for the World to Come. The interview (probably from 1982) was published in the book In Their Own Words: Interviews with fourteen Canadian writers, by Bruce Mayer and Brian O’Riordan, 1984. Found at LeonardCohenfiles. The image of Leonard Cohen in the bath with amcopy of Esquire at the ready and the transistor radio on the soap tray is a screen capture from 1965 documentary, “Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen.” Originally posted Sep 20, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Most music criticism is in the nineteenth century. It’s so far behind, say, the criticism of painting. It’s still based on nineteenth-century art – cows beside a stream and trees and ‘I know what I like.’ There’s no concession to the fact that Dylan might be a more sophisticated singer than Whitney Houston, that he’s probably the most sophisticated singer we’ve had in a generation.
Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988
Leonard Cohen-Bob Dylan Interface
A collection of posts about the interface between Leonard Cohen & Bob Dylan, including their opinions of each other, their interactions, and their occasional differences can be found at Leonard Cohen-Bob Dylan Interface
[Did Ain’t No Cure For Love start out] about the SALT Treaty?
Actually, one of the things on my mind was that I was very pissed off at Band Aid, this moment in musical history where everyone took care of ‘we gave at the office.’ It was very nice, but first of all, I hadn’t been asked by anybody to sing. [smiles] So the song started off ‘From the heart of man to the heart of God the ladder’s been removed / And there ain’t no band-aid big enough to cover up this wound.’ That idea.
“From the heart of man to the heart of God the ladder’s been removed / And there ain’t no band-aid big enough to cover up this wound” is an early version of the opening lines of Ain’t No Cure For Love. The excerpt if from Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland. Musician: July 1988.