From Leonard Cohen: The Eloquence, The Songs Still Floating On The Air by Richard Harrington (Washington Post; Published in Gainesville Sun: Dec 25, 1988). Photo of 2009 Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv concert by baotzebao aka Valerio Fiandra.
[When] I was 13 or 14 years old, I would pretend to go to bed and I would sneak out of the house to go into town. It was nothing extraordinary. In general, I was alone. I had a few close friends, Rosengarten in particular; we went to school together. He’s still a close friend. We would drive through Montreal in the evening or along the lake. Just drive and listen to music, the jukebox. I knew what every jukebox in town played… We liked music, naturally. It wasn’t a passion. We started by listening to Flamenco, then we had enough money to buy records and guitars, and we learned folk songs. My friend Rosengarten told me I was crazy. I played and replayed the same songs hundreds of times, so well that everyone ran away [laughs]… But it seemed completely natural to me. I had bought a small plastic flute. I drove everybody crazy trying to play ‘Old Black Joe’ [laughs].
From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Thanks to Maarten Massa for access to this image.
Interviewer: Some of Jacques Brel’s early material is very close to yours?
I hadn’t heard him when I started to write songs but I think many people are indebted to him. I don’t remember any early influences. I think I stole from everybody I ever heard.
Leonard Cohen Talks by Billy Walker. Rock: January 3, 1972. Originally posted Feb 11, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
From an ABC radio program broadcast from Sydney, Australia in March 1980. Photo by Trounce – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikipedia Commons
The Leonard Cohen Reading List
This is the latest entry to the Leonard Cohen Reading List, a compilation of books commended by the Canadian singer-songwriter.
Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
The first music I remember was the liturgy in the synagogue and the Russian songs of my mother, who had grown up in Lithuania. After the war, I mostly listened to popular music: country, blues, the tunes from the jukebox in the French cafés in Montreal. The fact that French was the dominant language in Montreal made me aware that I belonged to a minority. Thus, I have come to appreciate the peculiarity and the beauty of my own language, English.
From ‘Gesprek met Leonard Cohen, de boeteprediker van de popmuziek; Het Oude Testament is mijn handboek’ [Talk with Leonard Cohen, the philosopher of pop music; the Old Testament is my guide] by Pieter Steinz, NRC: December 4, 1992. Photo “Leonard Cohen, 1988 01” by Gorupdebesanez – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Credit Due Department: Contributed & translated by Anja Deelen
If I have my way, the songs on my next album will all be western. That’s the music I grew up with. It’s western-middle Eastern, really. A maid in our house turned me on to western music. Stella, she used to yodel.
Poet Writer Singer Lover Cohen by Paul Grescoe (Canadian Magazine: February 10, 1968). Photo from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, ASC01709.
People have this idea I was a poet who decided to be a songwriter when, actually, it was the other way around. I came to poetry through music. Music was my first job when I was 16 – playing rhythm guitar in a country band. In university, I remember going to the Harvard record library, and I listened to all the folk music records they had over the course of a month. It was because I was so impressed by the beauty of these words written by these anonymous singers that I became interested in poetry, or what was called poetry then. I know Russian music, because my mother sang Russian songs around the house. I know country. and I know Greek music, because I lived there for several years. So I feel comfortable with all those styles. I’d be reluctant to write in an idiom that wasn’t native to me: I wouldn’t want to sing the blues because I’m not black and it’s not my music. I sympathize with black songwriters who have watched while white singers take often identical arrangements of songs and be successful with them.
From I Have To Think About Every Word I Write… by Liam Lacey. Globe and Mail: April 27, 1985.