From Man Bleibt Ein Absoluter Anfaenger by Christoph Dallach and Marianne Wellershof. Der Spiegel: 10/1/2001 (40, 2001). Found & translated into English by Rike. Originally posted June 8, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Is financial necessity good or bad for art?
I think it levels the ground. I never had huge amounts of money when I was young. I had huge amounts of fame, and I always had the sense of labor and recompense. I always said I don’t want to work for pay, but I want to get paid for my work. Financial necessity of course arose in a very acute manner a few years ago. [His then-manager stole over $5 million from his retirement account.] I thought I had a little bread, enough to get by. I found I didn’t – for which I’m very grateful because it spurred a lot of activity.
Leonard Cohen on Longevity, Money, Poetry and Sandwiches by Gavin Edwards (Rolling Stone: Sept 19, 2014). Photo by Lorca Cohen.
[Songs Of Leonard Cohen] wasn’t rock music or lyrical protest music, It was an individual sound. It wasn’t conscious. I didn’t have and still don’t have a strategy. It just didn’t feel like a career to me. I had this naive view that I would do what I did, the world would consider it to be of a certain value and pay me accordingly. That was as far as I looked into the matter. Although, as regards psychedelia, I’d been out of touch for a bit, to tell you the truth, I’d been out in Greece, living on Hydra. At that time I could live on Hydra for $1,100 a year and live a good life. So I’d come back to Canada and make a thousand bucks doing some job or other and then go back to Hydra and write and swim and sail. I bought a house there for $1,500. I still have it. All of this sounds very idyllic but it was naive and because I’d never set up a career — what Joni Mitchell later called the ‘star-stoking machinery’ — for myself, by the time the 70’s came round and everything had gotten hard-nosed and materialistic, I got wiped out. The records stopped selling, they stopped putting some of them out in America, markets dried out and by the time the 80’s arrived, I was pretty near broke.
Note: The Joni Mitchell reference is, of course, to her lyrics from Free Man In Paris:
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song
From Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe? by Adrian Deevoy. Q Magazine: 1991. Found at LeonardCohenFiles.
Money has a way of disappearing if you don’t watch it very, very closely. That’s a certain wisdom I acquired. I wasn’t absolutely certain of this, but now I am. It’s enough to put a dent in your mood.
Leonard Cohen on March 30, 2007 edition of “Først & sist” (“First & last”), a Norwegian talk show, explaining what he had learned from the discovery that his $5 million retirement fund had been embezzled. Originally posted August 11, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
I have just turned down $15,000 worth of concerts because I didn’t want to do them. The presence of the money in the whole enterprise has been having a sinister magical effect on me. It meant doing something false to myself. It’s not that I have anything against prostituting myself. I think prostitutes are important and valuable. But what use is a prostitute if she can’t excite a man? What use am I as a musical prostitute if I can’t get across to an audience? What they’re asking me to do out there is to impersonate myself, night after night. And I’m such a bad actor I’m not really interested in the gig. I’m not a great performer. Right now I feel rather like I did when I finished my novel, as if an episode in my life has finished. At the end of the book, I knew I wouldn’t write another because I’d put everything I had into that one. I’m still writing songs, but if I find I have nothing else to say that’s new I shall probably stop.
From Leonard Cohen: Songwriter Who Got Into Folk By Accident by Karl Dallas, Melody Maker, Feb 17, 1968. Photo from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, ASC01709.
A lot had to do with poverty. I mean I was writing books (two novels and four volumes of poetry) and they were being very well received … and that sort of thing, but I found it was very difficult to pay my grocery bill. I said, like it’s really happening. I’m starving. I’ve got beautiful reviews for all my books, and you know, I’m very well thought of in the tiny circles that know me, but like … I’m really starving. So then I started bringing some songs together. And it really changed my whole scene.
Note: Originally posted Jan 4, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
What can I do? I had to go to work. I have no money left. I’m not saying it’s bad; I have enough of an understanding of the way the world works to understand that these things happen.
A ‘Devastated’ Leonard Cohen by Katherine Macklem (Maclean’s: August 17, 2005). Originally posted February 1, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric