Hear Leonard Cohen Comment On “Have I myself been commercialized?”

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Each person here at this table is a victim of the commercialization of life. I’m sure I haven’t escaped. But I can say one thing – I have been tempted by the money. I have been tempted by the glory. I don’t think there is any man that can escape those temptations. But I feel that I have not put out any songs that were designed to exploit the commercial market.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Interview, Vienna 1976

Credit Due Department: Photo by Pete Purnell.

Note: Originally posted August 29, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I have been hearing about connecting to the young for 20 or 30 years. At one point, you just say, ‘Why?’ The young people who are interested in my music always find their way to it.” Leonard Cohen

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Appealing to the young is a concern of record companies. That is the buying market they see. Still, it seems to me like a great constituency that has money and interest and spare time is simply not being addressed by the commercial world. Eventually, I figure it will creep into the minds of some commercial entities that there are some people alive, not young, who still have interests. I have been hearing about connecting to the young for twenty or thirty years. At one point, you just say, ‘Why?’ The young people who are interested in my music always find their way to it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen, Happy At Last by Mireille Silcott. Saturday Night: September 15, 2001. Photo: Copyright John Rettie – www.rocknrollphotographs.com

“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.” Leonard Cohen


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[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.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

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.

“This notion that the common people aren’t up to the complexities or sophistication of my work is completely inaccurate and elitist.” Leonard Cohen

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I’ve always suggested to them in my mild-mannered way that they might stop thinking of me as an intellectual poet, that they [Leonard Cohen’s record label] might take their lead from some of these European countries and think of me as a pop singer.  This notion that the common people aren’t up to the complexities or sophistication of my work is completely inaccurate and elitist. Everybody has more or less the same emotional life. The heart is not subject to education, certainly not of the university variety. The heart just cooks and splatters like shish kebob in everybody’s breast.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen at Home in 1992: Singer-Songwriter on Pop Success, New Love by David Browne (Rolling Stone: November 11, 2016). Photo Credit: Dominique Issermann – Library and Archives Canada.

“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?” Leonard Cohen Talks About Money’s Sinister Effect On Him – 1968


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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.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

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.

“I’ve been lucky. Nobody’s ever twisted my arm. Perhaps because nobody ever saw any great profits to be made from my work.” Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975). Originally posted December 14, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Looks At Commercial Success From Both Sides Now

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There have been moments when I’ve felt that I’ve betrayed myself [for commercial success] but I think I would have felt that from the other side too if I hadn’t reached a wide audience. I would then have felt that I should have put more effort into reaching people.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Also see Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Hits The Charts – And Why That Matters (Maybe)

From The Strange, Sad and Beautiful World of Leonard Cohen By Andrew Furnival. Petticoat: December 30, 1972. Originally posted Oct 17, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen on his songs “being recorded and entered into the commercial games”


Do you feel commercialized when a million copies of your albums are sold?

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That isn’t the problem, that feeling doesn’t happen at the time a million albums are sold, it happens afterwards, when I accept the fact that my songs are being recorded and entered into the commercial games. I feel neither guilty nor happy, but I could add that the system uses me as much as I use it, so we would have to speak in terms of collaboration. What concerns me is reaching the people, so I have to submit to the rules of the game, because this system is the only means I have to do what I have to do.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From 1974 Interview with Leonard Cohen by Jordi Sierra I Fabra. Published in Leonard Cohen by Alberto Manzano (1978). Originally posted Nov 25, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric