Leonard Cohen Advises His Son, Adam: “Man, you’re going to scrap your record? That’s an amateur move… It’s not about how you feel about the record. It’s how the songs make them feel.”

I was a deep, deep admirer of [my father, Leonard Cohen’s] melodies of – at first, you know, as a child, just the melodies – the generosity of the melodies. And then as I grew older, there was the complexities and the beautiful marshaling of language. And then you grow older, and then you sort of see – I remember I myself, you know, was making a record at the time. And I’d scrapped it. And I asked my father for counsel.

I said, Dad, you know, meet me. I really got to talk to you. I got to pick your brain. And we were sitting on the corner of Wilshire and La Brea, and I confessed to him that I was going to scrap this entire record and was expecting him to put his hand on my shoulder and say, like, that’s my boy – you know, altruistic values. Don’t ever stop, continue refining. But instead, he turned to me and said, man, you’re going to scrap your record? That’s an amateur move. I said, amateur move? He says, yeah, it’s not about how you feel about the record. It’s how the songs make them feel.

And at that moment, I realized that the love I had always had for his material wasn’t just about their construction, but it was also about their intentionality. He was holding up this baton that he had been given by the love he had for the people who came before him. And he was holding it up, and something about the canon of his work that – has always maintained that baton off the ground.

Excerpt from New Collection Showcases Leonard Cohen’s ‘Obsession With Imperfection’. Terry Gross Interviews Adam Cohen (NPR: October 8, 2018)

Leonard Cohen Describes How John Hammond Signed Him To Columbia Records – 1967

LCMx3

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I was staying at the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street [in New York City]. We met in the lobby and he [John Hammond] took me down to a restaurant that no longer exists, on 23rd Street, and he bought me a very nice lunch. We didn’t really talk about anything, in particular. He seemed to be putting me at my ease, which I appreciated very much at the moment. Then, he said, ‘Let’s go back to the hotel, and maybe you’ll play me some songs.’ So, we went up to my room in the Chelsea Hotel, and it’s hard to play for somebody, just cold like that; but, if you could do it for anybody, it would be John Hammond, because he made it easy. I believe I sang him the songs that were on my very first record. I believe I sang the ‘Master Song’ and the ‘Stranger Song,’ ‘Suzanne,’ and a song that I never recorded about rivers. I don’t remember… [suddenly recalling] ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,’ I sang for him.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

The John Hammond Years: Interview with John Hammond & Leonard Cohen broadcast on BBC, Sept 20, 1986. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo Credit: York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp: ASC01709.

DrHGuy Note: At the time, John Hammond was Columbia Records’ leading artist and repertory executive, having discovered and signed Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan. Hammond would later sign Bruce Springsteen to a recording contract. He also, of course, signed Leonard to Columbia Records, which would be his record label, except for Death Of A Ladies’ Man (Warner Brothers) and Various Positions, which Columbia initially rejected and was subsequently picked up by the independent label Passport Records (the album was finally included in the catalog in 1990 when Columbia released the Cohen discography on compact disc) for the rest of his life.

Originally posted March 28, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Performing is] a drag in the sense that I’m nervous and no one knowingly goes to his own humiliation, and I always feel that’s a real possibility.” Leonard Cohen

From “Complexities And Mr. Cohen” by Billy Walker (Sounds, March 4, 1972). Found at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo by Lars Sandblom. Originally posted Dec 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

“I can hardly carry a tune but I think it’s a true voice in the sense that it’s not a lie. It presents the singer and the story he’s telling.” Leonard Cohen

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I think my sound has always been a little different to whatever else has been happening, though. Out of time or something… Let’s just say I hear a different drum. Like that poem I wrote that went, ‘When it comes to lamentations, I prefer Aretha Franklin to Leonard Cohen, let us say he hears a different drum.’ I never thought I had a voice in the sense of a singer’s voice. I can hardly carry a tune but I think it’s a true voice in the sense that it’s not a lie. It presents the singer and the story he’s telling.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview). Photo by Pete Purnell.

“We would drive through Montreal… 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.” Leonard Cohen On His Teenage Years

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[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].quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Thanks to Maarten Massa for access to this image.

“For me, singing has always been a struggle. Sharon [Robinson], who is a very skillful musician, promised me she wouldn’t write any tunes with more than four or five notes.” Leonard Cohen On Ten New Songs

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The album [Ten New Songs] I think could be described as a duet. Personally, when I listen to my songs, I’m always more comfortable when my voice is surrounded by harmonies, which to me would naturally suggest the female voice. I never had much confidence in my voice. My son [Adam Cohen] sings beautifully, he has perfect pitch, but I’ve never really been able to hit a note right. For me, singing has always been a struggle. Sharon [Robinson], who is a very skillful musician, promised me she wouldn’t write any tunes with more than four or five notes.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Songs Of Love, Not Hate by Sylvie Simmons. Yahoo! Music: Oct 8, 2001.

Q: How fearful were you of starting a second career [as a singer-songwriter in your 30s]? Leonard Cohen: “Well I’ve been generally fearful about everything, so this just fits in with the general sense of anxiety that I always experienced in my early life.”

From Leonard Cohen: The bard on a wire by Jian Ghomeshi. Canwest News Service: April 15, 2009. Originally posted August 3, 2016 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.