“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.

“Browbeating an audience, subjecting people to all this intensity [in a show]. I sometimes feel guilty about it, but you’ve got to make a living.” Leonard Cohen On Performing – 1976

Leonard Cohen bowed from the waist—romantic theatrics—and opened his show with “Bird On A Wire,” one of his many dark masterpieces. He told the audience he liked playing clubs because “people can talk to you, praise you, put you down.” The stage became his farthest distance from his island retreat. It’s where “Every night is a problem, a challenge, a test just to get through without humiliating yourself.” Cohen loved enduring, “browbeating an audience, subjecting people to all this intensity. I sometimes feel guilty about it, but you’ve got to make a living.”

From Leonard Lately – A Leonard Cohen interview-article by Bill Conrad.  Posted May 7, 2012 at No Depression. Note: Although not published until 2012, the article is based on an interview that took place in autumn 1976.

Originally posted Apr 3, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“They had cassettes of my songs and Xeroxes of my books. Tickets were scalped for a month’s wages.” Leonard Cohen On Poland’s Response To Him In 1985

Poznan
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I was totally unprepared for the response in Poland [in 1985]. They had cassettes of my songs and Xeroxes of my books. Tickets were scalped for a month’s wages. It was almost embarrassing. ‘The Partisan’ became a kind of anthem in the detention camps after Solidarity was outlawed and there was a large roundup of people. Lech Walesa sent me greetings when I entered. I had the Pope’s bodyguard.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Work Finds A Place by Mary Campbell (AP – Kentucky New Era: June 29, 1985). Poster for the March 19, 1985 Leonard Cohen concert at Arena Poznan’ in Poznan, Poland (inscription: The Legendary Bard Of The Protest Song, The Great Poet And The Composer)  contributed by jeremek, who originally posted it at LeonardCohenForum. Originally posted Sep 18, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On The Significance Of His Spanish Guitar & Federico García Lorca

Cohen spoke two really beautiful phrases in his recital. First, he said that his guitar had come home. And at the end of the recital, he dedicated his first concert in Spain to Federico García Lorca.1 The guitar comment was clear; it was a Spanish guitar. But why the dedication?

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It’s not that I wanted to earn sympathy by dedicating the recital to Lorca. When I was fifteen years old I discovered a book of his poems that I always took with me, until the book began to lose its pages. He is the poet who has influenced me the most, so much so that a month ago I had a daughter and I decided to call her Lorca, Lorca Cohen. What can I say about a name that at one point in my life changed my way of being and thinking in a radical way? The other part is the Spanish guitar, the deep cante of a people that has known how to place the singer in the position not of someone who is a show but something that has to do with the people and, more than that, with their emotions. I mean flamenco singing. That’s why I have always felt a special desire to perform in Spain.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate.

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  1. Leonard Cohen’s first Spanish concert in 1974 was in Barcelona (Oct 12) []

“There are some things that are designed to rest on the page and not be spoken” Leonard Cohen On Sexualized Language In His Poems

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What I’d really like to know is why your poetry is so stark, so incredibly blunt – a poem like for instance …

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I like that poem… If it didn’t have the word ‘cunt’ in it I’d probably read it out loud on stage. But I’m not ready to say that word well enough yet. There are some things that are designed to rest on the page and not be spoken…quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Note: The word “cunt” appears in at least five poems by Leonard Cohen written before the date of this interview (all published in The Energy of Slaves):

  • This Is the Only Poem
  • I Will Grow Old
  • You Are A Much Finer Person Than I Am
  • Cutting The Hair
  • We Call It Sunlight

Leonard Cohen also discusses the use of “cunt” in his writing at “People should have a kind of nervous reaction to that word. It is one of the sacred words and it deserves to be whispered.” Leonard Cohen On Sexualized Language In His Writing.

Suffering For Fan And Profit – The Return Of Leonard Cohen by Mick Brown. Sounds: July 3, 1976, Accessed 26 April 2014 at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo Credit: Roloff Beny / Library and Archives Canada / PA-196331. Originally posted Apr 26, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.