“One of the images I had of myself came from reading Chinese poetry… There was a kind of solitary figure in some of those poems by Li Po and Tu Fu. A monk sitting by a stream.” Leonard Cohen On The Foreshadowing Of His Time As A Zen Monk


It is often said that Cohen is hard to define. There’s Cohen, the son of a prominent Montreal clothier and the grandson of a Jewish scholar. Cohen, the law-school dropout. Cohen, the novelist, the poet, the songwriter. Cohen, the sexual bad boy who becomes a monk. But he disagrees.

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I always felt it was of one piece. 1 never felt I was going off on a tangent. Mainly because I think we develop images of ourselves quite early on, and certainly one of the images I had of myself came from reading Chinese poetry at a very young age. There was a kind of solitary figure in some of those poems by Li Po and Tu Fu. A monk sitting by a stream. There was a notion of solitude, a notion of deep appreciation for personal relationships, friendships, not just love, not just sensual or erotic or the love of a man or a woman, but a deep longing to experience and to describe friendship and loss and the consequences of distance. So those images in those poems had their effect, and thirty years later, I found myself in robes and a shaved head sitting in a meditation hall. It just seemed completely natural.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007). Find more information about these Chinese poets at Li Po & Tu Fu.

“Vague thoughts about my work arise and float around but they become more and more irretrievable.” Leonard Cohen 2016

 

In 1963 you wrote, after the release of your first novel The Favourite Game, “anyone with an ear will know I’ve torn apart orchestras to arrive at my straight, melodic line.” Even if you have used an orchestra for You Want It Darker, would you say the same about this record?

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I am not so bold as I was in those days. Vague thoughts about my work arise and float around but they become more and more irretrievable.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From the original questionnaire (in English) for Le Dernier Empereur by J.D. Beauvallet and Pierre Siankowski (Les Inrocks: Oct 19, 2016) forwarded to me on Oct 16, 2016 by Leonard Cohen.

“I always had a background of distress, ever since I was young.” Leonard Cohen On His Depression (And His Concern That His Post-Recovery Songs “Are Too Cheerful”)

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I always had a background of distress, ever since I was young. What part that played in becoming a writer or a singer or whatever it was that one became, I don’t know. I didn’t have a sense of an operational ease… about one’s work or one’s capacity to earn a living; a capacity to find a mate or find a moment of relief in someone’s arms. I don’t know what happened. Something very agreeable happened to me. I don’t know what the reason is. That background of distress dissolved. [He offers a mischievous smile] I’m worried now that my songs are too cheerful because I’m feeling well. I think I may be irrelevant pretty soon.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007).

A summary of Leonard Cohen’s depression, its treatment, and its disappearance is available at Leonard Cohen’s Depression, Its (Failed) Medical Treatment, & Its Resolution

All posts dealing with Leonard Cohen’s depression can be accessed at

“I’ve tried over the years to define a political position that no one can decipher” Leonard Cohen when asked if Popular Problems was a political album

10458743_1574314152789802_1932122709098745264_nFrom Leonard Cohen discusses Hallelujah and his new album at London event by Michael Hann (The Guardian: Sept 16, 2014). Originally posted Sept 16, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“My sense of proprietorship weakens as I get older. I’m happy the songs exist, that I know them & I know the chords and how to sing them.” Leonard Cohen

Cohen said he is more interested in the next song than pondering the legacy of his past work. He talked about how puzzled he was by McCartney’s decision a few years back to change the credits on certain Beatles classics to “McCartney & Lennon” as opposed to the familiar “Lennon & McCartney,” as if anyone didn’t know who wrote “Yesterday.” Cohen said he views his work from a different vantage point — his most famous songs now belong as much to the audience and to other singers as they do to him.

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I find I’m feeling much friendlier to my earliest work than I ever did. There was a certain time when I knew that the audience wanted to hear ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,’ but I didn’t want to play [them]. Now I really do. I think that contrary to Sir Paul’s experience, my sense of proprietorship weakens as I get older. I’m happy the songs exist and that I know them and I know the chords and how to sing them.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen reborn in the U.S.A. by Geoff Boucher at Pop & Hiss, the L.A. Times music blog: February 27, 2009. Photo taken at the July 31, 2009 Leonard Cohen concert in León by Indiana Caba.

“I was never any good at that kind of hard work that’s involved with socializing.” Leonard Cohen

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I remember walking into a club called Max’s Kansas City that I’d heard was the place where everybody went — I didn’t know anybody in New York—and I remember lingering by the bar, I was never good at that kind of hard work that’s involved with socializing, and a young man came over to me and said, ‘You’re Leonard Cohen, you wrote Beautiful Losers,’ which nobody had read, it only sold a few copies in America. And it was Lou Reed. He brought me over to a table full of luminaries – Andy Warhol, Nico. I was suddenly sitting at this table with the great spirits of the time.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

DrHGuy Note: While this is an account of Leonard Cohen meeting Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, and Nico in 1966, I’m most taken with Leonard comment on his own difficulties with “socializing.”

Quotation from I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012. Photo by Eugene McLaughlin.