Leonard Cohen On Getting Wise To Himself

Can you remember the first time you got wise to yourself – as a writer, but also as a person, in relationships, dealings, behavioural patterns? As in: ‘Ah, I see. So that’s what you’re doing.’

I never got wise to that fictional characterquotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From the Dan Cairns – Sunday Times Culture questionnaire Leonard Cohen sent me Oct 17, 2016. This response, without the lead-in, was incorporated into Leonard Cohen: Hey, that’s some way to say goodbye by Dan Cairns (The Sunday Times: October 23 2016)

Leonard Cohen Responds To “Do you remember the last time you cried?” (Oct 2016)

Do you remember the last time you cried?

Yes, it was at the movies.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen, Oct 2016


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.

“It’s essential that a man makes a living, and I always like to get paid for what I do, but I don’t like to do it for pay.” Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen By Pat Harbron. Beetle: December 1973. Photo taken by Sam Tata in Montreal, 1973 – from Library and Archives Canada. Originally posted Jan 10, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“It was just at a certain moment that I felt that songs of a certain quality came to me that somehow demanded … or somehow engage a larger audience” Leonard Cohen

I’ve always played and sung. Ever since I was 15. I was in a barn dance group called the Buckskin Boys when I was about 18 .. 17. It was just at a certain moment that I felt that songs of a certain quality came to me that somehow demanded … or somehow engage a larger audience. Like when you write a good song, you feel like you can sing it to other people. When you write other songs that are not so good you just sing them to yourself. I don’t know … I think … I guess greed had something to do with it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Ladies and Gents, Leonard Cohen by Jack Hafferkamp (Rolling Stone: Feb. 4, 1971). Note: Originally posted Jan 9, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“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

“I feel that, more and more, I need to be strong and cheerful, to greet the daily events, the daily abrasions that seem to greet me.” Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen…What’s Your Problem? Doom and Gloom by Patrick Humphries (Vox: February, 1993).  Originally posted Oct 20, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen on his guitar playing: “That’s my chop. I’m working on another one, and when I’ve got that down, I’ll have chops.”

The quotation is from Exquisite, Unembarrassed and Undestroyed, Leonard Cohen at 71 by Greg Burk (LA Weekly, June 28 2006). The photo was taken by Mandy MacLeod at the Sept 11, 2013 Leonard Cohen Dublin concert. To provide context, the paragraph preceding the quotation follows:

There are three guitars in Cohen’s living room, and two of them have a broken string. When I ask him what happened to his roadie, he explains that his strings are hard to replace; he has them specially made to accommodate the tension required for the way he tunes the instruments — two full steps down from the standard. He wrote many songs when his voice was higher, and instead of reconfiguring the picking patterns, which are intricate, he just tuned the guitar to his lowered range. He picks up the lone fully strung ax, and the famous arpeggiation mode he invented swells out effortlessly from his fingers. He’s thinking about a tour, and he’s been practicing.

A discussion of Leonard Cohen’s guitar skills (two articles published in the Dec 22, 2016 issue of Guitar World) can be found at Unsung Guitar Hero: “Leonard Cohen had a unique guitar style and musical approach that are worthy of praise.”

“The kind of visibility that one thought was essential is not attractive to the better sexual partners. On the contrary.” Leonard Cohen On Sexual Desire


When did [wanting to be sexually desirable] start looking foolish to you?

I think when I realized the consequences of all this love-making. It leads to houses and children, and you really realize what the thing is all about, and how it’s available for everyone in this day and age. Here one was slaving away at one’s desk writing poems and songs, hoping to attract girls or boys or whatever it was, and outside in the world, the sexual revolution took place unbeknownst to the author. Everyone was coupling behind every bush, and here he was still writing the perfect sonnet to attract the girl next door. It became quite apparent that the average chap who worked on Madison Avenue was in much better sexual condition than most of the pop stars and was exercising his appetite with greater facility. It’s much better to be the bass player than the star. Everybody knows that. If that’s what you’re interested in getting. I think that the kind of visibility that one thought was essential is not attractive to the better sexual partners. On the contrary.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen Looks at Himself by Danny Fields. Soho Weekly News, Vol. 1, #9. December 5, 1974, Thanks to J.J. Harchaoui, who shared this article.