“The only mythology that I was presented with as I grew up was a religious mythology… so I use it for all experiences, not specifically for religious experiences.” Leonard Cohen

Some of your poetry and songs use religious images.

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Yes, that’s just because that was the only mythology that I was presented with as I grew up – was a religious mythology. But you know, we talk of the flood and we speak of the ark, and Noah and the dove, all those are symbols arid allegories that have entered our consciousness and language through religious channels, but they don’t necessarily extend for religious experience today, they stand for an experience that includes religion, but does not exclude other kinds of experience. But that was the mythology that I inherited, so I use it for all experiences, not specifically for religious experiences.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen interview by Malka Marom (1970s). Photo by Sam Gray.

Joni Mitchell Accuses Leonard Cohen Of “Lifting Lines” From Camus; Leonard Cohen Responds

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But, unfortunately, in the Camus, I found he [Cohen] lifted lines. ‘Walk me to the corner, our steps will always …’  That’s literally a Camus line. So I thought that’s like Bob Dylan … When I realized that Bob and Leonard were lifting lines, I was very disappointed. And then I thought that there’s this kind of a self-righteous quality about — you’re a plagiarist and I’m not. So I plagiarized from Camus in ‘Come In from the Cold’ intentionally. I forget which verse it is, but when I put the single out, I edited that verse out. I just took it out. Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life — it’s up for grabs, right? So I put something that he said in one of my songs and he got real irritable, [saying], ‘I’m glad I wrote that.’quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014

Note: “Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme” is from Leonard Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. I haven’t been able to discover (nor can anyone else apparently) the Camus line to which Joni Mitchell refers.

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I found a lot of Lorca and Camus in his [Leonard Cohen’s] lines. And he was living the life of Camus, even down to the way he dressed, and his house in Hydra. It was disappointing to me, because as far as I could see, he was an original. I have this perverse need for originality. I don’t really care for copy, second-generation artists. I’m not a traditionalist. It’s the discoverers that excite me. Not ‘new’ like a new face, the way ‘new’ is used to sell something. They’re not new at all. They’re a new person doing the old shit. ‘Suzanne’ is a beautiful song, though.quotedown2


From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

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I read somewhere that she [Joni Mitchell] felt I had tricked her in some way because I hadn’t told her that Camus had written a book called The Stranger and that I’d written a song called ‘The Stranger.’ The song had nothing to do with the book, nor was I the first person to call a song ‘The Stranger.’ She felt that I’d plagiarized She felt that I’d plagiarized Camus.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

Note: In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Yaffe also observes that Joni Mitchell “(wrongly) believed that ‘Walk me to the corner / Our steps will always rhyme’ was ripped off from Camus.”

Also see

Credit Due Department: Photo by Crossett Library

“I’ve torn apart orchestras to arrive at my straight, melodic line” Leonard Cohen On The Revisions He Made To Final Version Of The Favourite Game

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… anyone with an ear will know I’ve torn apart orchestras to arrive at my straight, melodic line… I walk lighter and carry a big scalpel… I don’t know anything about people — that’s why I have this terrible and irresistible temptation to be a novelist.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, referring to chopping his original novel “Beauty at Close Quarters” in half to produce “The Favourite Game,” in a letter to Irving Layton. Quoted in This Is Our Writing by T. F. Rigelhof (Porcupine’s Quill, October 1, 2000)

The original manuscript of “Beauty at Close Quarters,” which has never been published, actually went through a number of revisions and alternative titles, including “Buried Snows,” “Wandering Fires,” and “Winged with Vain Desires,” before “The Favourite Game” was chosen on Nov 7, 1962. The novel was published in September 1963. (Nadel, Various Positions: Random House of Canada 1996)

Note: Originally posted Nov 21, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“The idea was to take a premise and let it collapse into a joke, or an absurdity. ” Leonard Cohen On The Genesis Of Jazz Police

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I met a young musician in Montreal, Jeff Fisher. He arranged ‘First We Take Manhattan,’ which had that Sergio Leone quality that I wanted – otherwise the song would have been laughed out of the world. I said to him, ‘Why don’t you write something? Let’s do a rap song.’ I had this song, ‘Jazz Police.’ From going around with the fusion group Passenger. There was this standing joke that if I caught them playing augmented fifths, or even sevenths, I’d call them on it, because I’ve always gone for a certain kind of sound. So I was the ‘jazz police.’ The lyric, I’m not sure what it was about. The idea was to take a premise and let it collapse into a joke, or an absurdity. But – I hated it. I hated the whole thing and I think I still do. I was going to let it go, but then all these other songs started breaking down, and it moved back on the menu. It caught the mood of this whole period I’m describing, though – this kind of fragmented absurdity. I was living that, so I let it stay, and also, I didn’t have much to choose from. The vault was empty… To put together another couple of songs for this record – it would have been another year! And I realized things were hospitable for me in Europe. If I waited, I’d be starting from scratch again.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland (Musician: July 1988)

“I think that a decent man who has discovered valuable secrets is under some obligation to share them.” Leonard Cohen Talks About Techniques Of Sharing Secrets

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There are many ways to tell your secrets. I think that a decent man who has discovered valuable secrets is under some obligation to share them. But I think that the technique of sharing them is a great study. And there are great masters who know how to impact the secrets they’ve learned. I think that often I’ve made mistakes, that I’ve tried to communicate my secrets. Secrets are very, very prosaic in a sense, you know, it’s like how to light someone’s cigarette or how not to hurt someone or how not to hurt yourself. I think these are how to be strong, these are really the secrets, aren’t they? Now, you can reveal secrets in many ways. One way is to say this is the secret I have discovered. I think that this way is often less successful because when that certain kind of conscious creative mind brings itself to bear on this information, it distorts it, it makes it very inaccessible. Sometimes it’s just in the voice, sometimes just in the style, in the length of the paragraph; it’s in the tone, rather than in the message.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel, Winter 1969.

“I’ve always held the song in high regard because songs have got me through so many sinks of dishes and so many humiliating courting events.” Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen Unplugged By Pico Iyer (Buzz: April 1998). Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. Originally posted July 2, 2010 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I’m inspired by the idea of making something good… I’ve never had much to say, things have come out that have some meaning for some people, and even some meaning for me. But I don’t start with those ideas, they arise out of the work itself.” Leonard Cohen

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I never had much inspiration. I like the activity of work, and I always feel that I’m working at the bottom of the barrel. I wish I were inspired. I don’t know what it is; if I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often. I don’t know how it works. I’m inspired by the idea of making something good. That has always inspired me, rather than… I’ve never had much to say, things have come out that have some meaning for some people, and even some meaning for me. But I don’t start with those ideas, they arise out of the work itself. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Looks Back On The Past. Interview with Leonard Cohen by Kari Hesthamar, Los Angeles, 2005. Accessed 25 June 2014 at LeonardCohenFiles. Originally posted June 25, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric