“Coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad.” Leonard Cohen On Writing

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Have you always found it easier to write about women?

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I’ve never found it easy to write. Period. I mean, I don’t want to whine about it or anything but… it’s a bitch! It’s terrible work. I’m very disciplined in that I can settle down into the work situation but coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad. Before you know it, you’re crawling across the carpet in your underwear trying to find a rhyme for ‘orange.’ It’s a terrible, cruel job. But I’m not complaining.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe? by Adrian Deevoy/ Q Magazine: 1991. Found at LeonardCohenFiles.

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)

“To me, the critic is on trial at this point.” Leonard Cohen On Music Critics

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At this point, yes I am interested in the market journey of the product; but I’m very, very interested also in the mind of the reviewers, how they change over the decades, and how a man approaches new work. Whether he approaches it in a spirit of curiosity, charity, interest, or as a vehicle for his own self-aggrandizement, his own career. Whether he uses it as an opportunity to display humanism, or cruelty… I mean to me, the critic is on trial at this point.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975). Image is back cover of Energy Of Slaves. Originally posted October 19, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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“You’re going to have the occasional inspired individual who just uses the form in the way a poet uses a sonnet. They’re going to be able to create cultural value and create an intellectual and emotional delight” Leonard Cohen on Rock Critics


From Rebirth Of A Ladies’ Man by Steven Blush. Seconds No 22: June/July 1993. Thanks to Rike, who contributed this article.

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“Whatever erotic fantasy I had had about the whole situation, evaporated very very quickly – everybody had different purposes, theirs was fatigue and rest, and mine was some kind of bewilderment as usual about the whole situation… That was the first time I ever wrote a lyric from beginning to end without any revision.” Leonard Cohen On Sisters Of Mercy

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I remember reading various accounts of the song ‘Sisters of Mercy.’ I also don’t remember anything, except the snowstorm in Edmonton, it was very very – and I’m used to the snow, I come from Montreal. I know a lot about snow, but this I remember as a particularly ferocious storm, and I don’t know whether it was the part of Edmonton that I was in or the way it was laid out or the way the wind would come out right down from the north, but it was so strong that I had to seek shelter from the street. And I saw a doorway of a small building and I went in there, and there were two girls there also waiting till the storm laid down a bit, and I had a little room in a hotel which was called the… I have forgotten the name of it, I have to check some other persons’ account of the story. It looked out on the Edmonton river, just a little wooden hotel, nothing fancy. I think I was playing at a coffee shop nearby. Anyway, I invited the two young women to my room, and they were happy, because they were on the road and couldn’t afford a room. And they were road weary and there was a large bed and they fell asleep immediately in this big bed. And there was an easy chair beside the radiator right next to the window, and there was moonlight or I don’t remember, but it seemed to be the ice on the river, and it was very beautiful, a very beautiful northern view. And these two young women asleep in the bed. Whatever erotic fantasy I had had about the whole situation, evaporated very very quickly – everybody had different purposes, theirs was fatigue and rest, and mine was some kind of bewilderment as usual about the whole situation. So I was sitting there in that easy chair, that stuffed old chair. That was the first time I ever wrote a lyric from beginning to end without any revision. And I had a kind of tune, and I had my guitar there and I was playing it very very softly, and when they woke up, I’d play them the song, and everyone was very happy. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Looks Back On The Past (unedited interview for Norwegian Radio) by Kari Hesthamar, Los Angeles, 2005. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo taken in Edmonton in 1966 by Rocco Caratozzolo, contributed by Kim Solez.

“Bob Dylan knows this more than all of us: you don’t write the songs anyhow. So if you’re lucky, you can keep the vehicle healthy and responsive over the years. If you’re lucky, your own intentions have very little to do with this.” Leonard Cohen (2016)

Talking about his songwriting routine, Cohen referenced Dylan again and spoke as if personal determination and will had very little to do with real artistic achievement…

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I think that Bob Dylan knows this more than all of us: you don’t write the songs anyhow. So if you’re lucky, you can keep the vehicle healthy and responsive over the years. If you’re lucky, your own intentions have very little to do with this. You can keep the body as well-oiled and receptive as possible, but whether you’re actually going to be able to go for the long haul is really not your own choice.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen Corrects Himself: ‘I Intend to Stick Around Until 120’ by Chris Willman (Billboard: Oct 14, 2016)

“Powerful ideas that mysteriously transform all those who come into contact with them are the value of poetry.” Leonard Cohen

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I use unpopular words. Brotherhood: an appetite for fraternity, equality, liberty. All those old ideals are operating. I’m never surprised that things are as bad as they are. I’m only surprised they’re not worse: that they haven’t completely eliminated the Bible; that they haven’t excised the Sermon the Mount and created an expurgated edition. Powerful ideas that mysteriously transform all those who come into contact with them are the value of poetry. They represent the value of a glance across the subway car — a possibility.
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Leonard Cohen

 

Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993. Photo Credit: Roloff Beny / Library and Archives Canada / PA-196331.

Leonard Cohen Addresses The Plight Of The Aging Rock Star

Denying the popular myth that rockers burn out young while those in the fine arts age to great wisdom, Leonard says of the plight of the aging rock star…

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Browning expressed it in that line, ‘First fine careless frenzy,’ when he heard the birds sing. But, when he repeats that cadence again, Browning knows that it was not just the ‘fine, careless frenzy:’ that this can be perfected, that this can be controlled and summoned.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993. The image atop this post is the cover of Rock & Folk No. 131, Dec 1977 (illustration by Dominique Lechaud) from the private collection of Dominique BOILE.

Note: The Browning line quoted as “First fine careless frenzy” is actually “The first fine careless rapture” from Home Thoughts From Abroad, by Robert Browning.

That ‘s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture The first fine careless rapture!