“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

“The place where [The Future] comes from is a life-threatening situation. You’ve got to go to some risky terrain. That’s why the record takes so long to make, and that’s why you’re shattered at the end of it.” Leonard Cohen

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People seem to know what ‘The Future’ is about. It’s humourous, there’s irony, there’s all kinds of distances from the event that make the song possible. It’s art. It’s a good dance track, it’s a hot number. It’s captivating — it’s even got hope. But the place where the song comes from is a life-threatening situation. You’ve got to go to some risky terrain. That’s why the record takes so long to make, and that’s why you’re shattered at the end of it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

No Mercy – Leonard Cohen’s Tales from the Dark Side by Anthony DeCurtis. Rolling Stone: January 21, 1993. Originally posted Jan 4, 2015 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On Songwriting: “Sometimes you never get it, so you piece it together the best you can with chicken wire or Band-Aids.”

recordings-of-leonard-cohen
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You can get an idea in the morning, sitting with your guitar and coffee. Once you’ve had that start, though, it takes a long time to uncover the rest of what’s there. Sometimes you never get it, so you piece it together the best you can with chicken wire or Band-Aids. If you can patch it together convincingly enough, it works. Then comes the polishing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From I Have To Think About Every Word I Write… by Liam Lacey. Globe and Mail: April 27, 1985. The image atop this post is from James Finch’s personal copy of Recordings Of Leonard Cohen 1957-86 (more information about this item can be found at From The Leonard Cohen Information Service: Recordings Of Leonard Cohen 1957-86 (1988).

“I’d be reluctant to write in an idiom that wasn’t native to me: I wouldn’t want to sing the blues because I’m not black and it’s not my music.” Leonard Cohen On His Musical Influences

“Music was my first job when I was 16 – playing rhythm guitar in a country band” Leonard Cohen

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People have this idea I was a poet who decided to be a songwriter when, actually, it was the other way around. I came to poetry through music. Music was my first job when I was 16 – playing rhythm guitar in a country band. In university, I remember going to the Harvard record library, and I listened to all the folk music records they had over the course of a month. It was because I was so impressed by the beauty of these words written by these anonymous singers that I became interested in poetry, or what was called poetry then. I know Russian music, because my mother sang Russian songs around the house. I know country. and I know Greek music, because I lived there for several years. So I feel comfortable with all those styles. I’d be reluctant to write in an idiom that wasn’t native to me: I wouldn’t want to sing the blues because I’m not black and it’s not my music. I sympathize with black songwriters who have watched while white singers take often identical arrangements of songs and be successful with them.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From I Have To Think About Every Word I Write… by Liam Lacey. Globe and Mail: April 27, 1985.

“First We Take Manhattan might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist.” Leonard Cohen


I’ve never known what “First We Take Manhattan” is about. Can you explain it a little? Do you think its meaning changed after the attack to New York? Would you sing it again in concert?

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Every succeeding moment changes what has happened the moment before. In the stream of writing all that is written changes its meanings by what is written subsequently. First We Take Manhattan might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist. In a way it’s a better song now than it was before and I would probably sing it in concert if the circumstances were appropriate.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001