“That aspect of ‘defining a generation’ may very well be reflected in my songs because deep in myself I know that I’m the same as everyone and what I really want to do is tune in on my sameness, rather than on my differences.” Leonard Cohen

Do you feel that you write for any particular group of people?

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I just have to say simply, no not a particular group. I know that a lot of people who are going through the same thing that I am going through or have gone through, will tune in on me and find me a good companion and I’m happy to be among them. Very happy. I think it would be very dangerous for me to think of myself as a public figure. It’s one of the reasons why I stay out of things a lot, because I don’t, as I said before, exist in that echo of myself. I don’t like to think of myself as defining a generation or as speaking for somebody. When, love, as a cultural phenomenon, came out, in many ways my work was used somehow to demonstrate it. On the contrary, I thought that we were on the edge of a very violent period, I still do. Psychic violence anyways, if not physical violence. That aspect of ‘defining a generation’ may very well be reflected in my songs because deep in myself I know that I’m the same as everyone and what I really want to do is tune in on my sameness, rather than on my differences.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

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

“Writing is more like dealing in the ashes of something that’s been burnt. It’s detailing the evidence rather than the experience.” Leonard Cohen


Did you ever manipulate a relationship because you knew the situation would lend itself to a good lyric?

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I never cared that much about writing. But I’ve never been a vampire. I feel that writing is more like dealing in the ashes of something that’s been burnt. It’s detailing the evidence rather than the experience.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

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

DrHGuy Note: Here Leonard is distinguishing between having “exploited relationships by writing about them” and having “manipulate[d] a relationship” for a “good lyric.” Also see the better known version of the “writing is more like dealing in the ashes” at “If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash…” and yet another version at“I see a song as the ashes of existence, and if there is a light there, and you can warm yourself by it.” Leonard Cohen.

“Because I’d never set up a career — what Joni Mitchell later called the ‘star-stoking machinery’ — for myself, by the time the 70’s came round and everything had gotten hard-nosed and materialistic, I got wiped out.” Leonard Cohen


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[Songs Of Leonard Cohen] wasn’t rock music or lyrical protest music, It was an individual sound. It wasn’t conscious. I didn’t have and still don’t have a strategy. It just didn’t feel like a career to me. I had this naive view that I would do what I did, the world would consider it to be of a certain value and pay me accordingly. That was as far as I looked into the matter. Although, as regards psychedelia, I’d been out of touch for a bit, to tell you the truth, I’d been out in Greece, living on Hydra. At that time I could live on Hydra for $1,100 a year and live a good life. So I’d come back to Canada and make a thousand bucks doing some job or other and then go back to Hydra and write and swim and sail. I bought a house there for $1,500. I still have it. All of this sounds very idyllic but it was naive and because I’d never set up a career — what Joni Mitchell later called the ‘star-stoking machinery’ — for myself, by the time the 70’s came round and everything had gotten hard-nosed and materialistic, I got wiped out. The records stopped selling, they stopped putting some of them out in America, markets dried out and by the time the 80’s arrived, I was pretty near broke.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Note: The Joni Mitchell reference is, of course, to her lyrics from Free Man In Paris:

But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song

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

“This notion that the common people aren’t up to the complexities or sophistication of my work is completely inaccurate and elitist.” Leonard Cohen

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I’ve always suggested to them in my mild-mannered way that they might stop thinking of me as an intellectual poet, that they [Leonard Cohen’s record label] might take their lead from some of these European countries and think of me as a pop singer.  This notion that the common people aren’t up to the complexities or sophistication of my work is completely inaccurate and elitist. Everybody has more or less the same emotional life. The heart is not subject to education, certainly not of the university variety. The heart just cooks and splatters like shish kebob in everybody’s breast.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen at Home in 1992: Singer-Songwriter on Pop Success, New Love by David Browne (Rolling Stone: November 11, 2016). Photo Credit: Dominique Issermann – Library and Archives Canada.

Leonard Cohen’s Original DeMille Opening Of I Can’t Forget


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I was led to the edge of a mighty sea of sorrow / Pursued by the armies of a dark and cruel regime / But the waters parted and my soul crossed over / Out of Egypt, out of Pharaoh’s dream.

Pretty good – it’s DeMille! [laughs]quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

The original opening verse of I Can’t Forget. Read about the evolution of I Can’t Forget at About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album: I Can’t Forget

Quotation is from Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988

Leonard Cohen Explains Why He Changed Ain’t No Cure For Love From A Theological Proposition To A “Love Song About A Guy Who’d Lost A Girl”

jenn-lenn

With An Assist From Jennifer Warnes

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I had this idea that ‘there ain’t no cure for love’ in every sense of the matter. If you do have [love] it’s a kind of wound, and if you don’t have it it’s worse. And this is what Christ is about: Christ had to die because there ain’t no cure for love. You can’t change this world. And Christ, especially, understood this. So I wrote the whole song on those terms. [Interviewer: What terms?] Theological terms. And then I thought, ‘I’m never gonna get behind this, either. But Jenny [Jennifer Warnes] heard part of the song and she liked it. So I started writing a lyric that would have these ideas somewhere way, way back and no one would have to bother about them but me. It’d just be this love song about a guy who’d lost a girl.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988. The photo is a gift from Jennifer Warnes.