“My songs are like documentaries… Some accuse me of being too poetic, but that’s how my imagination works, how I see things. I don’t try to write beautiful phrases.” Leonard Cohen

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My songs are like documentaries or reports. Some accuse me of being too poetic, but that’s how my imagination works, how I see things. I don’t try to write beautiful phrases.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate. Photo by Pete Purnell

“[Sisters Of Mercy] was the first and only time I’ve written a song from beginning to end without a correction. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve written.” Leonard Cohen

I wanted to know what the truth of Sisters Of Mercy was

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I was very lonely. I only had my guitar. And suddenly I found two girls who invited me to spend the night with them. I soon realized that this had nothing to do with sex. We just went to sleep because I was very tired. I woke up during the night and they were asleep. I started writing this song and when they woke up I sang it and I think I made them very happy. I think it was the first and only time I’ve written a song from beginning to end without a correction. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve written. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate. Photo by Pete Purnell

“There are no dirty words – ever” Leonard Cohen 1965

In Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, a 1965 National Film Board of Canada production, a sound engineer tells Leonard, who is preparing to record his poem, A Kite Is A Victim from Spice-Box Of Earth, that “any place you come across a dirty word we have to delete it.”

Leonard’s response: “Yeah, well, there are no dirty words. Ever!”

“The song that is going to survive in this landscape today has got to have a certain kind of power, of strength. You don’t put your philosopher at the head of the army.” Leonard Cohen On The Strategic Position Of I’m Your Man

im-your-man-5092c4f9f06bd

What’s great about the best folk and country music is the clarity, the removal of anything extraneous from the point. And listening to I’m Your Man, I hear that in your own writing again, those succinct narrative and musical qualities.

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That’s what I’ve been working on for the last few years. I think The Book of Mercy was the final statement of the mystical, religious being. I don’t have to talk about religion anymore – it’s gone underground. I don’t think popular music is a good place to explore a lot of those ideas. The song that is going to survive in this landscape today has got to have a certain kind of power, of strength. You don’t put your philosopher at the head of the army. This is a time for a very strategic position – to the marketplace, and to the whole psychic landscape. Muscle is indicated, a kind of phalanx. A lot of other things have to be put behind the front line. If your heart has really been threatened with cynicism – one’s own, I’m talking about, not CBS’, [laughter] with the greed, the skepticism, the general devaluation of all spiritual currency that faces us today, a position has to be taken that is appropriate in the face of this real assault.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988.

“Sometimes I feel like my work is like an ice cube… you can put it in a Coke or you can put it in a scotch… it just has… the effect of cooling your drink, which is an urgent effect, to give comfort.” Leonard Cohen

 

In mythology, there’s the idea that the artist has one image, a poem or memory that is so central to their work they can never reveal it. Do you have a fixed or central image that you draw from?

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Now in my case there is no secret. Not only that, but I think that, from a certain point of view, my songs are free from meaning and significance. There’s not a secret that is being concealed, there’s nothing that I am not yielding. It really doesn’t have a meaning any more than a diamond has a meaning. The meaning is that it was cut and polished and it produces light. Sometimes I feel like my work is like an ice cube… you can put it in a Coke or you can put it in a scotch… it just has an effect, it’s hard to say what it’s getting at, I’m not sure it’s getting at anything but an effect, the effect of cooling your drink, which is an urgent effect, to give comfort.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman (Details for Men, January, 1993). Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Reveals “The only thing I’ve learned [about songwriting]”

I would like to know if you have any advice on the craft of song writing

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The only thing I’ve learned is that if you stick with it long enough a song will eventually yield but ‘long enough’ is often an alarming duration. I’m speaking personally. Great songs have been written in minutes.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001.

“I don’t like to use words like ‘erotic’ or ‘spiritual’ to describe my songs — they tend to scare people away. What they are is just songs, and anything I could say to explain them really can’t help them.” Leonard Cohen


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

“People should have a kind of nervous reaction to that word. It is one of the sacred words and it deserves to be whispered.” Leonard Cohen On Sexualized Language In His Writing

Interviewer: Perhaps your most interesting lines come from a poem in The Energy of Slaves, where you write, “My own music is not merely naked, it is open-legged, it is like a cunt, and like a cunt, must needs be houseproud.” Now, that’s quite a line, Len.

He laughs.

Leonard Cohen: “Well people should have a kind of nervous reaction to that word. It is one of the sacred words and it deserves to be whispered. I’m glad you whispered it when you said it.”

Interviewer: Could you just as easily have said that your work was like a prick?

Leonard Cohen: “Not myself, no. I guess a woman could have said that (laughs). I’m starting to remember the line now. It takes a while for it to return. I guess, at the time I wrote that (around 1969), I felt in a grieved state where I somehow felt that everything I was coming across in writing and everything around me was false. I was hungry for a kind of expression that was a lot more raw than what I was getting. I wanted to read something that was on the front-line, that comes from real, undiluted experience and I wasn’t defending anything. Now that word belongs to the woman and to her nakedness and that is still the prerogative of the woman to uncover and that power is still not diminished.”

From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview).

Note: The poem referenced is This Is the Only Poem from The Energy of Slaves. Those lines were removed in the Stranger Music version (and the name of the poem is changed to The Only Poem).

Also See “There are some things that are designed to rest on the page and not be spoken”