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05-08-2007
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Leonard Cohen
Fourteen albums, before you even get to the compilations, surely the man deserves a thread at least. :p



[telegraph.co.uk]


Excerpts from a thirty-two year old(!) Crawdaddy article on this and that!

Quote:
The Romantic in a Ragpicker's Trade, by Paul Williams


"I think marriage is the hottest furnace of the spirit today," Leonard Cohen said on the phone from Mexico. "Much more difficult than solitude, much more challenging for people who want to work on themselves. It's a situation in which there are no alibis, excruciating most of the time...but it's only in this situation that any kind of work can be done. Naturally I feel ambiguous about it."
The phone call, Leonard watching children running in and out of a telephone company office in Acapulco (once he saw a butterfly), me in a 12th floor record company cubicle in New York, was part two of a conversation that began in Leonard Cohen's lawyer's office, high above 42nd Street in Manhattan maybe three week earlier.
Leonard had just returned from a tour of Europe, thirty-eight concerts in forty-five days, including an outdoor performance in Paris in front of 130,000 people. He's a superstar in France ("If a girl in Paris has only one record, it's a Leonard Cohen album" my traveling friend informs me) and all over the continent. His latest album, New Skin For The Old Ceremony, sold 250,000 copies in Europe in its first six weeks.
In the U.S. and in his native Canada, Cohen has not achieved the same kind of acceptance as a performer and recording artist. He is best known as a songwriter ("Suzanne," "Bird On a Wire"), poet and novelist. Beautiful Losers, his second novel, is a steady seller on college campuses and is even taught in modern literature courses...though ten years ago it was considered almost too filthy to publish.
Talking with Leonard Cohen is like touching the earth unexpectedly after months of subway stations and supermarkets. There's a resiliency in the man and his sense of himself; he seems to know what he's doing. Most contemporary singer-songwriters are not mature artists: they're too young, or they tasted success too young and never got past its confusions. Cohen is an exception.
He's forty years old. When you meet him, whether or not you know his writing, you can't help but recognize immediately that he is his own creation. "I've been lucky," he says, in regard to his relationship with the music industry. "Nobody's ever twisted my arm. Perhaps because nobody ever saw any great profits to be made from my work." Perhaps. But more likely they saw right away that there is no way to push Leonard Cohen to release more product (he's made five albums in eight years) or tour more often (his recent appearances are his first in America in four years) or commercialize his sound. It's not that he resists--it's just that he's not malleable. He has to be bought and sold as what he is.
He is a son of wealthy Jewish parents in Montreal, Duddy Kravitz-era--"I had a very Messianic childhood," he told Richard Goldstein in 1967, "I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest." He was a published poet at age 20, lived on an island in Greece for eight years, published a couple of novels, came to New York in 1966 and captured the attention of the pop music world with a song called "Suzanne," recorded by Judy Collins and Joshua Rifkin on their brilliant breakthrough album In My Life.
John Hammond signed him to Columbia records, over the protests of many who thought it was the silliest thing he'd done since signing Bob Dylan. Cohen cut his first record in 1967. "Of course, it was terribly difficult," Hammond said in an interview in 1971. "You couldn't get Leonard to work with other musicians because he felt they were all laughing at him. And they mostly were." That album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was followed by Songs From A Room in 1969, Songs Of Love And Hate in 1971. Live Songs in 1972, and New Skin in 1974. His books of poems, already popular in Canada, were released here starting in 1967, and the attention he got as a songwriter also helped promote his novels into paperback form and popular acceptance.
He performed a few concerts--the Isle of Wright, Forest Hills in New York--three European tours in seven years, no tours at all in America until early 1975. He lived mostly in Montreal and on Hydra Island in Greece; spent a year in New York around 1969, spent almost two years living in a farm outside Franklin, Tennessee in 1971-1972. (His cabin the former home of Boudelaux Bryant, author of "Bye Bye Love.")
Sometime well after writing the song "Suzanne" he met his wife Suzanne; they have two children, Adam and Lorca (the boy is 2 1/2 years, the girl about six months old). "I live here with a woman and a child," he sings on his most recent album, "The situation makes me kind of nervous. Yes, I rise up from her arms, she says, 'I guess you call this love, I call it service' Why don't you come on back to the war..."
Leonard Cohen is still as romantic--it's romantic (and accurate) to see the relationship between the sexes as a war--as he was when he first appeared on the American musical scene. But his romanticism has matured. It will be interesting to read his next novel.
Robert Altman made a movie, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, based (Altman has told Cohen) on songs from Leonard Cohen's first two albums. Sitting in Cohen's lawyer's office (plush and posh, it takes two elevators to get there; he was wearing a well-tailored suit, but he still stays in the historic, run-down Chelsea Hotel), I asked Leonard if he had considered writing scores for other films...
"It's something that is in the mind from time to time," he told me, "but when it really comes down to it, the thing I like best is the song that stands by itself, that you can walk around, that just has its own life." He's soft-spoken but friendly, conscientious about answering questions, a warm person in a cool situation. "If people can use the material in other areas, I'm very happy."
He has a terrific face, a sure sign of maturity. "Were you consulted about the songs in McCabe?" I asked.
"I was living in Franklin, in Tennessee, and I'd come into Nashville just to see a movie--we'd been living out in the sticks for a long time. And I saw this movie called Brewster McCloud. Have you seen it? It's a very, very beautiful and I would say brilliant film. I sat through it twice. Maybe I just hadn't seen a movie in a long time, but it was really fine. "I was in the studio that night, in Nashville, and I got this call from a chap called Robert Altman. And he says, 'Listen, you know, I love those songs, I've built a film around them, can I use them?' I said, 'Who are you?' He said, 'Well I, I did M*A*S*H, that's my film.'
"I said, 'I know it was enormously successful, but I haven't seen it. Is there anything else that you've done that I might know?' 'Well, I did a picture that's been completely buried, that you wouldn't know about, it was called Brewster McCloud.'
"I said, 'Listen, I just came out of the theatre, I saw it twice, you can have anything of mine you want!'
"I did do some additional music--only one thing that was used, I did a guitar background for a little soliloquy by Warren Beatty; it's just barely perceptible but that is one of the nicest things I ever did, I love that piece.
"Then I saw the picture, the finished picture without the music, the soundtrack hadn't been completed. And I said, 'Listen, man, I've got to tell you--if we ever work together again I want you to know you can get an honest opinion from me--I don't like it.' He was quite hurt, as I would be too, but...
"Then I went to the theater in Montreal, and I saw the picture with the music and everything, and it was great! I called Altman in London, it took me two days to track him down, and told him, 'Forget everything I said, it's really beautiful.'"
Cohen's life and his art seem to fit together very nicely. A sense of who and where he's been and what he's been doing began to emerge for me as our conversation ranged across different subjects:
About songs and poems and performing:

"Do the songs and poems," I asked, "clearly differentiate themselves for you?"
"Very rarely one crosses into the other realm. But the songs are by and large designed as songs, and the poems designed as poems." (Leonard gave me a hardcover copy of his recent--and largely ignored--book of poems, The Energy of Slaves. "Would you mind throwing the cover away?" he asked. I did so, and read the book with pleasure and much shock of recognition. The trouble with the cover was it made it look like a book by Leonard Nimoy.) "It could be read as one poem, one long poem, this book."
"Do you prefer to write songs or poems?"
"It depends on what part of the being is operative. Of course it's wonderful to write a song, I mean there is nothing like a song, and you sing it to your woman, or to your friend, people come to your house, and then you sing it in front of an audience and you record it. I mean it has an amazing thrust. And a poem, it waits on the page, and it moves in a much more secret way through the world. And that also is... Well, they each have their own way of travel."
"Is performing a natural extension of writing for you?"
"In a sense it's natural, but like every other thing that we call natural it takes a lot of work and practice."
"But what I mean is," I rephrased, "it's not a separate category of action?"
"No, it has the same terrors and pitfalls and possibilities for humiliation. For me, personally, it's a kind of dangerous work, but so is writing if you're really going to lay your life out."
"But performing has a more immediate danger?"
"Yeah, performing. I mean you can really be humiliated. There are other rewards and prizes that go with it--you can come out with a sense of glory, girls might fall in love with you, they might be paying you very well, all the possibilities of corruption and material gain and self-congratulation are present--but also at the same time there is this continual threat and presence of your own disgrace."
"You felt quite able to project the very personal, interior vision of your songs in front of 130,000 people?"
"When you're singing for that many people," Cohen explained, "it becomes private again. This last concert I gave in Paris, the stage was high, like the side of a building, and the audience was way, way, way down there, so you're really only dealing with the microphone. They're at an event, they're outside, the wind is howling, it's an event on a different order and you take your place in the moment.
"But an audience of two or three or four thousand is the real test, because you can really do all the wrong things, you can play to the crowd, you can play for laughs, you can play for self-pity, you can play for heroic aspect; there are so many ways of selling out in front of an audience. There's no such thing as a casual performance; one has an exact notion of what one is going to do out there."
"Forgive me for asking..." it may have seemed a significant question made banal, but it needed an answer, "what are you trying to achieve in your songs; what is your ambition?"
"To create a vapor and a mist," Cohen responded, "to make oneself attractive, to master it, to keep busy and avoid the poolroom and try to get good at what you're doing. Really, it's all an alibi for something nobody's ever been able to talk about.
"Mostly my idea of a song is, when you feel like singing and this is your song. It's not what songs should be, not choosing; this is the song you make because it's the only one you can make, this is the one that is yours. The fact is that you feel like singing, and this is the song that you know."
"As a rule," I asked, "does the music come first, or the words?"
"Well," he said, "most of the time you're just scraping the bottom of the barrel to find any kind of voice at all. It could be a few words, a tone of voice, two chords together--it's a ragpicker's trade as I practice it; I don't stand on the mountain and received tablets."
Leonard Cohen, when I met him in his lawyer's office, was unsure of his American audience, wondering if they still existed. He was about to do three nights, six shows, at the Bottom Line in New York. "I'll be interested in seeing what happens in America. I haven't played any concerts here really for four years. You can completely die out..."
The third night at the Bottom Line was a cold, wet, nasty New York City day. I arrived shortly before the show was to start, wondering if anyone would be there. It was standing room only. There was a line of people a city-block long, huddling against the side of the building, fooling with broken umbrellas, waiting for a chance to buy tickets to get into the second show.


The pain and beauty of Cohen's vision is the perfect rejoinder to the pain and ugliness of Joseph Heller's portrait of the married North American career man. God bless our romantics; they give us strength to go on. Leonard Cohen, reached after many complications (all lines to Mexico were busy and something about his lady taking the car keys) by phone in Acapulco, was very pleased and encouraged by the enthusiastic reception he got at the Bottom Line, and at the Troubador in Los Angeles. He was with his family, in a cottage outside the city, writing, relaxing, getting ready for several months of American concerts. At 40, he is the first of the rock generation of songwriters to reach maturity with his consciousness and courage and sense of humor intact.

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05-08-2007
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I can't get enough of him of late. I think I must have listened to Who by fire forty times last night. In my defence, it's a short song.

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05-08-2007
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I revere him as a genius, but apparently his voice isn't everyone's favorite... That voice, which awes me with its resolute moroseness, is probably too much for them, in conjunction with his lyrics.

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05-08-2007
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It's not surprising that so many artists with traditionally "better" voices have chosen to cover his classics, knowing their hit potential when delivered by another set of chords. Just think of the million Hallelujahs out there... patricularly Jeff Buckley's super-popular version, transformed into the tearjerker it was never meant to be. Not only do tearjerkers fail to effect me —the Pixies can make me cry more than Jeff —but I found the following snippet while looking up Edward Hopper and now observe it as Leonard's purpose, too: "Edward Hopper belongs to a particular category of artist whose work appears sad but does not make us sad - the painterly counterpart to Bach or Leonard Cohen."

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05-08-2007
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.. and when he knew for certain, only drowning men could see him, he said "All men will be sailors then, until the sea shall free them".

14 albums sound like a lot to catch up, cause I only own three! .. but I adore him.. he's one of the few artists that I can spend money on in the blink of an eye with no regrets, I'm your man is by far my favorite, it arrived in perfect timing. though I guess one could say that on just about anything that speaks to your.. ear....and creates a vapor and a mist. (loved that bit of the article, I had to steal it immediately ).

thanks for the thread, strawbeghy!.

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Last edited by MulletProof; 05-08-2007 at 11:58 PM.
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06-08-2007
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Poet or songster, the man is pure art. One of my favorite sayings of his is "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." This is from 1994 - "Dance Me To The End of Love". And here is the link to a great comprehensive site.

[YOUTUBE]7pA5UhNaYw0[/YOUTUBE]

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Last edited by SomethingElse; 06-08-2007 at 12:14 AM.
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06-08-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SomethingElse View Post
"Dance Me To The End of Love".

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06-08-2007
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He's really just brilliant, musically and poetically. I found The Spice-Box of Earth, his second collection of poems, at my library just recently. It's wonderful -- somewhat hard to find but totally recommended.



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12-08-2007
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To me, him and Bob Dylan are at a completely different level of artistic genius.

Such an incredibly talented poet and writer.

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13-08-2007
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What else can be said?



The Future has always been my favorite.

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13-08-2007
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A personal favourite - First We Take Manhattan
[YOUTUBE]tFBKV0zVXSE[/YOUTUBE]

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13-08-2007
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Hallelujah
[YOUTUBE]rf36v0epfmI[/YOUTUBE]

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13-08-2007
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Everybody Knows
[YOUTUBE]wh9AC0jCGjY[/YOUTUBE]

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13-08-2007
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Waiting for a Miracle
[YOUTUBE]9FxqzQ0LwvY[/YOUTUBE]

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14-08-2007
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I once was listening to Leonar Cohen when i called a bank teller to do some business, and she got so excited because she loves Leonard Cohen, especially the song i was playing, Suzanne.

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