Interview with Leonard Cohen by ZigZag Magazine (1974)

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Interview with Leonard Cohen by ZigZag Magazine (1974)

Post by sirius »

"But you get caught up in the thing. And the desert is beautiful and you think your life is meaningful for a moment or two. And war is wonderful. They'll never stamp it out. It's one of the few times people can act their best. It's so economical in terms of gesture and motion, every single gesture is precise, every effort is at its maximum. Nobody goofs off. Everybody is responsible for his brother. The sense of community and kinship and brotherhood, devotion. There are opportunities to feel things that you simply cannot feel in modern city life. Very impressive." Leonard Cohen

The following article and interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike appeared in ZigZag Magazine, October 1974.

Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike in ZigZag Magazine, October 1974
September 15th 1974

By Robin Pike

This writing is from the workof Daphne Richardson (1939-1972)
Back Cover of Live Songs

This interview took two years to arrange. In the end it was not arranged, it just happened. My thanks are due to my friends for their patience and to my enemies for their stimulation.

September 15th this year was a Sunday. The day after Wembley. It was pouring with rain when we left Aylesbury and pouring with rain when we reached Bristol. We had been told that the tour party were staying at the Royal Hotel but they were not expecting us. At 3.15 in the afternoon we stood in the foyer of a deserted hotel and asked for Mr. Cohen. After a brief telephone call by the receptionist we were sent up to the second floor. The door of the room was open and there laid on the bed phone in hand was Leonard Cohen. We were asked to wait in the next room and talked with John Miller, the bass player. The tour had opened at the CBS convention in Eastbourne the previous week. From there the band traveled to Paris to play at the Fete de L'Humanite, a gathering run by the French Communist Party, which was attended by 300,000 people and featured Theodorakis, Cohen and other literary figures. The British tour had opened in Edinburgh and the previous night had played Liverpool. Everything had gone smoothly until the tour coach got within twenty miles of Bristol. At this point it broke down, its cooling system having totally failed. So they got out and hitched. Only nobody would stop - it was pouring with rain you may remember. Eventually Leonard and John were given a lift by a kindly man who happened himself to be a coach operator. The rest of the party didn't get in until much later. By this time they had missed lunch and the hotel had no food on a Sunday afternoon, so John went out to look for something to eat. He found a Wimpey Bar and returned with four hamburgers, four Cokes, some chips and a piece of chocolate gateau. We ate and interviewed at the same time. John the bass player showed a lively interest in photography and proceeded to take shots of us from the most unlikely angles. He was particularly fond of one taken from inside the wardrobe.

The hippodrome is a delightful theatre, more like an operahouse than a concert hall. There is a back street which runs past the stage door at the side of the theatre. Almost opposite the stage door is a seedy snack bar. Five minutes before the performance was due to start an observant passer-by would have noticed a familiar figure sat at a table drinking a cup of coffee. It was Mr. Cohen. In the dressing room there was no alcohol and no cigarettes. Nothing. Just the artists waiting to go on stage. Only the tour manager appeared in the slightest way nervous. The theatre was full, the audience warm and responsive, and at the end of the evening they could not leave. Audience and performers alike, sang the words of the songs they all knew so well. "That's no way to say goodbye."

Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934. He has a sister. His father died when he was nine years old. Leonard describes his upbringing as strict in a Victorian sense. The family were of a conservative Jewish tradition. They made full observance of Jewish faith and customs without the rigidity of the orthodox tradition. Leonard's grandfather was a Hebrew scholar. An imposing figure with long uncut hair, Rabbi Solomon Klinitsky was greatly revered by his grandson. Leonard was educated at a Christian school. These years are remembered but without feeling. Schooldays were boring. He edited the school newspaper, played hockey and was a cheerleader. At college he played guitar in what he describes as a "barn-storming" group. At the age of fifteen he left school to take a course in English literature at McGill University. At the same time he left home to live in a flat in downtown Montreal. The novel, The Favourite Game, deals with this period of his life.

ZigZag: Nobody got thrown out or anything like that?

Leonard Cohen: The worst that could happen to you was that you'd fail a year and you'd start over again. The life was downtown - meeting the artists and the poets and discovering what café life was. I was young in those days. There was no oppressive tradition or anything so you were doing it yourself. It was fun. Just a few people around.

ZZ: I was wondering if you went through the business of reading all the Shakespeare plays. Whether you read a lot of more stylized poetry.

LC: I read a lot of poetry - but not specifically connected with the course I was taking. There are some Shakespearean plays I haven't read, there are some I have read very very thoroughly. I went out with a Shakespearean actress for a while so I used to have to learn all her plays so I could follow what they were about. But I didn't have a very thorough background in English literature at all.

ZZ: Do you have any favourite plays, particularly, say, Shakespearean plays?

LC: I like "Timon of Athens" very much. I think that's quite a late one.

ZZ: I'm thinking of the tragedies like "Lear" or "Hamlet" or "Macbeth".

LC: Well do you know to me it's like saying how do you feel about the high Himalayas or something. They're great, huge articulations of human experience, by the master poet of our race. It's hard for me sitting here, eating a hamburger to say what I like or don't like. I stand in a certain reverence to these masters. Those people I don't take casually at all.

ZZ: Can I change the subject and ask you about your political involvement, particularly with, shall we say, revolutionary movements?

LC: I guess my interior connection with these movements approximates to Camus' experience, although of course I didn't take any of his risks. I went down to Cuba to observe and associate myself with that revolution just before the Bay of Pigs.

ZZ: Did you meet Castro?

LC: No, never on that level. Just as a foot soldier. It's hard for me to speak about those things. My feeling these days is very different. I don't think that armed revolution should be encouraged in industrial societies. I think it would be a disaster if such a thing ever happened. it really would be awful. What do you feel?

ZZ: Yes, I don't see revolution as achieving very much in those terms. More through infiltration than armed uprising.

I believe you were involved with the Black Power movement at one time.

LC: Well I knew some people in it. Michael X I knew very well. He's just waiting to be hung. Well I had many talks with him. For some races there are men of imagination who are really oppressed and there is absolutely no other way. They have got to take up this position whether they really believe it in their hearts or not. They have to have a structure to which they can attach themselves. To wait and see, it just doesn't satisfy their hunger or their imagination. They can only see themselves extended through society with that kind of thrust behind them. There's no argument you can have with them. You can't say cool it out, or whatever is achieved by this or that except more violence? OK, let us be the ones who are making the violence on you guys, we're tired of being on the other side. But he himself knew the limitations of this position. That's what we don't understand. The leaders of the Movement (to have that kind of power in the Movement means they're quite bright) - understand perfectly the limitations of their position all the time. Michael said to me - he was completely against arming the blacks in America - he said it was crazy - they would never be able to resist that machine. They own the bullets and the armaments factories and the guns. So you give the blacks a few guns and have them against armies? He was even against knives. He said we should use our teeth. Something everybody has. That was his view of the thing. It was a different kind of subversion. The subversion of real life to implant black fear. He would invite me over to his place and he would serve me a drink, a delicious drink, I would say, "God, how do you make this?" He would say, "You don't expect me to tell you. If you know the secrets of our food, you know the secrets of our race and the secrets of our strength." You know it was that kind of vision that he wanted to develop. Pretty good one.

ZZ: How do you feel about your position as a Jew? Do you support, for instance, the movement to free Jewish prisoners in Soviet Russia? Particularly artists like the Panovs.

LC: Yes I do. Also Ukrania. I would like to see the break-up of the Russian empire. I think there are a lot of Russians who feel that way too. A lot of Russians are not really interested in the domination of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Ukrania and Latvia. It's a difficult position they've got themselves into. The Jews come under that kind of heading also.

ZZ: Do you actively work in this sort of area? Do you really lend your support?

LC: No. No, I give my name if anybody asks for it. I don't feel that my talents run in those directions. I've never disguised the fact that I'm Jewish and in any crisis in Israel I would be there. I was there in the last war and I would be there in another war. I am committed to the survival of the Jewish people. I have a lot of quarrels inside that camp with Jewish leadership and Jewish value and that sort of thing. I am committed to the survival of the Jewish people and I think that survival is threatened in places like the Soviet Union. I think it's threatened in America on another level. It's just a tribal feeling, there's nothing enacted.

ZZ: You mentioned that you went back to Israel at the time of the last war and you sang. Can you say a bit more about that? How did you actually take part?

LC: I just attached myself to an air force entertainment group. We would just drop into little places, like a rocket site and they would shine their flashlights at us and we would sing a few songs. Or they would give us a jeep and we would go down the road towards the front and wherever we saw a few soldiers waiting for a helicopter or something like that we would sing a few songs. And maybe back at the airbase we would do a little concert, maybe with amplifiers. It was very informal, and you know, very intense. Wherever you saw soldiers you would just stop and sing.

ZZ: It strikes me as being rather dangerous. You didn't feel any personal anxiety about being killed?

LC: I did once or twice. But you get caught up in the thing. And the desert is beautiful and you think your life is meaningful for a moment or two. And war is wonderful. They'll never stamp it out. It's one of the few times people can act their best. It's so economical in terms of gesture and motion, every single gesture is precise, every effort is at its maximum. Nobody goofs off. Everybody is responsible for his brother. The sense of community and kinship and brotherhood, devotion. There are opportunities to feel things that you simply cannot feel in modern city life. Very impressive.

ZZ: Obviously you found that stimulated you. Did you find it stimulated your writing at all?

LC: In a little way. But not really. I wrote a song there.

ZZ: Wars have in the past been times when people have written great things after or during.

LC: I didn't suffer enough. I didn't lose anyone I knew.

The conversation at this point turned to Leonard's experience of singing to patients in mental hospitals. He believes that it is good for a band to play free concerts and he has done a lot of this work in Canada.

ZZ: Do you see yourself then as an entertainer or as a therapist?

LC: I have a lot of admiration for the professional point of view. I think a therapist should be an entertainer. Whatever you are you should be an entertainer first. If you're going to present yourself to people they have to be entertained. Their imagination has to be engaged and they have to enter into the vortex of imagination and relaxation and suspense that is involved in entertainment.

ZZ: I'm thinking that if you go into a group of people and then you go away from it, perhaps without any measure of supervision, it might be difficult. Or would you expect the professional staff to take part in the entertainment as well and then to be able, perhaps to catch up anything that happened as a result of your work with them? It would be a very fleeting visit, wouldn't it?

LC: It just takes a tiny moment to receive a scar. It can be with you for the rest of your life. Similarly I think the things that touch us-- I don't know incidentally if I'm one of these people, I'm just in a tradition -- I'm probably just like a ninth rate operator in a great tradition. I also have very clear ideas about where I stand in a great tradition. The kind of healing that goes with song or with art or whatever you care to mention is almost impossible to talk about because it happens to one person in an audience. Something out of the work touches them in some way. In any ordinary audience also. Some connection is made. I don't think it's anything that all but the most sensitive doctor or worker could ever pick up on. And certainly, not guaranteed that it will happen to very many people. Mostly it's just entertainment for an evening. To get through the night.

ZZ: I just wonderer whether possibly it might not be rather frightening and alarming if this particular spark did happen to strike and you were there, and then you'd gone and whatever had happened wouldn't have been supported by your presence again. And this is something that could really destroy what little bit of strength they had.

LC: I agree with you. I agree with you. This certainly happens outside of the hospitals, if you're dealing, as I do with a certain kind of material. It happens to even the most casual of pop singers, you don't have to be dealing with very rarified or specialized material. Every singer has had this experience. Tom Jones has it. The people start to see the work as having a special kind of healing or visionary element and they assume that you are the master and the creator and the engineer of this bomb, this unguent, this healing substance, and somehow that contact with you will guarantee the cure. They come forward in a certain kind of way through letter or through the person and of course they are doomed to disappointment and after all of course the artist himself can't function in the capacity of a healer, in a professional sense. So it does, as you say, often throw people into states of mind that are difficult. I had this happen just a couple of days ago. Did you see that girl John? That black girl? Her manuscript called "A Pyramid of Suffering" is a document of suffering.

John Miller: Where were you in it?

LC: All through it. References to my songs. She is a mental patient.

ZZ: How about Daphne Richardson whose letter you had on the back of the Live album. Could you say something about her, because this seems possibly to tie in with this area.

LC: I knew her first of all through the mails. I try to read everything I get and I was struck by the power of her communications. She was at that time trying to get published a book of poems that were very experimental and were collage poems. And they weren't by any means inept. They were highly skilled. They were a collage of Dylan, myself and her own work. And Dylan wouldn't give her permission to publish his work in scraps. And I did. I entered into this communication with her. I knew there was an edge to her letters that was so fanatic and so intense that she would experience great floods of disturbance. On the other hand, there was something about her mind that I found immensely attractive and delightful. Then her story started to emerge. She sent me long, long letters and books that she'd written to me and of course there were these excessive kinds of letters that she would write to me that she wanted to come and stay with me or, -- you know. On the other hand, her doctors and the people in her hospitals that she would come in and out of - they didn't believe that she was in communication with me at all. They thought that this was a complete pipedream. So she was living a completely strange sort of life. They were strapping her down and that sort of thing and she would say, "Leonard Cohen, I'm going to be working on his book." I said, "I'd like you to illustrate my book," - she was a very fine draughtsman - and I had intended her to illustrate my last book, The Energy of Slaves. She'd be screaming at the doctors, "You've got to let me out I'm illustrating Leonard Cohen's next book." I did go over on my last tour and we arranged to meet and I met her for the first time and she was a very attractive girl in her thirties, and really nice and of a style and bearing that was very close to people that I know. I knew she had experience in mental hospitals. We arranged to do this book together and I looked at more of her drawings and I was very impressed. Then I went back to America. And it was just one period when I was out of touch with my correspondence and I came to this correspondence and I found telegrams and letters saying, "Please help. I've been put away again, they won't believe me. I need your help, please help." I got on the phone to my agent in London and I said, "Get ahold of Daphne right away, she's in trouble. I'm already late, it's a month since these telegrams had come." I said, "Tell her that the work on the book is on and I want her to start these illustrations. I'll get the manuscript to her."

And she'd just committed suicide three days before.

I was just too late.

Another three weeks or a week or anything. She was just holding on to this kind of activity.

ZZ: Yes, I can see that.

LC: She mentioned me in her suicide note. It was horrible.

ZZ: Why did you put it on the back of the record?

LC: Oh she always wanted to be published. She couldn't get anyone to publish her. The letter was to me. There was a book she wrote to me from the mental hospital. I tell you it was shattering. A testimony of pain, I've never read anything like it.

JM: What's the difference between that and the "Pyramid of Suffering"?

LC: Very close, but a suffering that is not enlightened. Daphne was like somebody sitting in this room. She was completely aware. There were no blank spots. She was not a compulsive or an obsessive kind of person. She went into pain that was so overwhelming that she couldn't function. But she always knew where she was and what she was doing. This girl is like under it - it's really a pyramid - that's a beautiful description of where she is. She's buried under a pyramid of suffering like there is no other. Daphne, however, had a sense of humour. She was attractive. She was a much more attractive figure. Warm. This girl was insane. The black girl was insane. There was no question about that. Daphne was...I really blew that. I felt bad about that.

But you're right, and it's made me much...the point that you just very delicately suggested that I ought not to meddle around with these things if I'm not going to be there day after day to really follow through. I really feel that way now.

ZZ: Yes, I think one thing one has to learn as a therapist is to be very careful to prepare one's patient for the time of parting if that is going to happen. It can be very painful.

Well, perhaps if I could change the subject again and ask you about one of two of yours songs. About "Suzanne" and about Pearls Before Swine. Am I right in thinking they recorded that before you did?

LC (to JM): Did you ever know that group?

JM: I never knew that. They recorded "Suzanne" before you?

LC: They recorded "Suzanne", yes.

JM: But not before you?

LC: Around the same time, very early.

JM: They were very interesting, Pearls Before Swine.

ZZ: Were they friends of yours? Or how did that come about?

LC: I think the song was just making its way through New York at the time. They just picked up on it. Are they still together? Is there such a group?

ZZ: I don't believe so. You know, when I went to school there was a Buffy St. Marie concert and I reviewed it for the paper and she sang "Suzanne". I wrote in my article that I swore she said, "I'm going to do a song now that I wrote." Was there any question as to who wrote "Suzanne"?

LC: Not really, no. The song was stolen from in terms of legal copyright, but nobody has ever suggested I didn't write it. You may have got it wrong, but she is fantastic. I actually taught it to her mouth to mouth.

JM: She did it great.

LC: She is a greatly underestimated singer. I think she's one of the greatest.

ZZ: She has recorded one or two of your songs that you haven't recorded, is that right?

LC: She did a version of a long passage from Beautiful Losers called "God Is Alive". She did a beautiful job with that.

ZZ: And there is a song called "Bells" I think.

LC: She recorded "Bells". An early, early version, which we do. I just recorded that now. It's a version completely changed from the one I taught her.

ZZ: Could you say something about Nico?

LC: I hope I can see her when we get back to France. Or in London, if she's in town.

ZZ: She's been recording in London.

LC: She's incredible. She's a great singer and a great songwriter. Completely disregarded from what I can see. I mean, I don't think she sells fifty records, but she's I think one of the really original talents in the whole racket.

ZZ: Is it right that you wrote "Joan Of Arc" particularly with her in mind?

LC: Oh I wouldn't say that. How did you know that?

ZZ: It appeared in one of your recent interviews.

LC: Oh really? I don't remember if that's true. I know that I was after her - I was sniffing around. I was very taken by Nico in those days. I did write that song around that time.

ZZ: How about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground?

LC: I knew those people in New York. When I first came to New York - I guess it was around 1966 - Nico was singing at the Dom, which was an Andy Warhol club at the time on 8th Street. I just stumbled in there one night and I didn't know any of these people. I saw this girl singing behind the bar. She was a sight to behold. I suppose the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen up to that moment. I just walked up and stood in front of her until people pushed me aside. I started writing songs for her then. She introduced me to Lou Reed at that time. And Lou Reed surprised me greatly because he had a book of my poems. I hadn't been published in America, and I had a very small audience even in Canada. So when Lou Reed asked me to sign Flowers for Hitler, I thought it was an extremely friendly gesture of his. The Velvet Underground had broken up at the time. He played me his songs. It was the first time I'd heard them. I thought they were excellent - really fine. I used to praise him.

ZZ: How well did you know him?

LC: I can't say I know him well at all. He was an early reader of Beautiful Losers which he thought was a good book. In those days I guess he wasn't getting very many compliments of his work and I certainly wasn't. So we told each other how good we were. I liked him immediately because Nico liked him.

ZZ: Could I ask you about other people in the music business like Van Morrison?

LC: I'm very fond of his work. I don't know him. I love his work as a matter of fact. Do you? [to John]

JM: Great. He's another one who's great and will never be a great star and possibly doesn't want to be.

ZZ: Could I ask you about the Rolling Stones? Whether you've ever had any contact with them, whether you think anything about their music?

LC: I met Mick Jagger once in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel and he said, "Are you in New York for a poetry reading?"

There's some of their songs I like very much. I think it's wonderful the phenomenon of the Rolling Stones - the figure of Mick Jagger. They are the bread and wine of the pop groups. I was a little bit older than other people when I came into contact with these figures, and I'd already had my mind blown by older and much more outrageous people that I'd met in my youth, so I wasn't about to succumb to the kind of fever that they produce in younger people. But I've always admired them from the slightly humourous point of view. I never did seriously ask myself if Mick Jagger was the Devil. But I think as figures they're quite interesting.

ZZ: You are in some senses rather an alien figure to a lot of people in the music business and I wonder to what extent you do consider yourself as quite separate from it.

LC: I feel totally separate from it. I love the phenomenon, but I don't live as one of those figures. My own personal style is very, very different. I don't perform in the same kind of field. My life is completely different and it developed on different grounds that came to my mind much earlier than the pop movement. My lifestyle was formulated in the middle fifties and has changed very little since then. The kinds of rooms that I could find myself in.

ZZ: Could I ask you about one or two more songs? "The Story Of Isaac" for instance. Could you describe a little how you came to write that? It does include a reference to a father. Is this your father?

LC: It is hard to step outside the center of a song when you've written it and explain it to anyone, including yourself. All you know as a writer, as an artist, or as someone who deals and manipulates symbols is whether it has an interior integrity. I think this song does have that kind of interior integrity, it has fathers and sons in it and sacrifice and slaughter, and an extremely honest statement at the end. And that's all I can say about it. The anti-war movement claim the song as their own and that's fine. The Fascist Party movement could also claim it as their own, and that's fine. I know that song is true. It does say something about fathers and sons and that curious place, generally over the slaughtering block where generations meet and have their intercourse. As to its meaning or anything else, I don't know, except that it exists as a psychic reality. That's about all I can say about it.

ZZ: There wasn't a particular circumstance at the time that you wrote it?

LC: I think probably that I did feel that one of the reasons that we have wars was so the older men can kill off the younger ones, so that there's no competition for the women. Or for their position. I do think that this is true. One of the reasons we do have wars periodically is so the older men can have the women. Also, completely remove the competition in terms of their own institutional positions. I also understand that the story of Isaac in the Bible has other significances, which have to do with faith and absurdity and what they used to call, in the fifties, existential religion. Outside of all those cultural attachments which the songs has gathered to itself as it moves through society in its limping way, I just know that as an experience it's authentic psychically. It doesn't betray itself. That's all I mean. The song doesn't end with a plea for peace. It doesn't end with a plea for sanity between the generations. It ends saying, "I'll kill you if I can, I will help you if I must, I will kill you if I must, I will help you if I can." That's all I can say about it. My father died when I was nine, that's the reason I put that one of us had to go.

ZZ: Would you like to say anything about "The Butcher"?

LC: "The Butcher" is another one of those little songs that has that kind of psychic integrity. You could dignify it with a religious interpretation. I'm not interested in that, if people want to do that. If they want to dignify it or elaborate it on altars or dissecting tables or whatever it is - it's cool with me. Everybody's job should be protected. To me, when the energy is somehow generated within somebody to create something, the thing has to stand or fall by its own internal construction. To me that's another little song that has an internal authenticity or accuracy that allows it to exist.

ZZ: How about drugs?

LC: I don't use them myself. I think they're very bad for you. I think grass is terrible. I don't say this to anybody because nobody believes me. There's a great grass culture and far be it for me to intrude upon the pleasures of the young. I smoked grass for a long time, I know what it is, I know what it does and I think we're a culture that is not yet wise enough to handle it. I've spoken to Moroccans who've observed Americans smoking and they think we're crazy. And they smoke a lot.

JM: Why?

LC: Because we smoke all the time.

JM: We smoke less than they?

LC: Much, much more. We smoke all the time.

JM: Am I wrong to think that in Morocco all they do is sit around with hash pipes?

LC: I am sure that there are those who do that. I could find those guys in Ireland who sit around the pubs drinking all day. But by and large we handle our alcohol. But American youth will smoke all the grass they have, all the time, until it's gone. I think there are other peoples who handle it better. I don't want to make a point about this, as far as I can see they're not in such good shape either. The inscrutable Orientals are not that great in the handling of these problems either. Obviously people use grass and write beautiful things on it. I don't dispute any of the excellent and magnificent products that the thing has done. To me personally, I have seen the damage that it has done to myself and others. I don't think it's all that great. And that's the one that's supposed to be harmless.

ZZ: I asked you that after we were talking about "The Butcher" because of the line in "The Butcher."

LC: I have used drugs. I have used almost everything that I could ever get my hands on. I have taken them in every possible way. I think that drugs without a sacrament, without a ritual, without a really great understanding of their power are dangerous. I'm not talking about banning or not using drugs. I'm talking about the casual and indiscriminate and social use of drugs can be very, very dangerous. And is dangerous. I think that LSD is by far the most powerful substance in society. There's no question about that.

ZZ: Is it true that you were in a monastery?

LC: I have ties with certain monasteries that I visit from time to time.

ZZ: Do you visit as a retreat or do you visit as a novice, or would you consider taking vows?

LC: I visit them as a friend of the abbot rather than in any other capacity.

ZZ: What order is the monastery?

LC: There are one or two trappist monasteries that I have visited and one or two Buddhist monasteries that I have visited. I don't like to speak too much about it - it tends to advertise myself as a virtuous person or something and my feeling has nothing to do with virtue. There are a couple of men who are very strong and interesting, whose company I enjoy tremendously. They happen to be in the religious industry or whatever you want to call it. They put you through changes, they make you work and you're not likely to sleep more than three or four hours a night.

ZZ: You observe their rules?

LC: Oh yes. I observe their rules. If you want to study with a very good professor at Heidelberg you'd have to learn German. It's just their vocabulary. I'm more than willing to learn their vocabulary in order to enjoy their company. It's just the way they operate. It's something they've inherited from their own tradition and are very good at it. Outside of that tradition is another situation. Within their tradition they really flower and they flourish. To get the benefits of their personalities you have to learn their vocabulary.

ZZ: We had a broadcast last Sunday - or was it the Sunday before - in which Mick Jagger had to pick twelve records. They were really very interesting because he picked some classical Indian music which he liked to listen to, and as one can imagine a lot of black American music. But you probably couldn't do anything like that?

LC: I'm not too interested in music. I don't know that I'm interested in particularly. I don't have a record player most of the time. I'm not that close to that side of things. If you asked me if there were some songs that I would like to remember, that I would like not to forget if the world was going to be overwhelmed by a vast amnesia, six songs that I would like to remember, I might be able to do that. But in terms of records and books - it would really be an effort to sit down and write an authentic and accurate list.

It is unlikely that we shall see Leonard Cohen touring in Britain again in the near future. He plans to reappear every few years to show us what he is doing. He believes that an entertainer is likely to develop an inflated idea of his own importance if he is constantly recording and touring. In any case, it takes him about three years to complete a song. He does not like the commercial hassles of the music business. In fact, he prefers his earlier film, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen," to his latest, "Bird on a Wire."

The British tour ended at the Albert Hall on September 19th. He did not say goodbye. His last words to the audience were:

"Thank you for remembering the songs which I wrote, all those years ago, in a room."
Last edited by sirius on Sun Nov 22, 2009 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike ZigZag Magazine

Post by mnkyface »

Wow. Just...WOW. I didn't know the Daphne story and it broke my heart.

Thanks for the post, Sirius.
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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike ZigZag Magazine

Post by Inna »

I have to say that earlier interviewers, those like the one above, were more able to ask intelligent questions and actually converse with the artist, than many that we witness nowadays. A very interesting conversation indeed. Thank you.
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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike ZigZag Magazine

Post by sturgess66 »

Thanks for finding this article and posting it Sirius.* What a wonderful interview with Leonard Cohen. I am calculating that Leonard would be 40 years old at the time.?

A very sad story about the woman Daphne - her tragic end, and the resulting burden of thoughts and feelings Leonard was left to deal with. There was a happening that was in the news just last year - somewhat similar - involving an obsessed fan with the same tragic result.

I like his response to ZZ about "The Butcher."

"The Butcher" is another one of those little songs that has that kind of psychic integrity. You could dignify it with a religious interpretation. I'm not interested in that, if people want to do that. If they want to dignify it or elaborate it on altars or dissecting tables or whatever it is - it's cool with me. Everybody's job should be protected. To me, when the energy is somehow generated within somebody to create something, the thing has to stand or fall by its own internal construction. To me that's another little song that has an internal authenticity or accuracy that allows it to exist.

As seems to be a common theme throughout the interview, Leonard does what he does, and leaves the dissecting and analyzing to others. His observations come from his own experiences. He has a remarkable ability for meticulous involvement, and at the same time has the capacity for perceptive overview - devoid of moralistic, political, religious or righteous conclusions.

*Editing to say that after clicking on the link I realized that this was posted at "Speaking Cohen" - so I will thank MarieM for preserving it there - and I still appreciate that you brought it to my attention Sirius - my "thank you" still stands for that - but I wish you hadn't bothered posting that inane blog about one of Leonard's very fine musicians. I don't want to bump up that thread again to say this there. I'm sure the person at that blog (who doesn't even reveal his own name) enjoyed all the resulting hits he got to his site. Me? I'd like to smack him upside his head. :lol: :lol: :lol:
Last edited by sturgess66 on Tue Nov 24, 2009 9:10 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike ZigZag Magazine

Post by holydove »

Thank you, sirius, for posting this fascinating interview.

I am so struck by Leonard's great compassion in relating to Daphne, communicating with her, and being willing to work with her (on various levels); and how painfully heartbreaking, for both of them, how it ended. . .

Leonard has always been so eloquent, precise, and caring in his responses to interviewers; it never ceases to amaze me, what an evolved and sophisticated being he has always been, even at such an early age. . .just beautiful. . .
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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike ZigZag Magazine

Post by brightnow »

Thanks for posting this Peter. Reading this makes me feel very grateful for this forum and for contributions like these.
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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by Robin Pike ZigZag Magazine

Post by John Etherington »

Good to be reminded of that interview. I have a copy of the original, as I've never parted with my Zig Zags.

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Re: Interview with Leonard Cohen by ZigZag Magazine (1974)

Post by RonnyG »

This is one of my favorite interviews with Leornard. Thanks so much for sharing. I remember reading it for the first time in old magazine I found in my father's drawer, waiting in the yard for the tree care company to finish trimming the trees. I was supposed to be making sure they were doing a good job but couldn't take my eyes off the interview!
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