Leonard Cohen

I really enjoyed reading an article, State of Grace, in the August 24 edition of The New Yorker about Leonard Cohen. The man is old enough to be my father - in fact, he's only two months younger than my father. He was definitely running in different circles than my parents were in the early 1960s, and his Montreal scene seemed far more interesting than the scene that must existed where we lived then (Rochester, Minnesota - sorry, Mom and Dad). I hadn't known that his initial success was as a poet, not a songwriter:
  • Cohen began his musical career suspended between song and speech. In 1967, “Songs of Leonard Cohen” introduced listeners to Cohen’s strong nasal tenor, which suited the casual roué he conjured on songs like “Suzanne” and “So Long, Marianne.” The production is spare: mostly acoustic instruments and, at Cohen’s request, no drums. Though he is working in Bob Dylan’s shadow, his manner is more relaxed and his visions are slightly less gnomic: “I lit a thin green candle, to make you jealous of me. But the room just filled up with mosquitoes—they heard that my body was free,” he sings, in “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong.”
One of the best things about the article is that it helped me discover on YouTube a 1965 documentary on Cohen:
  • The film, a documentary called “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Mr. Leonard Cohen,” was intended to follow four Canadian poets on a reading tour. By the final cut, the introspective, deadpan thirty-year-old Cohen had stolen it. We watch him on Canadian television, cheekily telling an interviewer, “I haven’t a single concern” except to discover each morning whether he has woken in “a state of grace.” (If not, he says, he goes back to bed.) About the interviewer, he later comments, “He really wanted me to cut my con out... ‘Now really tell us the business about poetry. What’s the true story?’ ” There is no mention of Cohen’s songwriting, though the narrator observes that Cohen is “not self-consciously cultured” and “listens largely to pop music.”
The article and video are worth a read and a listen.


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