Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen and Allen Ginsberg – “An encounter with Leonard Cohen after a poetry reading at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. c.1988 – “Cohen was in the audience and Allen was in the lobby signing books after the show. They couldn’t stop talking” – Photograph courtesy Frank Beacham

Leonard Cohens birthday today. He’s 80 years old. Robert Sward: You once said that “the angels of mercy are other people”. What does that mean? And what is the relationship between angels and language?

Leonard Cohen: I don’t know. One of the things I always liked about the early Beatnik poetry – Ginsberg and Kerouac and Corso – was the use of the word “angel”. I never knew what they meant, except it was a designation for a human being and that it affirmed the light in an individual. I don’t know how I used the word “angel”. I’ve forgotten exactly, but I don’t think I ever got better than the way Ginsberg and Kerouac used the word in the early ‘fifties. I always loved reading their poems where they talked about angels. (Leonard Cohen, 1984 – from an interview with Robert Sward)

Here’s some early Leonard Cohen, a CBC interview (with Adrienne Clarkson) from the mid ’60’s

and more early – very early – Cohen – Donald Brittain’s 1965 documentary – Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen,

While we’re at it, here’s links to some other Cohen documentaries – Leonard Cohen in 1970 at the Isle of Wight and Tony Palmer’s (revealing documentation from the ‘Seventies) and, more recently (but only the trailer, unfortunately) Lian Lunson’s 2005 over-view, I’m Your Man One documentary that’s riveting and should on no account be missed is thisSpring 1996,  Leonard Cohen as a monk – about his time spent in the mid ‘Nineties at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, forty miles east of Los Angeles

Here‘s a 1988 BBC interview,  and Cohen, from that same year, on French tv. Speaking of French tv, here‘s an overview made four years later and here’s Peter Gzowsky’s 1994 CBC radio interview

And there’s more…There’s something utterly delightful in the dynamics between him and his pretty Scandinavian interviewer – from 2006 – (allowing him to flirtatiously open up) – see here, here and here and from Pierre Tétrault’s documentary film of the same year, (about his schizophrenic brother, Philip), This Beggar’s Description”

Tétrault:  Do you know, if you ever quit as a Zen Buddhist, you could be a Professor at McGill in English.
Leonard Cohen:  Yeah, I really look forward to that!


Sitting in the park, shooting the breeze with Leonard:

Allen and Bob Dylan, believe it or not, are a part of the backing-track of this (the title track to the 1977 Phil Spector-produced Death of A Ladies” Man).  And how could we forget this!  Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On.

There’s a brand new Leonard Cohen record out (out this very day, in fact!) Popular Problems – Here’s a cut from it – “Almost Like The Blues

More poems from Leonard Cohen –  here, here, here, here here – and a reading from his novel, Beautiful Losers (“God is Alive, Magic is Afoot”) – here

Here’s two contrasting renditions of “Suzanne” (one early, one late)

His astonishing speech in October 2011 at the Spanish Prince of Asturias Awards ceremony – “Poetry comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often.”

More Leonard Cohen resources here, here; and here, Happy 80th Birthday, Leonard!,

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