Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interview with Leonard Cohen - This Man Knows About Love

This isn't the first time I have blogged about Leonard Cohen. (Go here to see my other posts), having said that, I must comment on an interview I listened to yesterday which was broadcast (into my ear buds) at the same time on CBC Radio 1 as I was trucking around Luminato. I have put on his "Live in London" DVD this morning while I write this blog and I am again reminded what a great artist he is. The interview made it clear to me that he is also a wise and sensitive man.

I wanted to present some of, what were for me, highlights of the interview.

On Love

He spent some time talking about love and the songs inspired by or written for women - of which there are many. He said (I paraphrase)

Love is the most challenging activity humans get into - Love - we have the sense that we can't live without love ... but the possibilities for humiliation and failure are ample... The heart is always softening or hardening, there is no jackpot, either you have the courage despite the significant defeats we accumulate over our lives- if we can continue and do not close down - then the possibilities are always there (for other loves to follow) ... women and men are at the core of each other - most men and women cherish some sort of dream of surrender - total love - sometimes experiencing defeat, sometimes acceptance and sometimes exaltation. It is the accumulation of defeats that is the inhibitor and those that are able not to close down are lucky. It is how we react when the love is lost that gives us the capacity to love again.

The last sentence is mine, but I think that is what he was getting at and left unsaid. That is why when we were young, maybe I only speak for the feminine side of the equation, we feel so devastated when love was lost or we just did not have anyone to love at a point in time in our lives. After time you realize you can recover from love lost and you can love again you are less shaken by its loss. I do not believe you can successfully seek out and find someone to love, I believe in fate and destiny on this one - however, you need to be open to it, not closed otherwise you will not be receptive to it when the seeds are planted.

I have learned to find joy in both solitude and also in the company of friends. I have a network of close friends which gives me the confidence to weather those years that I am without a "significant other". However that does not mean that I am alone out of choice or because I have given up and decided it is not for me... Just that I am happy and busy sufficiently that I don't think about such things - I am not frantically searching. Those in between time periods may be many years or as I approach old age even a decade or more, so it is important to cultivate an emotional self sufficiency as much as it is to establish a financial self sufficiency. I purposefully do that.

On "Forever More" Relationships

Does Leonard regret not having a life long partner? He responded to this question with a song in French - but it is clear he has no regrets... however, I suspect he is a bit wistful - as I am - that it wasn't to be. Perhaps my Montreal friend will help me here if he listens to the interview and tells me what the song means at 19:28 seconds into the interview.

Even though I do not count on having one, I still believe old age would be nicer if there were a "significant other" to share life's events with. The difference now is that I know that I can still be happy without a partner - it is just be a different sort of happiness, still with passion and love, even as I grow old I expect. However, I am no longer thinking in terms of someone I would be with "til death do us part".

On Dark Times

For someone who has written so many somber ballads, and who has suffered from clinical depression for extended periods of time, Leonard, in his mid 70s, has developed an extremely circumspect attitude. He is clearly happy with where he is in life and cognizant of where he has been on life's journey. At one point he was asked about "his darkest hour". His response was telling. He said, "Nothing comes to mind". He didn't think he ever had a "darkest hour", that one needed to put this in perspective; not compared with the suffering of others that goes on ... when you hear about people dodging bombs, having their nails pulled out in dungeons and starving...

Leonard - You Are My Man
The most striking thing about Leonard from this interview, aside from his astuteness and circumspect attitude, is that he is a most modest and humble person. I was also struck by his manner of speaking as it was so careful and respectful of those listening. When discussing the awards and accolades that Leonard has received over his lifetime, he responded that yes there had been an award or two and more importantly the critics have been kind, but that his work is really not a big seller.

At one point the interviewer, Jian Ghomeshi, comments that Leonard's house (the interview was at Leonard Cohen's home in Montreal), is a very modest home. Leonard's response was that he liked to live simply, but that wasn't a virtue. As I have said before, Leonard Cohen, you are my man.

The Leonard Cohen interview is available on You Tube as a CBC "Q TV Presentation". The interview is 40 minutes in length if you care to see it in its entirety.

As I listen to the Live in London DVD, I am reminded that the favourite part of this music DVD is not any of the songs - and they are all the best of the best of Cohen - it is the track where Leonard recites his poem "A Thousand Kisses Deep". This poem is in my opinion right up there with Suzanne. It speaks to me volumes and for those of us who have loved (I would presume most of us) and for those of us who are in love, whether requited or not or even if ill conceived, I am sure that it speaks to you as well.

If you are interested in podcasts of this and other Q interviews Go Here I think most of them are also available on You Tube as a Q TV Video.


  1. You make me jealous. I missed those concerts in London due to finances. I came to Leonard's music a few years ago and yet the first time I heard him was by accident. It was the first track of the film 'Pump Up the Volume' with a very young Christian Slater playing an independent radio DJ. The song was 'Everybody Knows'. The rest is history. I love his music, I don't find him depressing at all and judging by this interview he is extremely articulate, respectful but playful, too. Many thanks for this post.

    Greetings from London.

  2. We have two posts here, it seems to me. There is the post about Leonard Cohen, and then there is the post about Peggy Hilliard.

    It is easy for me to comment on Leonard. I know nothing of him other than what you have offered here. I recall hearing him play and sing a song or two once on a public broadcasting channel program, and that is the sum of my previous knowledge. From your description, it sounds as though he is very talented, very wise and very modest, which equals someone to admire.

    You seem to have revealed much about your own attitudes and beliefs while reflecting on Leonard. You seem to be very optimistic, very confident and very understanding of your own feelings and emotions, which equals a very interesting person to read. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts in the future.

  3. Thank you Fram. Interesting how these blogs result in bits of the bloggists themselves to be revealed. And yes, like Leonard Cohen, I am very happy where I am in my life and very aware of and grateful for the path I have followed.


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