Leonard Cohen

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Here I stand, I'm your man.

Leonard Norman Cohen (born 21 September 1934) is a Canadian poet, songwriter, singer, and novelist noted for the bold exploration of religion, politics, sexuality, personal relationships and personal isolation in his works.

Quotes[edit]

Ah, you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win...
I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory...
I don't consider myself a pessimist at all. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel completely soaked to the skin.
I never set out to be difficult or obscure. I just set out to write what I felt as honestly as I could, and I am delighted when other people feel a part of themselves in the music.
  • Although only one man may be receiving the favors of a woman, all men in her presence are warmed. That's the great Generosity of women and the great generosity of of the Creator who worked it out is that there are no unilateral agreements on sexuality.
    • Spoken in "Ladies and Gentlemen, Leonard Cohen" (1965)
  • What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.
  • God is alive. Magic is afoot. God is alive. Magic is afoot. God is afoot. Magic is alive. Alive is afoot. Magic never died. God never sickened. Many poor men lied. Many sick men lied. Magic never weakened. Magic never hid. Magic always ruled. God is afoot. God was ruler though his funeral lengthened. Though his mourners thickened Magic never fled...
    • Beautiful Losers (1966)
  • It was only when you walked away I saw you had the perfect ass. Forgive me for not falling in love with your face or your conversation.
    • The Energy of Slaves (1972)
  • Only in Canada could somebody with a voice like mine win 'Vocalist of the Year'.
    • First words of his speech accepting the Juno Award for Best Male Vocalist in Canada (1992)
  • I am so often accused of gloominess and melancholy. And I think I'm probably the most cheerful man around. I don't consider myself a pessimist at all. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel completely soaked to the skin. … I think those descriptions of me are quite inappropriate to the gravity of the predicament that faces us all. I've always been free from hope. It's never been one of my great solaces. I feel that more and more we're invited to make ourselves strong and cheerful. .... I think that it was Ben Jonson who said, I have studied all the theologies and all the philosophies, but cheerfulness keeps breaking through.
  • Now, I don't want to give you the impression that I'm a great musicologist, but I'm a lot better than what I was described as for a long, long time; you know, people said I only knew three chords when I knew five.
    • Interview with BBC Radio 1FM (1994)
  • I feel that, you know, the enormous luck I've had in being able to make a living, and to never have had to have written one word that I didn't want to write, to be able to have satisfied that dictum I set for myself, which was not to work for pay, but to be paid for my work — just to be able to satisfy those standards that I set for myself has been an enormous privilege.
    • Interview with BBC Radio 1FM (1994)
  • People used to say my music was too difficult or too obscure, and I never set out to be difficult or obscure. I just set out to write what I felt as honestly as I could, and I am delighted when other people feel a part of themselves in the music.
    • As quoted in Los Angeles Times (24 September 1995)
  • This is the very contrary of dropping out. Most people can't wait to get home to their house or apartment and shut that door and turn on the TV. To me, that's dropping out.
    • On his living at a Zen center, as quoted in Los Angeles Times (24 September 1995)
  • "You have loved enough, now let me be the lover." You could say that God is speaking to you or the cosmos, or your lover. It just means, like, Forget it. Lean back and be loved by all that is already loving you. It is your effort at love that is preventing you from experiencing it. It is like if you ever taught kids how to swim. The most difficult thing is Goddam to understand that they will float, if they relax, if they hold their breath and relax, they will actually float. For most kids it is difficult to swim. They feel they are going to sink like a stone to the bottom of the lake.
    • On the lyrics to "You Have Loved Enough" in an interview released at the Ten New Songs site (2001)

Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)[edit]

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river...
Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower...
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.
I told you when I came I was a stranger.
Please understand, I never had a secret chart
to get me to the heart of this
or any other matter.
But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.
  • Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river.
    You can hear the boats go by,
    You can spend the night beside her,
    And you know that she's half crazy
    But that's why you want to be there,
    And she feeds you tea and oranges
    That come all the way from China.
    And just when you mean to tell her
    That you have no love to give her
    Then she gets you on her wavelength
    And she lets the river answer
    That you've always been her lover.
    And you want to travel with her,
    And you want to travel blind,
    And you know that she will trust you,
    For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.
  • And she shows you where to look
    Among the garbage and the flowers.

    There are heroes in the seaweed,
    There are children in the morning,
    They are leaning out for love,
    And they will lean that way forever,
    While Suzanne holds the mirror.
    • "Suzanne"
  • And Jesus was a sailor
    When he walked upon the water
    And he spent a long time watching
    From his lonely wooden tower
    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"
    But he himself was broken
    Long before the sky would open
    Forsaken, almost human
    He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
    • "Suzanne"
  • It's true that all the men you knew were dealers
    who said they were through with dealing
    Every time you gave them shelter.
    I know that kind of man
    It's hard to hold the hand of anyone
    who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.
    • "The Stranger Song" (1966)
  • Like any dealer he was watching for the card
    that is so high and wild
    he'll never need to deal another.
    He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.
    • "The Stranger Song"
  • I told you when I came I was a stranger.
    • "The Stranger Song"
  • It's you my love, you who are the stranger.
    • "The Stranger Song"
  • Please understand, I never had a secret chart
    to get me to the heart of this
    or any other matter.

    When he talks like this
    you don't know what he's after.
    • "The Stranger Song"
  • Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
    They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
    And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
    Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.
    • "Sisters of Mercy"
  • Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control,
    It begins with your family, and soon it comes round to your soul.
    Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
    When you're not feeling holy your loneliness says that you've sinned.
    • "Sisters of Mercy"
  • When they lay down beside me I made my confession to them.
    They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
    If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn,
    They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.
    • "Sisters of Mercy"
  • When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
    Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
    And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
    We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.
    • "Sisters of Mercy"
  • I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
    Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
    Yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
    In city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
    But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
    your eyes are soft with sorrow,
    Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.
    • "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye"

Songs from a Room (1969)[edit]

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
I finally broke into the prison
I found my place in the chain
Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows
  • Like a bird on the wire,
    like a drunk in a midnight choir
    I have tried in my way to be free.
    • "Bird on the Wire"
  • You who build these altars now
    to sacrifice these children,
    you must not do it anymore.

    A scheme is not a vision
    and you never have been tempted
    by a demon or a god.
  • When it all comes down to dust I will kill you if I must, I will help you if I can.
    When it all comes down to dust I will help you if I must, I will kill you if I can.
    • "Story of Isaac"
  • I finally broke into the prison
    I found my place in the chain
    Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows
    • "The Old Revolution"

Various Positions (1984)[edit]

There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
  • You say I took the name in vain
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
    There's a blaze of light in every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah
    • "Hallelujah"
  • I remember when I moved in you
    And the holy dove she was moving too,
    And every single breath that we drew was
    Hallelujah.
    • "Hallelujah"
  • I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
    And even though it all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
    • "Hallelujah"
  • The captain called me to his bed and fumbled for my hand
    "Take these silver bars," he said, "I'm giving you command."
    Command of what? There's no on here. There's only you and me.
    The rest are dead or in retreat or with the enemy.
    "Complain, complain, that's all you've done ever since we lost,
    If it's not the crucifixion then it's the holocaust."
    • "The Captain"

Warsaw concert (1985)[edit]

Concert at Congress Hall in the Palace of Culture, Warsaw, Poland (22 March 1985)
I respect your struggles. And it may surprise you, but I respect both sides of this struggle.
I would like to say to you, to the leaders of the left, and the leaders of the right, I sing... I sing for everyone. My song has no flag, my song has no party.
I know there is an eye that watches all of us. There is a judgment that weighs everything we do.
  • I come from a country where we do not have the same struggles as you have. I respect your struggles. And it may surprise you, but I respect both sides of this struggle. It seems to be that in Europe there needs to be a left foot and a right foot to move forward. I wish that both feet move forward and the body moves towards its proper destiny. This is an intense country; the people are heroic, the spirit is independent. It is a difficult country to govern, it needs a strong government and a strong union. … I would like to say to you, to the leaders of the left, and the leaders of the right, I sing... I sing for everyone. My song has no flag, my song has no party. And I say the prayer, that we said in our synagogue, I say it for the leader of your union and the leader of your party. May the Lord put a spirit, a wisdom and understanding into the hearts of your leaders and into the hearts of all their counsellors.
    • Introducing "Who by Fire"
  • I have no program, I have no five-year plan. … It doesn’t mean that you shouldn't have one! I just move from hotel to hotel, and from bar to bar, and by the grace of the One above occasionally a song comes, and I remember sitting at this particularly obnoxious Polynesian restaurant where they served a kind of coconut drink that was particularly lethal and sinister which contained no alcohol but a certain chemical that demoralized you entirely. And I remember writing on one of their very badly designed napkins, "I remember you well at the Chelsea Hotel..." so I dedicate this song to one of the great singers, Janis Joplin.
    • Introducing "Chelsea Hotel #2"
  • I know there is an eye that watches all of us. There is a judgment that weighs everything we do. And before this great force, which is greater than any government I stand in awe and I kneel in respect and it is to this great judgment that I dedicate this next song, "Hallelujah".
  • I don't know which side is anybody on any more. I don't really care. There is a moment when we have to transcend the side we're on and understand that we are creatures of a higher order. That doesn't mean that I don't wish you courage in your struggle. There is on both sides of the struggle men of good will. That is important to remember. On both sides of the struggle, some struggling for freedom, some struggling for safety and solemn testimony of that unbroken faith which binds generations one to another I sing this song, "If It Be Your Will"
    • Introducing "If It Be Your Will"

I'm Your Man (1988)[edit]

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons ...
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
I'm crazy for love but
I'm not coming on.
I'm just paying my rent everyday
In the Tower Of Song.
  • I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
    I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
    I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
    • "First We Take Manhattan"
  • Ah, you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win
    You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline
    How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
    • "First We Take Manhattan" (1986)
  • Everybody knows that you love me baby
    Everybody knows that you really do
    Everybody knows that you've been faithful
    Ah give or take a night or two
    Everybody knows you've been discreet
    But there were so many people you just had to meet
    without your clothes
    And everybody knows
    • "Everybody Knows"
  • If you want a lover
    I'll do anything you ask me to.
    And if you want another kind of love
    I'll wear a mask for you.
    • "I'm Your Man"
  • Here I stand, I'm your man.
    • "I'm Your Man"
  • My friends are gone and
    My hair is grey.
    I ache in the places where I used to play.
    And I'm crazy for love but
    I'm not coming on.
    I'm just paying my rent everyday
    In the Tower Of Song.
    • "Tower Of Song"
  • You can say that I've grown bitter but of this you can be sure.
    The rich have get their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.
    And there's a mighty Judgement coming
    but I may be wrong…
    • "Tower Of Song"
  • I see you standing on the other side.
    I don't know how the river got so wide.

    I loved you, baby, way back when.
    And all the bridges are burning that
    We might have crossed and I feel so close to everything that we've lost.
    We'll never, we'll never have to lose it again.

    Now I bid You farewell, I don't when I'll be back.
    They're moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track.
    But you'll be hearing from me, baby, long after I'm gone.
    I'll speaking to you sweetly
    From a window in the Tower Of Song

The Future (1992)[edit]

If you're squeezed for information,
that's when you've got to play it dumb:
You just say you're out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
Every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.
  • I've seen the future, brother:
    it is murder.
    • "The Future"
  • Waiting for the miracle
    There's nothing left to do.
    I haven't been this happy
    since the end of World War II.
    • "Waiting for the Miracle" (co-written with Sharon Robinson)
  • If you're squeezed for information,
    that's when you've got to play it dumb:
    You just say you're out there waiting
    for the miracle to come.
    • "Waiting for the Miracle" (co-written with Sharon Robinson)
  • We're drinking and we're dancing
    but there's nothing really happening.
    The place is dead as Heaven on a Saturday night.
    • "Closing Time"
  • Ring the bells that still can ring.
    Forget your perfect offering.
    There is a crack in everything.
    That's how the light gets in.
    • "Anthem"
  • Every heart to love will come
    But like a refugee.
    • "Anthem"
  • But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
    that time cannot decay,
    I’m junk but I’m still holding up
    this little wild bouquet:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
    • "Democracy"

Ten New Songs (2001)[edit]

I know what is wrong and I know what is right,
and I'd die for the truth in my secret life.
And here you are hurried,
And here you are gone;
And here is the love,
That it's all built upon.
The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.
I am not the one who loves —
It's love that chooses me.
When hatred with his package comes,
You forbid delivery.
  • And here you are hurried,
    And here you are gone;
    And here is the love,
    That it's all built upon.
    • "Here It Is"
  • Here is your cross,
    Your nails and your hill;
    And here is your love,
    That lists where it will
    • "Here It Is"
  • May everyone live,
    And may everyone die.
    Hello, my love,
    And my love, Goodbye.
    • "Here It Is"
  • The light came through the window,
    Straight from the sun above,
    And so inside my little room
    There plunged the rays of Love.

    In streams of light I clearly saw
    The dust you seldom see,
    Out of which the Nameless makes
    A Name for one like me.

    • "Love Itself"
  • All busy in the sunlight
    The flecks did float and dance,
    And I was tumbled up with them
    In formless circumstance.
    • "Love Itself"
  • I'll try to say a little more:
    Love went on and on
    Until it reached an open door
    Then Love Itself
    Love Itself was gone.
    • "Love Itself"
  • You whisper, "You have loved enough,
    Now let me be the Lover."
    • "You Have Loved Enough"
  • I swept the marble chambers,
    But you sent me down below.
    You kept me from believing
    Until you let me know:
    That I am not the one who loves —
    It's love that chooses me.
    When hatred with his package comes,
    You forbid delivery.
    • "You Have Loved Enough"

Other Lyrics[edit]

These need to be better sorted and organized
  • Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.
    It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat. It is hard to show a pimple.
    • "The Favorite Game"
  • I fought against the bottle
    but I had to do it drunk
    • "That Don't Make It Junk", Ten New Songs (2001)
  • So the great affair is over
    but whoever would have guessed
    it would leave us all so vacant
    and so deeply unimpressed.
    It's like our visit to the moon
    or to that other star
    I guess you go for nothing
    if you really want to go that far.
    • "Death of a Ladies' Man" (1977)
  • And sometimes when the night is slow
    The wretched and the meek
    We gather up our hearts and go
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.
    • "A Thousand Kisses Deep" (2001)
  • The candles burned
    The moon went down
    The polished hill
    The milky town
    Transparent, weightless, luminous
    Uncovering the two of us
    On that fundamental ground
    Where love's unwilled, unleashed, unbound
    And half the perfect world is found.
    • "Half the Perfect World" (2006) (co-written with Anjani)
  • And clenching your fist for the ones like us who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music."
    • "Chelsea Hotel #2"

Quotes about Cohen[edit]

Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows
Leonard Cohen is one of the few songwriters who has words that you can just chew on for months and months and yet there’s still flavor left in there to taste. ~ Nick Jaina
Nobody can say the word “naked” as nakedly as Cohen. ~ Tom Robbins
I learned to appreciate the power of intimacy. There are moments when nothing can get between you and the other person. And when this person is Leonard Cohen himself you feel blessed. And you feel free. ~ Daniel Wyszogrodzki
  • What if I had to
    Live here without you
    Oh, I don't really want to know
    Where you goin', Lenny Cohen?
    • Adam Again, "l.c." (1995). possibly referring to Cohen's 1994 retreat to Mount Baldy Zen Center
  • This was a man where, within a Pop Song, there were some big ideas
  • He's got your young idealism, he's got You when You can't face the world. He's got You at all stages
  • He's of almost Biblical importance. I don't think theres going to be another Leonard Cohen.
  • I tell you who I also think is wonderful is a chap called Leonard Cohen … do you know him? … He's remarkable. I mean, the orchestration is fantastic and the words, the lyrics and everything, he's a remarkable man, and has this incredibly sort of laid back gravelly voice, it's terrific stuff I think.
  • I finally broke into the prison
    I found my place in the chain
    Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows

    Leonard Cohen is one of the few songwriters who has words that you can just chew on for months and months and yet there’s still flavor left in there to taste. That third line is such a positive one, even though it sounds bleak at first. He saying that there is still hope even in the darkest situations, even in the terrible situations that have thrown yourself into, the times where you crawl into a hole and wait for suffering to be piled on top of you. Even in those moments, the clouds pull away and beams of light shine through. That’s the kind of music that I hope never stops being played, even after the writers of such songs are very very far away, or resting deep in the ground.
  • But I was caught, like a fleeting thought
    Stuck inside Leonard Cohen's mind
  • It is their desire to honor L. Cohen, songwriter, that has prompted a delegation of our brightest artists to climb, one by one, joss sticks smoldering, the steep and salty staircase in the Tower of Song.
    There is evidence that the honoree might be privy to the secret of the universe, which, in case you’re wondering, is simply this: everything is connected. Everything. Many, if not most, of the links are difficult to determine. The instrument, the apparatus, the focused ray that can uncover and illuminate those connections is language. And just as a sudden infatuation often will light up a person’s biochemical sky more pyrotechnically than any deep, abiding attachment, so an unlikely, unexpected burst of linguistic imagination will usually reveal greater truths than the most exacting scholarship. In fact, the poetic image may be the only device remotely capable of dissecting romantic desire, let alone disclosing the hidden mystical essence of the material world.
    Cohen is a master of the quasi-surrealistic phrase, of the “illogical” line that speaks so directly to the unconscious that surface ambiguity is transformed into ultimate, if fleeting, comprehension: comprehension of the bewitching nuances of sex and the bewildering assaults of culture.
  • It is his singing voice as well as his writing pen that has breathed life into these songs.
    It is a voice raked by the claws of Cupid, a voice rubbed raw by the philosopher’s stone. … It is a penitent’s voice, a rabbinical voice, a crust of unleavened vocal toast—spread with smoke and subversive wit. He has a voice like a carpet in an old hotel, like a bad itch on the hunchback of love. It is a voice meant for pronouncing the names of women—and cataloging their sometimes hazardous charms. Nobody can say the word “naked” as nakedly as Cohen. He makes us see the markings where the pantyhose have been.
  • No one ever listens to me. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.
    • Lament by the character Neil in British comedy series The Young Ones
  • A nation comes to freedom in thousands of steps — some of them huge leaps, the others little. And the evening with Leonard Cohen more than twenty years ago was an evening of hope. Difficult as much to him as it was to us. Not necessarily political but intimate. And I learned to appreciate the power of intimacy. There are moments when nothing can get between you and the other person. And when this person is Leonard Cohen himself you feel blessed. And you feel free.

External links[edit]

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