Video: Robert Altman Tracks Down Leonard Cohen Songs For McCabe & Mrs. Miller


It has become difficult to find a movie critic who doesn’t acknowledge the impact of Leonard Cohen’s songs on Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller. A representative observation follows:

Watching Altman’s film, it becomes obvious that Cohen’s songs preternaturally fit each film they slide into, as if the words were meant for each scene (even if that same song is used over and over again in different worlds, scenarios, and films).1

For more information about Cohen’s music in this and other films, see Leonard Cohen At The Movies

Robert Altman and Leonard Cohen

In this video, Altman, who died in 2006,  is interviewed ahead of the release of Gosford Park  sometime in the late 1990s on Elvis Mitchell‘s Independent Focus program.

Along with comments about censorship, recruiting Cher to play in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, why he was fed up with Hollywood, and more, Altman tells how he came to realize, after filming was completed, that he wanted music from Songs Of Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack of  McCabe & Mrs. Miller, how he tracked down the Canadian singer-songwriter, and why Cohen’s enthusiastic response was key.

Note: The video should begin automatically at the pertinent portion of the program (about 12:14). The material about Leonard Cohen lasts 4-5 minutes. The entire Altman interview, however, is worth watching.

Independent Focus with Robert Altman

  1. Your Guide to the Cinematic Life of Musician Leonard Cohen  by Monika Bartyzel. Posted 27 June 2012 at []

Session With Poet Cohen: Rollicking 1966 Interview With Leonard Cohen Now Online


In researching a post about next year’s 50th anniversary commemoration of Leonard Cohen’s 1966 visit to the University of Alberta – Edmonton,1 I discovered that A Session With Poet Cohen,2 a lively and entertaining interview with Cohen by reporters from The Gateway, the University’s student newspaper, can be accessed online.

This 1966 conversation between four University of Alberta students and the 32 year old Montreal native they describe as “probably the best and certainly the most spectacular Canadian poet of his generation” covers such topics as life & death, religion & ritual, the relationship of art to reality, the significance of poetry, differences between and similarities of songs and poems, LSD, and more. Read Cohen’s answer to the question, “Has anyone ever approached you about doing a record?” Consider his claim that he “created [Bob] Dylan.” Savor Cohen’s quotes, including

  • Q: “Would you rather make love or make poems? Or is it the same thing?” Leonard Cohen: “That depends on the girl.”
  • “I think we’re probably entering a great Egyptian period, where there are going to be very well-defined castes–priests, warriors, scribes.”
  • “I think we’re probably in one of the greatest periods for lyrics since Elizabethan times. Take that ballad Bobby Darin sings, If I Were A Carpenter–that’s as good a ballad as any Scottish border ballad. It really is right up there.”
  • “Every man is a prophet.”
  • “Anything that has a life and death sound to it is a song.”
  • “I don’t know if I’ll be anybody’s Moses—I might be their Leonard.”

All this and more can be found in A Session With Poet Cohen by Jon Whyte, Patricia Hughes, Terry Donnelly, and John Thompson. The Gateway, December 2, 1966.

Links to the two (newspaper) page article follow:


  1. See Early Look At 50th Anniversary Commemoration Of Leonard Cohen’s 1966 U of Alberta – Edmonton Visit []
  2. A Session With Poet Cohen by Jon Whyte, Patricia Hughes, Terry Donnelly, and John Thompson. The Gateway, December 2, 1966 []

Fans Celebrating Leonard Cohen’s 80th Birthday – Pledges For Bench On Hydra


Fans are organizing an effort through the Leonard Cohen Forum to fund a bench on Hydra to commemorate Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday. An appropriate site has been found and architectural plans submitted. The essential step now is assuring that the cost of the project can be met by collecting pledges for contributions.

Pledges can be made at The Hydra Bench: Call for Pledges. Note: Pledges will be accepted for the next week only; at that time a decision to pursue or drop the project must be made.

A bench on the island where Leonard Cohen and Marianne lived for several years would be an excellent way to celebrate the 80th birthday of this musical icon. (The only negative I can come up with is that I wasn’t the one who thought of the idea.) The Duchess & I will be making a pledge and I urge viewers to consider contributing.

A video (by Wijbe) of the projected location of the bench can be viewed at

The discussion about the commemorative bench, including its cost and alternatives considered, is at How to celebrate Leonard’s 80th birthday

The Leonard Cohen Mic Drop


The Classic Mic Drop

The mic drop, intentionally dropping or throwing the microphone on the floor after an especially impressive (by the entertainer’s own assessment) performance, has been the preferred stage exit for rappers and comedians since the 1980s and has now become a cultural meme employed by – well, just about anyone who somehow finds himself or herself in front of an audience. Heck, President Obama dropped the mic in an comedy bit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last year.

In this animated gif, Kanye West demonstrates the classic mic drop at the completion of his performance at the 2012 BET Awards.


The Leonard Cohen Mic Drop

Leonard Cohen, of course, has developed his own signature mic drop.

Leonard Cohen – Save The Last Dance For Me
Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam: Sept 20, 2013
Video by Wirebirds

Credit Due Department: Image atop this post found at Simply Sio!. The Kayne West animation was found at Giphy

Leonard Cohen – All Smiles: The Video


 And here’s a man still working with his smile

His reputation as the Godfather of Gloom1 notwithstanding, Leonard Cohen possesses a repertoire of quite effective smiles. In support of this premise, I recently published Leonard Cohen – All Smiles: 21 Photos, a post comprising – well, 21 photos of Leonard Cohen smiling. The enthusiasm with which this collection was received has led to the production of Leonard Cohen – All Smiles: The Video, featuring – well, four minutes of Leonard Cohen smiling, the viewing of which turns out to be a delightfully restorative experience.

Leonard Cohen – All Smiles
Video by Allan Showalter

  1. Also High Priest Of Pathos, Prophet of Despair, Poet Laureate Of Pessimism, Troubadour Of Travail, and many similar titles. See Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames []

Three Characteristics That Make A Song A Leonard Cohen Song: #3. Artistic Design – Resonance


Note: This post is the final entry in a series of essays considering the question, “What makes a song a Leonard Cohen song?” An introduction and links to all published posts in the series can be found at Three Characteristics That Make A Song A Leonard Cohen Song: Summary Page.

The Ultimate Goal: Resonance

As discussed previously, Leonard Cohen takes great stock in the transformative properties of the art of songwriting:

A cry of pain in itself is just that. It can affect you or you can turn away from it. But a piece of work that treats the experience that produced the cry of pain is a different matter altogether. The cry is transformed, alchemised, by the work by a certain objectivity which doesn’t surrender the emotion but gives it form. That’s the difference between life and art.1

The question then arises, “What is the purpose of this transformation?” The raison d’etre of Cohen’s songwriting and his performance style, the goal of this transformation wrought by the craftsmanship and tradition of art is resonance with both the listener and the songwriter. Without resonance, songs are no more than catchy slogans.

It’s just how they resonate [that makes a lyric good]. You know they resonate with a truth that is hard to locate but which is operating with some force in your life. I often feel that about a Dylan song or a song even with Edith Piaf…the words are going too fast for me to really understand them in French but you feel that they are talking about something that is true, that you can’t locate by yourself and someone has located it for you and you just feel like you’ve put in the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle for that moment. That a moment has been clarified. The moment that you’re in at the moment that you’re listening to it. Yeah, the pieces fit…Isn’t that wonderful when all the pieces fit?2

It’s hard to make a commentary [on A Thousand Kisses deep], because you’ve worked so long establishing exactly the right resonance for every single line, the commentaries are more spontaneous and ill-thought.3

“I don’t have to develop an articulated position on politics, Canadian or universal. I am already embraced by the Almighty. I am already embraced by cultures, many cultures. My work is to stay alive and raw to the kinds of voices that are speaking to me continually and to turn them into a voice that I can understand, that I can cling to, and that I can stand behind.4

Cohen, in fact, views syllogistic arguments as counterproductive:

I think you work out something. I wouldn’t call them ideas. I think ideas are what you want to get rid of. I don’t really like songs with ideas. They tend to become slogans. They tend to be on the right side of things: ecology or vegetarianism or antiwar. All these are wonderful ideas but I like to work on a song until those slogans, as wonderful as they are and as wholesome as the ideas they promote are, dissolve into deeper convictions of the heart. I never set out to write a didactic song. It’s just my experience. All I’ve got to put in a song is my own experience.5

The most obvious examples of this sort of transformation are songs such as “The Future” that conjoin seemingly disparate lyrics and melodies in a manner that captures the listener’s attention and promotes intuitive understanding to produce resonance:

I mean, if I’d just nailed this lyric ["The Future"] to the Church door, like Martin Luther, it might be a cause for some trembling and menace; but, the fact is, it’s married to a hot little dance track. So, you’re going to dance your way through “The Future.” You’re going to dance your way through the whole record because the groove is honoured.6,7

The Power Of Resonance

Because resonance trumps ideas in Leonard Cohen’s songs, his music escapes temporal, intellectual, and political restrictions:

Songs are quite hospitable to different interpretations … You can bring a certain kind of nobility to a depressed lyric, or you can deliver a very affirmative statement like a lamentation … There’s a certain emptiness to my songs that allows for a lot of interpretations. ((Conversations from a Room By Tom Chaffin. Canadian Forum: August/September 1983. Retrieved 05 February 2014  from Speaking Cohen))

I don’t have to have a song called ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ I could write a song about conflict and, if I sang it in a peaceful way, then it would have the same message. I don’t like these slogan writers.((Cohen Regrets by Alastair Pirrie. Beat Patrol: December 30, 2008. ][Originally written for the New Musical Express: March 10, 1973.]  Retrieved 05 February 2014  from Speaking Cohen.))

Resonance As End Point

Leonard Cohen uses his skills and the tools of his art to craft songs that are in a harmonic relationship with his audience such that individuals respond with similar sensations, creating feeling of deep empathy, understanding, and comfort.

And that’s what makes a song a Leonard Cohen song.

This concludes the series: Three Characteristics That Make A Song A Leonard Cohen Song


  1. Suffering For Fan And Profit – The Return Of Leonard Cohen by Mick Brown. Sounds: July 3 1976, Accessed 26 April 2014 at LeonardCohenFiles. Bolding mine. []
  2. Aurora Online With Leonard Cohen by Marco Adria. Aurora: July, 1990. []
  3. Our Poet of the Apocalypse by Brian D. Johnson. Maclean’s: Oct 15, 2001. Bolding mine] []
  4. Leonard Cohen: A Portrait in First Person. Interviewer: Moses Znaimer. CBC, 1988. Accessed 30 April 2014 at Speaking Cohen []
  5. Leonard Cohen: ‘All I’ve got to put in a song is my own experience’ by Dorian Lynskey. The Guardian: Jan 19, 2010. []
  6. Leonard Cohen’s The Future Interview by Bob Mackowitz. Transcript from a radio special produced by Interviews Unlimited for Sony Music, 1992. The transcript was prepared by Judith Fitzgerald. Accessed 21 May 2014 at Speaking Cohen. []
  7. Similarly, in “Everybody Knows,” Cohen lists the horrid facts of contemporary life, i.e., the dice are loaded, the good guys lost … all set in jaunty quatrains []