Leonard Cohen Rolling Stone Interview Offers Fragments Of New Songs But Little Else


March 19, 2009: Rolling Stone Announces The Return of Leonard Cohen


Another product of the interview gauntlet Leonard Cohen ran the day after his New York Beacon Theatre concert,1 has been published.

rs1074Neil Strauss, who may be better known these days for his work as a ghostwriter2 (e.g., How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale with Jenna Jameson) and chronicler of the seduction community (The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists) than his music criticism, has written a competent but oddly dispirited and disjointed Rolling Stone article3  based on his February 20, 2009 session with Cohen.

The obligatory elements of the Standard Post-Beacon Theatre Show Leonard Cohen Interview are covered:

  • The explanation of Cohen’s loss of his retirement fund through fraud
  • The description of Cohen’s attire ( “a black suit, bolo tie and black fedora”)
  • The acknowledgment of the success of Cohen’s concert the previous night ( “six standing ovations during a three-hour show composed mostly of greatest hits”)
  • The careful notation of domestic details to evidence the writer’s intimacy with Cohen ( “… Leonard Cohen says, sitting diminutively on a couch in his suite at the Warwick Hotel in Manhattan, both hands clutching an unsipped mug of coffee” “… returns later with a black MacBook,4 opens iTunes, …”) that contrasts with the  equally careful depiction of Cohen’s isolation from less important folk ( “‘The touring and traveling have been monastic,’ [Cohen] admits,  … ‘It’s been so great, because I don’t see anyone. I go directly from the stage into a car and back to my hotel room'”)
  • The exhibition of  a poetic image, created by the  writer,  ( “… he sits enveloped in a stillness that he carries with him like a prayer stick …”) that establishes he is not just another hack but an author who  possesses sensitivity and the talent to express it

Cohen’s 2009 Concert Style And Content

Beyond these required school figures, Strauss does offer a concise and thoughtful analysis of the contrast between Cohen’s concert of the previous night and his last set of performances 15 years ago:

Rather than reciting the words of past hits, he seemed to have entered the material again: vaguely pantomiming each song, changing inflections to more directly depict the romantic defeatism of his lyrics, singing in a smoother, less raspy bass than he has in years, and actually skipping off stage. “I like to skip,” he says. “I don’t get much exercise.”

OK, I also like the Cohen quote about skipping.

There is also a potentially intriguing but unexplored reference to Cohen’s choice of certain songs for  his set list (e.g.,  “The Gypsy’s Wife,” “The Future,” and “Democracy” ) “because their apocalyptic vision seems truer now than when they were recorded.”

New Leonard Cohen Songs And That Elusive New Album

For Cohen followers, however, the most interesting information in the article is likely to be the bits and pieces from the lyrics of a couple of new Cohen songs he carries in that “black MacBook.” My favorite fragment follows:

Tell me again when I’m clean and sober,
Tell me again when I’ve seen through the horror
Tell me again
Tell me over and over
Tell me that you love me then

That verse segues into the concluding paragraph, proving that both Cohen and Strauss know something about how to pull off the big finish.

“I recorded three or four songs and wrote about seven,” he says as the music fades. Then, although he’s said he “dare not complain” about his unanticipated marathon tour, he smiles and admits, “There’s a record there, if I ever get off the road.”


The Article: A scanned version of the entire article  is available at Leonard Cohen, Down from the Mountain.

Credit Due Department: The photo of Leonard Cohen was taken by Tad Kubler and is also part of the same Rolling Stone article.

  1. Three other interviews conducted 20 February 2009 have already been subjects of Heck Of A Guy posts:


  2. Yep, I agree that there is something oxymoronic about the notion of being “better known for his work as a ghostwriter,” but these are strange times. []
  3. Leonard Cohen, Down From the Mountain by Neil Strauss. Rolling Stone, March 19, 2009. P 66 []
  4. Leonard Cohen has long been a Mac sort of guy. See Ten Lesser Known Facts About Leonard Cohen, Fact #3 []

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