Anthony Reynolds’ Wholly Profane Life Of L Cohen

About Anthony Reynolds

Anthony Reynolds is the author of “The Remarkable Life Of Leonard Cohen” (more about that title below), a biography of the Canadian singer-songwriter-icon that will be available October 2010.

Born in Wales, Anthony Reynolds has released three albums with a group called JACK, two with the group called JACQUES, and one using the name “‘anthony.”  In late 2007,  he released his “final debut” album, “British Ballads,” under his own full name.

In addition,  he has published two collections of poetry, “These Roses Taste Like Ashes ” and  “Calling all Demons,” and written  two biographies, “The Impossible Dream: The Story of Scott Walker and the Walker Brothers”  and “Jeff Buckley: Mystery White Boy Blues.”

In this age of search engines and automatically generated hyperlinks, it is necessary to point out that the Anthony Reynolds who is responsible for the forthcoming  Leonard Cohen biography is not the Anthony Reynolds who composes handbooks on concrete design or the Anthony Reynolds who authors science fiction books.

Moreover, according to his Amazon page,

Anthony enjoys the company of women and cats, not necessarily in that order. Other interests include wine, Cuban Cigars, photography, films and doing nothing. He is a vegetarian.

Anthony Reynolds also offers a perspective on Leonard Cohen’s music that is unique, sometimes provocative, and always uncompromising.

The Anthony Reynolds Q&A

1. You have had a busy career as a musician. What made you decide that writing biographies of other musicians, in addition to being a performer yourself, would be a good idea?

I have a friend, who is in his late 70’s now.  He is a writer called Colin Wilson who wrote a few (arguably) crucial books in the late 50’s and – maybe even more arguably –  a few more since then.  (“The Outsider” is probably his best known).  He’s also written a lot of much less necessary stuff – Compendiums of “Greatest Golfing Massacres”, “Most Notable Cannibals”, “Bumper Book of Murder”,  etc.  A few years ago, whilst staying with him I (naively) asked Colin about this.  To my mind I couldn’t understand why he’d bothered writing so very much in his life.  And why he’d published so much stuff that seemed so unnecessary, especially compared to his very best work.  Of course, I had a hunch as to why.  But still, tactfully as possible, I asked this wonderfully dignified and well spoken elderly English gentlemen “Colin, would you have written as much…say if… you’d had a trust fund”?

I expected some poised and worthy response, some elegant discourse on the nature of aesthetics against finance.  His reply instead : “Would I have fuck”!

There are some other interesting points in your question – “decide”.  I wonder, ultimately, who decides anything at all in their lives.  I think Leonard Cohen may agree.  We choose how we react to what’s given at best, maybe.

Many of us do what we really want when we’re young – try at least – and most of us get bashed back.  We then try and adapt, to survive. We’re absorbed by – consumed by even – our immediate society and culture whether we like it or not. In this situation Some of us will try and accent our morality to reality as best we can. This even happened to Cohen.  Although he’d always been musical, he tried so very hard and for so very long to be a successful writer – as everyone reading this knows.  We’re talking a decade more or less. And commercially, he failed at it.  Becoming a songwriter was almost a last resort for him.  And then he got supremely lucky.  Thank G-d.

But getting back to me…there wasn’t really a point where I said, “Now I shall be a writer”. Well there was, but it wasn’t the plan.  I’d been lucky enough to make a living since my early 20’s through music publishing – i.e. I had a deal as a songwriter – people would pay me for the rights to my songs even if those songs didn’t sell.  This is quite common in the music business.  Some people never even release their songs and they get millions. I met guys at Warners,  etc, who had been signed for literally a million and who never even went on to release an album.  They just disappear into the accounts and are written off as a bad investment.  Madonna and Celine Dion made (at least then) enough to cover all of this and then some.  Anyway. I was at least making and releasing albums and they sold ok but I didn’t have hits. They certainly didn’t make a profit. This went on for over a decade and I could see it wasn’t going to last much longer.  Some A&R men would sign you because they believed in you, because you were “hot” or because they even liked you.  Once you were signed. it was just a matter of having your option taken up.  You become part of the furniture at these huge companies….but all the goodwill in the world doesn’t last. I was living in a big house in the country at the time, with horses, cats and a girlfriend whose nerves were running ragged at our lack – my lack – of financial security.  Even her mother was getting on my ass about it.  Now, up till now I’d been getting by from sitting in a room writing songs.  I’d never had or really wanted a “regular” job ever.  I dislike most people I meet, I find it hard to spend time with them. I’m a bit of a sociopath,  I lack a tolerance gland, I’m not right in the head.  Sure, I used to tour and go into the studio, I was even in a band for years but I’d drink heavily and self medicate to overcome my social discomfort.  I didn’t see how I could have got away with this in any other situation. So there was no way I was going to walk into the nearest supermarket or whatever, although there was a real pressure for me to do so.  (Upping the ante, I also lack any academic qualifications). At the same time I thought maybe I should back away from music for a while. I actually thought I’d made too many records.  So I thought “What the fuck am I gonna do”?  I worked out that writing books was similar to song writing in that you got to work alone.  I also like doing work that can potentially earn its own living when released into the world – like films, records and books – So I went for it.  I got my first book deal in 2004 and the irony was that this was only – as it turned out- because the publisher had been a fan (one of the few) of my music.  The deal was for the Walker Brothers, who he’d barely heard of but whom I felt confident about writing a great book on. He wasn’t convinced of their appeal and I was about to give up trying to persuade him when it dawned on him that he liked an album I’d done in 1998.  Once he realized this, Bless him, I could have written a book on the Beat influence apparent in the solo work of The Osmonds.

When you write one book it becomes easier to get a deal for another and so on and on.  You may even acquire an agent, who in theory is supposed to make it even easier still. You have to be careful though.  You can get dragged into doing books you don’t believe in except for the money they pay.  And as I don’t have a trust fund, I am being careful.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, amongst all this rambling is that hardly anyone we know does what they truly want to be doing. Or maybe they end up doing what they need?  We have to survive…and if we do get by then the results of that, the unforeseen consequences can be what makes life so interesting…Jean Cocteau said “Only mistakes are original”. John Lennon: “Life’s what happens when we’re busy making other plans”. And something Leonard said really struck me at a young age – “Get paid for your work, do not work for your pay”.

2. Your biography of Leonard Cohen, “The Remarkable Life Of Leonard Cohen,” is due for release in October 2010, and you’ve written two other biographies – one on Jeff Buckley and one on Scott Walker and the Walker Brothers. Do Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Walker Brothers share qualities as musicians that lend their work  special significance?

The book I hope, will be called “Leonard Cohen: A Life”. I had no choice in the title listed on Amazon or in the cover – they just appeared one day. The publishers need to get something up for pre-orders and the like. I don’t like the “Remarkable” bit, it’s a bit unremarkable, and I’m sure it’ll be changed. (My working title was “The Wholly Profane Life of L.Cohen”. Another was “Dial L for Lenny”, or “I Scream Cohen”). I love the cover photo of the book though – genius – and hope that stays.

There are a lot of assumptions that readers make about how books are written and published and that’s the reader’s right. For myself, I don’t give a hoot when I buy the book if it’s not as good as it could have been because the author got crabs half way through writing it or stepped on an upturned plug, fell and sprained his wrist. But of course, when you sign a contract to write a book you (usually) don’t decide how long you have to write it and you sign away all rights to how it will look and what the title is…What I found with the Cohen book is that it took a while for people to open up with me. This in part is due to the nature of the man himself and the kind of people that surround him. But it doesn’t help, when you have a year to deliver a book if people you really want to talk to only decide to trust you 11 months in. But then how are they to know this? It’s not even the writer’s right to bug them on this, it’s your job, part of the process. But time is your ultimate boss. At a certain point Cohen himself could be coming around to personally go over the MS and the publisher will say “It’s too late for that. We have pre-orders that will cancel if the book is not out on schedule. Plus we need to fulfill our agreement with overseas licensees and… etc.” This is the business side of it. But given the choice between writing under the gun and having a job as a wages clerk and writing at my own (unpaid) pace at night on weekends..with the chance of selling it…maybe…I’ll go for the former. It’s like Bukowski’s father told him “Get them to give you the money for your signature first and then do the work once you’ve already been paid for it”. I’ve also heard fans criticizing a book because “so and so didn’t speak to whatshisname’” etc. Don’t you think a biographer would like to have the choice of speaking to anyone he pleased? Often it’s the author who has the very last say out of anyone as regards to who he speaks to…but anyway, we forget the people we didn’t reach and celebrate the ones we did – and I was lucky enough, in the final analysis to speak to more than enough. And that’s why books have “Thank you” lists at the end and not “No thanks” lists although in this case as regards to certain musicians and backing singers who messed me around no end I did consider the latter….

I am a bitter petty man…this I cannot hide…

Do Scott walker, Cohen and Jeff Buckley have something in common other than the obvious (i.e. that they are ‘pop’ singers)?  Well, yes, they all touch me, their work moves me for a start. I think all these particular artists have or had (sadly in Jeff’s case) a very particular, maybe even perverse vision. They have a gift, a musical gift and yet practiced it as a niche within a niche. But on a simpler level I’d say they are all people who have used their art as an expression of being true to themselves and their essence – their essential selves. I think their ‘special’ work is the proof or as Cohen would say – the ashes – and the evidence of this. And we can benefit, and enjoy the result, of this work. Such work resonates with me in a way that the work of Britney Spears, Barry Manilow and The Stereophonics doesn’t. Not to say these people haven’t done things of worth and maybe in the end it’s a matter of taste – a taste we don’t even choose – but with Scott, Jeff and Len – I think they all share a kind of fatal sincerity, a realness, a lack of bullshit. They won’t let it go. They are true – and successful – within a medium – pop music – that thrives on bullshit. Pretty fascinating people and truly valuable work.

3. In an interview, you described growing up with The Walker Brothers music – that it was “like furniture in [your] house because [your] mother was a massive Walker Brothers fan.”  When and how did you become interested in Leonard Cohen’s music? Which of his song[s] first caught your attention?

I remember vividly the first time I heard Cohen.  Another friend- called Leonard actually – was living in a crazy shared house – he had – actually – a bedsit.  Very dank, strange place, you’d go through the communal lounge in the morning and there’d be a dead guy there…this was in Cathay’s, in the student area of Cardiff.  His landlady’s boyfriend had given him some albums he thought he should hear, as an education, kind of. The Doors, The Band, Dylan – remember that there is a point in your life when you haven’t heard this stuff.  This was 1990, I was 18. In the UK it seemed that everyone was listening to Happy Mondays, dropping E’s and  grooving to “Baggy” music (although I wasn’t really ever into fashionable music, I was secretly listening to David Sylvian and Nick Drake and ABBA…although Shaun Ryder is a pretty special lyricist I think). But that was the context of the time and my social circle within Cardiff. And I remember my friend putting the needle on a record, and it was getting dark out and as the static started my friend said – “Listen to this guy”. And it was Suzanne.  That first note, the opening sound – I felt like I’d known that song forever.  It was placid, snowy and beautiful, peaceful.  The song stretched out for miles, for years beyond that bedsit room. It reminded me of the best bits of church in a way.   (I had a very intense Catholic upbringing) It reminded me of something I couldn’t put my finger on, something important I once knew and had forgotten.   And sound-wise…even song-wise…it was unlike anything else at the same time.  It wasn’t like the other records played that night – Dylan, Doors.  Not even Dylan. It sounded like they might want to sing Suzanne but I couldn’t imagine Cohen particularly needing to sing any of their songs.  That said, the rest of the album – it was probably The Songs Of –  didn’t have as much effect on me on that first listen.  But like any other music fan and a teenager, I went on and investigated this strange and beautiful dude.  In 1991 I got ‘I’m Your Man” and I thought that was just mind-blowing. The opening track! “Sentenced to 20 years of boredom”? What the fuck?  Monkeys, Plywood violins…?? And he sounds wrong, like he was too old and cool and rich to be singing this great weird shit!  And what was with the banana on the cover? The electronics on that album were almost cheesy but not quite. It shouldn’t have worked but it did. So that album became a lifelong favourite.  Then came “I’m Your Fan,” which opened me up to Cohen’s earlier work.  I liked McCulloch anyway at that point and his version of ‘Hey that’s no way…’ struck me as particularly beautiful. I bought “The Future” and “Live Songs” when they came out.  Of course, I was beguiled by the TV performance on “Later” at this time.  I taped it and even transferred it to cassette. And To this day “Waiting For The Miracle” is one of my favourite pieces ever.  A huge, foreboding mighty piece of work.  (That song in particular was an influence on a song I released with my old band, “Jack”. The song is called “Nico’s Children” and it’s from an album called “The Jazz Age”.  It’s starting point was “Miracle”.)  Then of course, Cohen retreated from music but came back to me when I was in a different life with “10 New Songs.” And that’s probably my favourite album of his;  it’s like if Bukowski wrote songs. Before that, apart from the obvious “Greatest Hits,” I’d been crazy about particular songs rather than albums.

But I also actually encountered another extra curricular way of appreciating Cohen.  When I lived in relative isolation in the countryside, between 2001 and 2006 I got heavily into trading video bootlegs – out of print stuff, compilations etc, over the internet. Home made DVDs were happening. Exciting times for a nerd!  Remember the badly packaged VHS tapes you could find at record fairs and the like, TV comps of unreleased performances et al?  Well even when living in London I’d bought a few Cohen compilations on VHS from the legendary bookshop in Camden – the much missed Compendium bookstore. I had about 3 tapes of Cohen from there, including a bad copy of the German TV broadcast of “Bird On A Wire”. But what really got me was his interviews.  I just felt – and still do – strangely uplifted after watching Cohen in conversation.  So when I got into trading in the mid 2000’s, loads more stuff became available to me and it actually helped me some days, watching Cohen in conversation.  There was a particularly intense 90 minute interview he gave from 79..a Canadian programme who’s name escapes me..(“Authors”)? but also those films of him at Mt Baldy…just lovely, and oddly cheering footage.  I used them like medicine. I mean I used to print out Cohen interviews from the web to read for fun and for the last year I got paid to do that…

4. In that same interview, you indicated that the Walker Brothers book centered on “how those amazing records were actually physically made”  and that, similarly, your angle on Leonard Cohen was “was to actually get into the making of the records again which was once more something that had never been done.” Would you elaborate on this idea?

We’re talking about Cohen here because of Cohen the songwriter and singer principally.  I can imagine there is another universe, where Cohen had checked out  – suicided – say in ‘66, without making albums, and thus he would no doubt be considered today an important if cult novelist and poet.  I know too that even so, in the context of his major musical contributions many hold his literary work in itself in true regard.  But at the end of the day he’s best known as a … for want of a better term…a pop singer! He’s a dude, a poet, a singer, a guitarist..all these things.  But what intrigued me was …I mean… I’d read in my capacity as a fan any book on him that I could find over the years but hardly any touched on how the actual records – which are the tangible focus of our attention on him and his work – were made. Not in any great detail anyway.  Now, some can argue that it’s best to preserve the mystery and who wants to know about boring stuff like microphones, how the musicians were chosen, how they were directed etc  But that stuff interests me and has done since I read the “Abbey Road Sessions” on the Beatles way back.  There’s an Elvis book on the same subject and it had me slavering to go back to the records themselves.  I love this shit.  And after the briefest research I realized that Cohen was a far from passive presence in the studio.  He actually had, from day one strong and valid ideas about how his records should be mixed and recorded.  I was surprised actually.  I mean, I knew he wasn’t some drunk genius turning up at the studio barefoot and stinking, with a crumpled sheet of lyrics and a needle sticking out of his arm – and an engineer screaming –  “Quick get the mic on him while he’s conscious”!  Y’know, he wasn’t Tim Hardin (much as he is beloved to me) or Jim Morrison. He was actually a real poet yet with an attitude to sonics and the machinery of making records to an extent.  In addition to this he has a large body of work that sounds very different within itself.  There are different visions going on there – take New Skin next to Death Of.  Hell, put anything next to Death Of!  And why was “10 New Songs” so beautifully  “lo fi”? …… of course, while there had been many books written on Cohen none had investigated this angle to any extent.  I had the added advantage of having worked on records and in studios etc myself, of speaking a musicians language to some extent and this helps, I hope.  Bear in mind too that people are ageing- people are dying.  Some of the dudes on “The Songs Of Leonard Cohen” are older than Cohen himself and many are already dead of course.  I had to get to these guys before the reaper did.  Oddly, many of the chaps on his earlier records were much more open than those on his later works, which was a bitch for me as I have a particular fondness for his later work.  Luckily the supremely gracious Sharon Robinson came through and we covered “10 New Songs” pretty well I think…as well as the first album and the Lissauer ones…

5. How has Cohen’s work changed over time?

I think his (greater) voice, his concerns, etc. haven’t essentially.  He was always concerned with a basic question and all of the accents and shards that span off that question.

He’s become much more open to collaboration in his later years and I think that in part is down to his lack of growth as a musician.  He exploded his own musical limits in the early 80’s by finding a Casio keyboard he could write with, but I feel he exhausted the limits of that method some time ago.  For whatever reason he never took to a piano or even moved beyond the basic tools of  a six string acoustic guitar and a typewriter/laptop.  Have you ever seen a pic of Cohen with an electric guitar?  So I think his openness to co writing has been a major development and a  wonderful one especially as far as his work with Sharon Robinson goes.

I think production-wise on “Dear Heather” he confused the difference between using “artificial” instruments as a replacement to “real” instruments rather than as an “alternative”.  The latter is what he did so wonderfully on “I’m Your Man” and on “10 New Songs.”  He has a peculiar aesthetic in terms of the integrity of actual musical instruments.  For instance, some of “Various Positions” hasn’t aged well in my opinion because he insisted at the time in using the very Casio keyboard – which didn’t even have a proper audio output – that he wrote “Dance Me…” on.  And on “Blue Alert,” it’s not a real piano.  Why is that?  In fact for me, the fact that it’s a good quality electronic piano and not a real piano actually adds to the allure of that album, makes it strange even twisted in a good way.  But was this a conscious decision on his part?

And then look at the intriguing side roads he never fully explored – “Tacoma Trailer,” “The Great Event,” the song, “Dear Heather.”  I wonder why he didn’t go more avant-garde …

I was listening to “The Darkness” yesterday and despite or maybe because of its utterly traditional musical form- – it’s a blues – it still hit me in the stomach.  The combination of that and the lyrics and the fact that this was a guy approaching his 80’s … that song really kicked my heart in …  .

But I still feel that his first album could also – almost – have been his last.  Part of the appeal of his work is that it embodies a truth in a eerily seductive form and as we all know the truth is timeless.

6.  Given this focus on the creation of the music, what is your perspective on attempting to use an understanding of the life experiences and psychological traits of a singer-songwriter like Leonard Cohen to interpret his music?

I’m not particularly interested in these elements at all. Such feelings and states are so personal and subjective.  The end work is the proof, the result, what we respond to.  I’m not interested in how Cohen was feeling particularly when he wrote a song – we have the song for that.  I also have an aversion to digging into people’s ‘private’ lives or to be more accurate, their domestic lives.  That and other people’s sex lives don’t interest me at all.  I’m not saying there is no worth in this kind of analysis but it jut doesn’t interest me.

7. You’ve explained your belief that writing an interesting, valid biography doesn’t require interviewing the subject and that, in any case, it appears impossible these days to obtain an interview with Leonard Cohen, who “doesn’t have time or inclination to contribute to yet another book about him.” If, however,  Leonard Cohen offered to answer three questions from you fully and honestly, what would you ask him?

What was it he wrote on the note that he inserted into the Bow tie of his dead father?  Why did he walk into the Greek bank in London?  Why won’t Roscoe Beck return my calls?

8.  You indicated that you had spoken to many of Leonard Cohen’s musicians in preparation for writing this book. Which musicians you interviewed were especially enlightening in providing fresh insights?

All the musicians I spoke to had interesting and enlightening insights.  All had wonderful stories and memories to relate.  None were boring. The trick is working out how to enable them to tell you such things.  Some are great at writing and the emails a joy to read. Others express themselves better over the phone or in person.  In an email some would answer a question like “Please explain your working relationship with LC and the distinction between this and your friendship with him, if there is one. Please be as detailed as possible…” etc   with “It is great, all is great, Leonard is a fine man”.  Obviously this is unusable and so when you ask them the same question on the phone they go for hours, riffing on that one question.  They are wonderfully articulate to speak with but not necessarily good at putting themselves across in words.  Javier Mas in particular was a joy to be with, sat on a sunny beach in Spain drinking rum and Coca-Cola while he told me his life story.  I could have talked more with almost everyone I spoke with.

9. What did you learn in your research for “The Remarkable Life Of Leonard Cohen” that most surprised you?

How forgiving people can be of each other.

10. You’ve expressed the view that  many biographies of entertainers lack the fan’s perspective and that you see being a Leonard Cohen fan as one of your strengths as his biographer.  Could you elaborate on how the fan’s perspective is manifested in “The Remarkable Life Of Leonard Cohen?”

Simple – I’ve asked fans themselves how they felt, reacted etc when they bought a certain record, saw a certain concert.  How did their friends and families feel about Cohen?  Some very personal stuff. For some reason this is a perspective often omitted completely from books of this nature. But without the people buying the records- the audience – there would hardly be a subject. And this stuff gives an added context. I was disappointed though in the reaction I got…from Cohen’s fans in particular.  Compared to my previous books so few people wanted to contribute.  I sensed they didn’t trust me for some reason. Or maybe they were simply protective of their memories.

11. As a fan,
A. Which 3 Leonard Cohen songs are your favorites?

The Stranger Song, Waiting For The Miracle, A Thousand Kisses Deep.

B. Which of Leonard Cohen’s live performances you’ve attended was the most memorable?

Live-wise –  I’m not a fan of live music.  I don’t get much out of it at all.  If I really love an artist I’ll go but it’s almost always disappointing for me, especially after the first 6 minutes.  I like watching stuff on DVD or video occasionally but don’t like the physical aspect of being in an audience.  Re Cohen, I lived in Wales till 1993 and Cohen never came to Wales until 2008.  I never had money as a kid to travel even to London – maybe rarely – and the idea of going all that way and then paying for tickets and a hotel was beyond me when Cohen was actually touring.  I moved to London in late 93 by which time he’d retired from touring. (I would have liked to have seen the 88 tour, I think that was a peak in Cohen’s live career).

By the time he came to Wales I was living in Spain.  But I did go to the Valencia concert in September of 2009- which was memorable for all the wrong reasons.  And I was invited to the Lille concert last March which as we know was also canceled.  Maybe Cambodia?

My fave live performance is actually probably “The Stranger Song” on the Julie Felix show. So still and amazingly powerful.  That one perfect teardrop…it’s like a holy statue crying.

Leonard Cohen Stranger Song (Once More With Felix 1967)

12. You have an avid and lifelong reading habit ranging from comic books to Philip Larkin and Bukowski.   Do you consciously emulate any authors in your own writing?

I like lots of different writers and have many favourites.  While I do like to include a poetic element in my biographies I don’t actually try to emulate any writers style – not consciously, no. I liked what Tom Waits said about Nick Tosches biography of Dean Martin – “It works cos it’s musical”.  The writing was musical, it had beat and rhythm and I try to make my writing swing a little, to let it flow.

There were times when I tried to emulate the behaviour of my favourite writers.  Both Philip K Dick and Hunter S Thompson got high and wrote as did Kerouac of course.  Bukoswki wrote lovely stuff while drunk. But it didn’t work for me.  A few lines of coke and a glass or three of Wild Turkey and the last thing I feel like is sitting at a desk writing.  It’s ironic but like Hunter himself said “There’s no high like writing” and the most I’ve ever been truly intoxicated outside of Love is because of work  – in conjunction with nothing stronger than tap water.

13. Do you anticipate writing biographies of other musicians? If so, who would be among the likely subjects for you in the future?

I don’t want to write about any other musicians, no.  But then I would say that as I’m just finishing this huge book on Cohen. (I remarked to my girlfriend the other day that writing about Cohen is like writing about God except Cohen isn’t dead).  There were people in the past I’d like to have written about, before this book – Tim Hardin in particular – but no publisher was interested.

14. I’ve always been interested in the means by which titles of books are selected. How did you come to select “The Remarkable Life Of Leonard Cohen?”

Well as I’ve said I didn’t choose that title.  I like titles that draw you in and alert you.  This goes for songs, albums, paintings, films whatever.  I’m put off by something if it’s called “A Life On The Edge” or “Up Close And Personal” or  “Uncut” or whatever.  If the titles are that poor, what’s the book gonna be like?  With my Walker book everyone wanted “No Regrets” or “Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine…” . For Jeff they wanted “Last Goodbye,” which is bullshit as his life was anything but a long goodbye. It wasn’t even that long…many people working in publishing aren’t literary minded at all and as I recall the boss and editor at Plexus were particularly moronic. Jeff had no idea he was gonna die when he did. And that instance –  his death is just a tiny part of the story, the least of his time.  You have to fight to have something that matches the book, matches the vision. Publishers own the book, not the author.  And they want the subject in the title – the name – so it comes up on Google etc.  So it’s a compromise. And I take an interest in every aspect of my books as I would in an album I’ve made.  Then again, Cohen has done so much, his story is so expansive – almost biblical – that plain old “Leonard Cohen – A Life” suits the book  just fine.


Credit Due Department
: The photo atop this post is by John Martinez.

3 Responses to Anthony Reynolds’ Wholly Profane Life Of L Cohen

  1. This is a wonderfully detailed and honest interview and I am someone who became a fan of Cohen’s instantly way back when Songs of Leonard Cohen was released. I would have been 16 so I suppose I must have been a depressed teenager because I used to play Leonard over and over rather than any of the rock bands of the day. Seeing him live at the Isle of Wight whenever that was was a highlight of the festival for me. I am really looking forward to this book!

  2. I must admit that I was piqued the first time I actually heard Leonard sing in Canada. I had to wait until I got out of Saskatchewan (slow Sasktel dialup) to do some online queries. I am in for a great deal of discovery, and joy, “of that I can be sure.”

  3. Something very special happened recently, when my 78 year old father came over to visit. I was listening to Leonard Cohen on the PC, with the good speakers. Dad came in to ask who that was and I told him. He claimed that he had heard Cohen only twice in his life (“modest” CBS era) and had cried when he did; I myself have had that same experience. So, I cranked it up and played “Everybody Knows” a title that my father remembered. The college students out back, loved it to! So, I cranked it up even louder! The students out on the patio loved it too, and sat outside my window listening as well.
    There were 4 generations of us, which I felt was sweet, especially when “our” music drove Dad NUTS in the 70’s.
    I asked Dad if he was going to send me to Wiesbaden for my 50th and he said, “NO, I am going!” So, if you see a 90 pound man with an Oxygen tank, smoking cigarettes, you will know who he is: The most hardcore devotee ever!… And he may provide the fireworks too.

    Thanks Leonard! (and Heck of a Guy)