New Video, Photos, Transcript – Leonard Cohen Prince of Asturias Awards Speech Oct 21, 2011

Photos: Leonard Cohen at Oct 21, 2011  Prince of Asturias Awards Ceremony

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Leonard Cohen with Princess of Asturias

Leonard Cohen's fedora left on chair during his talk

Video: Leonard Cohen at Oct 21, 2011  Prince of Asturias Awards Ceremony

Update: An improved video of this event with most of the Spanish overdubbing removed can be found at  Leonard Cohen’s Prince of Asturias Awards Speech – Direct Transcript & Enhanced English Video

Transcript: Leonard Cohen at Oct 21, 2011  Prince of Asturias Awards Ceremony

Update: The transcript below is a Spanish translation of Cohen’s talk re-translated into English by Google Translation.  An improved, direct transcript of this speech can be found at  Leonard Cohen’s Prince of Asturias Awards Speech – Direct Transcript & Enhanced English Video

From El Pais [Google English translation]:

It is an honor to be here tonight, but perhaps, as the great master Riccardo Muti, I’m not used to be before an audience without an orchestra behind. I will do my solo. I could not sleep last night, I spent a sleepless night wondering what I could say here today. After eating all the chocolate and peanuts from the minibar scribbled a few words but I doubt it takes to refer to them. Obviously, I’m very excited about the recognition of the foundation. But I have come tonight to express another kind of gratitude that I hope to have three or four minutes.

When I was packing up in Los Angeles I felt uneasy because I have always been some ambiguity about poetry. Comes from a place that no one controls, that no conquest. That is, if he knew where the songs would come more often. Accepting an award for an activity that does not really control it. Packing up to come, I took my guitar Conde, made in Spain 40 years ago or so. The out of the box and seemed made of helium, very light. I put it in the face and smelled it, is very well designed, the fragrance of living wood. We know that wood just never die and it smelled like cedar, so cool, like the first day, when I bought the guitar for 40 years. And a voice seemed to say: “You’re an old man and have not thanked you have not returned your gratitude to those who deserve it: soil, land, the people who gave you so much. For just as a man is not a ID card, a debt rating is not a country. You know of my strong association with Federico Garcia Lorca and I can say that while I was young and adolescent not only found a voice and when I read Lorca in a translation, I found a voice gave permission to discover my own voice, to find my self, a self that is not yet finished.

As I got older I knew that the instructions came with that voice. What were those instructions? Never regret. And if we want to express the loss we all attacks must be in the strict confines of the dignity and beauty. So you had a voice, but he had the instrument to express it. I had a song. And now I will tell briefly the story of how I got my song.

I was a guitarist indifferent. I only knew a few chords. I sat with my friends, drank and sang, but never saw myself as a musician or a singer. One day, in the early sixties, was visiting my mother. His home was near a park with a tennis court where we would watch them play basketball. It was a place I knew from my childhood. I wandered around and met a young woman playing a flamenco guitar. I loved it, was surrounded by some girls and I sat down to listen, captivated me, I wanted to play well, but I knew I would never make.

I approached him and we understood half French half English and we agreed some classes at my mother. He was a young Spanish. The next day came. He said, “Let me hear you play something.” I did and said he had no idea. He picked up the guitar, tuned it, I returned it and said, “does not sound bad. Now touch it again.” Not change much. He grabbed me again and said, “I’ll teach you a few chords.” He played a rapid sequence of chords and then I explained where I had to put my fingers and said again: “Now playing”. But it was a disaster.

The next day began again with the six chords. Many flamenco songs based on them. On the third day it keeps getting better. I learned six chords. The next day the guitarist did not return at home. Stopped coming. Since I had the number of the boarding house where he was staying went looking to see what had happened. They told me that he had killed himself Spanish, who had killed himself. I did not know anything about him, what part of Spain was why he was in Montreal for what was at the tennis court, why he killed himself.

I felt a great sadness. We have never had this in public. The six chords, the sound pattern has been the basis of all my songs and my music and maybe now they can begin to understand the magnitude of appreciation I have for this country. All you have found favor in my work comes from this story I just told you. All my work is inspired by this land. So thank you for holding it because it is his, I only have allowed to put my signature at the end of the last page.

Credit Due Department:

I was alerted to the transcript of Leonard Cohen’s speech (in Spanish) by Chema


  • Leonard Cohen at podium: El Pais
  • Leonard Cohen seated: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
  • Leonard Cohen with the Princess of Asturias: Agencia EFE
  • Leonard Cohen bowing after receiving the award: Reuters
  • Leonard Cohen with hat in hand in front of laureates: FPA
  • Leonard Cohen with hat in hand on walkway: Agencia EFE
  • Leonard Cohen walking away with award: El Imparcial
  1. What an emotional chain of events, eloquent (what else did we expect?) response, and wonderful pictures!
    Thank you, Dr.HGuy, for compiling it all. It feels as if we had been there to witness it all.

  2. Hmmm, thanks for the transcript, but maybe you could check it again. There are several mistakes which I’ve found as I tried to interpret the speech into Spanish (uni stuff).


    • Because the transcript is a Spanish translation of Leonard Cohen’s speech re-translated, as noted, by Google back into English, it is imperfect. On the other hand, it’s the best transcript currently available.