Leonard Cohen Looks at Himself ~ by Danny Fields
Soho Weekly News, Vol. 1, #9. Thursday, December 5, 1974
Danny Fields is not just another interviewer. While this excerpt from a 2012 Village Voice article by Michael Alan Goldberg is not an encyclopedic account of Fields’ career, it does offer a sense of the man’s style and his role in the music scene since the 1960s:
From pulling needles full of dope out of Iggy Pop’s arm just before showtime and helping turn Jim Morrison into a sex symbol (becoming Morrison’s sworn enemy in the process), to unleashing the Ramones upon the world and later becoming one of the globe’s leading music journalists, NYC’s own Danny Fields has been a pivotal figure in nearly five decades of rock ‘n roll history, albeit mostly behind-the-scenes.
This excerpt from a Paris Review piece by Brian Cullman strikes a similar note:
Danny Fields … was very smart, very connected. He was always the hippest man in the room and continues to be. He was part of Andy Warhol’s scene, part of the inner sanctum at Max’s Kansas City, the house hippie at Elektra Records, responsible for taking care of the Doors, responsible for signing the Stooges and the MC5, responsible for breaking the story about John Lennon claiming the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and later for discovering and managing the Ramones, and on and on.
In addition, Fields has been a journalist, editor (of 16 magazine among others), publicist, radio show host, and author. More to the issue at hand, He wrote for the SoHo Weekly News, which was published from October 1973 until March 1982.
As you will find in this article, he and Leonard Cohen became friends at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival. And, although he denies being a photographer, he is responsible for an incredible number of photos of pop music luminaries, including this shot of Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Elrod.
A few delectations from the article follow:
Going Back To Smoking
L: You know why I really stopped smoking? I had a rival—not a rival for anyone’s hand or anyone’s love. It was just someone who saw me in a comparative way and forced me to look at him that way, and he didn’t smoke. And I said to myself, if he can do it then you can do it . But it’s wonderful.
D: What, stopping?
L: No, smoking.
D: Me too.
L: I love the smell of it, and the associations and the stylistic possibilities. I intend to go back to it shortly.
Why Cohen’s music is more popular in Europe & the chances of the same acceptance in America
D: You’re the biggest star in the world in Europe.
L: I’m a big act there, no question about it.
D: Do you think it’s because you work there more, or because you pay more attention to Europe than America, or what?
L:. Maybe it’s because they can’t understand the lyrics.
D: Do you look forward to the same vast acceptance in America?
L: I don’t think it will happen in America. I don’t think the American tradition can accommodate a personage like that.
D: What are the dimensions of that personage in Europe that can’t carry over the ocean?
L: I think that that kind of singer is in the mainstream in Europe, and here it’s an eccentric kind of thing. I really think that the American music is black and Western, and whatever the permutations and combinations of those two things are. I don’t know if a chansonnier really fits into that.
D: Oh, Leonard. forgive me, but I have to bring up the revolution. What happened to it?
L: (laughs) I think everyone perceives that these are times when the work is on the individual for himself, by himself, and the urgency is now for each man to make himself strong. I don’t think anybody is going to put together the whole pattern, or understand all the movements.
D: Do you think all hopes for collective strength should be postponed?
L: I think that people should clearly perceive what kind of activity strengthens them, and what kind of activity disintegrates them. I think those who have a talent or a gift for—or are nourished by—collective enterprise should throw themselves in with it, and those who are nourished by another kind of activity should embrace that. I think if there is really a revolution, it’s against tyranny, and part of tyranny is the notion that there’s one kind of thing for everybody to do.
And there is – yep – much, much more.
The Complete Interview: Leonard Cohen Looks at Himself by Danny Fields
The full interview can be accessed at
Interview: Leonard Cohen Looks at Himself
by Danny Fields 1974
Credit Due Department: This outstanding interview was discovered and contributed by Jugurtha Harchaoui. The photo of Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Elrod is from I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons.