Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan And Leonard Cohen Back Identical Cologne Concepts

The Singer-Songwriter Scent Of Success

Lost in the rages of fragrance
- From “The Window” by Leonard Cohen

Ongoing readers will recall the previous post, Indifference: Leonard Cohen’s Cologne Concept, focused on Cohen’s his vision he shared with Sean Dixon, aka Sleep66:

Leonard once told me he was going to come out with his own cologne. It was going to be called “Indifference,” and its slogan was going to be “I don’t give a shit what happens”

That same post also included the Heck Of A Guy ad proposal as a means of furthering this venture.

It turns out that Leonard Cohen is not the only iconic singer-songwriter to consider developing his own line of cologne. The following excerpt is from Carrie Fisher’s book, “Wishful Drinking:”

Dylan wasn’t calling to ask me on a date. He was calling because this cologne company had contacted him to ask if he would endorse a cologne called Just Like A Woman. Now Bob didn’t like that name, but he liked the idea of endorsing a cologne. And he wanted to know if I had any good cologne names.

Do I look like someone who would be wandering around with a bunch of cologne names rattling around in my head?

Well, tragically, I did. I did have quite a few ideas for cologne names and so I told them to Bob.

There was Ambivalence – for the scent of confusion.

Arbitrary – for the man who doesn’t give a shit how he smells!

And, Empathy – feel like them, smell like this.

Well, Bob actually liked those!

The Dylan-Cohen Defecatory Disinterest Dialectic

The reader’s attention is called to the description of “Arbitrary,” the second of Ms Fisher’s designations winning Mr Dylan’s approval. The juxtaposition of that phrase, “for the man who doesn’t give a shit how he smells,” with Mr Cohen’s proposed slogan for his cologne, “I don’t give a shit what happens,” readily identifies the hitherto undiscovered motif employed by both of the men most often acknowledged as the poet- lyricists of their time:

Does Not Give A Shit

The Consequences

The intuitively apparent mythicocloacal significance implicit in this shared theme mandates a re-appraisal of the corpus of work produced by not only each of these artists but also all those performers influenced by them.

It also opens up, of course, a synergistic entrepreneurial opportunity for a combined Cohen-Dylan line of colognes for the discerning kind of man who is governed only by his own insouciance.

Bob Dylan’s 1988 Covers Of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

bob-dylan-1988

Bob Dylan – 1988

Leonard Cohen Sings “Hallelujah” To Bob Dylan

It’s [Hallelujah is] a rather joyous song. I like very much the last verse. I remember singing it to Bob Dylan after his last concert in Paris. The morning after, I was having coffee with him and we traded lyrics. Dylan especially liked this last verse “And even though it all went wrong, I stand before the Lord of song With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah”
– Leonard Cohen, from 1985 interview published in Paroles et Musiques

Dylan went on to be one of the first artists to cover “Hallelujah,” performing it twice in his 1988 concert tour.

Of course, no post about Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and “Hallelujah” would be complete without the anecdote, a classic in Cohen’s repertoire, about the contrast in the time required by Dylan and Cohen to compose a song. The story appears in several Cohen interviews. The following iteration is from Leonard Cohen, Los Angeles 1992, a section of “Songwriters On Songwriting” by Paul Zollo:

That [“Hallelujah”] was a song that took me [Leonard Cohen] a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Then I praise a song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, “Fifteen minutes.” [Laughter]

Bob Dylan – Hallelujah
Forum de Montréal, Montréal: July 8, 1988
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen Cover) by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Bob Dylan – Hallelujah
Greek Theatre, Los Angeles: August 4, 1988
Hallelujah by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Note: I first posted about Bob Dylan’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on . Various recordings of this cover have appeared online only to be disappear again. Alerted by Juanma Lopez Andreu to a YouTube version1 that has survived online since Jan 2014, I am re-posting the material along with the audio recordings of Dylan’s two 1988 covers.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Ken Friedman

__________________

  1. The YouTube version is the audio track from the July 8, 1988 Montreal rendition attached to a single still photo of Dylan and thus offers no advantages over the audio tracks embedded on this post []

Dominique Issermann On Shooting Bob Dylan’s Lingerie Ad & Missing Leonard Cohen’s Depression

I never have believed that there was a parallel world
more interesting than the real world.

The Dominique Issermann Interview

The photo atop this post and the following excerpts are from Champ Libre by Anne Diatkine (Le Temps, 25 June 2012). The French to English translation was made possible by Coco Éclair. I have placed Dominique Issermann’s words in bold italics for the convenience of readers.

Bob Dylan & The Lingerie Ad

Dominique Issermann is a sober joker.  Sober in her aesthetic choices, and also because she does not drink, and has never done drugs, even in the 80’s when she was a mainstay at the Theatre.  While everyone else was collapsing and losing the ability to speak, she still tried to interact.  “I have never been able to believe that there was a parallel world more interesting than the real world.”

Also funny.  She mimics the people she mentions.  Bob Dylan is mentioned, but also Marguerite Duras, and many others that it would be rude to name so it would be best that we forget them.

The photographer imitates the behaviour of Bob Dylan, met for a women’s lingerie advertisement.  He was being really macho in it.  Did he do it for free, for the beauty of the work (ad)? 

I don’t think so.  More like triple the rate.  I was scared to death of the idea that they sent me his stand-in.  We were confined in a room where tons of fuchsia bras were hanging, and I held out a cowboy hat to him.  He said: “Oh no I can’t.”  “Why?”  “Because lingerie, that’s okay.  But if I put on a hat, my friends will really find it quite strange.  I never wear them.  “Mr. Dylan, I’ve been to lots of your concerts, I can attest that you wear a hat.”  “You’re confused, it wasn’t me.”  I panicked, and then the impersonator was unmasked.

She continues the story, we would willingly listen for hours, and that’s incidentally what happens.1

DrHGuy Note: The referenced women’s lingerie commercial is this 2004 “Angels In Venice” ad from Victoria’s Secret.

And About Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, photo by Dominique Issermann - London 1990

She noted that, even setting Leonard aside,  she hadn’t photographed just  women. It is enormously false, look [showing me another photo] – Gérard Depardieu before Going Places.

Leonard Cohen is, however, one of the only recurring men who is not photographed like a reflection in a mirror, but in the process of moving, that is to say, dreaming, writing, putting on his shoes, doing nothing, in short, living.  She says: Yes, I was the woman from I’m Your Man [note – title of an album dedicated to her], which I would have never thought to mention publicly if some biographies weren’t out.  I learned that he was very depressed when we met on Hydra.  I wasn’t at all aware of it, we laughed so much.”  How does the story end?  “In one fell swoop.  Like water flowing from a basin.

Dominique Issermann is not chronological.  My love affairs are my only timekeeper.  I forget the dates of the last decade.  I could say:  “This picture was when I was with such and such person.”  When there is no love, I am incapable of situating myself in time.

She just finished the clips of Leonard Cohen’s last album with an iPhone.  It’s a little magic box.  It allows me to become what I wanted to be as a child. 2

 Credit Due Department:  The photo of Leonard Cohen is from “Leonard par Dominique,” (Le Nouvel Observateur,  January 26, 2012); see  Dominique Issermann’s Romantic Photos Of Leonard Cohen.

 Other Posts Featuring Dominique Issermann

  1. Excerpt in original French follows:

    Dominique Issermann est une sobre rigolote. Sobre dans ses choix esthétiques, et aussi parce qu’elle ne boit pas, ne s’est jamais droguée, même dans les années 80, quand elle était un pilier du Palace. Tandis que chacun s’affaissait et perdait l’usage de la parole, elle tentait encore d’échanger. «Je n’ai jamais pu croire qu’il y avait un monde parallèle plus intéressant que le monde réel.» Rigolote aussi. Elle mime les gens qu’elle évoque. Bob Dylan s’invite à la table, mais aussi Marguerite Duras, et beaucoup d’autres, qu’il serait mal élevé de citer parce qu’on en oublierait. La photographe imite la démarche de Dylan, rencontré pour une pub de lingerie féminine. Il y faisait l’homme. Gratuitement, pour la beauté du geste? «Je ne pense pas. Triple tarif, plutôt. J’étais morte de trouille à l’idée qu’on m’ait envoyé son sosie. On était enfermés dans une pièce où pendaient des milliers de soutiens-gorge fuchsia, et je lui ai tendu un chapeau de cow-boy. Il m’a dit: «Ah non, je ne peux pas.» «Pourquoi?» «Parce que la lingerie, d’accord. Mais si je mets un chapeau, mes amis vont vraiment trouver ça très bizarre. Je n’en porte jamais.» «Monsieur Dylan, j’ai été à des tas de vos concerts, je peux certifier que vous portiez un chapeau.» «Vous confondez, ce n’était pas moi.» Je paniquais, le sosie s’était démasqué.» Elle continue l’histoire, on l’écouterait pendant des heures, c’est d’ailleurs ce qui se passe. []

  2. Excerpt in original French follows:

    La troisième, c’est la fidélité: qu’elles s’appellent Anne Rohart, Isabelle Adjani ou Laetitia Casta, qu’elles soient connues ou pas, les mêmes personnes reviennent, de décennie en décennie. Quand elle lie amitié, elle ne rompt pas. On lui fait remarquer qu’elle n’a photographié que des femmes, à part Leonard Cohen. «C’est archi faux, regardez. Gérard Depardieu avant Les Valseuses.» Leonard Cohen est cependant l’un des seuls hommes récurrents, qui ne soit pas photographié en reflet dans un miroir, mais en train d’agir, c’est-à-dire de rêver, d’écrire, de mettre ses chaussures, de ne rien faire, bref, de vivre. Elle dit: «Oui, j’ai été la femme de I’m Your Man [titre d’un album qui lui est dédié, ndlr], ce que je n’aurais jamais pensé évoquer publiquement si des biographies n’étaient pas sorties. J’y ai appris qu’il était très déprimé quand on s’est rencontrés à Hydra. Je n’en avais aucune conscience, on riait tellement.» Comment s’arrête une histoire? «D’un seul coup. Comme l’eau qui s’écoule d’un bassin.»

    Dominique Issermann n’est pas chronologique. «Mes aventures amoureuses sont ma seule horloge. J’oublie les dates à une décennie près. Je pourrais dire: «Cette photo-là, c’était quand j’étais avec telle personne.» Quand il n’y a pas d’amour, je suis incapable de me repérer.» Elle vient de terminer les clips du dernier album de Leonard Cohen avec un iPhone. Quitte à laisser tomber l’argentique, autant changer radicalement de support. «C’est la petite boîte magique. Elle me permet de devenir ce que je voulais être enfant.» []

Leonard Cohen Vs Bob Dylan At Forest Hills 1970

Leonard Cohen And Bob Dylan – Feuding Friends?

Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan have, by all accounts, sincerely admired and thoughtfully praised each other’s work since Cohen became, like Dylan, a full-fledged singer-songwriter.

But that doesn’t mean  the relationship has always been conflict-free, at least according to the following excerpt from Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes (Grove Press, April 12, 2002. pp 260-261):

The underlining and the release date of Dylan’s Self Portrait were added by me. Click on image to enlarge.

This report of a conflict that manifested in the meeting at Cohen’s 1970 Forest Hills concert resonates with and perhaps explicates backup singer Susan Musmanno’s recollection:

I had also forgotten that the concert in Forest Hills was really one of a series. That was the only bad performance we ever gave, and I think part of the reason was that Dylan was in the house that night, and we were all nervous.

And with the extraordinarily negative review of the concert by Nancy Erlich published in the August 8, 1970 issue of Billboard, a model of pristine certainty untainted by dubiety, ambivalence, or ambiguity. Cohen is, Ms Erlich informs us, a musical Svengali, ruthlessly using “his extraordinary command of language and other people’s emotions” to oppress, diminish, and emotionally deplete those who listen to his songs.1

  1. The entire review may be read at the aptly named post, Leonard Cohen, Forest Hills 1970 – “Nervous, Uncomfortable, Oppressive, Lifeless” []

Rarely Viewed Video – Leonard Cohen On His Atrocious Voice, Dylan, Lead Belly, Ice-T, Songwriting, Love, & Where’s The Beef

Cohen On Cohen: The 1992 Interview

Today, Heck Of A Guy offers viewers another1 thoughtful, intriguing, and inexplicably obscure Leonard Cohen interview on video.2

The somewhat  garbled Google translation of the  on-site description of the video follows:

07/09/2008 – Tomorrow enter the Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in Bruges, it’s 15 years since he last toured it.

You can revisit the interview that journalist Serge Simonart with Cohen in 1992. He had just moved into a new album: “The Future”. “I want to hear People that can not sing” says Cohen. The story of a life will be heard in one voice – that’s why he loves Leadbelly, Dylan and Ice T and he will not mind if his own voice Liberation “terrible”s ets. Cohen also tells how he deceived when Dylan asked him how long Cohen had worked on the song “Hallelujah”. It continues with the central myth of our time, the rhetoric of the extreme left and right, and about love.

Cohen On Cohen Highlights

  • The interview to which yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen Claims Joan Baez Brutally Violated His Song “Suzanne”, referred is part of the Cohen On Cohen video.
  • In chronological order, the songs, with video accompaniment, woven into the interview are “First We Take Manhattan,” “Closing Time,” “Chelsea Hotel #2,” “Take This Waltz,” “The Stranger Song,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Democracy,” and “Dance Me To The End Of Love.”
  • Among the pre-recorded video segments included within Cohen On Cohen, the most interesting is the sequence from Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, filmed in 1964, in which the then 30 year old Cohen banters with a makeup artist.


  • Among the pre-recorded videos, the second most interesting is the set of scenes from Robert Altman’s 1971 classic, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” which featured three of Cohen’s songs, “The Stranger Song,” “Sisters Of Mercy,” and “Winter Lady.”

  • Cohen opens the interview with remarks on the “news that [he] had a terrible voice,” adding that recently Libération had proclaimed he had an “atrocious” voice.  He follows that with the matter of fact observation that

Well, you can’t expect any mercy from Libération.

  • Cohen explains his preference for a “guy’s story” the singer feels compelled to perform over the quality of the singer’s voice.

All those guys that I listen to you know – from Lead Belly to Dylan to Ice-T you know they had something in their voice that tells me about their lives, about their true story. I like to hear a guy’s story. …  I want to hear people who can’t sing.

  • Leonard Cohen re-tells two of his classic anecdotes: First, he relates the story  behind the often quoted response given by his lawyer (Marty Machat) when he (Cohen) professed, prior to his appearance at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival that “I can’t sing:’

None of you guys can sing. When I want to hear singers, I go the Metropolitan Opera.

Later, Cohen confesses to lying to Bob Dylan by claiming to have written “Hallelujah” in one year when it actually took twice that long; the punch line, of course, is that Dylan then answered Cohen’s question about how long it took for Dylan to write “I and I” with “fifteen minutes.” This anecdote concludes with a variation of another of Cohen’s favorite lines:

If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often. And I guess he [Dylan] feels the same way.

  • A contemplation of the relationship between art and commerce is offered:

What we called the revolution of the 60s was also 10 or 15 minutes, and then it was taken over immediately by the head shops and the hustlers and the money makers … it’s also not written anywhere that commerce is an enemy of revolution or an enemy of art. In fact, art and commerce have always been indistinguishable.

This conversation segues into an exploration of the fatigue endemic to contemporary culture and a potential cure for or, more likely, a possible palliation of that exhaustion:

… people get tired of tired of having their souls pressed into various kinds of duty. I think the need for oxygen is perennial. Just Sit back and breath deeply and you’re going to have a different view of the thing’. Relax is what the hippies said. And what the new age says.  Just relax.

  • Perhaps the most perspicacious and pointed commentary is Cohen’s contention (beginning at 16:30) that a primary determinant of civilization’s misery is the persistent belief that humans live in – or can live in – paradise:

The central myth of  our culture is the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  This is not paradise. … From time to time men and institutions arise that promise to return you to paradise. The Communist party, the Fascist party, this church, that church, this vision, that philosophy… They invite you to go back to paradise. Whenever you hear that, you should duck.  You should run in all directions from this. … This is one of the sources of our suffering – this inability to confront the notion that we are not in paradise.

  • On the political front, Cohen focuses on the disconnect between non-extremist rhetoric and reality:

It’s an incredible mess … for some odd reason, we  still dare to hope … Freedom from hope … a  kind of freedom from cynicism. It’s beyond cynicism, it”s beyond hope. It’s just an embrace. … Public utterance is way behind private experience. … You’ll find that people are talking much more realistically than the leaders. When a leader begins a talk realistically, unfortunately they’re generally from the extreme left or the extreme right. But the thing that is appealing about their rhetoric is that it’s real. The rhetoric of the center is chronically and obsessively concerned with a version of reality that nobody buys. That something really great is going on. Well something great isn’t going on. Something quite despairing is going on.

Chelsea Hotel interior (screen capture)

  • Most poignant, however, are Cohen’s ruminations on the endurance of love:

People change and their bodies change…. Bodies decay and die,  but there is something that doesn’t change about love. … Marianne … when I hear her voice on the telephone, I know something is completely intact even though our lives have separated and we’ve gone our very different paths. I feel that love never dies, and that when there is an emotion strong enough to gather a song around it, that there is something about that emotion that is indestructible..

  • My personal choice from the Cohen On Cohen menu is his “Where’s the beef”  tutorial provided in response to the interviewer’s questions about the underlying ad campaign (which did not run in the interviewer’s country). 3
  • And, who can riff on songwriting better than Leonard Cohen? He explains that one reason his songs require so long to write is that he sees himself

like a geologist, like someone writing for he National Geographic rather than for Rolling Stone.  … Precision is very very important – to get exactly the right language to describe the situation in which I find myself. ….  there is no inside, no outside. To report from that position involves a kind of surrender. ..It means … burning away a lot of voices whispering in your ear because you start off with a slogan … psychic propaganda … You want to  impose a solution on the song. … All those voices have to be not silenced but eliminated. until you get to a position where you can defend every word, and that seems to take a lot of trouble and a lot of work.

  • Finally, in rueful tones, Leonard Cohen talks about anger, especially anger with a loved one, with the conviction of someone who has realized a truth about himself:

One of the areas in which it is absolutely urgent that you express your anger is with people you love. It’s fatal not to express anger. If you’re close to someone, I think you’re occasionally seized with rage. … Whenever I’m in love, I can be counted on … getting angry three or four times a day.

… One of the descriptions of a good man in the Talmud is [that he is] slow to anger, quick to forgive. …  I’m slow to anger and slow to forgive

Cohen On Cohen: The Video

The video (which cannot be embedded) can be viewed at Cohen On Cohen

fedoradivider

Credit Due Department: Once again, Heck Of A Guy is grateful that Maarten Massa alerted us to the existence of this video treasure.

  1. Earlier this week, Heck Of A Guy posted Leonard Cohen Performs Soundcheck Conga And Speaks On The Summoning Of Courage, which featured a little seen interview from 1993 []
  2. A personal request to hard core Cohenites: I know I’ve seen portions of this video elsewhere. Indeed, I specifically recognize the setting, including the slanted ceiling and window. I’m reasonably sure I posted it at Heck Of A Guy, but I haven’t been able to track it down.  If a viewer could point me to that video, I’d be appreciative. []
  3. Cohen, it must be noted, misidentified the fast food chain that ran the commercials. The 1984 “Where’s The Beef?” advertising campaign, starring 81 year old Clara Peller and created  by the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was a promotion for Wendy’s, not Burger King or McDonald’s. []

Leonard Cohen And The Andy Warhol Scene – Brigid Berlin’s Cock Book

Brigid Berlin – Andy Warhol Superstar

In checking references for Leonard Cohen, Gerard Malanga’s Poem, And The Andy Warhol Scene, I came across the story of Brigid Berlin (aka Brigid Polk), daughter of socialite Muriel “Honey” Berlin and Richard E. Berlin, chairman of the Hearst media organization more than a half-century, who was, more pertinently, one of Andy Warhol’s superstars.1

Andy Warhol and Brigid Berlin

After meeting Brigid in 1964,  Warhol soon nicknamed her “Brigid Polk” because of her predilection for giving others “pokes,” i.e., injections of Vitamin B and amphetamines.

Vincent Fremont summarized her role at the Factory:

Brigid’s life by the mid-1970s was at the front desk at the Factory. If a tank had rolled by and you’d ask her, ‘Did a tank come by?’ she’d look up completely unaware. She and Andy were like a married couple. Brigid was the one one who could fight with him that way. He would offer her a painting as a present, and she would say no, and ask for a washing machine instead. Andy and Brigid had a great relationship; they spoke on the telephone every morning. Brigid was Andy’s ‘B’ in the ‘Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)’… In the 60s and the beginning of the 70s Brigid routinely took her clothes off at Andy’s Factory. Andy took a lot of pictures of her nude, especially polaroids.2

Brigid Berlin’s  close relationship with and loyalty to Andy Warhol was striking.  A short, moving story about and interview with Brigid  that captures a sense of their connection, including some tenderness, is available on the Carnegie Museums site.

Brigid is also, however,  credited by many critics as a legitimate artist independent of her association with Andy Warhol.

She was known for obsessively recording the sights and sounds of everyday life.  Her tapes of phone conversations between her and her socialite mother were, in fact, the raw material of Warhol’s play, “Pork.”

She also created several art projects, such as “Boobes” (seen above). Brigid made this book by

inking her boobs, as well as the boobs of friends of hers that were hanging around the factory.3

The photo below (from ArtNet) demonstrates the methodology.

Andy Warhol photographs Brigid Berlin making a breast print

The best known of her compositions, however, was a somewhat  parallel project called “The Cock Book.”

The Cock Book – Brigid Asks Leonard Cohen To Contribute

A biographer describes the project:

When she came across a large book full of blank pages with the title, Topical Bible, at a shop on Broadway, she decided to use it as a trip book and wanted to choose a theme for it. “Topical” ryhmed with “cockical” so she made it into a cock book. In addition to drawing in it herself, she would take it with her to Max’s or the Factory and get whoever was around at the time to make a cock drawing in the book. Among the people who contributed to the book were Taylor Mead, Billy Sullivan, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Jane Fonda, Roger Vadim, Peter Beard, Dennis Hopper, Ondine, Richard Avedon and Leonard Cohen.4

Wikipedia enlarges on the methodology Brigid used to compile her book and notes Leonard Cohen’s contribution:

Brigid schlepped her Cock Book around with her when she went out at night to places like Max’s Kansas City or the Factory and got others to fill each page with their rendition of a penis. Brigid was not particularly selective about who drew in it, because she was consumed with the idea of having it filled and completed. Contributors range from artists like Basquiat to Jane Fonda, whose cock adorns a matchstick pearl necklace, to Leonard Cohen, who opted out of drawing a cock, instead writing “let me be the shy one in your book”. Berlin herself drew in the Cock Book, as did Andy Warhol, who refused to sign his proper name or draw a proper cock. The Cock Book was an artwork and entertainment for Brigid who “had more fun doing that than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I would come home, stoned from being up at Max’s [Kansas City, a now-defunct New York club] and I would sit on the floor and work on the book. [emphasis mine]

Brigid’s “Cock Book,” recently sold for $175,000 to artist Richard Prince

Inconsequential Incident Or Prototypical Paradigm?

While I’m not ready to claim paradigmatic status for this brief contact between Leonard Cohen and the Andy Warhol scene via Brigid Berlin’s “Cock Book,”  I would suggest it might be an early demonstration of a technique used by Cohen to position himself as a peripheral member (“honorary member” might be a more accurate term) of a community without the encumbrances of ongoing fealty or the necessity to defend the principles or goals espoused or actions taken by that group.

In Leonard Cohen Meets Jack Kerouac At Allen Ginsberg’s Home, I commented on Cohen’s self-professed role on the periphery of Kerouac’s and Ginsberg’s group:

Leonard Cohen’s account of his meeting with Jack Kerouac has always impressed me not only because the scene described is pretty darn funny but also because Cohen’s self-assessment of his position on the periphery of the bohemian literary group rather than an integral participant is a paradigm played out in many and perhaps most of his professional and social relationships.

A parallel sense of being tolerated but not, as was Cohen’s longing, being accepted as an equal is, for example, embedded in these lines from the version of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” he has recited during the World Tour:

I ran with Diz, I sang with Ray
I never had their sweep
but once or twice they let me play
a thousand kisses deep.

And Nadel quotes Cohen himself on the subject:

In New York, Cohen found confirmation of his anti-establishment stance, although he was never accepted by the Beats. “I was always on the fringe. I liked the places they gathered, but I was never accepted by the bohemians because it was felt that I came from the wrong side of the tracks. I was too middle class. … I didn’t have the right credentials to be at the center table in those bohemian cafes.”5

Notwithstanding Cohen’s pronouncement that he “didn’t have the right credentials,” I see little indication that he was motivated to make any significant efforts to be accepted by that circle.

In the cases of both the “Cock Book” and the bohemians, Leonard Cohen effectively distanced himself from individuals and their causes without cutting off the ties altogether, let alone antagonizing anyone, by using a maneuver which most of us past puberty will recognize from our own experience and which can be evocatively encapsulated by the phrase, “It’s not you – it’s me.”

I will pursue this notion in the future (if I’m not distracted by another idea or any bright, shiny object in my peripheral vision), but for now let me suggest one other incident I believe fits into this pattern.

An earlier post, Leonard Cohen Declines Bob Dylan’s Invitation To Play In Rolling Thunder Revue, provides the account of Dylan and others asking Cohen to play in the Rolling Thunder concert in his hometown:6

“Leonard, how you doing?” Bob [Dylan] warmly greets the Canadian. He points over at Ratso. “Hey, do you know this character?”

Leonard [Cohen] rolls his eyes. “This man has plagued me for the last three years.” They all laugh.

“Hey, Leonard, you gonna sing,” Ratso pleads.

“Let it be known that I alone disdained the obvious support,” Cohen chuckles. “I’m going to sit out there and watch.”

“Why not sing?” Joni [Mitchell] begs.

“No, no, it’s too obvious,” Leonard brushes off the request and looks to Ratso for guidance. He leads them out to the sound board where some folding chairs have been set up, just in time to see Dylan do his first set.

It’s not you, Bob & Joni, It’s me.

___________________________

  1. I find the categories of Warhol’s superstars implicitly proposed by The Petite Sophist unusually perspicacious and useful:

    • [Male] Female impersonators (Holly, Jackie, Candy)
    • Female female impersonators (Viva, Ultra Violet, International Velvet, Ingrid Superstar)
    • Pretty boys (Little Joe, Gerard Malanga, Ondine)
    • Crazies (Andrea Feldman, Geri Miller, Valerie Solanas)
    • Slumming socialites (Baby Jane Holzer, Edie Sedgwick)

    Brigid Berlin falls into the Slumming socialites. []

  2. Brigid Berlin by Gary Comenas []
  3. From Partners & Spade []
  4. Brigid Berlin Biography by Gary Comenas []
  5. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Bruce Nadel, 2007, University of Texas Press. P 52. []
  6. From “On the Road With Bob Dylan,” by Larry (Ratso) Sloman []