The original purpose of this post was to alert readers that an outstanding article about Leonard Cohen from the archives of Uncut magazine is again accessible online. Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen Meets Uncut by Brian D Johnson (Uncut: December 2008. Take 139) was one of the first full interviews with Leonard Cohen and his musicians after the start of his 2008-2010 Tour. It’s a great read and can be found at the link.
But, there’s more. In reviewing this piece, I noticed a couple of lines I had previously overlooked. The pertinent excerpt follows:
After 14 years off the road, what brought you back?
One of the things was that pesky little financial situation, which totally wiped me out [in October, 2005 Cohen alleged that his longtime former manager, Kelley Lynch, had misappropriated over $5 million from Cohen’s retirement fund]. So I’m very grateful that I had a way to make a living. It wasn’t the prime motivator. Thanks to the help of Robert Kory, who is unique among lawyers in that he deferred his fees until the situation was resolved, which is not just unusual but unheard of, I would say, for a lawyer in LA. So he was able to somehow right the shipwreck. As it turned out, I could have gotten by. [emphasis mine]
So, sometime in late 2008, Leonard Cohen casually points out that, the trauma of his financial problems notwithstanding, “as it turned out, I could have gotten by.” Now, “I could have gotten by” seems relatively straightforward, i.e., Leonard Cohen could have gotten by financially without going on tour.
The other portion of that key phrase, “As it turned out,” is less clear. I am tempted to read the implicit meaning of “as it turned out” in this context as something along the lines of “I originally thought X but I was wrong.” But, two sentences earlier, Cohen also says “It [the financial situation] wasn’t the prime motivator.” Does that mean Cohen knew before he decided to undertake the Tour in 2008 that it wasn’t a financial necessity?
There are still other possible interpretations of this paragraph. It is easy, for example, to create a scenario in which a 74 year old music icon shores up his legacy by attributing his World Tour to motives other than financial need and consequently skews, consciously or unconsciously, the historical to match his vision. It is also easy, however, to imagine the incidental stylistic choices made in the way the article was written and edited resulting in a shading of Cohen’s meaning. Heck, maybe the interviewer misheard Cohen’s statement; maybe he didn’t say “as it turned out, I could have gotten by,” but actually said “as it turned out, I could have gotten high.”
And, it is, after all, only one paragraph in one article based on one interview.
Still, this interview should make us question – politely, of course – the shibboleth that reporters, cognoscenti, interviewers, bloggers, biographers, and fans have been reciting in chorus throughout the past four years as a primary element of the Cohen catechism – i.e., Leonard Cohen went on tour in 2008 because he was broke.
Based on Cohen’s statements in this article, it is certainly plausible that this tenet suffers from a causality error, i.e., the fiscal loss was a necessary but insufficient reason for Leonard Cohen to go on tour. And, it’s at least possible, the fiscal survival tour theorem is fundamentally flawed.
Credit Due Department: Photo by Lorca Cohen