Leonard Cohen: giving Nobel to Bob Dylan like ‘pinning medal on Everest’ | Music | The Guardian


Leonard Cohen: ‘I think that Bob Dylan knows this more than all of us: you don’t write the songs anyhow’

At an event in Los Angeles to launch his album, the 82-year-old singer-songwriter rows back on claims he was ‘ready to die’ by saying he now wants to live for ever

Leonard Cohen: ‘I think that Bob Dylan knows this more than all of us: you don’t write the songs anyhow.’ Photograph: PA Wire/PA

On Thursday, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize for literature, sparking controversy among musicians, novelists and fans. That evening in Los Angeles, his songwriting peer and friend Leonard Cohen gave his thoughts on Dylan’s award. “To me,” he said, “[the award] is like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain.”

“I think I was exaggerating,” Cohen told the audience, according to Billboard. “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.” At the end of the event, at which Cohen divulged his plans to release another pair of albums after You Want it Darker, the songwriter told the audience: “I hope we can do this again. I intend to stick around until 120.”

Cohen returned to the subject of Dylan when talking about the way he writes songs. “I think that Bob Dylan knows this more than all of us: you don’t write the songs anyhow,” he said. “So if you’re lucky, you can keep the vehicle healthy and responsive over the years. If you’re lucky, your own intentions have very little to do with this. You can keep the body as well-oiled and receptive as possible, but whether you’re actually going to be able to go for the long haul is really not your own choice.”

His own songs come slowly, he says: “It comes kind of by dribbles and drops. Some people are graced with a flow; some people are graced with something less than a flow. I’m one of those.” He added: “The fact that my songs take a long time to write is no guarantee of their excellence.”

An ordained Zen Buddhist monk who nevertheless still cleaves to Judaism, Cohen has long explored religious themes in his work – as has Dylan. Nevertheless, Cohen told the audience: “I’ve never thought of myself as a religious person. I don’t have any spiritual strategy. I kind of limp along like so many of us do in these realms. Occasionally I’ve felt the grace of another presence in my life. But I can’t develop any kind of spiritual structure on that.”

Cohen added: “This biblical landscape is very familiar to me, and it’s natural that I use those landmarks as references. Once they were universal references, and everybody understood and knew them. That’s no longer the case today, but it is still my landscape. I try to make those references. I try to make sure they’re not too obscure. But outside of that, I can’t – I dare not – claim anything in the spiritual realm for my own.”


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