“No one masters the heart. That’s why we got a million songs about this particular human activity …” Leonard Cohen on Love & Love Songs

People in Europe and even here think, because I’ve written a lot of songs to women, like I was the first guy to do it, I’ve been pinned with the label of lover, but what they really want me to do is discuss the thing on a level that is deeper or beyond the ordinary realm of the love song, but they aren’t. It puts me in the precarious position of being an authority about something that nobody is an authority on. No one masters the heart. That’s why we got a million songs about this particular human activity, and in a certain way they’re all fresh, whether it’s a country-western wine-drinker’s song or a Haydn Liebeslied about love. That’s what we’re all interested in. The interest persists because nobody has a real take on it. It’s just a matter of longing, holding, and losing. So to enter into this realm with any sense of authority is inviting humiliation, and quite deservedly so. It’s like walking on the stage naked. You got to be in pretty good shape to do that. And it takes a kind of training to speak about these very dangerous kinds of terrain. Unless I really respond authentically to the questions, which would be more or less scratching my head, I don’t have any sense of ease about this subject. I don’t even know what it means, ‘a great lover.’ Is it Casanova? Don Juan? Is it this guy I know who has remarkable success with women, or is it the married man? The monk? I know a man who spent twenty years in a mental hospital because a college love rejected him. Probably the greatest lover I know has never touched a woman, is a virgin at fifty.


Leonard Cohen


From Yakety Yak (1994) by Scott Cohen.

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted March 30, 2011 at DrHGuy.com.

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