Pop Music Personality: Leonard Cohen
Alongside “California: The Fun-Loving Fashion Scene,” “Must Nice Guys Finish Last?” and “Shyness Can Be Conquered,” the March 1968 Seventeen magazine featured a brief article on one Leonard Cohen, who professed to be “terrified before giving a concert,” going on to explain, “I never know if I’ll be in a state of grace until I’m actually in front of the audience.”
Acutely aware of my lamentable scholarly deficiencies in the area of periodicals targeted to adolescent females, I consulted with distinguished music journalist, revered rock chick, and Leonard Cohen biographer, Sylvie Simmons, whose pertinent credentials in this case include once being a teenage girl and, albeit briefly, a girls’ teenzine writer renowned for asking deep, soul-penetrating questions of, among other, David Cassidy (while sitting in Mr Cassidy’s lap), the Jackson 5, the Bay City Rollers, and David Bowie. Her critique follows:
As a former (very briefly) writer for a teen magazine, I can state without any fear of contradiction that this is the worst teen mag piece I’ve ever read.
‘State of grace’. Puh-lease! Where are the hobbies, most embarrassing moment, collar-and-inside-leg-size and taste in girls questions. Though the pic makes him look like the kind of old man any self-respecting 17 year old girl in the sixties would have been warned not to talk to.
The photo to which Ms Simmons alludes is a shot from the same coin-operated photo booth session that produced the cover art for Songs Of Leonard Cohen (the photo credit on the album jacket reads “Photo by Machine”).
While there is little presented in the article that will be new information to fans in 2011, it does appear that Leonard Cohen’s declaration, “I don’t think there’s any difference between my songs and my poetry” differs, at least in spirit, from his later, equally adamant statement, “I never set a poem to music. I’m not that hopeless. I know the difference between a poem and a song!”1
I am also taken with the image conjured up by this quote from the singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist:
I regard everything I write as being set to music, almost as if I hear a giant guitar accompanying me!
I won’t even go into the psychoanalytic interpretations; the logistic issues alone boggle the mind.
The Conclusion – And The Challenge
While the Seventeen article on Leonard Cohen is interesting on its own merits, I find myself concurring with the assessment delivered by Sylvie Simmons that it fails to meet even minimum criteria as a teen magazine piece. Consequently, we are forced to conclude that the definitive Sassy/Tiger Beat/CosmoGirl/J-14/Girls’ Life article about Leonard Cohen has yet to be written.
And now that Ms Simmons has moved on to projects written for a somewhat different audience demographic, who is there to finally inform the public about Leonard Cohen’s dating preferences, his favorite pizza toppings, how nervous he was meeting Taylor Swift at the 2010 Songwriters Hall Of Fame induction, which Disney character he would cast himself as, his jealousy of Kris Kristofferson, his reaction when fans mistake him for Neil Diamond, his stance on the boxers Vs briefs issue, … ?
Well, shucks, I view it as an obligation to humanity to take on the task myself. And, once I convince the folks at Popstar! Magazine to assign me to the Canadian Singer-Songwriter Icon beat, I figure there’s no way Leonard can turn down this request.
So, you all have that to look forward to.
Credit Due Department: The image of the Seventeen article and of the Cohen photograph is courtesy of MewDeep. I learned of its existence from the all-seeing, all-knowing Roman Gavrilin.
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). Most of this material was originally posted Aug 12, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
- “Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe?” by Adrian Deevoy, Q Magazine, 1991 [↩]