Joni Mitchell Accuses Leonard Cohen Of “Lifting Lines” From Camus; Leonard Cohen Responds

But, unfortunately, in the Camus, I found he [Cohen] lifted lines. ‘Walk me to the corner, our steps will always …’ That’s literally a Camus line. So I thought that’s like Bob Dylan … When I realized that Bob and Leonard were lifting lines, I was very disappointed. And then I thought that there’s this kind of a self-righteous quality about — you’re a plagiarist and I’m not. So I plagiarized from Camus in ‘Come In from the Cold’ intentionally. I forget which verse it is, but when I put the single out, I edited that verse out. I just took it out. Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life — it’s up for grabs, right? So I put something that he said in one of my songs and he got real irritable, [saying], ‘I’m glad I wrote that.’1


Joni Mitchell



Note: “Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme” is from Leonard Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. I haven’t discovered (nor can anyone else apparently) the Camus line to which Joni Mitchell refers.


I found a lot of Lorca and Camus in his [Leonard Cohen’s] lines. And he was living the life of Camus, even down to the way he dressed, and his house in Hydra. It was disappointing to me, because as far as I could see, he was an original. I have this perverse need for originality. I don’t really care for copy, second-generation artists. I’m not a traditionalist. It’s the discoverers that excite me. Not ‘new’ like a new face, the way ‘new’ is used to sell something. They’re not new at all. They’re a new person doing the old shit. ‘Suzanne’ is a beautiful song, though.2


Joni Mitchell




I read somewhere that she [Joni Mitchell] felt I had tricked her in some way because I hadn’t told her that Camus had written a book called The Stranger and that I’d written a song called ‘The Stranger.’ The song had nothing to do with the book, nor was I the first person to call a song ‘The Stranger.’ She felt that I’d plagiarized. She felt that I’d plagiarized Camus.3


Leonard Cohen



Note: In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Yaffe also observes that Joni Mitchell “(wrongly) believed that ‘Walk me to the corner / Our steps will always rhyme’ was ripped off from Camus.”

Also See


The Leonard Cohen Reading List

This is the latest entry to the Leonard Cohen Reading List, a compilation of books read by the Canadian singer-songwriter.

All entries in the Leonard Cohen Reading List can be found at

The Original Leonard Cohen Reading List

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Apr 17, 2018.


  1. From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014 []
  2. From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017). []
  3. From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017). []

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