this exclusive interview, Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, who died in
November 2016, spoke to Andrew Rossiter, editor of Linguapress's
advanced-level English magazine Spectrum .
Leonard Cohen, who died on 10th November 2016, was - along
with Bob Dylan - one of the most influential songwriters of the end of
the twentieth century. A number of his songs, most notably Suzanne and
Hallelujah, became anthems of their age. Over 300 different
artists have recorded versions of Hallelujah . In this
Cohen talks about himself and about what it is to be an English-speaker
in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec.
Leonard Cohen in
concert in the early 1980s.
Leonard Cohen, it's very kind of you to
talk to Spectrum. Could I first ask you some questions about yourself.
How do you consider yourself ? As a writer a poet, a singer, or a
Although I have written, and written verse,
and sung songs and played music, I consider all those titles as
and usually only on my good days can I describe
myself as any one of those things.
But nevertheless, you are a world-famous
star. Did you try to become a star at the start, or did it come upon
you by accident ?
I think there was a certain point where I
dreamt wild dreams for myself, but I don't consider myself as a
Perhaps a cult-figure
You live part of your life on an island
in Greece though. Is this to escape from the world of show-business, or
is it to give yourself merely
an atmosphere which is suitable
I went to Greece twenty years ago, er, long
before I started singing professionally, so it, um, was a place I could
work in and live in.
In the nineteen sixties,
Canada had a great opening out of Canadian culture, Canadian
both in French Canada and in English-speaking Canada,
with famous or well-known stars like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and
Joni Mitchell ....
Joni Mitchell, yes there's
plenty of them, not only in music ...
Did you say Neil Young ? You said
Neil Young ?
I said Neil Young ... Not only
in music, but also in the arts.
Is this still going on now, or has Canada been touched by the general
feeling of depression which is touching most countries of the western
Of course, as a Canadian, you
learn that it's very dangerous to speak of Canada as a whole. It's a
very big country, so it has a regional consciousness, so it's difficult
to say. In Quebec there is no sense of depression in the arts, and in
writing. In Western Canada there is certainly no sense of depression.
In Toronto which I suppose is the center of English communications, I
see great activity.
What is going on on the West
I don't really know what's happening in
Vancouver or the
, but by
I would say that even
though people are having their troubles economically, er, and the
country itself is always facing one sort of crisis of identity or
another, that the arts are flourishing.
You yourself come from Montreal, don't
I'm from Montreal.
You're an English-speaking Canadian
From Montreal Quebec.
What is the percentage of
English-speaking Canadians in Quebec ?
I don't know, because it's getting smaller and smaller. A lot have
left. I'm not sure what the .... I think in Quebec it's about 60%. In
Montreal it's er.... a little lower. Montreal
Actually you know Montreal is a very different situation from the rest
of Quebec. Because Quebec really is French-speaking. It's probably 90%
French-speaking, Quebec, and Montreal is probably 60% French-speaking.
Nevertheless, do you get the impression
of being an outsider
at all, when one is, er, an English-speaker living
in Montreal ? You .... You've always sung about being an outsider
Mmm. I think probably my
generation will be the last generation that is not completely
Do you speak French ?
, yeah. But those coming
after this.... the expression of French
nationalism, they will most certainly be bi-lingual.
flattering, high - cult-figure
person whom others follow
- merely :
only - suitable :
: recognition of its identity - the Maritimes
eastern coastal provinces of Canada - -
by and large :
in general - Outsider
someone who does not belong - stumble along :
for the Firefox
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Leonard Cohen Interview
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