Sunday 19 April 2020

How Long Did It Take You To Write It?

While unraveling the origins of Leonard Cohen's magnum opus, "Hallejuah," Donald Shipton explores the unhurried songwriting that helped make the Montreal poet famous:
The precision in Cohen’s lyrics was not god-given, but instead the result of time and considered effort. He would not release a song or poem until it felt resolved, and what would finish as one song, might have been the product of tens of verses and years of reflection. As a lyricist, Cohen is often compared to Bob Dylan. Both were ethnically Jewish, wrote within the same period, lived at the famed Chelsea Hotel in New York City, and made folk music. Despite their frequent comparison, their writing practices couldn’t be more different. In a 1991 interview, Cohen shared an exchange he had with Dylan a few years prior. He said, “I helped out at a Dylan concert in Paris, afterward we went out to get a coffee together. He mentioned one of my songs that he played on stage, ‘Hallelujah.’ He asked me, ‘How long did it take you to write it?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know. Two years maybe, at least.’ Then I mentioned one of the songs from Slow Train Coming, ‘I and I’. He answered, ‘15 minutes.’”

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