New Animation Brings to Life a Lost 1974 Interview with Leonard Cohen, and Cohen Reading His Poem “Two Slept Together”

Leonard Cohen was graced with a dis­tinc­tive slow burn of a voice, a man­ly purr well suit­ed to the louche mys­ter­ies of his most famous lyrics.

His death prompt­ed a post-elec­tion out­pour­ing from his already crest­fall­en fans, who sought cathar­sis by shar­ing the myr­i­ad ways in which his music had touched their lives.

As Cohen remarked in a 1995 inter­view with the New York Times

Music is like bread. It is one of the fun­da­men­tal nour­ish­ments that we have avail­able, and there are many dif­fer­ent vari­eties and degrees and grades. A song that is use­ful, that touch­es some­body, must be mea­sured by that util­i­ty alone. ‘Cheap music’ is an unchar­i­ta­ble descrip­tion. If it touch­es you, it’s not cheap. From a cer­tain point of view, all our emo­tions are cheap, but those are the only ones we’ve got. It’s lone­li­ness and long­ing and desire and cel­e­bra­tion.

Rolling Stone dubbed Cohen the Poet Lau­re­ate Of Out­rage And Roman­tic Despair. It’s far from his only nick­name, but it man­ages to encom­pass most of the oth­er 325 that super fan Allan Showal­ter col­lect­ed for his Cohen­cen­tric site.

Have you used Cohen’s music to “illu­mi­nate or dig­ni­fy your court­ing” (to bor­row anoth­er phrase from that Times inter­view)?

If so, you deserve to know that those seduc­tive lyrics aren’t always what they seem.

For one thing, he nev­er got car­nal with Suzanne.

Dit­to the “Sis­ters of Mer­cy.” Turns out they real­ly “weren’t lovers like that.” Cohen var­ied the facts a bit over the years, when called upon to recount this song’s ori­gin sto­ry. The loca­tion of the ini­tial meet­ing was a mov­ing tar­get, and ear­ly on, van­i­ty, or per­haps a rep­u­ta­tion to uphold, caused him to omit a cer­tain crit­i­cal detail regard­ing the night spent with two young women he bumped into in snowy Edmon­ton.

The 1974 radio inter­view with Kath­leen Kendel, above—straight from the horse’s mouth, and fresh­ly ani­mat­ed for PBS’ Blank on Blank series—brings to mind that pil­lar of young male sex com­e­dy, the close-but-no-cig­ar erot­ic encounter.

PBS’ Blank on Blank ani­ma­tor, Patrick Smith, wise­ly employs a light­ly humor­ous touch in depict­ing Cohen’s wild imag­in­ing of the delights Bar­bara and Lor­raine had in store for him. Whether or not they looked like the Dou­blemint Twins is a ques­tion for the ages.

The ani­ma­tion kicks off with a read­ing of his 1964 poem, “Two Went to Sleep,” an ellip­ti­cal jour­ney into the realm of the uncon­scious, a set­ting that pre­oc­cu­pied Cohen the poet. (See the far less pla­ton­ic-seem­ing “My Lady Can Sleep” and “Now of Sleep­ing” for starters…)

You can hear the inter­view Blank on Blank excerpt­ed for the above ani­ma­tion in its entire­ty here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Leonard Cohen’s Final Inter­view: Record­ed by David Rem­nick of The New York­er

How Leonard Cohen’s Stint As a Bud­dhist Monk Can Help You Live an Enlight­ened Life

Ani­mat­ed Video: John­ny Cash Explains Why Music Became a Reli­gious Call­ing

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er, Leonard Cohen fan and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in March 2017. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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