Lyrics or Music first

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garycd
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Joined: Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:47 pm

Lyrics or Music first

Postby garycd » Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:51 pm

Does anyone have any reference as to whether Leonard Cohen wrote the lyrics first and then added music, or fit the lyrics into composed music. It seems the former, at least on the early albums that I am most familiar with. I tried searching the forums for this answer, so apologies if this has been answered before.
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B4real
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Location: Q'ld, Australia

Re: Lyrics or Music first

Postby B4real » Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:26 am

garycd wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:51 pm
Does anyone have any reference as to whether Leonard Cohen wrote the lyrics first and then added music, or fit the lyrics into composed music. It seems the former, at least on the early albums that I am most familiar with. I tried searching the forums for this answer, so apologies if this has been answered before.
Hi garydc, Welcome to the forum!
I hope you find this below a little helpful; sorry I can't really be more so at the moment.
If other particular instances come to mind, I'll let you know.

https://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewt ... 29#p371325
its4inthemorning wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:49 am
Bev,

There is a new post in the Comments section titled "Lyrics or Music First?" It struck me that, with your knowledge and vast archives, you could shed some light on this interesting question. I know some poems were put to music on his earlier albums, but I am not sure which came first for the majority of his songs.

I am missing our discussions here and hoping that a release of some new old songs as promised by Adam will rejuvenate this thread.

4
My reply to 4 -
B4real wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:20 am
Hi 4, Thanks for the vote of confidence but I saw that post and thought there’s no easy answer to that question. I’ll post our words in that relative thread. Leonard has said that he regularly used a blend of music and words – melodies with poetry and vice versa in varying order to obtain the desired result - one informs the other. In most cases, it’s like saying which came first, the chicken or the egg - probably the egg ;-)
But there are no rules here and a particular example springs directly to mind. You may remember on page 18 here on this thread I said that your avatar line/song was actually begun with a melody and the words were finally written about four (in the morning, ha!) years later :)

Yes, bring on the new songs which I know are on the way!
Actually, in this particular instance it’s a fairly safe bet to say the words came first and the music later, but some of them will be melodies only :razz:

EDIT:
garycd, Elaborating on my above answer to your question:
Interviewer: Generally do you finish the melody and then work on the lyrics for a long time?
LC: They’re born together, they struggle together, and they influence one another. When the lyric begins to be revised, of course, the line can’t carry it with its new nuance or its new meaning. And generally the musical line has to change, which involves changing the next musical line, which involves changing the next lyrical line, so the process is mutual and painstaking and slow.
Interviewer: Do you generally begin a song with a lyrical idea?
LC: It begins with an appetite to discover my self-respect. To redeem the day. So the day does not go down in debt. It begins with that kind of appetite.
You might like to read the whole interview here: https://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/zollo.html and you will find out many other interesting things from the LC Files as well so put some time aside to discover them :)

LC's words about these songs:
Bird On The Wire "The melody began a few of the lyrics, a few of the lines."

I’m Your Man "I sweated over that one. I really sweated over it. I can show you the notebook for that. It started off as a song called "I Cried Enough For You." It was related to a version of "Waiting For The Miracle" that I recorded. The rhyme scheme was developed by toeing the line with that musical version that I put down. But it didn't work."

Suzanne "I developed the picking pattern first. I had been working on the melody and the idea. The song was begun, and the chord pattern was developed, before a woman's name entered the song."

The Gypsy’s Wife "That particular song started in a woman's apartment last winter. My marriage was breakin' up and she had a guitar. I was waiting for her to get ready and that is exactly what I was thinking, "where, where is my gypsy wife tonight?" and it was one of those songs that started that way."

This list might help too - https://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewt ... ms#p355587
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!

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