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WATCH: Leonard Cohen - How I Found My Song
Luke Turner , November 20th, 2011 17:07

Cohen thanks Spain as the source of his inspiration. Was it not the sisters of mercy?

We found this rather wonderful speech from Leonard Cohen via Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service earlier today, and thought we'd pass it on in full. Leonard Cohen was recently given a Prince of Asturias award in Spain, which commemorate achievement in arts and science.

Cohen made an acceptance speech where he paid tribute to Spain, both for the influence that Gabriel Garcia Lorca had on his poetry and, movingly, on how a Spanish flamenco player who committed suicide was the person who gave him the confidence, and the six chords, to play music. In the speech, which you can see on YouTube below (thanks to the Heck Of A Guy site for the video edit, and you can read the full transcript there too), Cohen says that it was the first time he have publicly spoken about his debt to the country, and the Spaniard who gave him his song. "a voice seemed to say to me, 'You are an old man and you have not said thank you, you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose'. And so I come here tonight to thank the soil and the soul of this land that has given me so much. Because I know that just as an identity card is not a man, a credit rating is not a country."

Cohen then went on to relate the tale of how he, as a hapless amateur guitarist, was taught six chords by a Spanish man who, after just a few lessons, could no longer be contacted. It transpired that the teacher had taken his own life. Yet his influence, said Cohen, was the "basis of all my songs and all my music. So, now you will begin to understand the dimensions of the gratitude I have for this country."

He continued with characteristic humility: "Everything that you have found favourable in my work comes from this place. Everything, everything that you have found favourable in my songs and my poetry are inspired by this soil. So, I thank you so much for the warm hospitality that you have shown my work because it is really yours."