Harvey Kubernik met up with One Heck of a Guy for a long interview about his new book, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows. Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview later this week!
Music means everything because it informs everything if you let it. ~ Harvey Kubernik
Harvey Kubernik is to music journalism what Shane Battier was to Duke basketball. Harvey is also one of the few individuals likely to read this post who will understand that analogy without an explanation: Harvey and Shane have achieved distinction in their respective fields because of their hard work, energy, enthusiasm, dedication, perseverance, and commitment. They are both hustlers.
Harvey Kubernik is the kind of guy who knows 97% of the individuals associated with popular music and knows folks who know everybody in that other 3%. During his 40+ years career, he has authored six books, including This Is Rebel Music (2002), Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon (2009), and, most recently, Turn Up the Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972. He has written liner notes for Carole King and Allen Ginsberg, appeared on documentaries about Bobby Womack and Queen, collaborated with Brian Wilson on a limited edition volume, and published multiple articles in Melody Maker, The Los Angeles Free Press, Crawdaddy!, Musician, Record Collector, Goldmine, MIX, The Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Discoveries, UNCUT, Music Life, Classic Rock, HITS, and Record Collector News. In addition, he has worked as a broadcaster, producer, and musician.
Harvey has a knack for turning up in the right place at the right time. He was, for example, in the studio during some of the sessions of the Leonard Cohen-Phil Spector collaboration that spawned Death Of A Ladies’ Man. That experience resulted in two classic Harvey Kubernik articles: What Happened When Phil Spector Met Leonard Cohen? and The Great Ones Never Leave. They Just Sit It Out Once In A While.
Most significantly for our purposes, Harvey Kubernik is the author of Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, which I described in my review of the book as “either the most textually substantive coffee table book ever published or the most lavishly illustrated narrative about a Canadian poet-novelist-singer-songwriter-icon on the market” and the subject of today’s Q&A.
How did you come to write this book about Leonard Cohen?
A couple of years ago I was contacted by Colin Webb of Palazzo Editions, an England-based book company and packager. He has read my three interviews I conducted with Leonard from the mid and late-seventies, and was mulling over a Leonard Cohen book. He was preparing a sample text which would include all my archive quotes along with photos for a presentation at a book fair he was visiting.
Colin asked me for permission to utilize my archive, and, if things went further, would I be receptive to writing a book on Leonard? A year later his name showed up on my computer screen and we put it in motion. I did stress the aspect of a multi-voice narrative for the book and he was receptive.
How would you describe the readers you view as the primary audience for Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows?
That’s a good question but early in the game, like a basketball match, before the opening tip off, I decided it would be a book I wanted to do for myself. Yes, it would be geared a bit to readers who already know lots of things about Leonard’s work, books, recordings and his road work, as well as the uninitiated, or new potential readers who might have just Greatest Hits package or checked him out only after hearing ‘Hallelujah” in some capacity.
Always ticking just a little in the back of my mind are the hardcore collectors and “Cohen Heads,” including website principals, previous Cohen book authors and pop music history book buffs that I knew would relish the information and data I would present.
Why even bother with the gig if I don’t deliver some new “voices” and observations as well as photos with visuals never displayed before. For a well-documented artist like Leonard Cohen I know I tossed in plenty of three-point baskets.
Even without this Cohen book scheduled. I have written and conducted interviews for decades without formal assignments or the security of publication. I like the education, the fun, the struggle, and the results. The last ten years book publishers have come to me about potential titles and suggestions for books. They are also mining Los Angeles and Hollywood for literary subjects or regional studies and not exclusively possessed or obsessed with New York subject matter or New York authors.
Secretly a lot of publishers and literary agents love and worship the lore and lure of L.A. and Hollywood, but most won’t admit it, let alone fund it. But the literary game has now changed and I’m in the league as team Kubernik.
View the rest of the interview HERE!