25th anniversary of the first German-language Leonard Cohen website, which has grown continuously online since 1996 – In June 1996, I began to publish the first German-language Leonard Cohen texts and photos under my own domain as a web admin on an AOL.MEMBERS site . This was followed by www.leonardcohen.de and finally www.cohenpedia.de. The so-called „The Cohenpedia Series“ arose from the latter, a Leonard Cohen lexicon under the motto „Zen & Poetry“ in several volumes. DIE RHEINPFALZ reported on …
It is a pleasure read about the oeuvre of Leonard Cohen, listening to his songs, to discover new things again and again, to rediscover old things, to be inspired and to share this joy with others.
Es ist eine Freude, sich mit dem Gesamtwerk von Leonard Cohen zu beschäftigen, seine Songs zu hören, immer wieder Neues zu entdecken, auch Altes wieder neu zu entdecken, sich inspirieren zu lassen und diese Freude mit anderen zu teilen.
Die derzeit bestehenden und miteinander verbundenen Leonard Cohen-Seiten auf
enstanden 1996 aus den ersten members.aol.com – files.
(english-Vérsion of the German article):
Analogue past and digital future – Digital development of an analog passion
The Leonard Cohen website of the German author Christof Graf celebrates its 25th anniversary
In 2021, it will be 25 years since the German book author from Zweibrücken and marketing professor Christof Graf put the first German-language website about the Canadian rock poet Leonard Cohen online. In the meantime, the internationally known platform under the domain www.cohenpedia.de has become one of the most extensive worldwide and partly also bilingual. Christof Graf runs the non-commercial website out of passion. In the 25th anniversary year of the digital „Cohenpedia“, two further analogue book projects will be published in the so-called „The Cohenpedia Series“. How this digital development of an analog passion came about, Christof Graf told the German Newspaper DIE RHEINPFALZ editor Christian Hanelt.
In 2021, will your German-language Leonard Cohen website be online for 25 years? How did this come about?
Christof Graf: Everything always has an initial spark. In terms of the Internet, it was the request of the Finnish webmaster Jarkko Arjatsalo, who put the first and since then most famous so-called leonardcohenfiles.com on the net in 1995. He asked me if I could provide him with text and photos for what was then the world’s first Leonard Cohen website. When I saw that Leonard Cohen himself published a lot of material on this website, it made me a bit proud and I provided Jarkko with reports and photos over the years,.B such as about the visit to the New York „Chelsea Hotel“, festival appearances or trips to Cohen’s hometown Montreal, but all in English. In 1996, my first Leonard Cohen biography „Partisan of Love“ came onto the market, and I decided to put parts of it online as well. This was the birth of the then first and to this day most extensive German-language website about the Canadian rock poet Leonard Cohen.
From which something then emerged that you eventually called „Cohenpedia“?
Christof Graf: Yes, I was quickly enthusiastic about the Internet in the mid-90s. It is said that around 1996, the first one million users in Germany were online. I was one of them and first experimented with the AOL members pages of the time, which had very little „web space“. Then I joined a worldwide Leonard Cohen web ring and registered the domain www.leonardcohen.de, which eventually became the www.cohenpedia.de page in the mid-200s. By attending many Cohen concerts and also interviews with Cohen from the 80s onwards, I developed an archive from which I draw to this day. For me, it was always about documenting the artistic life of Leonard Cohen as a rock poet in a journalistic way. The website is still a „work in progress“. I liked the idea of making what is now called content management out of it. A kind of „Wikipedia“ around the topic „Leonard Cohen“. There are articles, interviews, photos in various digital formats, podcasts, links and also a blog. The site now sees itself as a platform for everything Cohen-relevant before the spirit of the times.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Cohen’s death. Is there still something to report about him?
Christof Graf: Yes, it is a pleasure to deal with old as well as new material again and again and to include it in the „cohenpedia“. In the meantime, there are also numerous guest contributions from other authors who make their materials available to me. There are also reports of other singer/songwriters in the tradition of Cohen who are somehow connected to his work. It’s about artists who have worked with him or new, young artists who interpret his songs.
What makes your website different from others of this type?
Christof Graf: It has existed for 25 years, which is not a matter of course in the fast pace of the network. It is not commercial and also tries to present things that are not to be found everywhere else. The net is now full of Cohen material, Youtube offers countless videos and there are numerous Facebook groups. But I never just wanted to link Youtube videos or spread thousands of shared foreign photos via „sniptool“. I still try to give the website, in addition to bibliographically necessary data and facts, an independence. In addition, the accompanying blog.leonardcohen.de regularly and weekly reports on the singer/ songwriter and music scene, which sometimes has nothing directly to do with Cohen, but with pop music philosophy before the zeitgeist. For me, Cohen’s lyrics, songs and life enrich all kinds of creativity. With his complete works, he has always given me space for reflection, which I somehow pass on through the „cohenpedia“. It is not a platform in the classic user-oriented social media sense, it has no comment function and no chat rooms, it is a space for research and reflection. It’s not about endless discussions and individual evaluations, it’s rather about a documentary offer that I make with the Cohenpedia to immerse myself in the complete works of a great contemporary philosopher of rock history. With the content shown on it, I pass on something that I was able to experience through the experience of art: inspiration and creativity. I try not to let a „copy & paste“ culture arise on the website and only to publish authorized content as a so-called V.i.S.d.P. (representative in the sense of the press), which makes the Cohenpedia a medium and press organ. And yes, of course, the site also has weaknesses. For a web designer, of course, my website is not a challenge, but I am self-sufficient in terms of IT administration and the website is easy to act on the basis of the wordpress software and I create all files myself. For me, Cohenpedia is not about technical details, but about content. From the very beginning, I wanted to create a kind of digital rock-poet landscape that, like Cohen’s work, could be a place of inspiration. Not for everyone, only for those who like it to take a digital walk through Leonard Cohen’s garden of „Zen & Poetry“.
How did they come up with Leonard Cohen of all people?
Christof Graf: My first contact with Rock & Pop was through my six years older sister and through one or two years older school friends and their older siblings, who took us to rock concerts in the mid-70s. So I am glad that I was able to experience Leonard Cohen’s only appearance he ever had in Saarland on 2 May 1976 in the Saarlandhalle in Saarbrücken. But I’m also glad that I saw the Rolling Stones in Stuttgart in 1976 or Bob Dylan live in Nuremberg in 1978. And the open airs in Ludwigspark in 1978 and 1979 were also to blame for the fact that I could not stop live concerts and at some point during my studies I also began to report on it in word, image and sound for daily newspapers and radio stations. For me, Cohen is one of the more profound representatives of pop philosophers and managed to focus on so many other worlds,.B such as those of the Beat generation.
What memories do you have of your first Leonard Cohen concert?
Christof Graf: It made a lasting impression on me and the memory accompanied me through my life as well as Cohen’s songs as a soundtrack. I still remember the concert start with „Bird On A Wire“, which he even played solo on an acoustic guitar a second time at the end of the concert. At that time there were not yet the hits like „First We Take Manhattan“ or „Hallelujah“. The concert, which lasted about two hours, lived from the songs of his first five albums,.B such as „Suzanne“, „So Long, Marianne“, „Sisters of Mercy“ or „Famous Blue Raincoat“. I was completely fascinated by how he managed to take several thousand visitors into his world of minimalism live in concert and turn a concert hall into a place of worship. After the concert I waited backstage at the Saarlandhalle to get an autograph for my concert poster, which I had received from the owner of my favorite record shop in the main street in Zweibrücken. After the concert I knew this wasn’t my last concert. From tour to tour, I attended more and more Cohen concerts, similar to what I later did with Bob Dylan. For me, Cohen, Dylan or the Stones were the personification of rock’n’roll, an expression of freedom and spirit. Cohen knew with word and sound to project images in the head of his listeners, which create space for interpretation without renouncing profundity. He is a wordsmith of the noblest kind, which in my opinion, apart from Bob Dylan or Nick Cave, hardly any other artist of popular music is able to do. And yes, Leonard Cohen was the bohemian until his old age, the Lord Byron of popular music, who cultivated a lifestyle that I considered artistically exemplary.
Meanwhile, other artists are also represented on your „Cohenpedia“? why?
Christof Graf: Yes, it’s first about what the title of the blog says: It’s about „Popular Problems, Various Positions & Other Old Ideas“, based on some of his album titles, it’s about a lot of things that, in my opinion, concerns the „Cohen-like“ „art of songwriting“ and in this context is worth mentioning and documenting. And that includes artists who inspired Cohen, or those who felt inspired by Cohen. By the way, along with Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie, Leonard Cohen was one of the first artists in the 90s of the 20th century whose website was based on fan-based websites. You can’t believe who Cohen had to deal with. Since the end of the 80s until today, I have been conducting interviews with artists and always ask for their opinion about Leonard Cohen. Some people didn’t know anything about Cohen and others immediately went into raptures?
Who was silent and who raved?
Christof Graf: The Aerosmith guitarist Steve Perry didn’t know anything to say about Cohen, Peter Gabriel z.B. told me how he visited a gallery in the old town with Cohen in Montreal, the founder of the hard rock band „Krokus“, told me about a taxi ride with Leonard Cohen through New York and the founder of Uriah Heep, who died last year. , Ken Hensley told me a five-minute story of how he met Cohen in Munich in 1972.
And what story did he tell?
Christof Graf: Exactly this story can be heard in the original sound on the cohenpedia site, as well as fragments of a last fireside chat with Leonard Cohen, about four weeks before Cohen’s death, when I last met him in October 2016 in Los Angeles.
Did Cohen know about their online activities?
Christof Graf: Yes, in 2001 he made drawings available to me as a post office for the first time or gave me a signed guitar or sent me an e-mail every now and then and thanked me for the German internet presence. On his world tour from 2008 to 2013 I was invited backstage several times. His own artist page (leonardcohen.com) refers under „friends“ with a link to my „Cohenpedia“ and his record company SONY Music also refers to the „cohenpedia“.
You haven’t stopped being creative even after Cohen’s death in 2016?
Christof Graf: From my point of view, the topic of „Leonard Cohen“, his „Life & Work“ is so much more than what a daily newspaper, a magazine article or a book have given so far. For me, the preoccupation with rock poetry and its creators is still interesting and worth documenting. In addition, creative friendships and collaborations arise on the internet. In spring 2021, a book will be published together with the Hamburg author Michael Brenner. He still experienced the beginnings of Leonard Cohen at the end of the 60s / beginning of the 70s. We have been exchanging ideas virtually for about two years, which has now resulted in a book entitled „Blicke Auf Leonard Cohen“, which deals with the topic of Cohen from the perspective of two authors from different generations.
You are an economist and professor of business administration, and are a lecturer in „Digital Marketing“. Is this a contradiction or supplement to your profession?
Christof Graf: For me, this is not a contradiction, but a very welcome addition. If you look at digital marketing scientifically today, you can only learn from the art and creativity of its creators. I enjoyed doing that for 25 years and always learned. Cohenpedia is a good example to work on the digitization of the future and to stay up to date. It is a source of inspiration and a prime example of contemporary content marketing and a digital development of a passion that began analogously.
In March (September 2021), the book „Blicke Auf Leonard Cohen“ will be published by Michael-Brenner-Books-Verlag, as well as volume 5 of the „Zen & Poesie – The Cohenpedia“ series (May 2021). Info: www.cohenpedia.de and blog.leonardcohen.de
Signed by Leonard Cohen: The concert poster of 2 May 1976 in the Saarlandhalle in Saarbrücken.
A dedication on the „Field Commander Cohen“ album by Leonard Cohen for the author
Prof. Dr. Christof Graf and Leonard Cohen 2013 after the sound check before the Mannheim concert.
30 years ago: Christof Graf presents Leonard Cohen with his first book „So Long, Leonard“ in 1991.