Leonard Cohen

What a goddamn week. Leonard Cohen, one of the greatest singer-songwriters in living memory, has died at age 82. His music meant a lot to me personally, as it did to countless others. Usually sad, sometimes melodramatic, always thoughtful and poetic and provocative. I never met him in person (though I did go to a couple of concerts), but he lived not too far away from me in LA, and somehow felt as if I knew him. We’ll miss you, Leonard.

Let’s hope he was right about this democracy thing.

  1. A sad night. Not, as I know LC himself would have agreed, as catastrophically sad as the ascendance of Donald Trump, but sad nonetheless. We mourn decency, a remark that applies to both events.

  2. It is difficult not to feel heartbroken with this loss added on to the other losses of this week.
    We are all the poorer for it.

    Let us hope that these words he wrote were true for him in some sense, even if not for us:
    Hineni, hineni
    Hineni, hineni
    I’m ready, my lord
    Hineni
    Hineni, hineni
    Hineni

  3. Leonard’s music was always a revelation to me, he got life so deeply and so right! For those who don’t know his work a good path in is Robert Altman’s film McCabe and Mrs Miller. Leonard’s music is much of the score. Thanks Sean for sharing your thoughts .

  4. I will miss you terribly LC. From a proud fellow Canadian. I have introduced my teenage twins to your
    great music and they love it! Best concert I ever attended! SLIGO , IRELAND 2010. RIP

  5. Yes he was right about democracy, but we need to be vigilant and heed the words in the poem that Martin Niemoller wrote… please check it out.

  6. Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah is one I play and sing often – just love it. His death is certainly a loss to music lovers all over the world.

  7. There is for me a sense of his ‘Hallelujah’ within this song. And how appropriate it is to listen to it at this time, with rioting in the streets, and today on Remembrance Day – a salute also to those who have fought and continue to fight both the physical and traumatic battles of war. I was fortunate to have met Mr. Cohen, and to have become acquainted with his ‘koans’ when in the early sixties he visited us ‘actors’ at NTS in Montreal, and more casually enjoyed his company at a table in a ‘artistic’ pub in Toronto. I even followed his advice on chordal arrangement when I attempted to ‘master’ the guitar. Yes. Always a quiet, and gently thoughtful person, even within these more casual settings. I shall always treasure the large collection of his writings in my library. He has always won for me the Noble Prize.

  8. ‘Democracy is coming … to the USA’
    (Leonard Cohen song.)

    Like the Final Days, often heralded, but we’re still waiting. We do have your songs, tho! Thanks.

  9. Let us indeed hope that he was right about Democracy…but also wrong about The Future.

    My favourite line: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Come to think of it, maybe he had broken symmetry in mind.

  10. Thanks for putting up “Democracy”. I, myself, was associating entrumpy with “The Future”.

  11. So true, Sean. Thanks. What a sad week, what a desperate year. Will keep waiting for the light to get in through the cracks.

  12. “Things are going to slide in all directions
    Won´t be nothing ( echoing chorus:”Won´t be noth´in)
    Nothing you can measure any more…” The Future.
    Was he predicting the limits of Physics?
    One of the greatest concerts ever heard in Barcelona in 91.

    Often wondered if he ever knew how much animus he caused in some now all too present resurgent quarters. In 1969 (or 1970 according to shape shifting Mnemosyne ) his book of poems The Spice Box of Earth, along with Salinger´s Catcher in the Rye and some other very subversive titles were sought to be banned and pulled from the high school library shelves in a town near mine ( Thomaston, Ct.) and non library copies burned in the street by some irrate Agnew enboldened (post “Effete Snobs” speech) God fearing PTA parents. Everybody get ready for more to come. Recall this was not so unusual considering what had happened to the Beatles in 1966. But mostly it was Leonard´s oblique allusionary title that really set them on fire.
    Leonard you´ll be very misssed. But have no fear, we´ll all keep up the singing on right “up the track.”

  13. I was too young but got caught up in his music anyway back in my hippier college days.

    And you’re right, what a week. Everytime I see that picture of Mr. Trump sitting next to President Obama in the White House it just kills me. I could have accepted a candidate I vehemently disagree with on all policy fronts, but this is different. Life goes on I guess…

  14. According to MWI, we simply have the misfortune to reside in the universe where Trump won. Now we can only hope that we live in the universe which survives the next four years. (Personally, I hope to also live in the universe where, if necessary, I can move north before Canada decides to erect its own “Wall.”)

  15. Ms./Mr. Ridley – Was Cohen being critical or approving when he wrote and sang:

    “Destroy another fetus now,
    We don’t like children anyhow.”
    (from The Future)

    Which pretty much sums up the spirit of the current progressive movement?

  16. Andrew van Sant and Pat Ridley : What was L.C.´s real position on abortion? If they know , please do tell. Have to conclude from such unabiguous lines that he was against it. I´ve been asked this question by my daughter who´s a great fan and in an all woman band and I just don´t know. But if we are to hold poets and writers to the strict standards of one´s own or current progressive political values it would be difficult or impossible to read a lot of writers starting with Euripedes or Dante. In our time Ken Kesey was adamant against unions and taxes and abortion; Virginia Woolf was bothered that women were not admitted to certain libraries at Oxford but not that Blacks , Indians or the Irish were denied entrance; Yeats, Eliot and Pound were well known pro fascist and rabid anti semites; progressive poet Kenneth Rexroth´s attitudes on women might not stand up to today´s scrutiny; Kerouac had venom and malice towards all; Borges lauded Pinochet and Nixon; we´ll avoid the French like Cocteau or Celine where things really get messy ;and Nabokov´s viriulent anti redhead animus appears somewhere in the recondite pages of almost all of his novels and his memoirs. So do we stop listening and reading them?

  17. He should have been considered a national treasure in Canada, but I don’t believe his countrymen and women ever truly appreciated him. At least those who I knew did not seem to afford him the respect he deserved. One of a kind, often brooding and dark, his music influenced many including Joni Mitchell and Bruce Cockburn. Probably even such as the likes of one Bob Dylan. Treasures come and go. I shall miss him.

  18. Barry – it does seem that way, though whether that really extended to all abortions without regard to circumstances can’t really be established from the song lyrics, in my opinion. I would like to think he was more liberal than favouring a blanket ban, but that’s just my wishful thinking. And of course he would never claim to have been perfect (“Forget your perfect offering” etc.)

  19. Whatever one thinks of the right to abortion, and at what stage of pregnancy, some react so strongly to its total rejection by the right that it is almost a badge of approval if one has had an abortion, and a badge of shame if one has more than a couple of children. Of all the left-right shibboleths, this is one of the worst to pick.

    While I’m at it, I’m reminded of the total idiocy of those who say that refusing the right to abortion even in cases of incest or rape is somehow “even worse”. It just means that the other side takes itself seriously here (not that they always do otherwise). If one believes abortion is murder, then it is clear that incest are rape aren’t grounds for an exception. You might disagree with the claim that it is murder, but if the other side believes that, you can’t fault them for failing to make exceptions. On the other hand, if one does not believe it is murder, what possible justification could there be for a ban but with exceptions?

  20. Marianne, whom Leonard said good-bye to so long ago, died just a few months ago.

    Her biography is on my list of things to read soon.

    It’s always amazing to me that such ancient pictures actually exist.

  21. Many have been discussing cover versions of various Cohen songs. A couple of years ago, I saw Flying Colors, which is a progressive-rock supergroup. Technically very good—Steve Morse (nor relation to the other Morse in the group, though the latter used to be in a band with his brother) has been voted “best overall guitarist” many times by various pundits—although not quite my cup of tea. I was somewhat surprised when they covered Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

  22. A similar surprise was seeing John Illsley of Dire Straits covering “First We Take Manhattan”. (He’s definitely worth seeing, and plays many more Straits songs than Knopfler.)