Farewell Leonard Cohen, Poet Extraordinaire

leonardcohen

I am not a musician. I did not know Leonard Cohen personally, and I discovered his genius rather late in my own life. So I was surprised at the depth of my reaction upon hearing the news of his death. This week, I find myself listening to his songs, some of them over and over. I also listened to his last interview. It made me want to be in his presence. I don’t find it trite to say that he will live on in his work. I am satisfied with that.

The first Leonard Cohen song I ever heard was Suzanne. I loved it. It made me long for an authentic counter-culture life instead of my decidedly straight one. It was amazing poetry set to music…

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love

And they will lean that way forever…

(From Songs of Leonard Cohen – 196

I don’t remember the first time I heard Hallelujah, but it was the song that made me fall in love with Leonard Cohen. If you asked me, “Who is your favorite singer…your favorite musical group”…I would be hard pressed to answer. How to choose when there are so many greats? But if you asked me, “What do you think is the greatest song ever written,” Hallelujah would fall off my tongue without even thinking. And it is his spare, gravelly rendition that captures, for me, the essence of the song.

Maybe I do like it dark. I think of myself as neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I tell myself I’m a realist. I see the beauty in impermanence. Life is full of longing, of love and loss, defeat and new beginnings. The “dark troubadour” put all that and more into his work and I responded.

Leonard Cohen captured, for me, the mystery and humor and pathos of life. Perhaps he was a seer as well. Given all that is happening right now, these lines from Tower of Song seem prophetic…

Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter, but of this you may be sure


The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor


And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong


You see, you hear these funny voices in the tower of song.

 (Tower of Song from I’m Your Man1988)

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Farewell Leonard Cohen, Poet Extraordinaire

  1. diybiodynamics

    Thanks for recognizing the influence he has had on the public. Great information that i had never heard before. must have taken a little bit of research. Also thanks for adding the video makes the whole post come to reality. CS5711

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  2. ninisweetdream

    Oh! It’s sad news. I didn’t know this legendary Canadian songwriter passed away. I knew his songs “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “You Got me Singing”, but I had not heard this rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen before. This is a wonderful song. The melody and lyrics touch my heart. I am grateful to hear this song even though it sounds melancholy. By watching the video and hearing him sing with such deep feeling, I was wondering what inspired him to write this significant song. Do you know something about it? Thank you for bringing me up to date with what happened in the artistic world. #cs7511

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    1. artbyheck Post author

      This is what Leonard had to say about the song. The references to the Bible he mentions are primarily about King David, but there is a veiled reference to Samson as well…
      “Thank you very much friends. You know, since I’ve been here, many people have asked me
      what I have thought just about everything there is in this veil of tears. I don’t know the answers to anything.
      I just come here to sing you these songs that have been inspired by something that I hope is deeper and bigger
      than myself. I have nothing to say about the way that Poland is governed. I have nothing
      to say about the resistance to the government.The relationship between a people and its
      government is an intimate thing. It is not for a stranger to comment.
      I know that there’s an eye that watches all of us. There is a judgment that weighs everything we do.
      And before this great force which is greater than any government, I stand in awe and I kneel
      in respect. And it is to this great judgment,
      that I dedicate this next song: “Hallelujah”.
      You know, I wrote this song a couple of… it seems like yesterday but I guess it was
      five or six years ago and it had a chorus called Hallelujah.
      And it was a song that had references to the Bible in it, although these references
      became more and more remote as the song went from beginning to the end.
      And finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore.
      And I rewrote this song. This is the “Secular Hallelujah”.
      The word Hallelujah of course is so rich, it’s so abundant in resonances… You know…
      It is a wonderful word to sing and people have been singing that word for thousands of years.
      It seems to call down some kind of beneficial energy just when you declare in the face of
      the kind of catastrophes that are manifesting everywhere just to say: “Hallelujah”.
      To praise the energy that manifests both as good and evil, just to affirm our little journey here.
      It is very invigorating to sing that word.”

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  3. A Crystal

    This was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your reflections on this amazing man. I was also extremely sad to hear of his passing and was surprised at how much of a reaction I had. We certainly suffered many losses in 2016. CS5711

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  4. amandajanik

    He was one of my favorites, for sure; always on rotation in my house. Such an incredible poet and person. The first song I ever heard of his as a kid was “Everybody Knows”, and I was hooked. A sweet little twist: my daughter’s first concert was Rufus Wainwright, and has been her favorite singer ever since. Rufus is best friends with Leonard Cohen’s daughter – so close that they had a child together (aka Leonard’s granddaughter) a few years ago. I love his covers of Leonard’s songs, he definitely does them justice.

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