I couldn’t miss the opportunity to do a post after the death of Leonard Cohen.
My appreciation of him fell into four distinct parts. First, I had a friend whose sister was a little older than me, and who had tried to commit suicide. She listened to Leonard Cohen a lot, apparently, and thus I conceived of him as the poet of despair.
Then, many years later, we couldn’t sleep one night and watched T.V. We heard ‘First We Take Manhattan’, with what can only be described as techno backing. It was, I think, a single, from the ‘I’m Your Man’ album. Yes, children, it was a vinyl album. I loved it all: especially, and this will surprise some people, the sense of humour. The album is one of my all-time favourites. (Ooh, I feel another blog coming on.)
After that, everything he produced (now on C.D.) seemed excellent, but with very stark musical backings- dare I say boringly stark. We also of course started to have the many covers of ‘Hallelujah’. My favourite versions of songs are almost always the originals, but my son moved me to tears when he sang it at his school concert. What a pity he doesn’t sing any more.
Mr Cohen, I read, had become a Buddhist monk; then he returned to the stage, largely for financial reasons. With a little trepidation, we went to see him, at Bournemouth International Centre, which is a very good venue with excellent sound and sightlines. He was marvellous. He played for more than two hours. Everything sounded fresh, modern and yet recognisable. (I’m told that isn’t always the case with some revered elder artists.) The band was excellent- and he played ‘First We Take Manhattan’.
Leonard Cohen was witty, tuneful, complicated, simple, enigmatic…. he had it all. The voice was certainly not a classically good one, but it was powerful and unmistakable. It’s not too strong to call him a legend. He looked like a legend, too. And he wore hats.
(John Lee Hooker was described as the ‘coolest man alive’. When he died, that title certainly went to Leonard Cohen. Now he is dead, who should it be?)
“And I can’t forget/ I can’t forget/ I can’t forget, but I don’t remember what.”
[Photograph marked as copyright free.]