As you are probably aware, Leonard Cohen died the other day, which brought me and my family no small amount of sadness. One of the fondest moments I ever shared with my mum was the two of us at Glastonbury in 2008, watching ol’ Lenny croon his way through his accolade winning set like his soul depended on it, because his manager had run off with all his money. He did this song, which is why I picked it, (initially I had selected ‘Sisters of Mercy’) and it was, as they say, pretty special. I spoke to my mother in the morning, and she and I shared that it was a great tragedy, I couldn’t help but feel that it represented a huge slice of the old world (both good and bad) finally deciding that it didn’t want to live in this vicious modern one any more, especially given recent current events. Regardless, few people have had such a power and wit about themselves and maintained it throughout their life, and the world is a little bit darker now that he’s gone. This is from his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (27th December, 1967), and I guess is kind of ironic right now, but I love the message that it sends, with the usual mastery of gentle poetry. This song, and indeed the album, is nearly 49 years old, and that’s truly incredible. Think about that for a second – it’s older than the majority of people who make music today, and the lyrics are still absolutely brilliant. My eyes were indeed soft with sorry when I heard the news, but it probably wasn’t a bad way to say goodbye, all things considered.
Lenny never learned to sing, and I’m glad for it. Any idiot can sing. To be really special, you gotta have character, and Cohen was all about character. Growing up with his music around me often, as my mum was a big fan, he taught me that a mastery over words and stories is a way to triumph over all weaknesses. He showed people that if you had a vision and stuck with it then you could wind up writing the most covered song of all time. He exemplified sticking to his belief, in his case that if he couldn’t make it as a writer of books then he’d try it as a writer of songs, and was proved to be justified. He’s an inspiration and an icon, a true Canadian hero, and he lived his art. Some of songs may have been downright miserable, but they were among some of the most formidable music ever written.