Leonard Cohen. His voice silenced, but his lyrics and music live beyond.
For many of us, his passing brings forth thoughts of our own mortality. Though let’s not get too somber here. Instead we celebrate his life and thus, our own.
Fellow Canadian Mr. Cohen was a poet, author, song writer, and singer. His songs touched so many. One comment that I suggest demonstrates the depth of his work—his song lyrics were poems which could stand alone, no need for music. One could read and appreciate them simply on paper.
He had his own challenges with depression and lost love to which I can relate. He had long-standing ongoing relationships which impacted his work. He had short term relationships as well. His short time with Janis Joplin gave rise to the song Chelsea Hotel #2, named after the legendary hotel in New York City that was home to many artists in the 1960’s. The song is raw, explicit and I suggest, full of angst.
Here are a few lyrics:
“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
But for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
You fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
We are ugly but we have the music.”
And then you got away, didn’t you babe
I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
That’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.”
We can’t discuss Mr. Cohen without mentioning Hallelujah. We all know it, and recognize it’s significance in the history of music. It is bedrock; it is his foundation. I will not attempt to discuss it further, my words wane compared to his. Here is a clip.
As I l drowned in the depths of depression, I turned away from music. Nothing gave me comfort. I remember after my breakdown, I sold my house as a means of shedding unpleasant memories. It also rid me of the responsibilities of a house and property to maintain.
As I was packing, I came across a dozen CDs that I had purchased or were gifts but were still in the wrappers. Even music was of no interest to me. I had one CD that I would play in my vehicle that simply filled the silence. It was white noise to me, not music to capture.
I still have periods of my life when I play music and when I don’t play.
When I listen to certain songs, I feel that life is to be celebrated. I connect music to memories, which is great when it’s a good memory, not so nice, when it’s a rough one.
Mr. Cohen’s music brings forth memories of my early 20’s when I first discovered his work. Back then, he was simply a cool singer and it was even cooler to be a Leonard Cohen fan. As I learned more about his poetry, and came to understand his lyrics, he took on a more important significance.
As I slowly stepped beyond my personal darkness, music began to slowly resurface in my life. Listening to Van Morrison’s “Back on Top” gave comfort. I was far from the top, but it gave me a challenge, an aspiration.
I was even interested in seeing live music which used to be a passion. I remember seeing a local blues musician perform as I hid in the back of the pub. Memories of my university days hearing him. The circle was forming that allowed me to grasp those memories and feel them again as I started to venture into the world of the living.
I take away certain feelings and thoughts from music. I don’t know if I share those same feelings and thoughts with others, and I suggest it doesn’t matter. It is important for all of us to enjoy and be happy from our own unique personal experiences. These are worth living moments.
My favorite Leonard Cohen song is Closing Time.
“Ah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
and the band is really happening
and the Johnny Walker wisdom running high
And my very sweet companion
she’s the Angel of Compassion
she’s rubbing half the world against her thigh
And every drinker every dancer
lifts a happy face to thank her
The fiddler fiddles something so sublime
All the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
it’s CLOSING TIME”
Let’s appreciate and respect “Closing Time.”
It’s Closing Time for Mr. Cohen. One day it will be for all of us, until then we celebrate every Worth Living moment.
Photo credit: Getty Images