Sincerely, L. Cohen

12 Nov

See also, Ten Old Songs ..

In a year marked by the bowing out of unusual talent, Leonard Cohen’s death is for me the most poignant. In January I wrote a post on David Bowie in a couple of hours, albeit with a night’s sleep between the two. Four months later I did the same for Prince, taking just minutes. I might with similar economy have articulated my respects for Alan Rickman and Victoria Wood, had I got round to it.

But Leonard Cohen? His humanity and gravitas lightly worn; leavened by a wry humour too few heard, wrapped and delivered in that tuneless voice – offset, from So Long Marianne onwards, by ethereal female vocals to lift the whole and underscore his recurring dialectics of monk and beast .. holy and broken hallelujah .. sacred obligation and its own futility – to carry word forms which, quite uniquely, master the very different crafts of lyricist and poet? Where to start with a man I first heard when I was sixteen and would turn to over and over, in high ordeal or common trial, for the next half century?

It’ll take more than a couple of hours and a catchy turn of phrase to do justice to my lifelong love affair with the songs of Leonard Cohen. Meanwhile I’ll stick with the two-liner I penned yesterday, half an hour after hearing he’d slipped out into the night, just before closing time.

Rock’s greatest poet – no one else came close – has breathed his last. The world – excuse the cliche: I’m caught between assimilating the news and heading off to Scotland – is a poorer place this morning.

I set out one night
When the tide was low
There were signs in the sky
But I did not know
I’d be caught in the grip
Of an undertow
Ditched on a beach
Where the sea hates to go
With a child in my arms
And a chill in my soul
And my heart the shape
Of a begging bowl …

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