Donald Trump is the President of America … Leonard Cohen Has Died
Donald Trump is the President of America … Leonard Cohen has died. That is a sentence I never thought I would never write, and only Cohen himself would have been able to enlighten us whether the two events, so close together, were inextricably linked. You can almost hear the master himself, smiling gently as he whispered, “Now, I think I’ve seen it all … It’s time to take the big sleep”.
When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, as welcome and deserved as it was, I couldn’t help thinking … Leonard Cohen, you were robbed. Cohen had two novels and several volumes of poetry under his belt, by the time Dylan rose to fame. As Alan Ginsberg said, “Dylan blew everyone’s mind, except Leonard’s”. It’s truly a crying shame he didn’t receive the same accolade.
Cohen’s loss at the grand old age of 82 leaves another gaping hole in the musical hall of fame in the annus horriblis, which has been 2016. Few have contributed so much to music and wordsmithery as him. A poet from the outset and latterly a musician, but always a ladies man, he combined acute observation with gentle humour yet often savage truth. The poem ‘Beneath my Hands’ is a fine example, “Beneath my hands, your breasts are like the upturned bellies of fallen sparrows”. Yet ‘Genius’ (illustrative of his own) reveals the twisted angst within the immigrant poet.“For you I will be a doctor Jew and search in all the garbage cans for foreskins to sew back again. For you I will be a Dachau Jew and lie down in lime with twisted limbs and bloated pain no mind can understand”.
Cohen famously spent much of his early creative life on the Greek Island of Hydra. There, perhaps inspired by the Greek tragedies, he created a sparse writing environment, an old Russian wrought iron bed, a writing table and a couple of chairs. That little room was lit only by candles and paraffin lamps, and there fuelled by “pot, speed and acid” he produced the ‘Favourite Game’ and a collection of poems entitled ‘Flowers for Hitler’. As Cohen said, with trademark humour, decades later … “I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God, generally, I ended up with a bad hangover.”
The story of how he progressed from poetry into music is perhaps best narrated in his own words by his Prince of Asturias speech. There, this literary giant and incredible human being, reveals his dignity, humility and humour in the most beautiful, yet tragic of stories
It is a speech which any guitar player, songwriter or human being should see.
His observation of the politics of the World around him and his frustration with the establishment, is perhaps best illustrated by the song ‘Everybody Knows’ where he drawls …
“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
That this humble, articulate, gentle giant of a man should die in the same week that Donald Trump became President of the United States is perhaps one of the supreme ironies of our time, which will not have been lost on the man himself.
Cohen’s sagely genius will live with us for ever. He was an inspiration to all who ‘got him’.
Thank you Leonard for guiding us through the dark days, and helping us to live, love, laugh … and above all, be human.
“There is a crack in everything … that’s where the light gets in”