Speaker: A Singer Must Die - Leonard Cohen, In Tribute
Avalanche is my first memory too, the opening notes on the Bad Seeds album still make may heart race, although at the time I think BFM was playing Dance Me to the End of Love pretty regularly. Good recommendation on the bio - will track it down.
Thanks Grant - a nice tribute. My "first Cohen" was a little earlier than yours, as you might expect - Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye, which was one of the tracks on the 1968 CBS UK sampler Rock Machine I Love You. I can still sing most of the words. And then at university his stuff (and Cat Stevens!) provided the soundtrack to some of my favourite formative experiences...
Yes, that New Yorker interview by David Remnick is a great insight into Cohen. I remember discovering Leonard Cohen when I read a small (but positive) review of Various Positions when it was released (mid 80s?) and watching that slightly odd video clip of him singing Hallelujah on RWP. I was very moved by that and happy that it seemed a bit of a secret treasure - back then no one else my age seemed to be into him. Since then I followed his new releases and worked back to the beginning. For me its Cohen over Dylan every time - perhaps that Nobel should have been split between them. 2016 had a lot to answer for already, its just gotten exponentially sadder but we'll always have the music.
After his death, I was thinking "First we take Manhattan" was very much in the spirit of the U.S. election. I see Billboard Magazine has felt similar- suggesting "First we take Manhattan" and "Everybody Knows" as post-election songs.
Russell Brown, in reply to
Thanks Grant – a nice tribute. My “first Cohen” was a little earlier than yours, as you might expect
Yes, mine too. It was either Songs From a Room or the Songs of Leonard Cohen compilation. We'd make the usual "slash your wrists" jokes, but really, there's such a vigorous sense of humour in it all.
Russell Brown, in reply to
After his death, I was thinking “First we take Manhattan” was very much in the spirit of the U.S. election. I see Billboard Magazine has felt similar- suggesting “First we take Manhattan” and “Everybody Knows” as post-election songs.
I thought of this one ...
And maybe even more this one. Leonard certainly had timing.
Give me back my broken heart
My mirrored room, my secret life
It's lonely here
There's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
Over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby
That's an order
Give me crack, anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
Stuff it up the hole
In your culture
Give me back the Berlin Wall
Give me Stalin and St. Paul
I've seen the future, brother
It is murder
Things are going to slide
Slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard of the world
Has crossed the threshold
And it's overturned the order of the soul
Dan Salmon, in reply to
I love that third verse.
Crazy to think The Future was released in 1992. Circa: George Bush senior, Iraq war, break up of USSR, Rodney King… Are we in darker times now?
Hilary Stace, in reply to
He sang Democracy in January 2009 in Wellington at the time of Obama's inauguration after 8 years of Bush. It was very powerful.
Perhaps more relevant now is The Partisan even though it is about the French resistance and the lyrics aren't his.
A friend was at the LA zendo with Cohen, he showed us a wee film they made and it became clear that the singer was there to kick a heroin habit, that and his taste for cigarettes makes it all the more remarkable that he made it to 82.
My first memory of his music was the classic album we all know but I got it into my head that he was married to Francois Hardy, not a bad match but not so. I have only recently found out that John Campbell isn't married to Carol Hirshfeld either.
From Ben Smith's Personal Mythologies series.
1971. Auckland uni year. Girlfriend of time introduced me to Suzanne, Marianne and the Bird. Bought my guitar and Cohen Tabs music book and managed to learn to pick the whole bloody book. I still pick it up.
Saw both concerts in Wgtn.
“Johnny Walker wisdom running high”
“She’s a hundred but she’said wearing something tight”
Dance me to the end of love
Democracy. The fact he died the day after Trumps election says it all
“Sail on, sail on, oh mighty ship of state
To the shores of need
Past the reefs of greed
Through the squalls of hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on”
And no doubt they will.
There have been (no doubt sincerely meant but) somewhat mean-spirited words written about Dylan's Nobel. Cohen would have been equally deserving, but let's say if they are both above all that, Leonard would be maybe more so.
I'm proud I got my first-ever CD (The Police's Zenyatta Mondatta...) as a prize for fronting up to Radio Forestland in Tokoroa with Bird on a Wire as my entry for a "songs I love but everyone else loves to hate" (or some such) comp. DJ Paul Ropata went through the motions on-air of "smashing the record". Oh dear, wish it had been the Neville Brothers' unappealing cover instead...
Words of comfort and caution from the old lover:
But I know
from your eyes
and I know
from your smile
fine, will be fine, will be fine
will be fine
for a while...
So long Leon Russell as well!
I have a couple of Leonards poem collections and they always struck me as completely remarkable. There is a real art to knowing what to leave out. That stands for any kind of art and for poetry especially.
That recent New Yorker story was great.LEONARD COHEN MAKES IT DARKER in case you missed it from Oct 17th.
The man was a master. There are many examples but for anyone who loved his music - do have a look back at the various poetry collections.
Here is a very brief but powerful early poem from the earliest period (late 50's) called
I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him
If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumours on our lips
it is because I hear a man climb stairs
and clear his throat outside our door.
From 'Let Us Compare Mythologies.'
When I read that the first time I didn't know what a mic drop was. But there it was on nearly every page. RIP. Was he talking about himself in some way? probably not in 1956 but certainly later on that could be a description.
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