A Singer Must Die

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

– Leonard
Cohen

Leonard Cohen died last night at the age of 82.240px-Leonard_Cohen_2127.jpg

I found out about his death while taking a break from finishing the piece I intended to publish this morning. As a result I spent the remainder of my evening in tears, listening to his music and being a general plague to social media as I shoveled link after link of YouTube videos at my friends and acquaintances.

Needless to say this I did not finish that story.

Anyone who has spent time with me has spent time in my life over the past twenty-some-odd years knows how much this man’s music has meant to me. From the very first time I hear Everybody Knows as part of a movie soundtrack his voice and words found a way to move me. His songs led me out of my teenage angst and, later, in many ways helped me cope with the death of my parents.  He unknowingly helped me seduce more than one young woman, and then kept me company during the times following the inevitable disintegration of those relationships.

“Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music”

– Leonard Cohen

I forced many who tried to get to know me to also get to know his music, and I like to think that regardless of whatever opinion they may currently hold about me it made a change to their listening tastes. I took to be both a duty and an honor. I know that he, along with a few other artist has influenced my writings and the horrible poetry I spew from time to time.

I won’t go into the details of his life and times, or offer up a play-by-play of his catalogue. There are others, more qualified than myself, who have already done so.

I struggle to find just one song that would sum up his genius, and it can’t be done. But do take this as a small offering and just hope, that if you are unfamiliar with him that you’ll explore his work from there.

 

And I know that there are larger issues to be upset about lately, and I’m upset about those things too. But I needed to take a short time to acknowledge the loss of this great poet who has meant so much to my life.

Rest in peace Mr. Cohen.

Photo of Leonard Cohen by Rama via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0 FR)

 

Three Little Songs

 

I know music has had a profound effect on our lives whether we like it or not, but I don’t often find myself thinking all that deeply about it. If I had to pick three songs that were important to me it would be a hard decision but it would be safe to say that I could easily get mired down choosing just one from the catalog of one man and he always, always is at the top of the list.

2580990298_c3b17677d8_n Leonard Cohen has long held a special place in  my life. Several friends throughout life have associated his song Waiting for the Miracle, with my presence, often saying that the tune seems to follow me. All things considered I’ll it as a compliment, but it probably has more a bit to do with periods I’ve spent obsessing over his music than any ethereal quality on my part. This song, and Cohen’s music in general, first entered my life during a long series of emotional down turns. Its melancholy lyrics always picked me up, I mean if someone could feel like this how bad could my life be. Now the song really marks my past disconnects with the people around me who were trying so hard to just be there for me, and I just kept looking for that one perfect thing, a job, a relationship, whatever that would make it all fall into place for me; then realizing that I was waiting for myself to just move on the whole time.

I had all but forgotten about Adam Ant’s music and his general ” just do what you like, be yourself, and don’t worry about what other people think, and everything will be just fine” attitude. That is, until I began to approach becoming sober.

Goody Two Shoes, is a great jumpy, catchy tune straight from the memory of an adolescence spent watching MTV, you know back when it used to actually… oh you get the point. Listening now just makes me feel that it’s okay if I want to be sober. It’s weird but, given who I deal with on a daily basis, sometimes I need to be reassured of that.

Though it was written in 1842 and was only relevant once in my life Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in C Major, never sounded better than when it was played through the speakers of a dumpster dived electric keyboard by my friend Ben as he sat cross-legged on the lawn of the courthouse on my own wedding day.

ben

Due to the circumstances of our wedding only a few people were able to be in the cramped little office where my wife and I exchanged our vows. Ben decided he was going to be part of that day regardless and waited outside the building to surprise us. Eleven years later, every time that cliché little piece of music is played, even if it is just part of a movie or a TV show, I am reminded not only of the love I have for my wife, but of how true friends will go out of their way to make themselves part of your life.

Image of Leonard Cohen  by, Simon James CC BY-SA-2.0

I Have Christian Slater to Thank for This.

I heard this song for the first time in the early nineties as it played over the opening credits of Pump Up the Volume.

Dark, brooding lyrics dripping with depression, anger, and subdued outrage, all wrapped up in poetical honesty and a heavy synth intro; it had it all. As soon as the first lines were sung the tune became an essential part of my teen angst bullshit. I ran out a bought the soundtrack the next day and was slightly disappointed that the cassette1 only included the Concrete Blonde2 version that was used towards the end of the movie.

For some reason I never got a hold of a copy of this track until I found Leonard Cohen’s, I’m Your Man in a used CD store a few years later. After hearing that entire album I became more than a little bit obsessed with Cohen’s music, the man is an amazing poet who has proven himself capable of many style changes over the years. “Everybody Knows” still remains to this day one of my favorite songs of all time. Sadly the truth of the lyrics are still relevant and also sadly I understand that truth on an adult level now. In all this song and many of Cohen’s other works have shown me that sadness and pain, are not inseparable from truth and beauty, but do help us appreciate the latter having gained proper perspective. 

I hope you took the time to give it a listen. If you haven’t heard much oh his work I highly recommend getting on Spotify, or YouTube, or however you get your music and check out more of his catalogue; I promise that even if this track isn’t your cup of tea there is something there that will speak to you. If you are familiar with Mr. Cohen’s songs and poems I would love to hear what your favorite ones are.

Also if you can you should check out the movie Pump Up the Volume, it’s not half bad3.


  1. Yes I am that old. 
  2. Only slightly disappointed because I happen to also like Concrete Blonde and there are other good tracks on the album. 
  3. I’m also a Christian Slater fan. (Don’t tell anyone)