by Joe Costello
Today marks the end of a unique talent with the death of French-Canadian poet, novelist and song-writer Leonard Cohen.
‘I’m ready my lord’ sang Cohen, poignantly, on ‘You Want It Darker’ his final release. It seems the Montreal-born artist had long come to terms with his mortality. No doubt many years before those that he leaves behind.
From his early life until the day of his death, Leonard typified ‘the outsider’. Having spent much of his twenties living in near-complete isolation, writing poetry on the Greek island of Hydra – Cohen’s talents were becoming clear. It was here that he penned his seminal poem ‘Letters for Hitler’, eventually published in 1956.
Cohen would go on to publish several collections of poetry over the next decade. It was not until the age of 35 that Leonard Cohen gained recognition for his work as a songwriter. His first releases ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ and its follow-up ‘Songs from a Room’ were modest successes and featured many of the songs that would come to define the sound of Cohen. Songs like ‘Suzanne’, ‘It seems so long ago Nancy’ and ‘So long Marianne’, an ode to his muse Marianne Ihlen.
To the detriment of commercial success, Leonard Cohen was not afraid to tackle themes rarely touched on in pop music. Themes such as antisemitism, depression and death. But such was the candid brilliance of Leonard Cohen. No subject was too sombre; no emotion was too painful.
It was exactly that rawness that Cohen’s followers will continue to cling to. Because, the truth is that the world is a gutting, wounding cesspit. Leonard Cohen was just unafraid to express it. And somehow through the chaos, Cohen found love, found art, found peace. World-weary yet life-affirming, artistic yet unpretentious –he was a truly distinctive talent.
It is always difficult to express sadness for someone you have never met. But the connection that I and millions of others had with Cohen only comes around once in a lifetime. There truly are not enough words in the English language to express Leonard Cohen’s influence on modern music, poetry, art, literature and political philosophy. His affect will be infinite.
Leonard Cohen sang wistfully on 1969’s ‘Bird on A Wire’; ‘I have tried in my way to be free’. Well, today Leonard, you have your wish.
R.I.P Leonard Cohen.
Joe’s Top Ten
Seems So Long Ago Nancy
You Want It Darker
So Long, Marianne
Famous Blue Raincoat
Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
Chelsea Hotel No.2
The Stranger Song
Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia