For me, Leonard Cohen is one of the all-time great song-writers, his lyrics are tempered and refined to the point that there isn’t a word that is superfluous. He manages to write heart-wrenchingly personal narratives, while being able to combine big themes of human condition, searching and questioning with wry self-deprecating humour and all within the space of a few lines.
There is a Welsh word ‘hiraeth’ that is hard to translate into English correctly, but in essence it is about an aching, longing and nostalgic yearning, some describe it as a ‘searching for home’ and is said to be similar to the Portugese word saudade. I seem to resonate most with music and songs that have something of this hiraeth quality and to me the songs of Leonard Cohen ooze with it.
I can vividly remember the moment when I became a real Cohen convert…
I’d been a fan for some time. I was introduced to his work when I was 17, by my future husband Bill. In fact I owe our getting together in some part to Cohen’s song Winter Lady. Bill sang it on the his old Epiphone guitar (and the rest as they say folks is history!)
I’ve sung Suzanne and Bird On A Wire as part of my live sets for as long as I can recall ever performing, but one day sitting on the sofa in my mid 20’s with a guitar and our Leonard Cohen songbook, the penny completely dropped. These songs weren’t just great songs, these songs were lifelines, they were about everything. Cohen had somehow captured the essence of works like Steinbeck’s East Of Eden, and encapsulated their truth in every line. These were earthy, ironic, humorous, sensual, self -deprecating, political, spiritual, poetic, punchy, portrait laments and observations of humanity. I was utterly compelled. Cohen’s words took me deeper and further into myself and then out into the external world around me. I was changed through my experience of them in a way that only art can do. Leonard Cohen’s songs ultimately left me with hope. They grappled the chaos and the darkness they confronted the “crack in everything” but they didn’t leave it there, as the cracks themselves became the vehicle for the “light to get in.”
As with any moment of revelation, I had to share this new-found truth and ran into the kitchen songbook in hand saying “Bill, these songs are so good.” Bill (unlike me) is never one to over use words and simply said “I know,” with a look of “what planet have you been living on that you’ve only just caught up?”
So it is with sadness and gratitude that I say “So long” Leonard Cohen.
Thank you for the gracious, honest and humorous reflections…
We didn’t want it darker right now but I am going to keep on ringing those bells as long as they can ring.
And we’re trying to pay the rent here but you’ll always be way up there above us in that tower of song.
Now it's closing time. You said you were going to ‘live forever’ and you were right.
Thank you for the music that will dance us to the end of love.
Sincerely R. Taylor-Beales