Leonard Cohen (1934- ) is a Montreal-born writer, poet and musician. Around the time of the release of his record, The Future (1992), Cohen was likened to an Old Testament prophet by a Canadian reviewer. And this might not be too far off. Cohen’s lyrics and retrospective asides seem to dance around the idea that he’s a mouthpiece for the Divine as well as a humble guy, just like anyone else.¹
Along these lines, Cohen seems content with his combination of Jewish and Buddhist beliefs.
Cohen lost his father when he was nine years old. But he was left with a modest trust fund so didn’t have to worry about money in his younger days.
He bought a house and spent his formative years in Greece, this influence discernible in much of his music. A former ladies man, he openly tells of forays into drink, religion and whatever else might have sustained him. He once held the unconventional notion that the Nazis were defeated by music. And he speaks of a creative spark that apparently those “who are there” know about and those “who are not there” do not.
The following lyrics from “Bird on the Wire” (1969) speak for themselves:
Like bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way
To be free.
And from Susanne (1967):
And Jesus was a sailor… Only drowning men could see him.
In “The Tower of Song” (1988) he sings:
Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.
And in The Future (1992) he takes an even darker route:
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.
However, The Future also contains some humorous and hopeful elements.
Apparently bilked out of his fortune in 2005 by former manager, Kelley Lynch, Cohen filed a suit and was also sued. Still standing, his comeback tour, cds and verse have proved that he’s a survivor. His latest album, Old Ideas, has received 4 and 5 star reviews from critics and fans around the world. Not bad for a guy nearing 80 yrs.
¹ See for example, “Going Home” from his latest cd, Old Ideas » http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2012/01/23/120123po_poem_cohen
- Canada: Leonard Cohen: The Future (jobblog2011.wordpress.com)
- Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah (towriteistowrite.wordpress.com)
- Review: Leonard Cohen (mercurynews.com)
- Sasha Frere-Jones: Leonard Cohen, at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center. (newyorker.com)
- Famous Blue Raincoat and Black Hat (brandsandfilms.com)
- Leonard Cohen: Paying rent in the tower of song sounds divine (theglobeandmail.com)
- storyboard: On the Road with Leonard Cohen Once “the proverbial… (shortformblog.com)
- Leonard Cohen Returns To Nokia Theatre (thescenestar.typepad.com)
- Leonard Cohen Concert All Access Pass New Beacon Theatre 2009 (ephemera.typepad.com)
- How Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ Became Everybody’s ‘Hallelujah’ (theatlantic.com)