In the days since we’ve begun grieving over the results of the 2016 Presidential election, it’s a wonder if this year is worth it altogether. Various news outlets confirmed on November 10 that Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen had died at age of 82, leaving behind family, friends and his latest album, October’s “You Want It Darker“.
His deep, rugged vocals and a beautifully realized heaviness to delivery adds depths with a sludgy and distilled aftermath on his final work.
Cohen was an inspiration for many artists and it’s easy to hear this influence in artists like Jeff Buckley and Josh Ritter. His infamous song “Hallelujah” has been covered by music’s biggest names at least once in their careers. Cohen’s musical themes range from religion to sex and one can turn to many of his songs in French for a beautiful spin on things. His artistry and talent made him Canada’s equivalent to Bob Dylan or Paul Simon, but with the experimental off the cuff of Tom Waits.
Cohen possessed an impressive catalog outside of “Hallelujah”. His debut album “Songs from Leonard Cohen” was released in 1967 and released shortly after was “Songs from a Room” in 1969, featuring the beautiful “Bird on a Wire“. These are two greatly influential albums for me, although I loved to see him progress to the force he became at the end of an eighteen album run. I love the minimalist style he kept throughout those albums and consider them my keepsakes.
Cohen was also known for his poetry and the otherworldly way he crafted language. I imagine a lot of it had to do with his open mind and vast love for experiencing the world. In 1992 he released “The Future”, an album with a dark political tone; I wonder if Cohen knew something we didn’t. Lyrics like “I’ve seen the future brother: it is murder” shows that he didn’t just write songs and poems without thought; he wrote in a way that highlighted his eloquent coordination of words.
In a 2014 interview with Q Magazine, he explained how “Canadians are very involved in our country. We are on the edge of America and we watch America the way women watch men,” before pausing with perfect comic timing and stating “Very, very carefully! So when there’s this continual cultural and political challenge right on the edge of your lives, it develops a sense of solidarity. So yes, it is a very important element in my life.”
America has watched Leonard Cohen “like women watch men”, evident in our own Bob Dylan. It is these types of artists with blind aesthetic brilliance that we savor and hold to elucidate our own lives and trials. We will miss you Leonard; you were a Beast of a lyricist and a lover of all things. Thank you for your legacy.