Remembering Leonard Cohen (Friday 11th November 2016)
(had this written in November but forgot to post it!)
Leonard Cohen entered my life in 1973 when I met Seamus Fay. Cohen songs were played endlessly on the tape deck in the car; we knew every word and sang them late into the nights at parties in the Castle in Cahore and in flats in Inchicore. Suzanne, The Sisters of Mercy, Marianne, The Stranger Song were all part of our repertoire interspersed with Janis Joplin’s “Another little piece of my Heart” and Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen”. Many Beatles numbers also found their way into the sing songs.
I think this was perhaps my favourite Cohen song (although in more recent years, I’ve developed a soft spot for “Hallelujah”)
Famous Blue Raincoat
It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening
I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record
Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?
Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You’d been to the station to meet every train, and
You came home without Lili Marlene
And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
I still have a copy of this album in the attic – if I can find a turntable in working order I’ll give it a spin for old time’s sake.
There were so many tributes to Leonard and his work today but this one from The Irish Times has the more Irish connotations and is worth considering:
President Michael D Higgins was among those to pay tribute to musician Leonard Cohen whose “lasting legacy and his work will continue to inspire current and future generations.”
“Cohen captured not just feelings of loneliness and loss, but also the essence of human life: love, beauty, humour, as well as social and political engagement,” Mr Higgins said in a statement following Cohen’s death.
He noted how the singer was “deeply influenced by William Butler Yeats” and he made a very warm connection with his Irish audiences – a fact that he valued and emphasised to me when I met him in Dublin.”
There were hints that Leonard Cohen would not live much longer, but in a year that has already taken away Prince, David Bowie and George Martin, his death , announced via a Facebook post on Thursday , still came as a shock to many.
“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” the post said.
DJ Dave Fanning said on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio 1 that the late singer “was the best I’ve ever met”.
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys paid tribute to her “personal favourite”. She said his “music had an ability to reach into your soul and speak to your inner thoughts, your hopes and your fears. His music brought solace and joy to so many. The world has lost one of its true music legends and indeed one of its greatest modern poets. He will be sincerely missed by his Irish fans and millions more around the globe.”
Labour spokesperson on the Arts and former Tánaiste, Joan Burton, expressed her sadness at the news. She said: “I am so sad to hear of Leonard Cohen’s passing and offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and indeed his many fans in Ireland and around the world. “His concert at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham in Dublin in 2008, not withstanding the pouring rain, was one of the best of my life, and an evening I will never forget.
“Through his music and lyrics, Leonard Cohen touched so many people, and with his great love of WB Yeats, he had a special affinity with Ireland. His thousands of Irish fans will remember fondly his concerts at Lissadell House in Sligo in 2010, held just a short distance from the birthplace of the poet.
Eddie Walsh, the co-owner of Lissadell House in Co Sligo where Cohen played two concerts in 2010, said he was “a man dedicated to art, dedicated to professionalism, incredible, sublime”. “It was one of most incredible weekends in my life. He played two magical very special concerts. We even had a rainbow over Ben Bulben one of the nights. They were two of the longest concerts he ever played because he was so blown away by Lissadell,” Mr Walsh told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.