In all the turmoil about the election I neglected to mention the death of Leonard Cohen — but I didn’t neglect to mark it. Leonard Cohen was of vital importance to me, a musician and poet whose worked I love deeply.
Here’s a link to him singing my favorite of his songs, “Field Commander Cohen”
I’m making no claim it’s his best, and you’re welcome to pipe up with your own favorites in the comments. But this is the one that resonates most with me.
Over the next weeks, months, years, I’ll continue to talk politics here, and also books, art, culture. Because, as Bertolt Brecht said,
“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
Shira – – I said to someone the other day that I bet in my life I have sung Leonard Cohen songs outloud to myself ten times more than any other songwriter’s songs and lyrics. When I was 19 a few friends and I, at my behest, drove to Montreal to find him. Didn’t find him. In college “Beautiful Losers” was on the list we were to read in a “Modern American Novel” course I took. I read all his stuff and went to the Boston Public Library (1975) and found a slim volume of criticism of Cohen’s writings that was someone’s Master’s thesis. I never returned that book, still have it (what’ll the fines be?). The author: Michael Ondaatje. The only time I have ever written graffiti in a bathroom stall (bathroom at Cafe Algiers in Harvard Square) I wrote a quote from an album jacket cover of Cohen’s: “They Locked Up a Man Who Wanted to Rule the World, the Fools They Locked Up the Wrong Man”. Altman’s movie “McCabe and Mrs Miller” was such an amazing vehicle for “Sisters of Mercy” and “Stranger Song” and others. I loved that movie. The only song I ever mastered on the guitar was “Joan of Arc”. Sang it last on a camping trip we took with kids from the school where I was teaching in 1976. Listen to the version of it with Jennifer Warnes and Cohen. I have. Like a hundred times. “Like a bird on the wire/like a drunk in a midnight choir/I have tried in my way to be free” is a verse that kids from my English classes from way back when still repeat back to me. “I know you need your sleep now/ I know your life’s been hard/but many men are falling/where you promised to stand guard.” Beautiful. Thanks for posting this, Shira. PS: “And the corners of the blueprint are ruined since they rolled/Far past the stems of thumb tacks/That still throw shadows on the wood.”