Leonard Cohen wasn’t a regular at his local temple. He admittedly had moments of grace with a higher force but he lived much of his life as most of us do. He smoke, drank, and famously enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh. You could say he was a humanist whose higher power was love. Leonard practiced Zen Buddhism in Mount Baldy but always considered himself Jewish. He kept the practice of humility with him always. The people’s poet, whether you knew him or not–his passing most likely pained you as if he was family. Even Bob Dylan had called the 82-year-old musician, “Number one to my zero.”
Musician Nick Cave wrote on Facebook:
“For many of us Leonard Cohen was the greatest songwriter of them all. Utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried. He will be deeply missed by so many. “
Artists had honored Cohen while he was alive. In 1990 Kurt Cobain wrote the song “Pennyroyal Tea” which was eventually released by Nirvana:
“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld. So I can sigh eternally.”
Cohen had later said that he had wished he would’ve met Cobain and helped him. Another piece of his enormous heart exposed. The Canadian poet was 33 years old when he started making music and it wasn’t until age 50 that he wrote the epic “Hallelujah,” showing it’s never too late to start a creative endeavor.
Leonard’s son Adam announced his father’s passing on November 10th, three days after Cohen died, “My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records (You Want It Darker). He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor.”
Adam wrote on November 13th of his father’s funeral:
“My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked.”
“As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work.”
Photo: Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967.
Joni Mitchell and Leonard had a tender, yet brief, affair in the ’60s. Joni wrote about falling asleep with Cohen on his mother’s small, white bed, awaking just to watch each other sleep in her song, “Rainy Night House.”
Photo: Getty images
Cohen’s final album, 2016’s You Want It Darker, is being regarded as one of his best albums. I listened to it in its entirety laying on my friends floor with my eyes closed the hour I heard of his passing. A wave of meditation passed over me, followed by tears.
“Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my lord,” Cohen sang in his gravely mature voice on “You Want It Darker.” Hineni is Hebrew for “I’m ready” – referring to Abraham declaring his readiness to God in the book of Genesis. The violin takes center stage on “Traveling Light,” which has an essence of his Jewish heritage. Leonard had been ill for awhile and confined to his daughter’s home in Los Angeles. Very similar to David Bowie, he wanted to make a final album and he created a triumph with the help of his son Adam.
“You Want It Darker”
Like a fine wine, Leonard’s voice matured nicely. Becoming richer and darker which left a haunting residual on his brilliant lyrics. The man who is known as one of the best songwriters of all time wrote mainly about love and complicated relationships. In this interview with Stina Dabrowski, Leonard admits that he was never as abundant with romantic love as he portrays in his songs.
LC – “I had wonderful love but I did not give back wonderful love.”
Stina – “Why?”
LC – “Because I was obsessed with some fictional sense of separation that I couldn’t reach across the table for it. I couldn’t reach across the bed, I couldn’t reach across the moon, I couldn’t reach across my song, I couldn’t reach and touch the thing that was offered me.”
Thank you, Leonard for exposing your beautiful soul to us. Thank you for inspiring so many artists to create. Thank you for showing us that you can be hip while having class and being a gentleman. Your spirit will never die as you touched all of us with your mind.
Leonard Norman Cohen
September 21, 1934 – November 7th, 2016