One thing I’m well aware does not go down well is uncompromising harshness, for example refusing to accept Trump backsliding on incarcerating Clinton. Harshness also means slamming “Modern Woman’s” inanities and Millennial behaviour [see American streets just now].
Given the title of this post, one would expect a eulogy about Leonard Cohen but far from it. There will be an assessment.
His career was centred around life and loves, wimmin, always surrounding himself with them, plural. That will be dealt with below for what it was. As for his music, yes, mournful violins and soft rhythms are most appealing, the pathos in one of his favourite songs below does the job, audiences lap it up and shed tears, including me, Cohen is the Man.
Let’s be fair – his songs certainly get you in:
In the interview below, reference was made, by a woman, to his monastic phase and his observation was sharp – the guru taught him that he needed no guru and wasn’t sick in the least, not in the way he thought.
When pressed on this, he said his sickness was as every other westerner’s is – while many in the world have real issues of life and death, he and the west in general [at that point] had few and so the mind generally drifted onto other longings, e.g. love, e.g. having all the things you want and being eternally dissatisfied. First World problems.
He mentioned that the more you had, the less you were satisfied and the more you wanted, the more you felt aggrieved, that you’d frustratingly not had your due. There spoke the hedonist and it was fair comment, most perspicacious. Cohen, were there nothing else to him, was most incisive in his insights.
Which actually made him all the more culpable and to personalize this now – same with me. If you know right from wrong and still do wrong, then you are liable to censure.
So let’s get to this legacy. One of the many opinion columnists said he had taught the world to love, about man/woman love.
No, sorry, he taught the world it was fine to lust and take that which was not yours. Worse, he admitted he was a coward when it came to commitment and to excuse this as being a flawed man – who isn’t flawed ? – should still not let him off the hook.
One of his early* signature songs was after* he took Marianne away from her husband with the child, she’d fallen hook, line and sinker and was holding onto him like he was some sort of crucifix*, which asphyxiated him, according to him*.
This was on the island of Hydra, her story being that hubby had been cheating with other women, LC arrived, she went with him. LC’s version is similar but the hubby, Axel’s, version is that he was not cheating but had to keep going back for contractual reasons. LC therefore stole his woman while he was away. In the pic, they are all four together.
The problem with this account:
… is that it is rambling and dislocated, sometimes one can’t tell whom she’s referring to at any point.
An interesting part was where she referred to a NY model who came there and “he”, whoever that is, went away for the day with her. She curled into foetal position and people thought she was dead. It seems from the text that that was Cohen.
Hence his feelings of her clinginess. and maybe that’s why Axel went away too.
I’ve just re-read Marianne’s own account again and it raises more questions than it answers. Think that’s worth a post sometime early next week. Let’s get off Marianne now.
There is no doubt Cohen had charisma, your humble blogger vastly less so but I need to establish that there’s very little achievement in taking another man’s woman or at least dallying with her. This post could be filled with Woman’s behaviour but let’s stick with the men for now.
Any committed relationship has vicissitudes, the first fire has gone, along comes an unencumbered person who’s at least not the elephant man and his world seems attractive to her, especially if he has that smile, that voice, that intelligence and those tales. Plus a slightly ragged morality.
And I see that with him through various lovers after that that I’ve been able to track down. Again, that must wait now until early next week.
This is his anthem below and the overall thrust is the same as anyone’s – freedom, not dogma, the flaws let the light in, therefore the flaws are fine. Noble imagery indeed but largely meaningless in the end, as it does not specify. It’s a bit like Obama’s “yes we can” – we can what?
Meaningless but seemingly oh so poignant, set to superb music of course. This is what we all fell for at some point in our lives.
Leonard Cohen was an old man from about 20 onwards with his introspective gloom and doom, music to slash your wrists by wrote one pundit and he admitted the early theme was the death of relationships, but later he lightened up and injected some humour. He’d always been wry and sardonic.
For all ladies men, real or imagined, old age creeps up and what was once acceptable and forgiven by lovers worldwide, even seen as romantic, now starts to pall, dare I say even starts to look a little sleazy. And again, Leonard Cohen was nothing if not fully aware of where he was.
In this song below, he is happy to be physically close to women, plural, but in his last performances two to three decades later, he wisely lets the backing singers do their thing on their own, over to one side.
The frame you see below sums up so much. He is grinning – and who wouldn’t with that attention – Perla Batalla is on our right in hat, with a husband soon after this, playing up to him one on one. But our Leonard is not a one on one man, is he? And that is always the tragedy in these things – love has to be one on one but Woman wants the satyr.
And Julie Christenson, on our left [the two women were friends in real life as well] – just look at her acted expression, and yet not so acted.
He has said he has been a failure at religion, he tried the monastic life but then gave it up, “thank God”. Yet there’s a definite spirituality to his philosophy – see Anthem above – and he’s admitted to being fascinated by faith and its trappings, just as Dave Allen was. Not all that many know he was a practising Jew, observing all the rites and rituals, right to the end.
The song below is as relevant now as it was then and the ironic twist is that democracy has indeed finally come to the USA, through the antithesis to his politics – through Donald J. Trump and the uprising of the people. I’d love to know what he’d think of this – it seems he died on the 7th and the results became known on the 9th.
The last song below is the original of Dance Me to the End of Love, which gives it an edge which later versions lack, though later versions are musically lusher.
Just to make devotees of Cohen happy, the girl in the clip has been identified. Someone wrote to Dominique Isserman, his then girlfriend who made the clip and she wrote:
[It’s] Susan Hauser, who was a model when I met her and danced with the New York City Ballet … she is also the lead actress of “First We Take Manhattan” Sincerely, Dominique I.
We ran Manhattan last evening and that in itself is interesting. He did that and Dance Me with Jennifer Warnes but the B&W Manhattan seems to have vocals by Anjani.
I did read that his own daughter, Lorca, was the hand that extended through and touched his but to me it seems like Susan H’s. He says that the song is based on a chamber orchestra playing at a concentration camp in WW2 whilst people were being separated and murdered, which may well be so, plus he later said that it was about a husband and wife separated at that camp.
The use of a craggy Leonard Cohen and an unsullied, achingly young Ms Hauser is not about that at all – it’s a father/daughter thing or older man/young girl, emphasized in the opening scene, then her dancing down the corridor and finally in her appearing half naked in front of an audience – a most ambivalent clip and possibly his private joke with his daughter.
There’s never been any suggestion he crossed that line with Lorca and I’ve seen shots of them together, just as with the Donald and Ivanka. In both cases, it was awfully close, physically, but that’s the nature of father/daughter when they have a good relationship. Strange thing but when the relationship is bad, e.g. a man is violent/abusive to the family, she’d run a mile. But when it’s good, there then is the danger. The vast majority of fathers channel it down the right path.
Yet Lorca was a strange girl, all the same. She had a child by a known, declared gay who then went off with his male mate and the child was left alternately fatherless or with two fathers – great for a child’s identity formation, yes?
Leonard Cohen felt it was time to close his account a few days ago, felt the wheels were starting to spin a bit. I suspect much of it had to do with his lessening ability to lead that life, normal age related things were intruding.
To sum up? Well, the music was great, the lyrics deeply iffy, his own life a bit of a waste in a way, if you count the ability to be happy with one woman as a good thing. He did damage in pursuit of his own fulfilment but then again – which of us has not done that? Which of us is a saint?
R.I.P., Leonard Cohen, you most certainly left a legacy to ponder. Where are you now?