After the death of legendary musician and poet, Leonard Cohen, Barbara Campos writes about the legacy and power of his music and lyrics on everyday people.
LEONARD Cohen was a poet of the people. By choosing to sing his words and poems, he made his ideas and thoughts universal, and reached an eclectic audience. His words appealed to to anyone who wanted to be free and different, anyone with interest in emotions and human experience.
Cohen poured out his life and soul into his songs yet he always remained a slightly enigmatic figure who claimed to be “some kind of gipsy boy”. The truth is, he was able to encapsulate a very distinctive voice in just one song.“Bird on the Wire” is an example of this voice. Cohen simply knew what humans were made of and what our identities are:
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “you must not ask for so much”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, “hey, why not ask for more?”
Cohen was not only a soulful poetic genius, he is also sexy and cheeky, he may even excite you– “If you want a lover / I‘ll do anything you ask me to” – he can show total dependency, and fragility, but also knock someone out in three simple lines – “Everybody knows you’ve been discreet / But there were so many people you just had to meet / Without your clothes.”
Cohen’s songs are so compelling that one begins to feel a part of them, as if you know the people described in them. This is partly due to his talent in making characters come to life, even Jesus himself – “Jesus was sailor as we walked upon the water / And spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower”.
In this same song, “Suzanne”, Cohen gave a very refreshing depiction of women and of relationships between men and women by inverting traditional male and female roles – “For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind” and “For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind”. Cohen was not afraid of the vulnerability that is usually, and unfairly, placed on women.
Reflecting on what Leonard Cohen has left us, it is hardly fair to have asked him to stick around any longer. He had just released another brilliant album, You Want It Darker, after nearly half a century of giving us brilliant songs, and living the life he “preached”. A few weeks before this all happened, he wrote a letter to his dying friend, perhaps even his best friend and only love Jan Christian Mollestad, otherwise known as Marianne to who he once had said:
For now I need your hidden love.
I’m cold as a new razor blade.
You left when I told you I was curious,
I never said that I was brave.
The letter shows the best of Cohen’s character – his compassion, warmth, and love: “it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.” Cohen was ready to leave us, in a way he had always been, a man who thoroughly enjoyed life, and lived it as he wrote: unpretentiously.
Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song.