The great Canadian folk singer, song-writer, poet, novelist Leonard Cohen passed away, leaving behind him a great heritage of art.
He was the creator of the masterpiece Hallelujah, but before a Cohen-the-singer, there was a Cohen-the-novelist. In 1964, Cohen was already a well-regarded poet and novelist in Canada. Though commercially unsuccessful, he still gain a small inheritance to buy a house on Hydra island, Greece, where he lived with his girlfriend, the Norwegian model Marianne Ihlen.
Over the next nine months, Cohen consumed an epic quantity of drugs to keep himself awake writing, sometimes 20-hour-long writing for days. He was working on Beautiful Losers, probably his most famous novel. When he finished, he ended up hospitalized on a protein drip, and decided it was time for a new direction. The singer Leonard Cohen, weighing only 116 pounds due to his amphetamine habit, was born.
Cohen went for Nashville at first, but stopped off in New York City, and that decision may account for why he became a folksinger and not a country star. In the city, he met all the right women: Mary Martin, a Toronto-born music exec who introduced him to the singer Judy Collins, who would record many of his songs, lightening them up for a mass audience; the German singer and actress Nico, his early muse.
Melody of sadness
His song was all about sadness and alienation, love, lush, war – peace, reality – illusion, looking endlessly for answers. He had a deep, nasal drone voice, and great lyrics. His songs sound like poetry. Therefore, he was, first, a poet. He is an alienated young man creates some sad music; poet is as unhappy as Bob Dylan, but far less angry. Cohen was considered as one of the most influenced musicians of all time, probably just right after Bob Dylan.
Leonard Cohen was also a romantic. In one of his songs, he wrote “We are so lightly here. It is in love that we are made; In love we disappear”. He seemed to love women, to need women, and to be ready to be hurt by women. His vulnerability, the sense of longing and the constant foreshadowing of doom in his love songs, made him ripe for the affections of a moody adolescent girl.
In 2014, the week of his 80th birthday, Cohen released his 13th studio album, Popular Problems. His only plan to celebrate the beginning of his ninth decade, he said, was to start smoking. “But quite seriously, does anyone know where you can buy a Turkish or Greek cigarette?” he asked the crowd. “I’m looking forward to that first smoke. I’ve been thinking about that for 30 years.” And now, when he died at the age of 82, we hope he’s found some good European cigarettes and a light.