Retroladytyping …

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye …


… but maybe it is …

RIP Leonard Cohen – gone to The Tower of Song

Today I woke to the news that the poet, author and musician, Leonard Cohen died yesterday at the age of 82.  He has been referred to by those who don’t know, as the singer to “slit your wrists to,” beloved of depressed students in the 1970s.  I disagree.  His music, to me, was music which helped, helped when feeling sad, helped when feeling contemplative,  helped during difficult times and encouraged reflection in times of contentment.  More than anything else, his music and words were reflective:    He  shared something of himself and his own thoughts and feelings, so making me, for one, feel that I wasn’t the only one feeling as I did.  His music made and will continue to make me feel many things – just ‘better’ sums up all those.  He was a soother and a healer.

I wasn’t one of those so-called depressed students; I came to his work later in life,   during a difficult time.  I heard the song “Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye” on the radio, during a sleepless night. I am so glad I did.  I still remember that moment as one of those stop what you are doing and listen, listen properly, this is special, moments.   Crying (with a little bit of self-pity) to Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye was cathartic.  Singing along, loudly, to his music while in the car was, and always will be, my therapy.  There was a time when my car started with the sound of that unique voice.  A Cohen CD was permanently on ready for me.  That will happen again later today.  Thank you Mr Cohen, you helped the rawness heal.  Pressing the replay button repeatedly is sometimes more effective, and less toxic,  than medication.

His words, his music and his presence were, and will continue to be true poetry, giving solace and, above all, hope, rather than encouraging giving up, or “slitting wrists.”   Who can argue with “There’s a crack, a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in”  from Anthem, especially now with all that is happening in the world.  There is hope. Still.

I was lucky to be able to see him twice, live.  The first time was at an unlikely outdoor venue,  Brooklands Racetrack at Weybridge, in July 2009.  It rained, how it rained!  As Leonard Cohen said, as he came on stage, “It’s a bit fresh.”  It was.  We were soaked,  but we didn’t care.  As he sang/spoke A Thousand Kisses Deep, we were mesmerised.  Everyone there was.  A 75 year old gentleman holding a soaking wet, bedraggled crowd in the palm of his hand. You  needed to be there (or check YouTube) to appreciate that.

I’ve referred to him as a gentleman and I can think of no better example than his manner towards his supporting acts and his backing singers, one such being the “sublime”, according to him, Webb Sisters.  This clip, from YouTube says that far more eloquently than I can.    His respect for others and his generosity of spirit towards fellow performers, as well as his audience,  always shone through his performances.

We were also able to see him at Bournemouth NEC – a large venue and we were sitting at an angle to the stage.  That didn’t matter.  His presence transcended all that.  He reached every corner of that arena.  He spoke, we listened.  He danced, we watched.  He doffed his hat to his supporting singers, we applauded.  Best of all though, he sang to an awestruck audience, we listened, until the silence at the end of each song, when we paused to absorb the beauty of his music and his charismatic presence, before breaking into rapturous applause.

Throughout both of these shows, and it’s clear on my London Live DVD, he is humble, can’t quite believe the audience is there, they are there for him and are in awe of his genius.  He would disagree with that word, I think, and it is much over-used, but I can’t think of any better to describe someone who can ‘hold’ a crowd of thousands just by raising his hat.  He could and did.  That hold was  tightened as the first notes of his deep, gravelly voice were heard and increased its grip till the echo of the final notes died away.  That pause, that silence – awesome, or to quote him when referring to The Webb Sisters,   “sublime.”

.His son, Adam, quoted “Hey that’s no way to say goodbye” today in a tribute to his father.  I think it was just the way he would have wanted to say goodbye.  He had just released an album, was writing till the day he died and had said goodbye in a beautiful, moving poem to his muse and great love, Marianne.    Words never to be forgotten, along with so many others, as well as thoughts and emotions, portrayed in words and sounds by this incredible man.  If you don’t click on any other link in this blog, please do so on this one.  As a friend said when I shared it with him:  “Those hands!”  Indeed, those hands.

While I am typing this, I am listening to a Cohen tribute on the radio, which has  made me feel that anything I write is only a drop in the ocean.  There are so many words, so many phrases – musically and written – that I could share.  Each memory on the radio triggers one of my own.  I can say no more to do him justice.

I am very sad today,  and may not feel like listening to his music , but I will and will be grateful to have heard him, seen him and to have read his poetry and writing.  He has left a wonderful legacy.