November 7th is the one year anniversary of his passing.
He showed up on the planet September 21, 1934. His music and poetry were introduced to the world one summer in Greece while he took a break from art school.
I really didn't get to know him until my mid twenties. Did you read what I just wrote? I didn't actually know him! But, I think that artists, when they put their art out there — a piece of them — they make you feel like you know them. It's intimate.
Cohen at school
In my early years of teaching I had a book of Leonard Cohen's poetry on my desk. A student asked "Is this what you read?" I replied "Yes." He picked it up, looked through it and dropped it back on my desk. "Poetry." He said. "Hm. Well, I guess you've got to read something." It was more than something kid, much more.
A year later in a drama class another student borrowed Stranger Music from me and when he returned it he asked awkwardly who gave me the book. I answered "My husband?" I couldn't help but put a question mark on the end of the statement. The boy made a quick exit.
At the break I open the book and there on the inside cover my husband (at the time) had written the lyrics from I'm Your Man
But a man never got a woman back not by begging on his knees or I'd crawl to you baby and I'd fall at your feet and I'd howl at your beauty like a dog in heat and I'd claw at your heart and I'd tear at your sheet and I'd say please I'm your man.
I snickered at the thought of that boy thinking some man was so impassioned with me.
All the times Mr. Cohen was there
I saw Mr. Cohen in concert and he was everything I expected.
I listened to Famous Blue Raincoat (Tori Amos's version) on repeat while I healed from my first husband leaving me and wrote the lyrics in my sketch book enough times to feel like a bit of psycho. That song will always remind me of snow falling, candles and dark living rooms.
Between my major relationships I sang along with all the musicians on Tower Song who admired him as much as I did.
My bartender friend, Bob, talked me into the depth of Suzanne.
On the Elvis Costello Show Bono and The Edge spoke about lyrics. They said that good lyrics are simple and that simplicity lends itself to intimacy. Good lyrics are intimate. Bono said that Leonard Cohen was very much a master in this area. He was able to use the simplest words to evoke strong emotions.
I saw Leonard again. He was even better. He was older but still full of life. It was a week night and at about 11:00 pm he told the audience that if they were tired they could go home but he was going to stay for a while longer. I don't think anyone left.
And even though he didn't love Hallelujah as much as I did I'm glad he wrote it. I'm glad he sang it.
At both concerts I was in love with the depth of his performance. I know some people say that his voice isn't great but to me it is like molasses, slow and deep and dark and rich.
His grand finale
Finally when he recited 1000 Kisses Deep I was moved to tears. Not the sobbing ugly cry but that slow moving emotional ebb that happens when art speaks to you.
He died – November 7, 2016
He's now on the other side hopefully still stringing words together and wooing angels.
I've wanted to write this for a long time.
I finally have.
Thank you Leonard Cohen.
1000 kisses deep from The Book of Longing (an expert)
And fragrant is the thought of you
The file on you complete
Except what we forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep.