This weeks recommendation centers around a man I admired very much, but never had the pleasure of knowing, Leonard Cohen. As you know he passed away last week, and the loss to the world of music is beyond measure. If we are lucky, we get to tell our stories and Cohen was a very lucky man in that regard.
The first time I heard a Leonard Cohen song I didn’t have the slightest idea who he was. It was 1991 and I was obsessed with a little movie called Pump Up The Volume. It’s a story about a teenage pirate DJ who broadcasts out of his parents basement, uses foul language and generally has a good time while proving “the truth is a virus.” “I love that,” he says, staring at the ceiling, shirtless while chewing black jack gum, drinking wild cherry Diet Pepsi and rapping with his close personal friends the Beastie Boys. “I love the idea that a dirty thought can just go hang out in a nice clean mind.” It’s a great flick, and back then I would have given it nine out of fives stars. Today, through the jaded veil of twenty-six odd years I would give it five out of five storybooks, because it still holds up, but now I am the thing he was warning us all about back then. I am the thing we all become, eventually. Still, watch it. It will make you laugh and remember the world the way you used to see it once upon a time.
In that fine movie his theme song is “Everybody Knows” and I was young enough to appreciate the Cowboy Junkies version over the snippet that we get of Leonard Cohen singing it, but still, from the tall mountain of hindsight I know he was there, and that I missed him.
It was many years later when I fell in love with the theme to the Sopranos that the world grabbed my by the collar and said, hey look at this and I found him, and connected his art to his name. Being the curious kitten of Storyland I started to dig. I discovered that Cohen and Dylan had a Mozart and Salieri kind of relationship over the years, with, some could argue, Dylan playing the role of Mozart. Personally, I think that Dylan wrote the greatest song of all time, All Along The Watchtower, but it took Hendrix to make it real. Dylan is a great writer to me, but he does not perform at the same level he can write. I see no shame in that, because he is an incredible fucking writer. Cohen, however seemed to be the complete package.
Cohen wrote what I consider to be second greatest song of all time, Hallelujah, and he performed it with a depth of passion and artistry that always brings me to tears.
Still, you have to be the very fucking best to sit down at the table where Cohen and Dylan owned the crown, and while I have no idea if their rivalry was true or just some fake clickbait I read on the internet we are better off for having them here with us.
I also read that Cohen was involved with Janis Joplin and wrote a song for her. Can you even imagine a jam session or just a trash talking evening over wine and smoke at a table with Cohen, Dylan, Joplin and Hendrix? Christ, I think I just got turned on here. But here’s the thing, to them, they were just people, living their lives and doing what they do. And so, I can find some forgiveness for myself for missing out on Cohen in 1991, and some gratefulness for a universe that pulled me back around for another chance to recognize and pay tribute to this incredible man.
I like his shades, his black and his white, and I loved his gray. I will miss him everyday, and try and remember to pay closer attention to the things around me, because we rarely get second chances.
My musical recommendation this week is a bookend that, to me, represents the two diametrical sides of Leonard Cohen. As always the cover will link you directly to iTunes for a sample or a purchase. Sing in the Light and Sing in the Dark. Sing of the great Leonard Cohen, and wish him peace and thanks for the wonder he shared with this world.