Leonard Cohen has been the sound track to my life since the age of thirteen. Other artists and bands have their place too but the unbroken thread was Leonard Cohen.I first discovered him in the Dandelion Market in 1979. I had never heard of him or his music and had just bought the Genesis album ‘Trick of the Tail’ when I stumbled upon a collection of poetry. Leafing through the pages I was intrigued by the imagery and spirituality (with a small ‘s’) of this unknown writer. His voice filled a void. ‘Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems 1956-1968’ became the pathway into the music and voice that would become a place of refuge and of celebration for the next 33 years.
You can imagine the thrill that day to then discover that he was a singer and songwriter as well. It wasn’t long before I purchased my first Cohen album ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ which remained on high rotation for months. I would eventually learn to play the whole album on the guitar and trotted out So Long Marianne at gatherings whenever I got the opportunity.
Back then people would slag me for listening to such depressing music, which, in truth, always baffled my teenage mind. Yes, the music was slow, his voice deep, there were no big choruses and he was never going to feature at discos down in the tennis club but depressing? As I still do now, it always uplifted me. I could only hear celebration, love, hope and honesty. Of course there was sadness in some of those songs but even that was beautiful and grateful.
Three weeks ago I sat down to paint his portrait as I soaked up his latest offering You Want It Darker. Last night I sat down to finish it off not knowing that I’d wake this morning to the news of his passing.
His thread, which has run through my life and bound so many moments and memories together, feels like it has been cut. The truth is it hasn’t been cut. The music, moments and memories remain but the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ will never come. Perhaps that’s one of the intangibles of connecting to an artist through their music. We will likely never meet them; never get to thank them for infusing our lives in ways they never imagined.
So what’s left to say? What is the lesson I can take from this loss? It’s one of celebration. Social media will be full of tributes to the dead today while all around me there are moments and people to celebrate. There are people who infuse my life in their own way all around me who can know how grateful I am. I don’t have to wait till they’re gone to eulogize them. To all of you I say thank you. To Leonard Cohen I say thanks for letting the light in. The cracks remain but they are beautiful and the thread will continue to bind.