When I was younger, a toddler even, my parents (especially my mom) would play Leonard Cohen on the stereo while she cleaned during the week. We often played his music on Sundays- our day to play loud music and read or bake. Music was our religion since my mom is agnostic and my dad is atheist (or was).
I grew up listening to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Tom Petty, Iggy Pop, David Bowie….and more obscure and eclectic artists. There was also a lot of heavier rock and folk music mixed in. Leonard Cohen was one of the folk artists that was continuously played.
When I was younger, I remember being annoyed by the raspy quality of Leonard Cohen’s voice. “He can’t even sing that good!” I remember thinking at age 7 or 8, “Why does anyone listen to him??” As I got older, around 12 years old, I started to listen to the lyrics. Lyrics in songs became really, REALLY, really important to me around 10 or 11 years old and continued to be my driving force behind liking an artist. I started to pay attention to what Leonard Cohen had to say. Around age 12, I started to like him. Outwardly, I still bashed his raspy voice even though I had started to appreciate it, because disliking some of my parent’s music had become my “thing” as a pre-teen, and I had started to really like his lyrics- even if I didn’t fully understand them yet.
A lot of Sundays, my mom would turn up “Sisters of Mercy” full-blast and Leonard Cohen would loudly declare:
“Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song
Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long….”
I had no real grasp of what he was talking about at a young age and so I hated the song. I used to groan and say, “NOT THIS ONE!” to which I got a laugh from my mom and she would turn it up a hair louder, singing along. Man, that used to bug me. Now, I do the same sorts of things to my daughter. HA. And we all say we aren’t going to turn in to our parents….yeah, sure.
I get the lyrics now that I am older. In fact, the first time my heart was broken or a piece of life’s reality hit me hard in the face, I started to get the lyrics on a cellular level and it clicked. I was a lifelong fan from then on. He just had to get under my skin and then he got stuck there.
My best friend and I shared a love of his music so much that we got the album cover to “The Future” tattooed on us as our friendship tattoo a few years ago. A tribute to a shared love of his poetic nature and awesome lyrics which helped us solidify what we love together as friends. That is the power he had over people. To bring them together. To give them new insights. To spread love and truth. To create dialogue.
I bought his albums as an adult, since his genius never quit and he wrote amazing songs until the day he died, on November 7, 2016. I still can’t believe he is gone. I read an interview a year ago where he said he was ready so I know he is at peace. The rest of us, as true fans always do, will miss his insightful lyrics and quiet media presence.
I never did get to see him live, which saddens me, but the timing or place was never right. Instead, I looked up interviews online and loved how every sentence he said seemed to matter. He didn’t waste words. He wasn’t that sort of person. Leonard Cohen was a poet always, a romantic, and a man of thoughtful and powerful insights into the human condition. We will miss him. Now, more than ever, the world needs more romantics and poets.
May your soul rest and you be reunited with your loves and loved ones. Rest in beautiful peace, Mr. Leonard Cohen.