I can’t help it. There is nothing else I desire to write about, other than the late, great Leonard Cohen.
Oh man. I am not alone in my outpouring of grief this morning. Of course not. If there is a crack in everything, then Leonard got in, most likely not creasing his sharp suits.
I can imagine him tipping his hat, a slight bow that permeated through his life. He bowed to life—its twists and turns, its bitter and its sweet—and he made art of it all. It’s a cruel world that we occupy, and maybe these days that cruelty has a sharper razor-bladed edge on it than usual. It certainly seems that way this year!
One of the remarkable qualities that Mr. Cohen embodied was that of a particular kind of humour—that of an old soul who has seen the same things unravelling over and over again. Call it that of a certain generation, where irony and disillusionment skipped alongside free love and a post war optimism, or call it the treasure of one who does not shy away from the greatest mystery of all of life, death itself.
One who can dance with his gravelly timbre—mockingly yet with reverence, with death—is surely one who has no fear of life. He saw, experienced and felt it all. The arrogance of the beautiful, the pain of romantic love, the doomed apocalyptic roller-coaster of greed that would tip mankind over the edge.
He was a religious man, a spiritual man if you like, and his medium of prayer was his poetry. Some would argue he wasn’t the best singer in the world, and he knew this, but if I wanted to send out a messenger with a list of all I wanted to say to God, I can’t think of anyone I would choose other than Mr. Cohen. Like a grit in the pearl, his voice echoed out loudly—with far greater genius than most—what we deeply hold in prayer silently within our own hearts.
He was a soul man with a rock and zen edge. Deadpan and deadly in his humour. With one line, he could pierce our illusions forever, burst the bubble and bring us right back down to earth. A holy earth though, a humanly mess with devilish dalliance and with divinity.
He was a man of humility and presence. Yes, he f*cked up—his weakness? Women. He had that certain something that no money could buy and no manual could teach. He had a chutzpah. He was a mensch, as they say in Yiddish, an old-fashioned charmer, with his eyes wide open, saying yes to the next poker game with life and death.
He lived a life of service—soul service—to that which is the greatest force of them all: love.
Yes, he was a loyal servant to love, God, pain, pleasure, poetry, the beauty of it all and the ugliness, and the quiet observation of how we humans are oh, so imperfect!
I met him many years ago. It was a private viewing of his art in a small gallery in Manchester. I shook his hand and was struck by the unassuming presence of this genius.
He always held to a simplicity, a quiet nod to that which was ultimately bigger than him. He was born with genius, and maybe he understood what many of us have forgotten: that one doesn’t become a genius; one is born with this attendant spirit, and his was one that could witness the whole goddamn play of life as one great, black-humoured, but beautiful joke! That was his gift, and with true Leonard humbleness, he served it well.
We lost a truth-saying slayer and a visionary today, and the world feels emptier for it. But, as it is with the truly great, it is not just the man who we give thanks to today—taking our hats off in deep respect—it is for that which is eternal. His words, hard birthed at times, tricksters and tormenters. It takes a great man to have let the roughness of life turn out such diamonds—but as the Mr Cohen himself once sang: I’m your man.
Dance with the angels and the devil…I’m sure you will.
Goodbye, deep respect, and thank you for your music and your truth.
You will be missed.
Author: Heidi Hinda Chadwick
Image: Instagram @saraassaf
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina