I was saddened this week to hear that Leonard Cohen died. I am late to the game when it comes to his music and poetry. A number of years ago I was asked to go to a Leonard Cohen concert – believe it or not, I had no idea who this man was. Basically, I followed the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the list goes on, but not Leonard Cohen. I may have heard a few of his more famous songs, but that was it.
The concert was a revelation, and I got lost in the words. It began with this old man in a suit and a fedora, walking onto the stage and opening his raspy voice to a crowd that knew him obviously much better than I did. I was enthralled, and I related to the lyrics of many of his songs that touched my experience and spoke to things that I had felt, and more than that, addressed a very human/spiritual dimension. In a sense, “with his perfect lyrics he had touched my mind”, let alone my heart and soul and the dark as well as the light dimensions of my being.
As Roger Ebert, one of my favorite film critics, said it was the song I’m Your Man that got him through his life and marriage. While I don’t want to interpret all the various things I relate to in his music or even have lived through, he spoke to me. When I get obsessed with things like model trains, countries, music, I usually dive deep. I found myself at the Chelsea Hotel, looking in and seeing the plaque outside. I read his biography and attended yet another concert, one of the last ones he perhaps ever performed – he was still great. I could go on and on about the songs. I appreciate him also for not only his Jewish roots and his affinity for Buddhism, but also his references to Christian theology found sprinkled throughout his songs.
There is a section in his song “Suzanne” that I find very insightful when it comes to the person of Jesus:
And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
I see myself more often than not drowning, in need of help, in need of redemption, but Leonard, you wrote something else that rings true to what I believe:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Leonard, thank you, for letting the light into my broken existence and for giving me pleasure as I hear your lyrics sung. Hallelujah!