Mourning Mr Cohen

Plenty has been written about Leonard Cohen’s life, work, and passing. I’m not going to write a whole article about him – at least not right now – but I’m compelled to write something. More than any other songwriter, Cohen is the artist who has guided my life. His songs have always been the standard against which I compare my own work, and inevitably find it wanting. But beyond that, his lyrics and his life taught me some things about how to live, and I believe they will continue doing that. This is the first time I have cried over a ‘celebrity’ death, and I cried more than once.

So for fellow lovers of the divine Mr Cohen, some resources for your mourning:

A Parting Gift

Cohen released a new album called You Want it Darker not long before his death. It’s honestly one of the best albums he’s ever made. The opening track ‘You Want it Darker’ deserves a place in the pantheon, alongside songs like ‘So Long, Marianne’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Democracy’, and ‘Suzanne’.

It’s menacing, tender, angry, resigned – it seems to resonate with a lifetime’s struggling over divinity, life, and death.

Another standout track is ‘Steer Your Way’:

Those strings!

A Son’s Tribute

I’ve been devouring tributes and memories of Cohen online. One of the most touching came from his son Adam Cohen, accompanied by this incredible photo of the two together:


“You want to know some secrets about Leonard Cohen? Here’s the dirt. He loves George Jones and Hank Williams. He travels with one small suitcase. Many of his impeccable suits are actually threadbare. He’s only about 5ft 8in, despite that giant baritone. He awakens at four in the morning and blackens pages every single day of his life. He cuts his own hair. He will find a patch of sun anywhere and sit in it, like a big cat, following that sliver wherever it goes. Although he no longer smokes, there is nothing he would rather do. He makes the best tuna salad I’ve ever had – he seems to have a knack for that. He loves making food for people, in fact. He spends a lot of time in the kitchen. He’s probably the best-known short-order chef in the world.” – Adam Cohen on his father. Pretty endearing and gently inspiring stuff.

A Beautiful Man, a Beautiful Life

Cohen was never conventionally handsome, but I’ve always found him beautiful. Not only that, but his life always seemed touched by an easy – and idiosyncratic – grace. As a result, he photographs very well. This Guardian photo gallery is a good starting place, but I recommend scouring the internet. Photos from Cohen’s days living on the Greek island of Hydra are particularly lovely.

Leonard Cohen meditating at the Mount Baldy Zen Centre in 1995. Photo © Neal Preston.


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