Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

11/11/2016

Leonard Cohen, dead at 82

By DAVID VEST // Here was somebody who could take you to places even poets couldn't take you, states of beauty unreachable by other means.

When Leonard Cohen recorded one of his greatest albums, Various Positions, Columbia Records refused to release it in North America.  The songs on the recording deemed unworthy of release included Dance Me To The End Of Love, Hallelujah, Heart With No Companion, and If It Be Your Will, to name a few.
 
Imagine doing work of that quality and having it turned down, rejected. I think about that whenever I think about the people who run the music industry.
 
When I think about Leonard Cohen's wonderful late-period resurgence, I remember how fragile his career had seemed to be just a few years earlier.
 
For people of my vintage, there is no memory quite like sitting around with friends and listening to Cohen's debut album, all the way through, for the first time. Here was somebody who could take you to places even poets couldn't take you, states of beauty unreachable by other means.
 
My favorite Cohen song, at least right now, is one he doesn't even sing on. It's an instrumental called Tacoma Trailer. He plays a dinky little keyboard. Maybe he wrote it in a trailer, who knows. Not necessarily in a trailer park, but in a backstage trailer perhaps. It sounds very tossed-off, impromptu, nonchalant. Most of us would give anything to have written Tacoma Trailer. You try writing something like it and you'll see why.
 
It was sad to think of him having to go back out on the road, at an advanced age, to "cobble together a nest egg" after he discovered that his finances had been looted and plundered by an unscrupulous manager. Even though the tours were triumphant, it's easy to forget that he was doing them so he could have money to live on in his old age. And then, as it turned out, he didn't really even get to have an old age.
 
I'm told he used to love to go down to Mexico with a friend or two and watch bullfighting. I seems so unlike our image of him that it must be true.
 
I think I encountered him once, a very long time ago, in Nashville. I was coming out of a building, he was going in. He was wearing a cowboy hat, which he lifted with a smile. He said nothing, I said nothing. I never told anybody about it. If it wasn't him, it was close enough.
 
There is a recording he did about ten years ago, in which his later-life voice sings a duet with his younger voice, which sounds just like it did on his very first album. 
 
 
"Fare thee well, my nightingale
'Twas long ago I found you
Now all your songs of beauty fade
The forest closes round you"

 

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