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Leonard Cohen: poetry and musicality for all of eternity

Leonard Cohen holds an important place in my life, from an early age. I clearly remember ‘Hallelujah’ and even if at this time, I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying (my mother tongue is not English), I was already fascinated by Cohen’s voice. His tenor, half-octave voice perfectly fits his music and the meaning of his lyrics. That was years after ‘Hallelujah’ that I finally discovered one of the many Leonard Cohen’s talents, not to say his first and original one: poetry. And it came as no surprise since I have always been captivated by the musicality of his music. So when I got an old English version of ‘The Spice-Box of Earth’, everything was so clear. Poetry. I borrowed the book from a friend and read it all in one day. I don’t remember exactly the content but I remember this feeling I had. It was like I traveled to another dimension, another time, another place. He had this way to distance himself from a situation but at the same time to express strong feelings. It was suddenly so coherent: this singular (not so) monotone voice and the poetry resulted in something that truly, deeply transcended me.

For more than two decades now, Leonard Cohen‘s lyrics and songs have always been there although I have never been the biggest fan (you know, going to all of his concerts and buying all of his albums). When ‘Dear Heather’ came out in 2004, I bought it and it was a great experience. Again. ‘To a Teacher’ is a spoken-word track based on Cohen’s poem from ‘The Spice-Box of Earth’; ‘On That Day’ is about 9/11 and other songs like ‘Because Of’, ‘The Letters’ and ‘Villanelle For Our Time’ are really beautiful. Two years ago, I was hanging at a book store when I saw the french edition of the ‘Book of Longing’. Poetry, again. The cover was black (unlike the original English cover) but it was to reveal the same sensation I had when I read ‘The Spice-Box of Earth’ decades before. Although this time it was different, time had passed but once again, I immediately recognized this unique style. Leonard Cohen‘s drawings illustrate the poems, here and there. With some reference to ‘Dear Heather’, to Cohen’s life at the Monastery, thoughts and experiences, desires and wishes, resignation and hopes, sadness and beauty…

When I look backward, I realize Leonard Cohen‘s songs and poetry had a great influence on me although I can’t really explain how exactly. Recently, I was surprised to hear ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘First We Take Manhattan’ when watching the movie ‘Watchmen’. Totally unexpected. These songs were running through my head over and over until I finally decided to listen to my old CDs. It is like from time to time, there is always something that brings me back to Leonard Cohen. A few months ago, I watched on television the 2008 edition of the ‘Montreal Jazz Festival – A tribute to Leonard Cohen’, and I wish I was there… Buffy Sainte-Marie, Katie Melua, Madeleine Peyroux, Thomas Hellman, Serena Ryder, Chris Botti and many others were all gathering to pay tribute to the legendary Montreal poet. Among the songs played that night, I really enjoyed Adam Cohen (Leonard Cohen’s son) singing ‘Take this waltz’ and also his duet with Serena Ryder. Adam is talented and not only when he sings his father’s songs. This family is gifted.

Leonard Cohen inspires me and I like to listen to his songs when I create. He is one of the few singers I can listen to both when I work and when I travel (I already mentioned that fact in this post in 2007 and in this one in 2008). Last song playing was ‘Tower of Song’; this is when I started to write this post. ^_^

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