A Tribute to Leonard Cohen
Let's face it, 2016 has fucking sucked. Still wiping away the tears from the death of David Bowie in January this year, a partial death of many weeping hearts, we then hear the news that Motorhead's speed and whiskey fuelled singer and bassist Lemmy died. Shit that was sad. People who love Motorhead understand, they're more than just a band; they're an embodiment. Three days later, the great British actor Alan Rickman passed, then, a few weeks later, 'To Kill A Mockingbird' author Harper Lee croaked. What the fuck?
Then Nancy Reagan dropped. Meh.
But it was from late March to late April when 2016 really began to reveal itself as the arsehole it really is. Garry Shanding died. Shit, he was funny. Then Chyna! Not Chyna!! She was beyond awesome; she became a trailblazer in the field of fake wrestling, and helped many a flourishing young man through some very awkward teenage years. Goddammit!
As if those months of atrocities weren't enough, then came the big one, maybe not as big as Bowie, but shit, big enough. Prince. Fucking Prince is dead! Come on! Surely someone's taking the piss, aren't they?!
Then, for a couple of months, there was a reprieve. Sweet, blissful reprieve. But that was just a cruel lull into a false sense of security, because while we were all beginning to relax, BANG! Muhammad Ali, champion of the world, activist, and the guy on Diff'rent Strokes to pull Arnold out of one of his hormonal slumps, went the way of so many others. We all knew he was ill, but shit, what a savage blow to so many already wounded hearts.
Since then, we've lost Nobel Prize winners, sports superstars, legendary producers and Gene Wilder! Willy Wonka. Dead. That was the day that Oompa Loompas all the world over wailed like little, uhh, people. The day that chocolate died. The brilliant white foil to the street-styled comedy of the one and only Richard Pryor. Dead.
Now, there's another. The one, the only, beautiful man, Leonard Cohen.
Over the years, as I tried to turn people onto the genius of Leonard Cohen, often I would be met with upturned noses and a scoff; He's just too depressing. Oh, sorry! Go back to your Rick Astley then.
Actually, Leonard Cohen as a person, and even his music, is not depressing at all. The bloke had a wicked sense of humour.
*It's hardly depressing; listen as an advisory Leonard preaches some excellent life hacks.
Born in Quebec, Canada in 1934, Leonard Cohen graced America, and eventually the world, with his poetic, occasionally melancholic, and witty folk tunes, which evolved over the years into dark folk, blues, pop, and even funk. In the late 1960s, the man helped mould the New York music scene, helping to keep alive the evolution of Manhattan's sleazy den of smoke-filled bars and funky little coffee houses. There, he would play his music, read poetry at open mic nights, and generally regale his audiences with wonderful, humorous anecdotes, and some of the most creative, and influential lyrics of the twentieth century.
In 2014, at the age of 80, with his low voice gravelled by age, cigarettes and booze, Cohen released what would turn out to be his penultimate recording, the pop-blues studio album, 'Popular Problems'.
Popular Problems is a remarkable album written and performed by a remarkable person. Never mind the fact that the man had recently become an octogenarian, that's remarkable enough, the fact is that the album from start to finish is a brilliant release of smoky blues, upbeat funk, and some of his best lyrics since perhaps the 1980s. To quote a done to death cliche, the album is all killer, no filler.
The sad thing is, that sales for the album have been quite low; although, upon his passing, as is often the case, there has been a spike. It's a shame, because those who merely assume Cohen to be a recording artist from the 70s, a footnote in history, are doing themselves a great disservice. Up until his final months, he performed rigorous live shows, touring all over the world, and continued to evolve his style, music, and lyrics, much in the same vein as Bowie, albeit not as extreme.
Leonard Cohen, I'm not just saying this because you are now gone; you are a true inspiration, mentor, influence and up until yesterday, a living legend. You have provided us with decades of affordable, accessible entertainment, and we who follow you, love you for that, and everything you have achieved. On a personal note, it was you, among a few others, who taught me that it's possible to write dark and broody, while delivering humour at the same time.
May you rest in peace, brother. You've earned it.
*If you enjoy Benjamin Munday's writing, his award winning short story 'The Ashtray' is now available for purchase on Amazon, or free to Low Road subscribers.