Tonight, at the end of a week that has already been a pretty rough ride, we got the news that Leonard Cohen has died. For a lot of us this is another blow, although I’m trying not to be too sad as I write this tonight.
Cohen lived, I think by any standard, an incredible life and from an interview he gave not long ago it sounded like he was at peace with nearing the end of it. He sounded to me like a person looking back at work well done, and I hope that’s true. I also like, and admire, that he kept producing his art right up until the end. Although a lot of his work was melancholy in tone (to say the least), my impression (not having met him, of course) is that the art was essential to him and a joy to him and I’m glad he never stopped doing it.
I’m not in any way qualified to comment on Cohen as a musician, but the man had a gift with words. He wrote lyrics, or poetry, or both, that stick with you and appealed to such a wide range of people. Other artists love them and want to make them their own. His audience has been massive, and it’s bigger than is frequently recognized. It’s kind of similar to Shakespeare – even if they don’t necessarily realize it, just about everyone knows a Leonard Cohen song, or part of one. It’s hard to do much better than that.
As a writer, I am deeply awed by his skill with words and his ability to reach into you with language and yank a reaction out of your heart and soul. If I ever write something that is one tenth as good as a Leonard Cohen lyric, I will have done about as well as I could ever hope to do.
As a fan, I’m glad we had him with us as long as we did and that his art will live on.
It’s a great loss that there won’t be any more of it, but he leaves us a great treasure of words.
Thank you, Mr. Cohen.