“If… [Leonard Cohen] often failed to live at the center of righteousness, he…maintained a sense of where that center remained, and of how to find it again in prayer and repentance” Christian Raab in Commonweal

The following excerpts are from How the Light Gets In – Leonard Cohen’s Biblical Vision By Christian Raab (Commonweal: April 27, 2017). Photo by Rama. The complete article is available at the link.

In a secular age, artists are often the closest thing we have to prophets. Leil Leibovitz’s A Broken Halleluiah (W. W. Norton) argues that the work of Leonard Cohen is, in fact, best understood and appreciated in the Old Testament prophetic tradition. Leibovitz is not reaching. Cohen was raised in an observant Jewish home and was the grandson on both sides of rabbis of considerable renown. Even if Cohen, like many famous people, often failed to be a paragon of private virtue (his womanizing and drug abuse, especially during his early career, are well established), spiritual concerns nevertheless framed his life and art. The language and imagery of his lyrics came from a biblically formed imagination. His personal faith, as he reaffirmed many times, was in the God of the Torah, and his flashes of prophetic genius were his insights into the application of biblical logic to the contemporary world. If, like many of his peers in rock stardom, he often failed to live at the center of righteousness, he, unlike most of them, maintained a sense of where that center remained, and of how to find it again in prayer and repentance.

While Cohen’s critique of contemporary sexual mores is somewhat self-evident in his lyrics, his esteem for traditional marriage is revealed mostly in his interviews. Although Cohen never married, and never personally achieved more than episodic monogamy, he pointed to marriage as the surest, if one of the most difficult, paths to true freedom, as opposed to the illusory freedom described in “Closing Time.” Cohen had already said in 1974, “I think marrying is for very, very high-minded people…. It is a discipline of extreme severity. To really turn your back on all the other possibilities and all the other experiences of love, of passion, of ecstasy, and to determine to find it within one embrace is a high and righteous notion. Marriage today is the monastery; the monastery today is freedom.” Understanding that in an age of sexual chaos, marriage could provide a route to the peace, self-knowledge, and self-transcendence for which the culture truly longed, Cohen called marriage, in 1988, “the foundation stone of the whole enterprise.” In 1993, while admitting his own failure to attain what he believed in, he reiterated: “Monogamous marriage and commitment, all those ferocious ideas, are the highest expression of a male possibility.”

Video: Hear 7 Songs From 1979 Leonard Cohen Birmingham Show

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing, through the graves the wind is blowing, freedom soon will come; then we'll come from the shadows.

Jo Meul alerts us to another Leonard Cohen audience recording that has been uploaded as an audio-only video on YouTube. In this case, however, the upload appears to be only seven of the eleven tracks from the long-available December 8, 1979 Birmingham Odeon show bootleg.

The setlist of the YouTube version follows:

00:05 Sisters Of Mercy
04:40 Diamonds In The Mine
09:36 2 Quatrains
11:56 Chelsea Hotel #2
16:07 A Singer Must Die
18:42 The Partisan
21:34 Billy Sunday

The bootleg tracklist, with the songs absent from the YouTube version in bold, follows:

Track 01. Sisters Of Mercy 4:36 (7.7MB)
Track 02. Diamonds In The Mine 5:04 (8.5MB)
Track 03. The Smokey Life 5:34 (9.4MB)
Track 04. The Gypsy’s Wife 5:04 (8.5MB)
Track 05. Two Quatrains 2:20 (3.9MB)
Track 06. Chelsea Hotel #2 4:11 (7.0MB)
Track 07. A Singer Must Die 2:33 (4.3MB)
Track 08. The Partisan 2:52 (4.8MB)
Track 09. Famous Blue Raincoat 4:50 (8.1MB)
Track 10. Our Lady Of Solitude 1:42 (2.9MB)
Track 11. Billy Sunday 17:41 (29.7MB)

Download information for all eleven tracks can be found at Best Bootlegs: Leonard Cohen – Birmingham 1979.

Leonard Cohen Corrections Agency: Suzanne Vs Volvo – The Appeal

Leonard Cohen Corrections Agency: The Original Case Of Suzanne Vs Volvo

The Leonard Cohen Corrections Agency offers rectification of inaccuracies promulgated by Leonard Cohen (see full explanation at the end of this post). Ongoing readers may recall the Case Of Suzanne Vs Volvo, which focused on Mr Cohen’s claim, made on several occasions, that

My songs usually last about as long as a Volvo — about 30 years1

That equation sounds valid and had never been challenged until, like New York Governor Alfred E. Smith in his 1928 presidential campaign, The Leonard Cohen Corrections Agency declared, “Let’s look at the record.”2

Volvo Lifespan

Continue Reading →

  1. Cohen Grows Into The Future Gracefully, And With A Grin by Peter Howell. Toronto Star, November 19, 1992. Found at the ultimately utilitarian  Speaking Cohen site. []
  2. Mr. Smith’s slogan was one of the few survivors of that unsuccessful campaign. []

Recommended Reading: 10 Best Leonard Cohen Lyrics By Lemuria’s Alex Kerns

While the lists of Leonard Cohen songs/lyrics/albums favored by one or another celebrity is typically interesting only in a how about that sort of way, The 10 best Leonard Cohen lyrics by Lemuria’s Alex Kerns by TeamRock (TeamRock: April 26, 2017) is insightful and enlightening. Many of the intriguing choices are atypical for this sort of piece (two come from poems). I’ve excerpted part of the introduction and twp of the 10 best Leonard Cohen lyrics listed as a sampling, but do yourself a favor and read the entire article at The 10 best Leonard Cohen lyrics by Lemuria’s Alex Kerns

Lemuria’s drummer and vocalist Alex Kerns discusses his greatest songwriting inspiration

It’s been 10 years since New York-based indie-punk trio Lemuria wrote their debut album. Entitled Get Better, and written in the wake of vocalist, drummer and songwriter Alex Kerns losing his father, the album was a powerful exploration of grief and sorrow – the essence of which borrowed from the blueprint laid out by Leonard Cohen, and his songs of love, loss and humanity… To mark the album’s 10th year, Kerns pays tribute to his chief inspiration, Leonard Cohen, and remembers the impact he had on his own songwriting.

‘I will not be held like a drunkard under the cold tap of facts’

“I’m cheating here, this is actually pulled from one of his poems titled What I’m Doing Here. It reminds me of those instances when you realise the truth at the 11th hour. When you’re blinded by the sparkle of a sharp sword you no longer have control of. A reminder to proceed with caution, especially when your guard has been retired.”

“I have to deal with envy when you choose the precious few, who’ve left their pride on the other side of coming back to you”

“Cohen isn’t afraid to sing about the feelings a lot of us are ashamed to admit. When read without the musical accompaniment and his emotive voice, the words on paper can be selfish and mean. Placed into context [the track Coming Back To You], they’re incandescent with humanity.”

Credit Due Department: Photo of Lemuria by Evan Kolosna – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia Commons

Anjani Thomas Talks About Leonard Cohen Cooking For Her

Does Leonard cook for you?

He made me breakfast every morning until he tried to bring me this funny green protein drink, which he drinks. Now he only makes me the eggs in the morning. I like that very much about him.quotedown2

Anjani Thomas

From Mit Gedächtnisschwund kommt man schon sehr weit by Von Johannes Wächter. Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin: Issue 17: 2007, an interview with Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas about their connection. Quote via Google Translate. Photo by Dominique BOILE. Originally posted April 24, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“It doesn’t really matter what the singer is speaking of, it doesn’t really matter what the song is. There’s something I listen for in a singer’s voice and that’s some kind of truth …” Leonard Cohen

It doesn’t really matter what the singer is speaking of, it doesn’t really matter what the song is. There’s something I listen for in a singer’s voice and that’s some kind of truth. It may even be truth of deception, it may even be the truth of the scam, the truth of the hustle in the singers own presentation, but something is coming across that is true, and if that isn’t there the song dies. And the singer deserves to die too, and will, in time, die. So the thing that I listen for is that note of something big manifested that is beyond the singer’s control.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns – Interview With Leonard Cohen Presented By John McKenna. RTE Ireland, May 9 & 12, 1988. Originally posted Dec 3, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric