And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Sincerely, L Cohen
Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat
Piazza Santa Croce, Florence: Sept 1, 2010
Video by albertnoonan
Avidan chokes up a bit as he recalls a Leonard Cohen quote that for him defines the music he loves: ‘We must never lament casually, and we must always do it with a sense of honour and beauty.’ I get goose bumps just saying that. And that is exactly music to me. And it can define any music that I like. It can define The Wall and it can define Muddy Waters: ‘Never lament casually.’
From Leonard Cohen, the muse: NPR’s Bob Boilen interviews Asaf Avidan about Cohen’s influence by Bob Boilen (National Post: April 12, 2016). The entire article is accessible at the link. Highly recommended.
Were the haunting, breathtaking, painful lyrics of “Famous Blue Raincoat” written by almost any other songwriter besides Leonard Cohen, there would be no question about the song’s meaning. It appears to a straightforward confessional letter about a love triangle between “L. Cohen” his woman “Jane” and their mutual friend, a man with a blue raincoat who has gone to the desert and at one time had a brief affair with Jane. As such, the song is deeply, almost embarrassingly, personal, an epistolary song about a wounded man who cannot help forgiving the friend. The overpowering emotion of the song inhibits another look at the lyrics, but Cohen’s autobiography immediately suggests problems with this common interpretation. Specifically, it is Cohen’s life that is being described both as the narrator and the other man.
That “it is Cohen’s life that is being described both as the narrator and the other man” in Famous Blue Raincoat is the thesis of “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Lawrence J. Epstein (The Best American Poetry: May 24, 2012)
Those interested in this issue may also wish to review the following essays: