Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leonard Cohen

Are you old enough that you can think back on the sixties – the incredible generation of chaos in America and many other nations as well?
by Charlie Leck

I took the following from my personal journal, something I try to write in every day. I've never done this on my blog before; that is, double post something in my personal journal and on my blog. React for me, if you will! I won't do if often, but I may do it occasionally if people aren't offended by some of the candid nature and language of this post.

This is just a part of what I wrote about this morning. The subject is Leonard Cohen, rock singer and writer back in the tumultuous 60s. I’ve just begun reading a biography of his life by Sylvie Simmons (I’m Your Man).


I’ll take a break from the LBJ biography. Two volumes down. Three to go. Just a little rest. I’ll read now a biography of Leonard Cohen. He was a rock star, hippy, degenerate wise man of my youth – almost exactly six years older than I. I liked his songs then (and I like them now too). Vietnam set both of us off and we learned how to be very angry. The world wasn’t what it was cracked up to be, what with unjust wars and racial inequality (somewhat like the irrational hatred of the non-Aryan, which hatred we had fought so hard across the sea). He was a Jew (Leonard Cohen). He hated hatred. We got confused about such things sometimes. Was it okay to hate Dick Nixon? Cohen wrote lyrics with enormous ease and tunes and melodies with facileness (predictability). His novels were awfully crazy, but I read them anyway.

“I asked my father: ‘Change my name.’
The one I’m using now it’s covered up
With fear and filth and cowardice and shame.”
                               [Leonard Cohen]

I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of that. When I’m honest with myself, I still hate America for how easy she is – such an easy woman, talked into depraved and wonderful behavior so easily (more easily than I was into a night in bed with a buxom woman). Christ! We make war so easily! I wonder now who we will sleep with next. Afghanistan will be pushed aside and Iraq has already been. We took from them what we could get and left their beds when we saw it was an error to climb in with them.

That’s the kind of stuff Cohen was all about – an angry man looking to be free in all the ways he wanted to be free (sex and drugs and music). He loved to write. He was a good writer. He wrote a novel, Beautiful Losers, in the sixties, while he was in a constantly altered state – lots of hash. He admits to being very angry when he wrote it. Sometimes he was a pompous ass-hole, but he’s grown old well. I’d take a couple of his songs to be sung at a gathering at my death if someone must insist there be one: Going Home is a song I like a great deal.

Goin’ home without my sorrow
Goin’ home sometime tomorrow
Goin’ home to where it’s better than before
Goin’ home without my burden
Goin’ home behind the curtain
Goin’ home without this costume that I wore.

Show Me the Place is another of his songs I can hear sung (played) at my evening sun – when there will be no more mornings. I certainly don’t want any of the traditional hymns – maybe a verse or two of We Shall Overcome! Here’s the basic lines from Show Me the Place!

Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place, for my head is bendin’ low
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began
The troubles came, I saved what I could save
A thread of light, a particle, a wave
But there were chains, so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

I have chores to do on this Saturday – little things like packing away the last of the Christmas decorations, paying the bills, cleaning out my closet (it’s over-stuffed).

The sky is now reacting to the sun’s rise
and the colors are magnificent – deep-blue grays with splashes of orange, as if dabbed here and there by Monet’s brushes, and then the light brightening as I watch and changing all the hues as it does. It is morning (“Morning has broken, like the first morning!”) My, but it is so beautiful that I am crying at the sight of it (but I cry easily).

Cohen’s song, Crazy to Love You, is playing now… and I’ll stop with this.

Had to go crazy to love you!
Had to go down to the pit
Had to do time in the tower
Beggin’ my crazy to quit
Had to go crazy to love you!
You who were never the one
Whom I chased through the souvenir heartache
Her braids and her blouse all undone

Sometimes I’d head for the highway…
I’m old and the mirrors don’t lie,
But crazy has places to hide in
That are deeper than any goodbye

Had to go crazy to love you!
Had to let everything fall
Had to be people I hated
Had to be no one at all

I’m tired of choosing desire
I’ve been saved by a blessed fatigue
The gates of commitment unwired,
And nobody tryin’ to leave.

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  1. Cohen is amazing. I saw Leonard perform this last night the audience of almost 7000 reduced to total silence and appreciation of a beauty and creativity rarely experienced..