Antonia and I had been talking about Leonard Cohen tonight, eating a hotdog down the street, watching television screens displaying both Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 as well as the original Highlander film. With the sound off – Cleo had subtitles – it was interesting to see the parallel themes of the existential problem created by mortality playing out in vibrant, violent sword fights as well as quiet conversations in a black-and-white French park.
All those points came together when I got home and found out via social media that Leonard Cohen had died. Cohen is in my pantheon of great songwriters – Dylan, Williams, Waits, Berry, Robinson, Springsteen, MacGowan. I just tweeted this while writing this post:
#LeonardCohen’s death worse for #Canada than @realDonaldTrump election for America? Detroit connects to Windsor as tonight so does our grief
Earlier this year Marianne Ihlen – Cohen’s former lover and the muse behind the songwriter’s eponymous hit, “Marianne” – passed away, but not before receiving this lovely last letter from the poet…
“It said well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine”
“And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that.”
“But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”
I posted this video in 2014 when we celebrated his 80th birthday. Here’s a bit of that post…
I’ll finish up three days of Leonard Cohen posts with this last gem that reminds us that it’s Cohen’s dazzling songs and intensity as a performer that have won him almost five decades of attention from music listeners with ears to hear his erotic prayers and sensual meditations on love, sex, ecstasy, women, death and God.
Bird on A Wire captures Cohen’s triumphant 1972 tour of Europe and Israel with his band, The Army. Capturing candid scenes of Cohen and his musicians off stage and travelling on the road, this flick is also a repository of amazing live performances captured by the acclaimed British director Tony Palmer.
For Cohenphiles, the gem here is the famous, final concert in Jerusalem when Cohen and the band all take acid before taking the stage. A well documented event in Cohen’s biographies, this performance comes to a sudden halt when Cohen quotes the Kabbalah and explains that the band can’t seem to transcend and “get off the ground.” He informs the throng that they will return to the dressing room to meditate and see if they are capable of continuing. After a shave and a cigarette, Cohen and band regroup once the entire audience sings to them, encouraging the ensenble to re-take the stage. The show ends with an intense rendition of “So Long, Marianne” that finds Cohen and the rest of the group breaking into tears before ending the show.
Here is Bird on A Wire…