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Leonard Cohen - 1934-2016

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 22 / 12 / 2016

Leonard Cohen - 1934-2016


Anthony Strutt bids farewell to one of his all-time heroes Leonard Cohen who died in November

To be very honest, there will be better tributes written to this great man than mine but he is someone that touched my very soul. When I was growing up the stupid joke was buy a Leonard Cohen album and you get a few razorblades to end it all, but it was small-minded people indeed that made that comment. I first heard his music when it was played as part of a medley during Echo & The Bunnymen's tour to promote their 1984 album, 'Ocean Rain'. That first song that I ever heard was 'Suzanna' from Cohen's debut album 'Songs of Leonard Cohen' which came out in the golden year of 1967 when I was five years old. Cohen was already old when he picked up a guitar, and, a Canadian of the Jewish faith who questioned much, he was by the time of that debut album already a published poet and novelist. For those that only know his spoken words in song form then there is much to learn from his written word too. Writing in his honour at his passing is very raw to me. It's too soon. While the early death of Bowie destroyed me, Cohen meant much more to me than Bowie ever did. He was a plain looking man who always presented himself well and made what he did look simply easy, but it took him years to learn his craft. To me his latest album, 'You Want It Darker', is his finest album. It is his 'Blackstar', but while he knew he didn't have much time here it's not an album that is hard to listen too, which 'Blackstar' is. Cohen believed in quality control. He didn't make many albums in his career, but all of them are excellent and there are a number of compilations and live albums to fill in the gaps. I think the bond between artist and audience is in the live arena or club. I first saw Cohen at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993, when he was promoting his then 1992 album, 'The Future'. I didn't own any Leonard Cohen albums at that stage, but within a year I had bought every album he had released up to that time. Sadly after that tour he retired from live work and recording for twelve years and became a Buddhist monk, although it didn't stop him from drinking whiskey! His work explored the human mind and the darker side of relationships and while most people couldn't name many of his songs they could name one, 'Hallelujah', which became X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke's first single in 2008, although there are finer covers of it by John Cale and Jeff Buckley. I had to wait till 2008 to see him live again, and, while age was against him, it did not stop him releasing a handful of studio albums and live albums, and going on stage for up to three hours a night and showing the youngsters how it is done. Much will be written and much has been written about his death, but do yourself a favour. Read a few pages of his writings or wrap yourself around one of his albums. You will be rewarded times over. Dear Leonard Cohen, thank you so very much. The world is a worse place without you.

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