A Singer Must Die

I’m listening to fragments of Cohen’s life as set down in the Book of the Week on radio 4, ‘A Broken Hallelujah.’


As I’ve read biographies of Cohen before it doesn’t tell me too much that I didn’t know already, but what it does is to once again immerse me in the life and thoughts of the man.  And what’s interesting about Leonard is that his is a life lived openly, almost publicly.  I don’t mean that like a celebrity his every action is scrutinised by paparazzi – he’s never had that sort of attention and in the early days he was almost obscure: in fact I think there’s some comment about him being the most famous person nobody’s ever heard of.  That sounds typically Jewish as well as being typically Cohen.

No, what I mean is that he was always open about his experience.  His songs tell the story of his life and his innermost feelings and, as Suzanne Vega says, he tells us, ‘look what you’ve done!  I’m in bits!’ in contrast to the American way of putting a smile on your face and ‘comin’ out swinging’.  The most moving example of this was when his lover, who was also his manager, absconded with his pension fund.  This was such a complete betrayal and must have been so devastating that no-one would have blamed him for excoriating her in the most virulent terms.  But he did not.  Whatever he must have been feeling privately, publicly all he said was this:

‘We understand that these things happen.’

That is why Cohen is my guru.  Not that I think he’s some kind of saint, or that he knows everything; I’m only too well aware that he has feet of clay.  But he shows the way; he shines some kind of light on things, for me; and he’s an example I want to emulate.  I was so moved by that incident that I wrote a song about it.  It’s called The Ballad of Kelly Lynch (that was the woman’s name) and it goes like this:

The Ballad of Kelly Lynch

Your beauty bears the tarnish

reputation’s peeling varnish

the blackness of your action

forms the fans into a faction

Kelly Lynch, Kelly Lynch.

You have stolen your lover’s pension

I think that deserves a mention

you were trusted and you took it

I’m not going to overlook it

Kelly Lynch, Kelly Lynch

How you told him that you loved him

and your protestations moved him

he believed your words and gestures

now the wound inside him festers

Kelly Lynch, Kelly Lynch.

You’re an icon of our aeon

that’s a line we all agree on

but you couldn’t make it last

you’re already in the past

Kelly Lynch, Kelly Lynch.

Leonard shrugged, said these things happen.

We’re familiar with the pattern

I understand you couldn’t stay

and I’ll try to let you pay

but this just hasn’t been our day

this just hasn’t been our day

this just hasn’t been our day

Kelly Lynch, Kelly Lynch, Kelly Lynch.

c. Liz Gray, 2013

Kirk out


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