There’s going to be a lot of Cohen on this blog in the coming days, so hang onto your hats just as he is in this photo:
The thing I want to write about today is his gift for presenting paradox. As first of all a Jew and later a Zen Buddhist, Cohen was very drawn to what he saw as the paradoxes inherent in human life; and today’s song illustrates this beautifully – as well as being utterly timely. In fact it’s tempting to wonder whether the election of the man whom I shall refer to only as Mr T, is what convinced him to go. My tribute to this side of his work is very short: as I have said, Leonard was a guru of sorts for me; someone who seemed to show the way – or a way – to be an artist in this world, to handle fame graciously whilst never compromising in following his own voice. That above all is what I respected in him. Anyway, Leonard was the perfect guru for me because he would never had wanted to be anyone’s guru. So that makes him perfect for someone like me, because like the Groucho Marx of discipleship, I would never choose for a guru, someone who actually wanted to be one. So here’s my little wild bouquet for today:
you taught me to embrace paradox
with both hands tied
behind my back.
He also taught self-deprecation. This was a hallmark of his public style right from the sixties – when it was fashionable – through the nineties and after, when it most certainly wasn’t. When every other performer was relentlessly engaged in self-promotion he undercut himself with jokes. He was famous for being gloomy, but this was most unfair. A lot of his songs are full of jokes, and when interviewed he had the journalists in stitches with his wry, self-deprecating humour.
So here’s today’s song. I hope you find it as funny and as timely as I do:
And it may well be from the very concert we were at!