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Laurence Inman’s Blog

COHEN FOR A SONG

27-11-2008

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s still on the road at the age of 74, and Laurence Inman relishes an old trouper.

I thank God I lived long enough to reach 22nd November 2008. It was also very convenient that God allowed Leonard Cohen to survive till then, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to spend three and half hours in his company last Saturday night at the NEC.

The fact that there were 15,000 other people there as well didn’t spoil things at all, because a great artist makes you feel he is talking directly and only to you.

Leonard Cohen is, without doubt, a great artist. He’s not a musician; he learns his chops okay. His stand-up skills are perfunctory. He’s not a singer at all. But his delivery is ideal for the song-poems he has honed to perfection over the past forty-odd years. And he was supported by nine brilliant players; to name any one in particular would be unfair.

His wit, charm, humility and grace – I want them all by the time I’m 74. I can certainly have the suit and hat though. And I will.

My wife was with me on Saturday. She quite likes him, but she was only seven when his first album came out, so the mysterious spark that comes from the friction of art and its own time is invisible to her. I’m sure she only came to make sure I didn’t fall down a flight of stairs or walk into the road somewhere. (The eyes, you know.)

The sparks came thick and fast and slow for me. He skipped and bounded on to the stage, crouched as if in prayer towards the audience and began. These were the words and sounds I first really heard in the textureless dark of a room in a Manchester suburb in 1968. His was the only voice, apart from two people whispering.

He knows exactly what his songs are about. He knows the whole book about loss and aching. He knows and tells the truth about what we are and how we manage our pain.

We are mad and blind all our lives. We learn how to cover it up, but we are anyway. The proportions of one or the other change constantly. Sometimes we’re unable to move, we’re so blind. At other times, it’s the madness that freezes us. But we’re never madder or blinder than when we’re young, when all the doors to the future are wide open and a fulgent, golden light shines from every one.

All goodness and fortune is laid out for us, and we look away!

I not only slammed the doors shut; I bolted them to the architraves; I welded steel plates across them. Only the certainty that they would have been closed to me later anyway, probably trapping me by the neck, kept me from screaming for years afterwards.

But it’s fine. The doors, in their destined combinations, led me here. I must have been very good in a previous life. This morning, Tuesday, I was in Cannon Hill Park with Bill, my border collie. The sun on the lake was beautiful. I ran a bit, walked a bit, took in the biting air. The whole glorious accident never seemed so fresh or so surprising.

Christmas is nearly here: my three brilliant children will be at home together with us.

Leonard Cohen has enlivened and brightened my life, and especially this week, and all the weeks and years to come.

I heard him interviewed on the radio a few months ago. He said he’d traced back through his days to the one thing that caused all the misery in his life, examined it, taken away its poison….and now everything is miserable.

On Sunday, he’ll be in Manchester. The 30th of November, exactly forty years after I welcomed another presence into my life, a presence which has never faded into the shadows. I won’t be there, but I know someone who will.

I wish you all the happiness in the world.

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