#WritersWednesday: July 18

Leonard Cohen, a Great Lyricist

 “No wonder,” wrote Simon Shama in his prologue to a monograph on Leonard Cohen in the Guardian’s series “Great Lyricists”, “no wonder, then, that he had to struggle for attention in the golden age of the screamers, Janis’s ecstatic rasp, Hendrix’s maddened guitar, Lennon’s glottal roar, even Dylan’s adenoidal faux-country all made sounds through which their lyrical  inventions had to fight for air, and if not quite up to snuff, those words could hide behind the wall of noise. But Cohen’s minimalist drone was the drowsy couch on which his poetry lay, fully exposed, with nowhere else to go.”

Cohen has today 21 albums to his name, worldwide tours, and twelve – yes – twelve books. Leonard Cohen is a great lyricist, a poet, a Writer with a capital W. Born in 1934, the Wikipedia entry notes that: “His work often explores religion, isolation, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. Cohen has been inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour.”

In 2012 Cohen received, with Chuck Berry, the Inaugural PEN Award for Song Lyrics Excellence.

To my mind, Cohen is one the great poets of our time. Listen to his voice:

“Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc

As she came riding through the dark

Non moon to keep her armour bright

No man to get her through this smoky night…”

(Joan of Ark)

“You were the promise at dawn,

I was the morning after

You were Jesus Christ my Lord,

I was the money lender…”

(Is This What You Wanted?)

Cohen took his inspiration from his life and great authors and poets: Lorca (Take This Waltz), Longfellow (Sail On, O Ship of State), the Book of Revelation…

Leonard Cohen, a poet for our time:

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you

To a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew Hallelujah” (Hallelujah).

5 thoughts on “#WritersWednesday: July 18

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