Leonard Cohen’s life resembled his voice: deep, melancholic and imposingly present, while at the same time withdrawn and thoughtful – an entire universe of its own.
Nevertheless, neither his voice nor his life seem enough to interpret the tender and lyrical mourning that spread around the globe yesterday following the news of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s death at the age of 82 on November 7.
The lyrics and the style of his most recent, and final, album, “You Want It Darker,” was like a pre-announcement of the end: “I’m ready, my Lord,” goes the song of the same name, while in another track, the words describe a similar feeling: “I’m leaving the table / I’m out of the game.”
When it comes to great creative people, farewells are very tough as their absence is sometimes felt even more strongly than their presence.
Perhaps this is because that’s when we realize that everything we consider to be a given is not quite so.
Amid the freezing cold sentiment that spread around the world following Donald Trump’s election in the United States, at a time of expanding national populism, which leads to division and an environment of civil strife, exhausting cries and fear, Cohen’s voice calls on us to take a step back.
He calls on us to do some thinking, to recollect – but not in a nostalgic way.
In an interview published in Kathimerini last month, his son, Adam Cohen, noted the following: “One of the main reasons why my father is different from his contemporaries – the golden era where he comes from – is that he speaks from his current position, at the end of his life and career. He never reworks old recipes.”
Leonard Cohen never came across as someone who was nostalgic, nor did he ever revisit the past.
Traveling light through time, he bids farewell to the good and the bad, the victories and the defeats, the desires, the passion and the anger.
It’s not about resignation or saying goodbye.
It’s the kind of peace you reach first of all with yourself and then with the rest of the world, as you walk a perpetually unknown, new and unspecified road.
Can we bear it? Cohen does not dishearten or encourage us.
Instead, he acts as a calming and conciliatory figure, stretching out his hand on the path of reflection as he slowly mutters: “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”