In memoriam Leonard Cohen

In memoriam Leonard Cohen

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82 éves korában elhunyt Leonard Cohen. Egyik legújabb dalával és ezzel a róla szóló leckével emlékezünk rá.

Leonard Cohen, the hugely influential singer and songwriter whose work spanned nearly 50 years, died at the age of 82. Cohen's label, Sony Music Canada, confirmed his death on the singer's Facebook page.

"It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away," the statement read. "We have lost one of music's most revered and prolific visionaries. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief." A cause of death and exact date of death was not given.

"Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed," his manager Robert Kory wrote in a statement. "I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit firsthand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come."

Cohen's haunting bass voice, nylon-stringed guitar patterns shaped evocative songs that dealt with love and hate, sex and spirituality, war and peace, ecstasy and depression. He was also the rare artist of his generation to enjoy artistic success into his Eighties, releasing his final album, You Want It Darker, earlier this year.

"I never had the sense that there was an end," he said in 1992. "That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot."

Leonard Norman Cohen was born on September 21st, 1934, in Westmount, Quebec. He learned guitar as a teenager and formed a folk group called the Buckskin Boys. Early exposure to Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca turned him toward poetry – while a flamenco guitar teacher convinced him to trade steel strings for nylon.

When he was twenty-five, he was living in London, sitting in cold rooms writing sad poems. He got by on a three-thousand-dollar grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. This was 1960, long before he played the festival at the Isle of Wight in front of six hundred thousand people. Cohen, whose family was both prominent and cultivated, had an ironical view of himself. He was a bohemian with a cushion whose first purchases in London were an Olivetti typewriter and a blue raincoat at Burberry. Even before he had much of an audience, he had a distinct idea of the audience he wanted. In a letter to his publisher, he said that he was out to reach “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists.”

Cohen was growing weary of London’s rising damp and its gray skies. An English dentist had just yanked one of his wisdom teeth. After weeks of cold and rain, he wandered into a bank and asked the teller about his deep suntan. The teller said that he had just returned from a trip to Greece. Cohen bought an airline ticket.

Not long afterward, he alighted in Athens, visited the Acropolis, made his way to the port of Piraeus, boarded a ferry, and disembarked at the island of Hydra. With the chill barely out of his bones, Cohen took in the horseshoe-shaped harbor and the people drinking cold glasses of retsina and eating grilled fish in the cafés by the water; he looked up at the pines and the cypress trees and the whitewashed houses that crept up the hillsides. There was something mythical and primitive about Hydra. Cars were forbidden. Mules humped water up the long stairways to the houses. There was only intermittent electricity. Cohen rented a place for fourteen dollars a month. Eventually, he bought a whitewashed house of his own, for fifteen hundred dollars, thanks to an inheritance from his grandmother.

Hydra promised the life Cohen had craved: spare rooms, the empty page, eros after dark. He collected a few paraffin lamps and some used furniture: a Russian wrought-iron bed, a writing table, chairs like “the chairs that van Gogh painted.” During the day, he worked on a sexy, phantasmagoric novel called “The Favorite Game” and the poems in a collection titled “Flowers for Hitler.” He alternated between extreme discipline and the varieties of abandon. There were days of fasting to concentrate the mind. There were drugs to expand it: pot, speed, acid. “I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God,” he said years later. “Generally, I ended up with a bad hangover.”

Here and there, Cohen caught glimpses of a beautiful Norwegian woman. Her name was Marianne Ihlen, and she had grown up in the countryside near Oslo. Her grandmother used to tell her, “You are going to meet a man who speaks with a tongue of gold.” She thought she already had: Axel Jensen, a novelist from home, who wrote in the tradition of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. She had married Jensen, and they had a son, little Axel. Jensen was not a constant husband, however, and, by the time their child was four months old, Jensen was, as Marianne put it, “over the hills again” with another woman.

One spring day, Ihlen was with her infant son in a grocery store and café. “I was standing in the shop with my basket waiting to pick up bottled water and milk,” she recalled decades later, on a Norwegian radio program. “He is standing in the doorway with the sun behind him.” Cohen asked her to join him and his friends outside. He was wearing khaki pants, sneakers, a shirt with rolled sleeves, and a cap. The way Marianne remembered it, he seemed to radiate “enormous compassion for me and my child.” She was taken with him. “I felt it throughout my body,” she said. “A lightness had come over me.”

Leonard began spending more and more time with Marianne. They went to the beach, made love, kept house. Once, when they were apart—Marianne and Axel in Norway, Cohen in Montreal scraping up some money—he sent her a telegram: “Have house all I need is my woman and her son. Love, Leonard.”

There were times of separation, times of argument and jealousy. In the mid-sixties, as Cohen started to record his songs and win worldly success, Marianne became known to his fans as that antique figure—the muse. A memorable photograph of her, dressed only in a towel, and sitting at the desk in the house on Hydra, appeared on the back of Cohen’s second album, “Songs from a Room.” But, after they’d been together for eight years, the relationship came apart, little by little—“like falling ashes,” as Cohen put it.

Cohen was spending more time away from Hydra pursuing his career. Marianne and Axel stayed on awhile on Hydra, then left for Norway. Eventually, Marianne married again.  What Cohen’s fans knew of Marianne was her beauty and what it had inspired: “Bird on the Wire,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” and, most of all, “So Long, Marianne.” She and Cohen stayed in touch. When he toured in Scandinavia, she visited him backstage. They exchanged letters and e-mails. When they spoke to journalists and to friends of their love affair, it was always in the fondest terms.

In late July this year, Cohen received an e-mail from Jan Christian Mollestad, a close friend of Marianne’s, saying that she was suffering from cancer. In their last communication, Marianne had told Cohen that she had sold her beach house to help insure that Axel would be taken care of, but she never mentioned that she was sick. Now, it appeared, she had only a few days left. Cohen wrote back immediately:

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

Two days later, Cohen got an e-mail from Norway:

“Dear Leonard,

Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease, surrounded by close friends.

Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her. It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength. . . . In her last hour I held her hand and hummed “Bird on the Wire,” while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left the room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words.

So long, Marianne . . .”

During the Seventies, Cohen set out on the first of the many long, intense tours he would reprise toward the end of his career. "One of the reasons I'm on tour is to meet people," he said in 1971. "I consider it a reconnaissance. You know, I consider myself like in a military operation. I don't feel like a citizen." His time on tour inspired his 1974 masterpiece, New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

Cohen's relationship with Suzanne Elrod during most of the Seventies resulted in two children, the photographer Lorca Cohen and Adam Cohen, who leads the group Low Millions.

In 1995, Cohen halted his career, entered the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside of Los Angeles, became an ordained Buddhist monk and took on the Dharma name Jikan ("silence"). His duties included cooking for Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the priest and longtime Cohen mentor who died in 2014 at the age of 104. Cohen lived in a tiny cabin that he outfitted with a coffeemaker, a menorah, a keyboard, and a laptop. Like the other adepts, he cleaned toilets. He had the honor of cooking for Roshi and eventually lived in a cabin that was linked to his teacher’s by a covered walkway. For many hours a day, he sat in half lotus, meditating. If he, or anyone else, nodded off during meditation or lost the proper position, one of the monks would come by and rap him smartly on the shoulder with a wooden stick.

Cohen broke his musical silence in 2001 with Ten New Songs. While never abandoning Judaism, the Sabbath-observing songwriter attributed Buddhism to curbing the depressive episodes that had always plagued him.

The final act of Cohen's career began in 2005 when he undertook an epic world tour during which he would perform 387 shows from 2008 to 2013. Cohen was in his mid-seventies by this time, and his manager did everything possible for the performer to marshal his energies. It was a first-class operation: a private plane, where Cohen could write and sleep; good hotels, where he could read and compose on a keyboard; a car to take him to the hotel the minute he stepped off the stage.

He continued to record as well, releasing Old Ideas (2012) and Popular Problems, which hit U.S. shops a day after his eightieth birthday. "You depend on a certain resilience that is not yours to command, but which is present," he said upon its release. "And if you can sense this resilience or sense this capacity to continue, it means a lot more at this age than it did when I was 30, when I took it for granted."

When the Grand Tour ended in December 2013, Cohen largely vanished from the public eye. In October 2016, he released You Want It Darker, produced by his son Adam. Severe back issues made it difficult for Cohen to leave his home, so Adam placed a microphone on his dining room table and recorded him on a laptop. Cohen’s songs are death-haunted, but then they have been since his earliest verses. The album was met with rave reviews, though a New Yorker article timed to its release revealed that he was in very poor health. "I am ready to die," he said. "I hope it's not too uncomfortable. That's about it for me."  The new record opens with the title track, “You Want It Darker,” and in the chorus, the singer declares: “Hineni Hineni, I’m ready my Lord.”

Hineni is Hebrew for “Here I am,” Abraham’s answer to the summons of God to sacrifice his son Isaac; the song is clearly an announcement of readiness, a man at the end preparing for his service and devotion.

The singer-songwriter later clarified that he was "exaggerating." "I’ve always been into self-dramatization," Cohen said last month. "I intend to live forever.”

"My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records," Cohen's son Adam wrote in a statement. "He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor."

source: rollingstone.com, newyorker. com

Listen to this song from Leonard Cohen’s latest album.

"If I Didn't Have Your Love"

If the sun would lose its light

And we lived an endless night

And there was nothing left that you could feel

That's how it would be

What my life would seem to me

If I didn't have your love to make it real

 

If the stars were all unpinned

And a cold and bitter wind

Swallowed up the world without a trace

Ah, well that's where I would be

What my life would seem to me

If I couldn't lift the veil and see your face

 

And if no leaves were on the tree

And no water in the sea

And the break of day had nothing to reveal

That's how broken I would be

What my life would seem to me

If I didn't have your love to make it real

 

If the sun would lose its light

And we lived in an endless night

And there was nothing left that you could feel

If the sea were sand alone

And the flowers made of stone

And no one that you hurt could ever heal

Well that's how broken I would be

What my life would seem to me

If I didn't have your love to make it real

Vocabulary

to span

átívelni

label

lemezkiadó

profound

mélységes, mély

to pass away

meghalni

revered

nagyra becsült, tisztelt

prolific

termékeny

grief

gyász

crippling

bénító

candor

őszinteség

evocative

valamit felidéző

exposure

találkozás, ráhatás

prominent

kiváló, kitűnő

typewriter

írógép

adolescent

kamasz

anguish

gyötrődés, aggodalom

monk

szerzetes

to grow weary of

belefáradni

to yank

kirántani

wisdom tooth

bölcsességfog

teller

pénztáros

to alight

leszállni valamiről

ferry

komp

to disembark

kiszállni

pine

fenyőfa

whitewashed

fehérre meszelt

mule

öszvér

to hump

nehezen hurcolni, cűgölni

intermittent

ki-kihagyó, akadozó

inheritance

örökség

to crave

vágyakozni valamire

wrought-iron

kovácsolt vas

discipline

fegyelem

fasting

böjtölés

hangover

másnaposság

to recall

felidézni

compassion

szánalom, együttérzés

separation

különélés

argument

veszekedés

jealousy

féltékenység

muse

múzsa

backstage

a színpad mögött

to stretch out

kinyújtani

wisdom

bölcsesség

in full consciousness

teljes öntudatánál

blessing

áldás

to hum

dúdolni

to whisper

suttogni

everlasting

örökkévaló

reprise

megismétlés

reconnaissance

felderítés, kikémlelés

to halt

megállítani, felfüggeszteni

ordained

felszentelt

adept

beavatott

to nod off

elbóbiskolni

to rap

megkopogtatni

to abandon

elhagyni

to marshal

karban tartani

resilience

rugalmasság

to command

vezényelni

to take sg for granted

természetesnek venni valamit

to vanish

eltűnni

back issue

hátprobléma

death-haunted

haláltól kísértett

rave

lelkes

sacrifice

áldozat

devotion

odaszánás, imádás

to exaggerate

túlozni

to unpin

leszedni, leszerelni

to swallow up

elnyelni

without a trace

nyom nélkül

veil

fátyol

break of day

hajnal

to reveal

felfedni

endless night

végtelen éjszaka

to heal

meggyógyulni

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