Leonard Cohen – Musician and Poet


Leonard Cohen 1934-2016

I have known Leonard Cohen’s music and poetry for over forty years, from my teens right into my fifties. I never did get to see him perform live at any of the venues he played on his visits to Ireland but last year made a promise to myself, should he play here again I would be there. That’s not going to happen now but his music and lyrics will always be with me.

On September 11 and 12, 2013, at the O2 music venue in Dublin, Leonard Cohen ran onto the stage with more energy than your average 79 year old, performing some of his best numbers, from Dance Me to the End of Love to Closing Time, for almost four hours each night. Accompanied by the Webb sisters, who also played guitar and harp, the gravelly voice of Leonard Cohen was as good as ever.

The man whose lyrics are soul searching was first recorded reading eight of his poems in 1957 by Folkways Records, when they produced the album, Six Montreal Poets. He used to say that he turned to music because he knew he couldn’t make a living as a poet. More than 50 movies list Cohen’s music on their soundtracks, with the song Bird on the Wire, being played in the film of the same name, starring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. Thousands of cover versions have been made of his songs.

In his book, Flowers for Hitler, published in 1964, Leonard Cohen’s poetry changed from his early romantic style to the typical, bitter-sweet writing we see in many of his lyrics today. He was deeply affected by the Holocaust and this was a big influence on the direction he took with his poetry. His novel, Beautiful Losers, published in 1966, is full of Leonard Cohen’s obsessions along with his uncanny sense of the absurd. History, politics, religion and sex, feature in this work of radical fiction. It’s a book full of loss and the dynamics of relationships.

Leonard was a man of great integrity. For instance, during his UK and North American tours in the early years of the 70’s, Cohen and his band performed in various mental hospitals. These were private concerts for the patients and were never used for self-promotion.

Marianne Ihlen, the inspiration behind ‘So Long Marianne‘ and ‘Bird on the Wire‘ received a very prophetic letter from Leonard Cohen on her deathbed a little over three months ago. In it he said; ‘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. . . . . . . But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey.’

A favourite song on his tours, Dance Me to the End of Love, originally released in 1984, was partly influenced by the Nazi death camps, where musicians were forced to play in string quartets while their fellow prisoners were being annihilated. The reason I chose this song to include in this post is because it is not just about death, but love and life and companionship. I’ve been with my husband for as long as I’ve known Leonard Cohen’s music and now that we are heading into our retirement years, the words and lyrics mean so much more to me than they did thirty years ago. I think this is the original Sony video released with the song in 1984. It brought tears to my eyes today.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cohen, you will live on in our hearts.


About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in Music, Poets and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Leonard Cohen – Musician and Poet

  1. paddycummins says:

    Beautiful tribute, Jean. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Inger says:

    Just had to say – I was actually listening to Leonard Cohen when I came across your post. Probably many of us listening to him tonight:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. socialbridge says:

    Reblogged this on SOCIAL BRIDGE ~ Jean Tubridy connecting with you from Ireland and commented:
    This loving tribute to Leonard Cohen from another Jean in Ireland echoes my thoughts about this precious man who has played such a part in our lives. Yes, Rest in Peace and thanks for bringing such poetry and music of love, romance and humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. socialbridge says:

    Beautiful, Jean, on this sad day. But what a legacy he has left us!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. willowdot21 says:

    Too much grief, too much of Leonard Cohen always brought me down.Beautiful but too painful!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. catsholiday says:

    2016 is proving to be a very ad year for people of my teens dying 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. joanfrankham says:

    What a beautiful post Jean, I too am listening to him this evening. The words of his songs all have meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ❤ Beautiful. Weirdly, my favourite of his is "Who by Fire?" "Please don't pass me by" rings deep too. But "Suzanne" was the one I always loved to sing the most. I only caught him at a festival, among much harder rocking sounds, like Nina Hagen, Extreme and Faith No More. It was a peculiar experience, it was in the middle of the day, in the summer, hot! And Rebecca de Morney was seen observing from the edge of the stage. He was not up there long, a short set. Still, I saw him. 🙂 He left us with the story of his goodbye to Marianne, and the last record. So long, Leonard!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. inesephoto says:

    Beautiful tribute, Jean. I am listening to his songs tonight, and cannot hold my tears.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. sjhigbee says:

    A wonderful tribute, Jean – and the song is just beautiful. I love the pics of the elderly couples on their wedding day, with them in the foreground after having lived a lifetime together – so touching…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on artinmanyforms and commented:
    Many thanks Jean,he was a great man.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. msgt3227 says:

    When Grace and I met, one of the things we discovered is we both loved Leonard’s music, but surprisingly, neither of us had heard “Dance Me…” until I played the link in your posting! We both sat with tears in our eyes last night, both for Leonard and for our other recent loss of my father…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You weren’t the only one in tears last night. I had never heard of Leonard Cohen until I met my husband (who lived in the city) and his friends. We were all in our mid-teens when we met up and a gang of us used to go to the beach were I lived and play guitar and sing our hearts out, around a campfire at times. That was when I was introduced to Leonard Cohen’s music and as I had been writing poetry for about a year I immediately connected with his lyrics. It’s good that you have Grace by your side during this sad time of losing your father, Kevin. Thank goodness for pleasant memories – they are like a salve to the wounds of grief.


  13. I have no idea how this post found its way into my inbox but I’m glad that it did. I have always enjoyed music but usually as background to whatever was in the immediate focus. I am 74 and do not understand how I totally missed Leonard but when I found him on the tribute disc “I’m Your Man” I was blown away. I think I did not see it until 2007 when my wife happened to tape it and we happened to pause long enough to see what was going on. As you guys would know Leonard was not singing much but the narrative of the structure of his life was there along with much of his wonderful music. My wife and I were immediately hooked, there is no other word, not only on LC but also on most if not all the singers, most of whom we had never heard of. It was Rufus Wainwright that Kathy was so taken with. I would say I was equally taken by several of them including Rufus: Martha Wainwright, the McGarrigal sisters, Antony, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Teddy Thompson. And in addition to being in love with the music was totally smitten with the voice and personality of Perla Batalla. I was recovering from prostate cancer and as a nonbeliever in conventional religion badly needed (required?) something. We all have the gap. Religion fills it more or less automatically for many. For those of us without that belief ready to hand, we have to latch on to something. And there was Leonard Cohen and company singing his wonder full songs, pushing nothing, but offering the power of music and words to shore us up in difficult times and spread the balm on the effects of slings and arrows. And at this time we know and this site affirms that many of us are united in our happiness and grief of the life and death of Leonard Cohen. Thank you for being there and for the serendipity of this tangible reminder of wounded humans helping wounded humans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a beautiful comment, Robert. Possibly someone reblogged this post and it found its way to you. You have perfectly summed up the essence of Leonard Cohen’s music, personality and poetry. Perla Batalla is a remarkable singer and composer, you have good taste, Robert.


  14. Jay says:

    Loved him. Miss him already.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: Sunday Post – 13th November 2016 | Brainfluff

  16. Joanne Sisco says:

    I had no idea Leonard Cohen was so well known outside of Canada until I visited Oslo 2 years ago, only to discover he was in concert in the theatre across the street from our hotel.

    I’ve been in love with his beautiful, soulful lyrics and gravelly voice for what seems like forever. I was shocked and dismayed to hear of his death. I thought he would be filling our lives with music for many more years to come.

    But he left us a parting gift … You Want It Darker. I love it’s haunting lyrics and sound.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Christy B says:

    Thank you for such an amazing tribute to him xx May he rest in peace

    Liked by 1 person

  18. dimlamp says:

    In another of my blogs when I heard the news of Leonard Cohen’s death, here’s what I wrote: The first song I heard of his, if I recall correctly, was Suzanne, when it came out in the 1960s. It was, in a sense, a revelation of what would be for him more to come, with the ever-pervasive motifs of sexual love and spiritual love, sometimes contradicting one another and at other times in a holistic and holy unity. Indeed, in some pundit circles, Cohen was dubbed ‘a ladies man,’ to which he responded that if that was the case, then why did he spend so many nights lonely and alone? Interesting though that he had two children, a boy and a girl, but he never married.
    With poetic flair his lyrics spoke volumes not only biographically, but universally. In his most recent album, I like the ponderous turns of phrase in the title track You Want It Darker-especially ‘Hineni, I am ready my LORD,’ appropriate words to speak or sing at the end of one’s life, me thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzanne is one of my favourites and one I discovered in my teens. One can only imagine the emotional connection he must have had to his last album – his swansong of sorts. It makes it even more meaningful to me.


  19. pattimoed says:

    Lovely tribute, Jean, to a wise soul and a wonderful musician.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. EnglishLitGeek says:

    Great post. I am happy to learn more about his life, thanks to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Leonard Cohen – Musician and Poet — Jean Reinhardt – The Malaysian Poet

  22. https://justjacks.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/song-lyrics-your-love/

    Hey guys, I’m trying to grow my blog, if you have the time I’d really appreciate you checking out some of my lyrics (I’m in the process of creating my songs) and giving me some feedback! Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. he sure was a great man

    Liked by 1 person

  24. rhythmoftime says:

    Very cool! Thanks for sharing and well-worded. I didn’t know he performed in mental hospitals for free. What a great guy!

    Liked by 1 person

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