When the Fiddler Stops All Hell Breaks Loose

by

So.  We were rewinding a tape and watching what was happening on WGBH when the image of a grey-haired man in a black suit and fedora holding a mic appeared.  Although I hadn’t seen him in many many years I knew immediately it was none other than the inimitable Leonard Cohen!  Can’t remember the song but I was transfixed and listened till the end of the concert without moving!  It was a presentation by WGBH of his concert in London.

The soundtrack of my life has been provided by the irascible Van Morrison; there was a Van  Morrison song for every occasion, every mood, every feeling.  My experience with Leonard Cohen’s work was (unfortunately) limited to Suzanne, Bird On a Wire, etc., the popular songs covered by other artists.  Thank you Judy Collins, Joe Cocker, and Johnny Cash!

I lost track of Leonard but checked into his life occasionally, learning about his severe depression, his stay in a Zen monastery and his loss of a significant amount of money.  It was not until this concert that I realized what I’d missed.  Leonard was dressed in a suit, as were his band members and three female back-up singers, all of whom were at least half his age.

He moved sensuously through his songs; at times with an impish grin, at times with a burning intensity, taking us to a place he knew quite well.  His phrasing and expression of each lyric were impeccable.  So Long Marianne was way different at 73 than at 20 something.  It was mind-blowing. In a quiet voice he repeatedly thanked the audience, stated his pleasure at being able to play for them and introduced his back-up band and singers several times, making sure we knew that it wasn’t all about HIM.

Of course I immediately went out and bought the CD Leonard Cohen Live in London.  The music was again, transfixing and the banter between songs humourously revealing.  (I’ve taken Wellbutrin, Effexor, Paxil, Ritalin….)  He could laugh at himself while presenting his message quite seriously.  He is, at 73, so much more than I think he thought he could be, and perhaps more than WE thought he could be.  Hallelujah!

The video of Closing Time is from a 1993 appearance on the CBC’s Friday Night show. Please enjoy!

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