Things Are Gonna Slide, Slide In All Directions
Here instead is a list, which will show you how deeply embedded in my life is the music and lyrics of Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen Song Titles That Are Also Threats or Reprimands Made By Me To My Children This Week.
One of Us Cannot Be Wrong
That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
Is This What You Wanted?
Why Don’t You Try?
If It Be Your Will
Here It Is
That Don’t Make it Junk
You Want it Darker?
It Seemed the Better Way
I didn’t grow up listening to Leonard Cohen. My mother has long been a huge fan, but in a way that made no sense to me until I had kids, she kept it to herself. Some things are too precious to risk on small ingrates who might listen to half of Hallelujah before getting bored and demanding you put the Bangles on.
When I was twenty-five, she asked if I wanted to go to a Leonard Cohen tribute concert at the Opera House. I said yes, even though the only Cohen song I was familiar with as the Jeff Buckley version of ‘Hallelujah‘, and I associated that with a type of late 1990s teenage boy who had unappealingly long hair and wore those awful woven Aztec-style surfie hoodies. (The joke’s on me there, because I ended up marrying such a person, long after he’d passed that fashion stage. He never passed the Jeff Buckley stage.)
The concert was unbelievable. Rufus Wainwright, Beth Orton,Martha Wainwright, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Jarvis Cocker, Linda Thomson, Nick Cave, Teddy Thompson, Anthony (now Anohni)… I’d seen none of these artists before and the songs they sang cemented my devotion to each and every one of them and to Leonard Cohen. I went to the concert again two days later, and in between I wandered in a fugue-like state all over the city listening to Cohen’s entire back catalogue on my iPod. Over that weekend, in three different places, none of which were the Opera House, I ran into Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright and Anthony. Jarvis Cocker somehow eluded me. It was all a bit fucking extraordinary.
I saw Leonard Cohen in concert about five years ago, and he was as incredible as all of those artists put together. He was lithe, leonine and so breathtakingly honest in his poetry and music.
When David Bowie and Prince died this year and everyone lost their minds on social media, I thought they were frankly all being a bit dramatic. They didn’t know Bowie or Prince. Why were they all being so excessively sad faced-emoji? I get it now. Sure, Bowie and Prince were a hundred floors below Cohen, in the tower of song, but I see why people were so devastated.
I’m not as good as my mum at holding precious things quietly to myself, so when I picked up May Blossom from school this afternoon, as soon as we got in the car, before she could dictate the playlist of Katy Perry and ABBA, I announced, ‘My favourite songwriter died today so we are only listening to his songs on the way home.’ I put on ‘The Future‘, which if you don’t know it you might find a very helpful song to listen to this week. And would you like to guess which lyric May Blossom asked me to explain? Why this one, of course:
‘You’ll see a woman hanging upside down her features covered by her fallen gown and all the lousy little poets coming round tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson and the white man dancin’
Which is how I found myself explaining who Charles Manson was, to a six year old, while driving home through the jacaranda-lined streets of Sydney. It was about the least weird part of this week, and definitely preferable to explaining that Trump had won the election.
When H and I got married, seven and a half years ago, we wrote the entire script for the celebrant to read. When interviewing celebrants, we specifically asked if they would be prepared to read our service as we had written it to the letter. Mostly that was to accomodate my abiding hatred of the unnecessary expression ‘I’d now like to…’ before actually saying anything of substance. The woman we hired promised solemnly to only read the words we had written, which was reassuring.
After the readings, she was supposed to say, ‘And finally, remember that no-one and nothing is perfect. As Leonard Cohen wrote “There’s a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. But for reasons that will forever remain unknown, she decided to paraphrase it, because it’s only a quote. It doesn’t have to word perfect, right?
‘There’s a crack in everything,’ she said. ‘And that’s how the sunshine makes its way through.’
Just like that she’d completely embodied the spirit of that lyric.
So on an afternoon where pretty much everything seems cracked — you know, if you’re a right-thinking, left-leaning lover of hippie poetry and song — it’s probably a good idea to just have a cup of tea or a stiff drink and watch this until someone tells you to for the love of God snap out of it and make some dinner.