Don Zerilli Mooradian

Leonard Cohen Sings Himself to Sleep

I have spent many a night with Leonard Cohen—not just listening to his music but seemingly with him in the very same room as his somnolent voice drifted in from some other plane of existence where dreams happen in smoky rhythms and sleepy rhymes. Here was a man after my own ecumenical notion of humanity’s search for meaning; a Jew and ordained Buddhist monk who wrote about Jesus hanging on a cross and Roman Catholic nuns.

Canadian-born Leonard Cohen died November 7, 2016. He seemed to know the human heart well, both inside and out.

aug-25-2013-shrine-of-st-keteri-tekakwitha-035-large-225x300One day, while living near Albany, New York in the early 1970s, I abruptly yanked the car onto a small pull-off  where I came face-to-face with a practically obscured shrine to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk maiden who played a central role in Cohen’s 1966 novel Beautiful Losers which I had read years before. Now, at my 68 years of age, I confess it was that novel’s style and tone, content and aspirations that made me really really need to write a novel. It is described in Wikipedia thusly: “The complex novel makes use of a vast range of literary techniques, and a wealth of allusion, imagery, and symbolism. It is filled with the mysticism, radicalism, sexuality, and drug-taking emblematic of the 1960s era, and is noted for its linguistic, technical, and sexual excesses.” Alas, I have not written such a novel.

joanAnd is there any chorus more bittersweet than that at the end of Joan of Arc, especially the version sung solo by Jennifer Warnes? I think not. Dance Me to the End of Love is the exact song playing in the background as you ask yourself: Is life a comedy or tragedy? How he simultaneously conveys both joy and melancholy is uncanny. Hallelujah is a prayerful questioning: What is Love?

So many of his wondrous songs were shared with and sung by so many. I harbored an imaginary musical menage a trios consisting of Leonard, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins with me but a mere voyeur. They sung me to sleep so so many nights and reside even now among a gentle valley of grown-over grassy knolls dotted with small cottages where weary souls come for shelter from the hungry wolves and ceaseless wars. It is a place where, as Leonard wrote in Sisters of Mercy, “They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.” So fret not,  good night and sleep well my dear Leonard. And thank you, thank you so very much.

Recent New Yorker article



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This entry was posted on November 11, 2016 by in 1960s, 1960s music, Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen, music, novels and tagged , , , , .
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