By Dr David Laing Dawson
My son and my stepdaughter sent me condolences on the loss of Leonard Cohen. I had not realized that my life-long affection for his songs and poetry had been so obvious.
Perhaps they noticed that his lyrics were the only ones I could sing beyond the first line. Perhaps they noticed he was always playing in my studio. Perhaps they noticed I listened to little else but Leonard.
I was just recovering, somewhat, from the Donald Trump win when Google told me Leonard had died. I did not want it darker. But darker it became.
It is hard to imagine a greater contrast.
Leonard examined, struggled with, wrote songs about, all that makes us human. When he experienced desire he worried it, examined it, thought about it, considered it. His struggle to find meaning was fodder for his lyrics. His yearning and the consequences of yearning were examined with a poet’s heart. He considered his fame and fortune, his loves and his losses. He considered his relationship to a possible God, or a meaningful universe. He struggled with depression and he told us about it. Through his poetry he found ways to tell us of truths, paradoxes, and of social fictions.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
“Democracy is coming to the U. S. A.”
“Old black Joe’s still picking cotton. For your ribbons and bows.”
He was earth bound but reached for the stars. “But you don’t really care for music, do ya?”
His was a life examined and shared. His lyrics often surprise and they d0 let the light in. Like many songwriters he started with first love, but then he examined the rest of his life as he lived it, all the way to impending death. He created fresh poetic images that linger in the mind. “Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river.” “Like a bird on a wire…” “So long, Marianne..”
His voice got better with age, deeper, richer, more resonant.
Donald Trump examines little but his own image in the mirror. He recognizes no complexity to human life. He confuses love and hate. His desires go unchecked and unexamined. He pursues his yearnings without thought for the effects they might have on others.
His speech and manner are the antithesis of poetry.
I will continue to listen to Leonard. Thank you, Leonard, for all you have given us.
Unfortunately I will have to pay attention to Donald over the next four years. But when he becomes too much to bear, I will listen to Leonard.