Leonard Cohen taught our generation that music is poetry. Do we know the folk legend well? Here are some facts you should know.
2016 had been apocalyptic. It got sadder with each passing month. We have been losing important musicians, artists, authors of our time and of the days bygone. Bowie, SH Raza, Lakshmi Holmstrom, Mahasweta Devi, Prince, Harper Lee… 2016 is an elegy to culture.
I had listened to Leonard Cohen when I was young, and I never really went back to him. A few months ago, he was reintroduced to me by a friend. This time, I was old, I was mature and the lyrics to his songs made sense. Cohen then became an important figure to me.
After Bob Dylan won the Nobel for literature, I (along with a lot of other people) was hopeful of Leonard Cohen making it as a winner some time in the future. The fans were sure of it.
ED presents some unknown facts about this known musician, poet, novelist, singer and songwriter.
1. He wrote his last novel under the influence of amphetamines
Don’t jump into the drugs-boost-creativity conclusion. Cohen had ADHD. In the beginning of the writing process, he would write close to three pages a day or sometimes just a page. But as soon as the novel started taking shape, he used amphetamines to increase his attention span to write for fifteen hours a day!
2. Leonard Cohen invented a cocktail!
You might not know this. It’s called Red Needles. He invented it in Needles, California, in 1974. Hence the name. It consists of tequila and cranberry juice and Sprite and fresh cut fruit. In Cohen’s words, “This is the end of my life in art… It is so smooth.”
3. He introduced a new genre into Canadian literature
Beautiful Losers, his second novel was a failure. However, it was hailed by critics because it introduced the concept of postmodernism in Canadian literature. Despite its terrible failure, the novel is now under the Canadian literary canon. One of the reviews described it as “the most revolting book ever written in Canada”.
4. Columbia Records refused to release Various Positions containing his most covered song
“Hallelujah” is probably the folk legend’s most famous song. In 1984, Walter Yetnikoff, record executive of Columbia Records refused to release his album, saying: “Look, Leonard; we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.” Well, what is music without Cohen?
5. “Lover Lover Lover” was inspired by Israeli Defense Forces.
During the Yom Kippur War between the Egypt and Israel, Cohen left for Tel Aviv to help as little as he can to the Jewish community. He was inspired by the “grace and bravery of many Israeli soldiers at the front. However, he made it clear that he wrote the song for the soldiers of both the sides.
(Cohen performing for soldiers in the Yom Kippur War.)
Cohen will always be remembered more as a person who could create magic than solely as a poet-singer. His ever-evolving music still made sure that lyrics flow like poetry.
Why are you so quiet now,
Standing there in the doorway?
You chose your journey long before.
You came across this highway.
You had a beautiful journey. Thanks for mapping it out for us in the form of music.