Leonard Cohen performs at the Beacon Theater in New York on Feb. 19, 2009. Cohen, a singer-songwriter whose literary sensibility and elegant dissections of desire made him one of popular music's most influential and admired figures, died on Nov. 10, 2016, at 82. TNS
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Record shop owner remembers Leonard Cohen
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Leonard Cohen and his music is the closest thing to what some may call a spiritual guide or maybe a "religious experience" to me. I believe in humanity's art and creativity as being my spirituality. Cohen's works enabled me to ascend and be illuminated in the purist forms of this personal sort of spiritual passage. I don't commonly speak within these terms, my solace is not within religion or God - I've looked for (and thankfully found) peace in the arts.
To some Cohen could be my priest, my shaman, a wise guru of sorts - but his works will live on even after his passing as prophetic because he was a prophet of the song. His works weren't simply pop music, or folkloric it was more, it was a manifestation of the soul. This wasn't simply in his lyrics, it was his timeless melodies, his pacing and delivery with ease, charm and confidence. The profound and profane shared the same couplets. His channeling of emotions were at times humbled and others scathing. The song arrangements always propelled me to these alter moods - sometimes simple with a rolling finger picked guitar almost droning on, other times lush with strings and odd layers of sounds - and even later with the use of quirky even cheeky casio-tone. It ran the gambit of vices and virtues, sophisticated and kitsch all of these moods and sometimes with sincerity the lows and highs celebrated or he'd deliver twisted convoluted lines with an ornery smirk.
The full breadth of the human condition yet curiously, seemingly effortless - though that wasn't the truth of his creative process - Cohen jokingly confessed to Bob Dylan that his songs could take years to complete!
I am grateful to have the platform with the Village Green Records to share his music with an open audience, on occasion a young or old lover of music that has never been exposed to Cohen is one of my most cherished opportunities. His sound is timeless and relevant through all eras as we are seeing this week, songs like "Everybody Knows" and "Hallellujah" take on an entirely new meaning in the hands of Saturday Night Live's Kate McKinnon singing alone at a Piano as a election-beat Hillary Clinton.
I witnessed this connection happen just a few days ago, with a speaker outside the Village Green Records I've been playing Leonard Cohen on shuffle all day. During the song "There Is A War" a young man stopped as he walked across the intersection across the street from the store, stood there struck by the music. I watched as he walked to the other side of the street to exit the middle of the intersection and further continue to listen to the song. After about a minute and a half he came in the store to inquire what the music was. I showed him the Cohen CD "New Skin For An Old Ceremony" and he bought it no questions asked. He didn't know it was Leonard Cohen, and he didn't know that Cohen had recently died. He said "I was struck by the music".
He is a pinnacle of the style of music the VGR wants to share - music that contains unabashed soul, and Cohen sits alone in his small studio apartment on high in a pantheon limited to a very few peers of honest creation (Gerhard Richter, John Coltrane, Alex Calder, James Joyce, Van Morrison, Caetano Veloso, Pina Bausch, etc.). Yet sitting humbled in only the way one can when they've charted so much of the soul and put it into their works. Cohen is a prophet of the soul, his music was created for the sake of the song.
Travis Harvey, firstname.lastname@example.org