I've always been a big fan, and I was kind of curious to know what my fandom would evolve into now that Leonard Cohen is physically gone.
At first I was afraid (he would have hated it too) of turning him into "The name you know", someone who must be praised periodically in the name of loyalty, instead of just affection and plain recognition of talent. So I just let the whole thing go for a while. Just as it is the case in the loss of someone in your close circle of acquaintances, I guess the only thing possible after the initial trauma was a period of silence.
Then, in a natural, beautiful way, this or that song started to visit me; I felt like listening to them. "Hey, how about that "dynamic" melancholy of Boogie Street". "Hey, my heart will feel warm now if I go to listen Democracy". A bit like a good wine connoisseur can say "I feel like Bordeaux '87 today". Perks of being a fan.
After some time of those visitations, I stumbled upon a surprise, a Cohen album I didn't know! "Recent Songs". I started to listen to it and I have to say that, although it contains wonders as usual (the haunting "My Gypsy Wife" is my favorite), it's the record I've found most close to "generic" in Cohen's discography. As if, after the "massacre" of "Death of a Ladies' Man", he would have wanted to go back to form by making "the most Cohen album he could make"... As if he asked himself on purpose "What would Leonard Cohen do?" Nevertheless the bar with Cohen is always high, the album contains more music and more soul than the whole discography of many renowned musicians out there, and the fact that some of the songs were written way back in time conspires against my little theory...
In any case; after some time listening to "Recent Songs", I moved to "You Want It Darker", his final work. And what a record. I have a feeling that Leonard Cohen took his materials from the Unconscious, from intuition, and such intuition seemed to become bigger, more intense, almost supernatural, in the final 3 albums. The way he skips steps in sentences, the things he knows+knows how to express... In "You Want It Darker", it feels as if he was almost writing from the other side already, as peeking out of a window as in the image of the cover. And some of his sentences cut to the chase like blasts of consciousness. One that always gets me, in the title song: "There's a million candles burning for the help that never came". The way of the world, the cruelty of humans, the cruelty of a god, if it exists, who allows such darkness out of human freedom.
I've later known that Cohen was very learned, and since his youth, in the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust. It is never mentioned explicitly in his work, and discovering it gives me in my view a big key to understand his elegant sadness, and his irony that never intends to hurt others, it's more like a wondering aloud, a shrug of shoulders, or a prayer.
Here's a man who sang with splendid poetry to the women he loved, to the friends he knew, and to a wish of peace and unity among his fellow humans (the word "people" always has a particular strength when he sings it, and in some of his lyrics, like the verse I've mentioned above or the song "Nevermind", he adopts a collective point of view).
Can there be a better legacy to leave for an artist? As I learn more about him, and revisit more deeply his work, my admiration just grows and grows. So look at me Leonard, one more time... which will not be the last.
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it