On top of everything else, Leonard is gone.

Leonard Cohen is gone, goddammit, because of course we have to lose him too.

There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in. ― Lenoard Cohen, “Anthem”
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

Leonard was born on September 21 in 1934 and taken from us on the 7th of November 2016.

He had a good run and I’m glad he missed the election, and even more glad he doesn’t have to watch what happens next. But I’ll miss him a lot.

A Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist, Leonard Cohen examined religion, politics, isolation and sexuality. He was in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He received the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honor. He got a Prince of Asturias Award for literature and plus the Glenn Gould Prize.  He was one erudite mofo, our Leonard.

He was also cute as hell.  He made me feel better about aging; when I saw him at Radio City, near the end, he was way too thin, and his voice was almost gone. He was fragile; frail.  But he sang:

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel; you were talking so brave and so sweet. Giving me head on the unmade bed, while the limousines wait in the street ...You told me again, you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception. ... Clenching your fist for the ones like us, who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, you fixed yourself, you said, "Never mind. We're ugly, but we have the music.”

And you could see the cocksure, slightly dangerous fella shimmering behind the old man's face. It was as if he was wearing a mask. The state of his face and body seemed to have nothing to do with him. He seemed to be irritated by the extent to which he was forced to wear a Leonard-suit, like he was stuck inside a body that was increasingly less useful for his purposes, but he was the same as he always was (which, not for nothing, woof).  His allure wasn't rooted in youth or even the covering he walked around in -- his body was an exoskeleton. And he never stopped being sexy as hell.

Been thinking about his album “The Future” today. I wore out the cassette as I drove to NYC from Kansas in November ’93. In the United States, I’d never been east of Columbus. I was alone, I had $1,200 to my name, knew basically nobody in the City, and I’d rented a bedroom from a couple, sight unseen, out of this little classical trade magazine I subscribed to. I was scared, but I had my chin out. Leonard helped.

I was reminded that I refused the map I was offered as I drove away from home, all, “It’s a big town. I’ll drive east a while and then take a left. Eventually, there’ll be signs.”  It was typical of me at that age, to set my jaw over something stupid like that. Who refuses a map?

Leonard wrote a love song to the US on that album: Democracy, in which he references Tiananmen Square, Stalin, World War II and Hiroshima. In an interview with Uncut's Nigel Williamson , he said, “I was living in L.A. through the riots and the earthquakes and the floods.  And even for one as relentlessly occupied with himself as I am, it is very hard to keep your mind on yourself when the place is burning down. So I think that invited me to look out the window.” In subsequent interviews, he assured us that it contains zero irony.

“Everyone is of course allowed to interpret my lyrics as he or she wants, it’s never been my policy to police my audience. But although “Democracy” deals with a big subject, it is free of irony or skepticism. Democracy is the last great religion, the greatest of all because it accommodates other religions and cultures. If there is one place on earth where democracy has a chance then it’s America, where different races and cultures are condemned to each other... The United States is still the experimental field of democracy, the arena in which the significant confrontations are taking place: between the races, between classes and between the sexes. That makes life in America so uncomfortable and yet so inspiring. “Democracy” is a hymn that I wrote when the Berlin Wall fell. Everyone surrounding me was optimistic, but ... To me it seemed naive to think that democracy would come to the Eastern bloc overnight.”

This is the song:

It's coming through a hole in the air,
From those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel that this ain't exactly real,
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
From the sirens night and day,
From the fires of the homeless,
From the ashes of the gay.
Democracy is coming to the USA.

It's coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol.
From the staggering account, of the Sermon on the Mount,
Which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence, on the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet.
Democracy is coming to the USA.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street --
The holy places where the races meet.
From the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen,
To determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment,
Where the women kneel to pray,
For the grace of God in the desert here,
And the desert far away.
Democracy is coming to the USA.

Sail on, oh mighty ship of State.
To the shores of Need, past the reefs of Greed,
Through the Squalls of Hate, sail on.

It's coming to America first --
The cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
And the machinery for change,
And it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken,
And it's here the lonely say,
That the heart has got to open in a fundamental way.
Democracy is coming to the USA.

It's coming from the women and the men,
Oh baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep, the river's going to weep,
And the mountain's going to shout Amen.
It's coming like the tidal flood beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious, in amorous array.
Democracy is coming to the USA.

I'm sentimental, you know what I mean?
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right; I'm just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm as stubborn as those garbage bags that time cannot decay
I'm junk, but I am holding up this little wild bouquet, because
Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, oh mighty ship of State.
To the shores of Need, past the reefs of Greed,
Through the Squalls of Hate, sail on.

               - Leonard Cohen, 1992

Kathryn Allyn

Jazz singer, political junkie, cautionary tale and nights'n'weekends Stig, on the Island of Misfit Toys.