HBD Mr. Cohen and Thank you


Today the incomparable Leonard Cohen celebrates his 80th birthday.  He is without a doubt one of the most prolific artists of our time with over 10 studio albums, 15 books of poetry and novels as well as countless tribute albums and numerous photography exhibits under his belt.

I learned about Leonard Cohen first through his poetry.  A Thousand Kisses Deep, Marita, Please Find Me I’m almost 30, and Beneath my Hands are my current favourites and in my opinion some of the most beautiful words ever strung together.

I’m not an aficionado of all his work.  In fact, I have to admit I didn’t really get into his music until about 2-3 years ago.  I obviously knew his big hits: Suzanne and I’m your Man, Bird on a Wire and of course, Hallelujah.  But it wasn’t until his 2012 album Old Ideas came out that I developed a deep-seeded appreciation for his gift and his ability to bring out emotions that I didn’t realize were inside of me.


It’s hard to pick a favourite song from Old Ideas as they are all so raw and melancholy.  It feels like I will hurt the other songs feelings when I admit which ones speak to me the most! The whole album makes me think of my elderly parents, their ailing health, their regrets and unfulfilled hopes and dreams.    The last five years of dealing with my parents’ health problems has brought these issues to the forefront of my mind.  The song, Coming Healing, makes me think about my dad. Before I was born, he was a vibrant, talkative man with friends, and plans and opinions and stories of adventures and mischief and love.  Today, it’s hard to believe that man ever existed.  He’s a ghost of the man he was: quiet, slow, taciturn; waiting out the days with little comfort besides the daily routines of a life based on the ebbs and flows of his deteriorating health.  Some days are better than others of course.  Some days I catch a glimpse of the man he must have been back in the day when he was gallivanting around London with his crew wearing skinny ties and tight pants.  But of course, those days don’t stay with you as much as the bad days.

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

I carry a lot of regret and what ifs in my heart. I know my dad does too.  You are born alone and you die alone.  When your body starts to betray you and your mind plays tricks on you  and you are alone with nothing but fading memories how can you not wish for some eternal healing in the depth of your darkest thoughts?

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

I’m not a religious person and neither is my dad.  That’s more my mom’s racket.  To me, Heaven and Hell are constructs created by man to ease the fear of death and help keep people in line while they are alive.  To me, it seems a bit conceited to think you know what happens when you die.  How could we?  Why do we need to?  The goal of life is to live and love.  If you can help people during your time on the planet then that’s the icing on the cake.

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above

Whether you believe in God, heaven or hell, spiritualism or consider yourself an atheist, I think the idea of penance is something that touches everyone.  Good and evil, right and wrong, left and right: there is a balance in life.  This song captures that duality in a subtle and heart-breaking way.  This verse makes me think about disappointment.  It’s terrible for both the disappointed and the disappointer.  Knowing that you let someone down in a real, meaningful way is hard to overcome.  It’s easier to forgive someone else than it is to forgive yourself.

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

For a long time, I felt paralyzed by my parents’ regrets and guilt and unfulfilled hopes and the all-consuming nature of their worsening ailments.  I still feel like that sometimes.  Then I try to remind myself of the catharsis that comes with facing your regrets; addressing your shortcomings, failures and missed opportunities.  There is a healing.  That healing will let you off the hook; it will forgive your perceived sins; it will make the amends you feel in your heart and it will share the love and light you have hidden away in the darkest recesses of your mind.


About preetybird

Just another run-of-the-mill mysterious microcosm of magic, music, merriment and malevolence.
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One Response to HBD Mr. Cohen and Thank you

  1. Pingback: The Best Music from Seven Seasons of Sons of Anarchy | My Musical Memoir

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