I think there are some leaps of imagination in some of the contentions here (a little as per the Who Wrote Hallelujah? article) but also some nicely observed sentiments. See what you think.What Leonard Cohen can teach us about love
Despite his early reputation as a ladies' man, the Montreal poet and songwriter is clearly drawing on some powerful material
BY DOUGLAS TODD, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 27, 2010 2:14 AM
Why don't women hate Leonard Cohen?
After all, he's a cad, at least by the usual definition. He has a reputation for having slept with a bevy of beautiful women and never really settled down.
His image is that of the proverbial not-ready-to-commit man, for whom many women often feel fear and contempt. Yet, I don't know of a woman who, once aware of Cohen, doesn't love the dark-eyed Montreal-born singer-songwriter. Even at 76.
With the legendary baritone coming to Vancouver on Dec. 2nd for one of six North American concerts, and his art going on sale Dec 4th at Granville Fine Art, it is worth exploring the many things that this secular poet-priest with the gravelly voice has done, said and taught about the complexities of love.
Even more revered in Europe than in North America, Cohen first earned the casual-lover "ladies' man" tag by writing often-salacious lyrics and bedding many women, including singer Janis Joplin and actress Rebecca de Mornay.
In his early days he hooked up with Scandinavians Axel Jensen, Goran Tunstrom and Marianne Jensen (made famous through his song, So Long Marianne). He has also lived with artist Suzanne Elrod and cosongwriter Anjani Thomas.
In the past decade, Cohen was betrayed by longtime Californian lover Kelley Lynch, a former manager who defrauded him of $9 million and continues to ignore a court order to return the money. It's part of the reason Cohen is touring again.
What prevents Cohen from marrying? The Lynch debacle could be part of the answer. But he has also said it is "cowardice and fear."
Despite his relationship wariness, or maybe because of it, charmed women across Europe, North America and the rest of the planet continue to flood to his poignant, mournful concerts, where his one-octave voice is backed up by sensual females singing heavenly.
Maybe some women simply like that he always wears a suit, since his father was a well-off Jewish clothing store owner. Maybe others want to be his saviour, the one woman who finally rescues him from his admittedly depressive self.
There is more to Cohen, though. He's on fire with honesty and authenticity and wry insight, all of which are attractive to men as well.
And unlike many songwriting pretenders, Cohen can put together a poem. The writer Pico Iyer once referred to Cohen as "a collaboration between" French songwriter Jacques Brel and Christian mystic Thomas Merton.
There is no subject about which Cohen has more to say than the vagaries of love: sexual, relational, spiritual. Is anything more important?
Cohen first became known, decades ago, for spelling out the tortured connection between love and sex, about which he is often shockingly graphic.
In 1972's Chelsea Hotel, which he later acknowledged was about his fling with a young Joplin, he boldly states: "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."
Some of his lyrics strongly hint at a fascination with sado-masochism, including the signature 1988 song, I'm Your Man. "If you want a lover, I'll do anything you ask of me / If you want another kind of love / I'll wear a mask for you."
In the renowned Hallelujah, which has been covered by more than 200 artists in many languages, Cohen touches again on the kinky, musing, "She tied you / To a kitchen chair / She broke your throne / She cut your hair / And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah."
Cohen goes even further than this about the connection between love and eroticism, as we'll see, but let's first explore what he says about the link between love and human relationships. In the Tower of Song, he wrote "I'm crazy for love," which, initially, might not seem too profound a line. After all, many popular songwriters go on and on about romantic love.
Cohen always seems to be falling for a woman. Like a country and western singer, he confesses: "I love to see you naked / In your body and your thought / I've got you like a habit / I'll never get enough / There ain't no cure for love."
Yet Cohen goes much further. He has talked about how, even when he hates people, he "loves them anyway." He produced an album that dealt head-on with such inner rage and suspicion, titled Songs of Love and Hate.
Cohen has never acted as if he's particularly good at love, which could be part of his appeal. Being typically hard on himself, perhaps invoking his ladies' man persona, he wrote in The Traitor, "I'm listed with the enemies of love."
Yet he's obsessed by love, at times almost shouting out about his relationship failures, as he did in "Lover, Lover, Lover, Lover, Lover / Come back to me."
In Alexandra Leaving, based on a 19th-century Greek poem, Cohen exposes how he so often blows it with the women who honour him by their presence in his bed. In Alexandra Leaving, love takes the form of a god, which he again manages to push away.
"Suddenly the night has grown colder / Some deity preparing to depart / Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder / they slip between the sentries of your heart."
In his classic, Hallelujah, Cohen spells out just how brutally hard loving relationships can be, filled with figurative gunfights. He laments, with a tinge of sardonic humour, "Love is not a victory march / It's a cold and broken Hallelujah."
Despite this testimony to tough reality, all there is to Cohen is love.
It's sacred. It's the ultimate.
As a Jew who also takes Jesus Christ seriously, and who has spent years in meditation in a Buddhist monastery, Cohen has mined the meaning of love to make the spiritual quest again seem meaningful to millions.
Cohen has spoken of his poems and songs as "muffled prayers." And, after all, his beloved friend, singer Jennifer Warnes, said of him: "If he has one great love, it's his love for God."
To Cohen, love can bring everything together -- sex, relationships, spirituality, metaphysics -- and divided humanity itself.
He once said: "Love is the only engine of survival."
As he did in Alexandra Leaving, he also suggests in You Have Loved Enough that maybe the holy he has trouble believing in is a transcendent cosmic Lover.
"You kept me from believing / Until you let me know / I am not the one who loves / It's love that seizes me."
In that same cut from the album, Ten New Songs, almost all of which seem to equate God with love, Cohen writes about a person who has always yearned for connection being told it is their turn to be cared for:
"When the hunger for your touch / Rises from the hunger / You whisper, 'You have loved enough / Now let me be the lover.'"
Even more directly, Cohen sometimes brings divine love and sex into bed together, such as when he sings in Hallelujah, "And remember when I moved in you / The holy dove was moving too."
Few of Cohen's songs are more frank about the link between divinity and love than If It Be Your Will, in which Cohen speaks of that ancient and elusive mystical practice, surrender.
In this aching song he boldly expresses his love and gratitude to God. "If it be your will / To let me sing / From this broken hill / All your praises they shall sing."
Cohen has evolved far beyond his early Don Juan image.
Yet he sometimes doesn't get credit for the intense work he's put into researching, more than almost anyone, the bewildering currents of love.
Indeed, there is a telling moment near the end of the 2006 documentary, I'm Your Man, when Cohen says he almost hates it when people trot out his early ladies' man image.
"I laugh bitterly," he says, "at the 10,000 nights I've slept alone."
The revelation leaves little doubt that for a long time, Cohen has been swimming in love's deeper realms.
read douglas todd's blog at vancouversun.com/thesearch
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