Leonard Cohen was barely a pop star. He was an acclaimed poet and novelist who, thanks both to his upper-middle-class upbringing and his vast talent, was able to live a life of near-total freedom. The life of beautiful simplicity on the Greek island of Hydra; writing by candlelight as his partner Marianne Ihlen and her son slept. Living the rebel dream in mid-revolution Havana and war torn Israel, then returning to Montreal or New York City’s Chelsea Hotel to be the beat poet and friend of the stars from Allen Ginsburg to Janis Joplin. He achieved it all.
And that’s without thinking of his work. Deceptively simple, at times, but always real. It is ironic that his death came so soon after Bob Dylan’s Nobel award, for perhaps only one songwriter wrote true poetry for the ages – art that works on the page as well as the record – and that was Leonard Cohen. Just read “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” or “True Love Leaves No Traces” (which did, indeed, begin life as the poem “As The Mist Leaves No Scar)”.
There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said a million times since late Thursday evening. Other than, perhaps, the acute sense of loss that has followed me and all of his fans since. This blow is a personal one, no doubt. The man lived precisely like the “bird on the wire” that he immortalised in song, in poem. And he told us – it felt like only us – all about it.
The non-pop star who wrote songs that will live forever. The poet people hum to. We will never see anybody like him again.