Love Letter To Leonard

Serena Bhardwaj reflects on the life and work of Leonard Cohen and says goodbye and thank you to the gloomy poet, author and singer

Serena Bhardwaj
28th November 2016
Leonard Cohen at the Arena in Geneva, 27 October 2008

“I am completely open and transparent and therefore its easy for anyone to grasp the emotion that’s there. I am the person who tries everything and experience myself as falling apart. I try drugs, Jung, Zen meditation, love and it all falls apart at every moment. And the place where it all comes out is in the critical examination of those things – the songs. And because of this, I am vulnerable”

Dear Leonard,

This year has been shit - to put it bluntly. Just when we thought 2016 couldn’t get much worse, you - the Grandfather of Gloom left the table.  It seems kind of ironic that you’re the man who sang ‘Democracy is coming to the USA’ and you’ve passed away straight after the election that resulted in Trump becoming president - coincidence I think not. You’re probably best known for ‘Hallelujah’ - the most covered song ever, performed by over 200 artists in numerous languages and so it shocked me to learn that when you first presented it to your record label they absolutely hated it. Bet they feel like absolute mugs now.

"you’ve left behind a gravelly, gruff discography full to the brim with rich emotion and moving lyrics"

I’ll openly admit that I haven’t known your music for long. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I first heard a beautiful, crackly version of ‘Suzanne’ on a frosty winter’s evening on my housemate’s record player as we slouched around slightly high and slightly out of it - how very Skins. Straight away I felt the mirror neurons jump in to action. I believe that there are few songs we come across in our lifetimes which seem to actually move us, as cliché as it sounds - but this is one of them for me. The thing is, I have absolutely no idea why, the song doesn’t have any specific meaning to me, or anything in particular that I can necessarily resonate with - but I genuinely well up every time I hear it. Soppy I know. But it’s a talent that only a few artists hold. You’re without a doubt up there with the likes of Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Nick Drake - but what surprises me is that so many people I’ve spoken to don’t know about you, including 2014 me of course.

"You were spiritual, somber and most importantly - suavely dressed"

With your death at the age of 82; you’ve left behind a gravelly, gruff discography full to the brim with rich emotion and moving lyrics. And of learning about your battle with depression, I suppose it just goes to show that there is definitely some truth in how there’s a ‘crack in everything’ and that’s ‘how the light gets in’. Now, it’s ever so chilling listening to You Want It Darker - a dystopian album of death, darkness and dejection - a simple premonition for what was to come. It seems to be a fitting end to a career that was built on raw affection and one that somehow found beauty in just about everything.

You were spiritual, somber and most importantly - suavely dressed, and I’m not sure anyone will ever write a love song as sad as you have been able to. It’s truly is tragic news. I’ll be taking a bit of Leonard everywhere I go for years to come.


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