Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Contemplating Leonard Cohen

Tonight I'm listening to Leonard Cohen. I heard Leonard Cohen sing Suzanne for the very first time in 1968, while stationed at Fort Monmouth New Jersey. Fort Monmouth was one of the Army's main Signal Corps schools, and I was there to study the repair of field cryptographic equipment. Eight hours a day, for 36 weeks, covering basic electronics, digital logic, teletype repair, then on to the meat of the course; five separate pieces of digital electronic cryptographic equipment, used in conjunction with military teletype machines and backpack, vehicle and aircraft field radios.

For me, Fort Monmouth was a dream assignment. It was located in New Jersey, only 45 minutes south of New York City by bus, and a 15-20 minute drive from the Jersey Shore in Asbury Park, where Bruce Springsteen got his start playing in clubs on the boardwalk.

Being so close to NYC, we were very fortunate soldiers indeed! Not only because we could get weekend passes to go into New York City which was always a treat, but also, because through the din of all of the cruddy top forty and bubble gum rock radio stations, we were able to pull in some absolutely wonderful progressive radio stations, and our favorite was the powerful WNEW out of NYC! Two of their best DJ's were Rosko, and Alison Steele (The Night Bird) . Alison Steele was my favorite. She was a laid back, supremely cool and sexy voice in the night, bring us the latest and most progressive sounds of the era. I went to sleep each night listening to her. My middle name is Alison, and she was the inspiration for it! Sadly, Alison Steele died in 1995, and the eminently cool Rosko, also died in 2000. :-( When I was a 19 year old know nothing, these two wonderful people contributed to the opening of my mind, and introduced me to new concepts in music, art, poetry and beyond. I will never for get them, and the peaceful nights I spent with them, drifting off into slumber.

Leonard Cohen was one of the first they introduced me too, and I have loved him ever since. I recently heard an interview with him on NPR's Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross.

Like many of us, Cohen's life is a dichotomy of contradictions. Lyrical songs of innocence, like Suzanne and Hallelujah, are juxtaposed to poetic songs of cynicism, like Everybody Knows

According to his interview with Terry Gross, Cohen once spent a significant time living in a monastery, where he revealed that although everyone was utterly courteous to everyone else, he secretly hated everyone! Oh, how I can identify with that! ;-D

I love this man! He is one of the most beautiful human beings, I have ever encountered. If you have never heard his music an poetry, I would strongly encourage you to listen to his CD The Essential Leonard Cohen.

Tonight I will leave you with a Cohen number, that always brings tears to my eyes. Maybe because it somehow reminds me of all of you. Please listen to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah!

Melissa XX


chrissie said...

He always reminded me of Al Pacino. :-)

Music to commit suicde to....

I can listen to it, but only if tied to a dhair...


Melissa said...

Oh God, Chrissie! LOL! Is it really that bad for you? :-)

I love Leonard Cohen! I hope I don't have you pulling your hair out!

Melissa XX

Leslie Ann said...

His voice is an acquired taste, but that never stopped me. If one can embrace Dylan, Tom Waits or Johnny Rotten, Cohen should be tolerable. More a poet than a singer (understatement!), he really is an original.

Anonymous said...

I love Leonard Cohen to pieces. Have you read his books?
Selected Poems, Beautiful Loosers, Book of Longing,The favorite Game,Various Positions,Stranger Music.

Stace said...

I have to hang my head in shame here... I know the name, but not the singer.

That song though gets to me everytime I hear it.


Melissa said...

@ Leslie Ann

If you go back and click on the link to Suzanne, it will take you to a Youtube video of Cohen singing that song at the Isle of Wright concert in 1970. Listen to how different his young voice sounded, compared to the aged voice he sings with today. It's quite a stark contrast.

@ Anonymous

No I haven't read any of his books, but if they are anything like the songs he writes, I'm sure I would like them.

@ Stace

Although he has been around since the sixties, it doesn't surprise me that you didn't know Leonard Cohen. His music is not exactly standard radio fair, although I have heard several recent adaptations of Hallelujah by younger artists.

Melissa XX

Two Auntees said...

I, too, love Leonard Cohen.

caroline said...

As someone who only has 157 Leonard Cohen tracks on my ipod I don't feel qualified to say much about this subject.

All I can do is ask how many artists have worked for 40 + years recording and are if anything better now than they were back at the beginning when they were merely amazing.

Too many just believe the trite clichés repeated by people who themselves learned them from people repeating old clichés!

For a long time he was my mine to enjoy alone then i tried to buy a ticket to a concert and they were sold as fast as the most popular bands!

Never will see him live now but the music is always there in it's great range.
If he had never recorded a song the world would be a significantly the poorer for it.

Please do not go searching for his work, I like to think that there are people out there missing out on the pleasure I have had from his songs and shall continue to have till my dying day.

Caroline XXX