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!