RIP: Leonard Cohen, 1934-2016
By Greg Haymes
In the middle of her concert at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre last night, one of her adoring fans informed Amanda Palmer (and the rest of the sold-out crowd) that Leonard Cohen had died. Palmer collapsed on the stage, weeping.
“I loved him,” she eventually explained. “He remains the most inspirational performer I’ve ever seen because he’s so humble.”
And at the end of her three-hour-plus, soul-baring performance, Palmer sat quietly at the grand piano gathering herself together. “Some songs get covered a lot because they’re just that good. And that’s OK…,” she half-whispered, before finally easing tentatively into a elegiac, broken-hearted, tear-stained rendition of “Hallelujah,” a song that I had previously thought I never needed to hear again.
I was wrong. I needed to hear it last night…
I only saw Leonard Cohen perform once, and to be quite honest, I don’t remember much about his music. I was a young man at my first big music fest, the Mariposa Folk Festival at Innis Lake, a big open field some 30 miles north of Toronto. The release of his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was still months away.
What I do vividly remember, however, is strolling from one workshop to another in the mid-day sun and stumbling across a small, impromptu gathering. I joined them, sitting cross-legged in a circle of maybe 20 people, listening to Cohen’s painfully intimate voice as he read from his novel, “Beautiful Losers,” for an hour or so.
“Do not be a magician,” he read. “Be magic!”