The Leonard Cohen Reader
Until I saw it, I didn’t know I needed to witness Leonard Cohen skipping off stage at the end of a London performance to the beat of Closing Time.
In the early 2000s I was sitting solo in an Italian pastry shop eating cannoli and sipping a tumbler of Amaretto on ice. It was around 10 pm on a weekday night. The place would be closing about midnight and I’d be long gone before then.
I hated the city I lived in and this one of my few refuges. The bartender was from Poland and I didn’t know it until this fateful evening when I’d be “introduced” to Leonard Cohen, but ALL the music that played at the bar was from the personal collection of the bartender. It was quite a mix of jazz, indie, piano, guitar, international. This was my neighborhood joint and the vibe helped me stay in the God awful city for much longer than I wanted to but needed to.
So, on this fateful night, I heard a voice. A deep, low, slow, long cigarette-drag of a voice through the din of café talk and street traffic. A steady drumbeat behind the voice. Like a heart. I literally stopped breathing, tried to detect a clue to who, what I was hearing. I couldn’t even catch lyrics. I was mesmerized. Couldn’t move. Then it was over.
I stood from my table and approached the barkeep. I said, “What were you just playing?” By then another song had begun and I had to struggle to hum back to the bartender what I thought I was hearing – only wisps and such. He went to the back, behind the bar, brought out the album CD that I would recently learn reached #1 on the charts and went platinum in Poland. It was “10 New Songs,” by Leonard Cohen with Sharon Robinson.
All I needed to know.
The next day I found the album online, scrolled through the songs until I heard THAT SOUND. It was the track, Here It Is. I can and have listened to Here It Is all day. That was my introduction to Leonard Cohen.
I’ve been in love ever since.
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Listen to Leonard Cohen’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Prince Asturias Award for literature.