I first heard of Leonard Cohen on Nirvana’s album, In Utero, in 1993. There was a single line in Pennyroyal Tea: Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld, so I can sigh eternally. I didn’t know what that meant, and it wasn’t like I could google it then. It remained a mystery for a couple of years, until his songs on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack blew me away.
I bought the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.
I bought Leonard Cohen’s album I’m Your Man.
And I bought his big blue book, Stranger Music.
That book was my constant companion for a solid eight years. It still rested contentedly on my shelf, until I pulled it out an hour ago, to run my fingers down its spine, greeting an old friend. I flipped to the Taco Bell receipt faded to near-illegibility that still marks the page of Owning Everything, and I read the poem that I know so well once more, and I cried. I flipped forward to the Wal-Mart receipt for kitty litter from 2000 to read You Do Not Have to Love Me, and my heart broke anew.
Leonard Cohen was a magic man. He was like Shakespeare to me; everyone should know him and be forced to read him and listen and perform him in high school until at least someone of them loved him like I do.
But he wasn’t like Shakespeare; he was alive. A living breathing, force of nature, like the wind and the tides. And now he isn’t.
I remember when Frank Sinatra died in 1998, and one of the nurses that I worked with wore a black armband for a week. No one else was that worked up about it; it seemed an affectation.
But now I understand.
Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen.