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  November 14, 2016

Leonard Cohen Sang About Our Love Affair With Death and Destruction

The brooding singer-songwriter tried to humanize society's darkest wishes, and lamented its inability to ever be at peace
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THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away last week at the age of 82. Cohen, equipped with a haunting voice and the capacity to reinvent himself continuously, was as much a poet as he was a singer-songwriter. His melodies and lyrics evoked a world helplessly in love with its own destruction, and condemned to repeating the its mistakes. From wars and oppression to love, cruelty and hatred in the home, Cohen found that everything and everyone was tainted by evil, and that it was only by embracing and speaking to our dark sides that humanity could be maybe be preserved.


Everybody knows the war is over.

Everybody knows that the good guys lost.

Everybody knows the fight was fixed.

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.

That's how it goes.

Everybody knows.

HEDGES: Cohen’s career began writing poetry. After graduate school in Montreal and New York, he published a collection of poems called Flowers for Hitler, which previewed some of the themes that would define him as a musician. It opened with a quotation from the Holocaust survivor Primo Levi that reads ‘Take care not to let it happen in your own homes what is inflicted on us here.’

“That’s what Flowers For Hitler is all about,” said Cohen in a 1967 interview about his collection. “It’s taking the mythology of the concentration camps and bringing it into the living room and saying, ‘This is what we do to each other.’ We outlaw genocide and concentration camps and gas and that, but if a man leaves his wife or they are cruel to each other, then that cruelty is going to find a manifestation if he has a political capacity; and he has. There’s no point in refusing to acknowledge the wrathful deities.”


I love the country but I can't stand the scene.

And I'm neither left or right

I'm just staying home tonight,

getting lost in that hopeless little screen.

But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags

that time cannot decay,

I'm junk but I'm still holding up

this little wild bouquet:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

HEDGES: After an enduring bout of depression in the 1980s, Cohen turned to Buddhism in the 1990s and became an ordained monk before finally returning to his musical career in the early 2000s. He toured extensively during that time period, partly in an effort to make up for lost money his long-time manager had embezzled. Last month, three weeks before his death, Cohen released his final album, You Want It Darker. The album, painful and sardonic, seems to be a distillation of Cohen’s voice and the culmination of a reflective life that’ll soon be cast away.


I heard the snake was baffled by his sin

He shed his scales to find the snake within

But born again is born without a skin

The poison enters into everything.

And I wish there was a treaty we could sign

I do not care who takes this bloody hill

I'm angry and I'm tired all the time

I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty

Between your love and mine.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a

recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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