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Jewish Journal

If Leonard Cohen were the messiah

by Danielle Berrin

October 25, 2012 | 11:32 am

The world would still hold pain. As Tablet's Liel Leibovitz points out in this worthy read on Cohen:

To go to a Doors concert was to stare at the lithe messiah undressing on stage and believe that it was entirely possible to break on through to the other side. To see Cohen play was to gawk at an aging Jew telling you that life was hard and laced with sorrow but that if we love each other and fuck one another and have the mad courage to laugh even when the sun is clearly setting, we’ll be just all right. To borrow a metaphor from a field never too far from Cohen’s heart, theology, Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, and the rest were all good Christians, and they set themselves up as the redeemers who had to die for the sins of their fans. Cohen was a Jew, and like Jews he believed that salvation was nothing more than a lot of hard work and a small but sustainable reward.

The Jewish messiah, it turned out, was a gaunt poet with a guitar who promised not to whisk us away to some other, better world but to teach us how to come to terms with this one.

I'm looking forward to seeing Cohen live for the first time in early November. Indeed it was his sad, shattering poetry that lured me in. His sound is almost beside the point; the music is in the deep, rich, fractured harmonies of his life. Such as in this excerpt from "I Long To Hold Some Lady," a story of loss and longing:

Alas, I cannot travel

To a love I have so deep

Or sleep too close beside

A love I want to keep

 

But I long to hold some lady,

For flesh is warm and sweet.

Cold skeletons go marching

Each night beside my feet. 

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