Hearing that today is Leonard Cohen’s 75th birthday got me thinking about the extensive archive of his lyrics (especially of his early songs) that is housed (at least so far) in my brain. I don’t remember ever buying one of his albums but since the one I remember the best (his first) was released in 1967, when I was in Grade 10, I’m pretty sure that one of my brothers had the album (if you read this, can you let me know?) and either I overheard it enough times to memorize the lyrics or I must have been allowed to play it all by myself. Now, hearing a Cohen tune always stops my mind racing from one task to another long enough to savour the moment.
In the hilarious movie Saint Ralph Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” accompanies a scrawny teenager as he fights his way to the finish of the Boston Marathon. A couple of weeks after I rented the movie, I heard Cohen tell someone on either CBC radio or TV (no room for these details in my memory as it’s too full of Cohen lyrics) that he felt there should be at least a short moratorium on the use of that song. Since then I hear “Hallelujah” all the time—it seems to have been covered by everyone.
Lyrics from Cohen’s later songs are also housed in my archive, although I seldom have time to listen to an album over and over again, so they’re not complete. But it’s comforting to know that my brain is capable of remembering long verses that evoke distinct images rather than just those catchy ditties like the Alka Seltzer song that came out about the same time as Cohen’s first album.
Happy Birthday, Leonard.