by T.J. TranchellThere are times in history when the world does not make sense. During such times, we turn to our artists — the poets, musicians, painters, filmmakers, writers and more — to help us take things that do not make sense to us and present them in ways that help us understand.
And even when those voices die, they do not go silent if we don’t let them.
So right now, I’m blasting Leonard Cohen and holding in emotions that have been boiling for a few days now. He’s gone, at 82, but I can still hear his off-key voice reaching out from a future he saw coming
but hoped wouldn’t.
Like David Bowie, who asked us on his final album how many times an angel falls, Cohen saw the end coming. Just a few weeks ago, Cohen’s final album “You Want It Darker” was released and some of the lyrics are perfect for how I feel today.
“If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game,” he intones. “If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame.”
I hear you, Leonard, from wherever you are now.
And I hear other voices still singing your songs, even if they don’t know you wrote them. I once interviewed a young man after he sang “Hallelujah” at a talent show. “I liked the song from the movie ‘Shrek,’ ” he said.
And a part of me died.
I’m not a snob, or I try not to be, but I can cry a little when someone with a beautiful voice doesn’t know who wrote the words they are singing. But I must also accept that Cohen was not a household name.
Knowing that at least one of his songs is a touchstone for millennials pleases me. I simply ask that they not be so caught up in their present and in their concern for the future that they forget to look at how we got where we are at this time in history.
I might need a drink and maybe you do, too. No, we shall not drown our sorrows in alcohol because that only leads to bad poetry, forgetfulness and escapism. Cohen, I think, would have wanted us to write good poetry and love each other more and better.
But if we are drinking, we should drink Red Needles, Cohen’s own cocktail. You bring the tequila and the ice. I’ll scrounge up the cranberry juice and lemons in this fall weather, and we’ll toast and sing.
And we’ll dance.
“Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in,” Cohen sang in his 1984 tune “Dance Me to the End of Love.”
It feels like we are getting there, to the end of love. But we’re not there yet.
Tranchell is a journalism instructor/adviser at the University of Idaho. He once found a beat-up copy of Leonard Cohen’s 1967 novel “Beautiful Losers” at a thrift store. He still has it and should read it again. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.