‘Hallelujah’ – Sing in eternal peace, Leonard Cohen

Maybe, just maybe, Cohen has only retreated himself from the mayhem of worldly affairs. He’s only hibernated into the hereafter

The morning of Remembrance Day, 11 November, has greeted us with yet another tragic news of a legendary music artist – Leonard Cohen. The visionary who transformed the lives of many of his fans and followers passed away peacefully at the age of 82. Born Leonard Norman Cohen, a Canadian by birth, he made an impeccable mark in the literary world as a singer, songwriter, poet and novelist.

The music maestro, proudly called "The High Priest of Pathos" and the "Godfather of Gloom" had a profound impact on music lovers, and especially his followers from the music fraternity. Record label Sony Music in a statement commented:

"Leonard Cohen was an unparalleled artist whose stunning body of original work has been embraced by generations of fans and artists alike.”

Cohen, over a span of 60 years during his career, has had a deep impact on musicians, not only in the west, but also on those from the Pakistan music fraternity. His philosophy, his perspective, and his approach to the subjects he featured in his music has played a crucial role in creating some of the rock musicians in our industry. As soon as the news of his death broke, local rock artists took to social media expressing grief over the irreplaceable loss his death has caused.

Farhad Hamayun, the guru of rock, posted on his Facebook saying:

“I will miss you Leonard Cohen. You killed the flame and there is a void in the world! Rest in Peace!”

Musicians and rock stars aren’t the only ones who were deeply impacted by his work. Cohen was criticized and highly acknowledged for referring to subjects like religion, spirituality, intimacy, and politics, because through his work Cohen contributed towards building a particular mindset of generations that helps them transcend all boundaries of worldliness. Yet, Cohen has been found to be modest when speaking about his work. In a famous 1994 interview for a renowned publication, he claimed that ‘his work could never match the sublime nature of a song like Your Cheatin' Heart by Hank Williams.’ In fact, in one of his songs he actually sang that Hank Williams is "a hundred floors above me in the tower of song."

Cohen’s songs, as Bob Dylan once commented, sounded a lot like a prayer. Kris Kristofferson, in fact, asked that the opening lines of Bird on a Wire be inscribed on his tombstone. Most of his songs such as Hallelujah and Suzanne had many Biblical references with most of them from the Old Testament. And, if one understands the Scripture well, one would realise that the songs weren’t a disrespect at all. Rather his songs spoke about the beauty of intimacy, fidelity and relationships through references from the Scripture. One of the most profound lyrics that leave the listener in a pensive mood is In My Secret Life.

Cohen’s songs are deeply influencing, mainly because his songs have been inspired by real time incidents in his own life. His songs Bird on the Wire, Hallelujah and So Long Marianne were written about his lover and muse Marianne Ihlen, whom he met in Greece back in the 1960s. It’s been reported that in July this year, after he heard about Marianne’s near to death illness, he wrote to her saying:

"Well Marianne, it's come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon."

Ihlen also inspired the song Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye.

Recently, when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, much controversy stirred over Leonard Cohen vs Bob Dylan that divided musicians, novelists and fans who debated Cohen deserved the prestigious prize more than Dylan. Cohen on this commented:

“Giving Nobel to Bob Dylan like pinning medal on Everest.”

The comparison between the two goes back to the 1960s. Famous poet Allen Ginsberg noted it back then that Cohen was one of the fewest who was not blown away by Bob Dylan's lyrics since ‘he already had such a solid foundation in literature and poetry.’

During a recent event held to launch his latest album Leonard Cohen said, “I am ready to die,” later on adding, “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.”

Thursday night shook everyone with grief when the news of his sad demise broke out. Although Cohen clarified it later that he intends to live forever, truth is, legends like Leonard Cohen never die. His legacy lives on through his ageless work, through his fans and followers, through perspectives on some of the most controversial topics discussed.

Cohen is the kind of guy who liked vanishing from public eye soon after creating hype about his music album, concert, or publication of a book. And when you least expect it, there you go!

Cohen would be found taking the center stage. Perhaps, this isn’t death at all. Maybe, just maybe, Cohen has only retreated himself from the mayhem of worldly affairs. He’s only hibernated into the hereafter. While we grieve over losing ‘one of music's most revered and prolific visionaries,’ we’ll continue to hear Leonard Cohen singing ‘Hallelujah’ in eternal peace.

Marian Sharaf Joseph is an independent journalist. Her work for local and global publications focuses on culture and community affairs