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Wednesday, 19 April 2006 00:00

Recommended diversions

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Leonard Cohen

What can you say about a man in his 70’s who is an international sex symbol in Paris, Berlin, London and Dublin? (He doesn’t do badly in Melbourne, Madrid and Stockholm either.) I think I’ll call him a role model. Every time his hoarse, whiskey-marinated vocal chords tells me how he went home with Suzanne (to her place by the river) and “touched her perfect body with his mind,” I vibrate like a tuning fork. Hell, I don’t even know what he means by that, but I’m set a-quiver anyway. Let’s talk a little about vintage Cohen.

“Closing Time”

“All the women tear their blouses off

And the men they dance on the polka-dots

And it’s partners found and it’s partners lost

And it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops

It’s closing time.”

Now, what is Leonard saying here? Is it the Apocalypse? A retirement party? The end of an era? Well, again, who cares. Do you hear those three vocalists in the background? This song rocks!

“Dance Me to the End of Love”

“Dance me to the children who are asking to be born

Dance me through the curtains

That our kisses have outworn

Raise a tent of shelter now

Though every thread is torn

Dance me to the end of love.”

I understand that one! An entire life together treated as a dance. Awwww, I got a lump in my throat.

“Everybody Knows”

“Everybody knows that you love me baby

Everybody knows that you really do

Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful, give or take a night or two

Everybody knows that you’ve been discreet, but there were so many people you just had to meet ... without your clothes.

Everybody knows.”

Oh, cynical, Leonard, cynical. Funny, too. But you still love her, don’t you? And listen to that keyboard! Can’t get this one out of my head. “That’s how it goes! Everybody knows.”

“I’m Your Man”

“If you want a boxer, I will step into the ring for you

If you want a doctor, I’ll examine every inch of you

If you want a driver, climb inside

Or if you want to take me for a ride,

You know you can.

I’m your man.”

Sexy. This man is a poet, and his collected poems and songs can be found on Strange Music (Pantheon Books). He has been recording music since the ‘60’s and has a cult following. Some critics whine that his voice lacks melodic range. Well, he doesn’t exactly sing. He chants, and he does it with a Sean Connery voice. I would buy his CDs just to hear him talk. With more than 300 songs and a dozen reissued collections, he is not going out of style. Check The Essential Leonard Cohen (Columbia).

— By Gary Carden

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