Saturday, 12 November 2016

RIP Leonard Cohen

Over the past two centuries, a big gulf opened up between “classical” music, and “popular” music. Even the name popular, or “pop” has become derogatory by those who espouse so-called classical music. In this blog, I refer rarely to “non-classical” music (terminology is a real pain, here). Let us name the kind of popular music that appeals to me as “folk” music, which encompasses the wide variety of folk music, gypsy music, central and eastern European folk music, klezmer music, American folk music …. and on, and on, and on. I was sad today to learn of the death of Leonard Cohen, one of my esteemed musical companions for many decades. Leonard Cohen, like Gillian Welch, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and others, joins my love of gypsy music (whatever that is) and klezmer music in my musical pantheon.

To me, the essence of great music is sincerity. And it is sincerity that I have always found in the music of Leonard Cohen. I have CDs of his music. I love diving into YouTube and sampling Leonard Cohen over the decades. To my mind, he was a great musician – whatever label you put on him. Bird on the Wire, Famous Blue Raincoat, Suzanne, So Long Marianne, and many other songs are part of my favourite musical heritage. RIP, Mr Cohen. He was a sincere artist, rarely a showbiz type. And, let's face it, the poems of his songs were more interesting than those of most 18th century librettos! An essential of great music, in Beethoven's words, is that is goes from the heart, to the heart. The phrase sums up the best of Leonard Cohen's songs. We could also say the same of Edith Piaf.

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