Leonard Cohen 1934-2016


#1

Anybody as shocked as I was? Losing Bowie and Cohen (EDIT - And Prince. I knew I was forgetting someone) in a handful of years feels like a blow.

Also, this won’t mean anything to anyone, but Sara Rosa also died just a few weeks back. She was an opera singer, who did have a career outside Portugal. A modest career, to be sure, but in her country she was one of the best. Not a star; not famous; simply one of the very best.

Sad.


#2

This is tough. Part of me says it’s sad when someone famous dies. But the problem is, with advanced communications, more people are famous, and thus, more of them will die, and we will hear about it. And that seems like such a heartless way to look at things, but it’s the only way.

And part of me says “82 years is pretty good.” And we can compare that to people who died much much too soon. But of course Leonard Cohen is a Big One.

I think we need that reminder that our time is limited and ways for that to motivate us to be the best we can (and not in the motivational-book sense). The School of Life has a lot of YouTube videos for this. The thing is–these people have done great things with their lives, and we can/should mourn them. But we also have things in our own lives we want to do, and if we’ve never met them, and they us, we don’t owe them anything.

I know when a famous artist I didn’t read enough about, dies, I take that time to look at their works. It’s comforting. And there are people I don’t want to see die for semi-selfish reason, who are semi-famous and you may not know about them.

One of them for me is Purdue head (college) basketball coach Gene Keady. Non basketball fans probably know about Bobby Knight, but Keady was also a magnificent on the court coach. He knew about weight training before it was popular. And everyone thought while he was coaching that Purdue would make it to the Final Four eventually. But Purdue hasn’t. He is getting up in years. And so it would be cool for it to happen before he died.

The thing is I’m not big on celebrity culture but Leonard Cohen is one of those people where I’d have liked to say, thanks for being you. Thanks for doing it so well.


#3

Of course. It’s only natural. People die all the time, and inevitably all the people that we we grew up admiring, all the big media people (I’m not even talking about people close to us, or this’ll turn REALLY depressing), all the actors and singers and dancers and poets and politicians and thinkers and philosophers and scientists whom we may personally credit for being amongst the most important human beings on earth, they’ll be gone.

But when it happens it’s not necessarily celebrity culture that people stand up and pay attention. It’s like when Pavarotti died, or - personally now - when Bergonzi died, and Madga Olivero died, and Fiescher-DIeskau died (opera singers - recent deaths), or when Terry Pratchett died (now THAT was a blow). It’s the feeling (extraordinarily personal and subjective) that the world is a poorer place without these people. That there are no younger people taking up their mantle, doing the things they did. That that is a GOOD thing, because no one could do it as well as they, but it’s still something to mourn.

All of which extends to our circle of non-famous acquaintances as well, obviously. But in a place like this I couldn’t very well start a thread going “Sara Rosa died”. Whereas Cohen is, as you say, A Big One, whom we all know. We can mourn him together.

We can even take this opportunity. As Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (portuguese poetess) says in a poem to Lorca (one of Cohen’s greatest influences by his own admission), “Em ti choramos os outros mortos todos”. “In crying for you, we cry for all the others who are dead”, roughly.

Cohen was, by all accounts, a generous and thoughtful man. I’m sure he’d appreciate it if we took the time, in this thread, to celebrate other people who have passed away, whom the world might not necessarily know as well as they did him. I mean, if anyone wants to. It won’t be hijacking the thread or the moment of his passing.


#4

I imagine a lot of us know Abe Vigoda died, but just visiting isabevigodadead.com was a cool unusual tribute. I read a lot about how he helped keep a joke going that shouldn’t have any legs, and he played along with it, and not for popularity. Like when David Letterman started a fake seance on his show and Vigoda walked in and yelled “I’m alive, you dummy!”

I have to admit I read stiffs.com too. I thought I was being morbid, but some of the best ones help us laugh and move on.

I like the idea of your topic. In Chicago, I noticed Phil Georgeff died on the 7th. I didn’t care for horse racing but I can still hear his trademark phrase “Here they come spinning out of the turn” from the sports part of the news. I still don’t care much about horse racing, but I think of it when seeing a race between people.


#5

I grew up in a world where most of the great people were already dead - Beethoven, Pessoa, you name it. I don’t take it so hards thus


#6

It’s a good point, actually. The greats keep coming and going, and they didn’t stop coming after, say, Beethoven. Or Pessoa, who came centuries after Beethoven, that being my point. We often don’t recognise them when we should, so when I say “no one is taking up their mantle” it’s not actually true. I just hope that when their greatness is recognised it doesn’t come too late. New people are doing their own stuff, leading the world in new ways - which is pretty much what all the Greats did (since you mention Beethoven and Pessoa, you must know exactly what I mean; both were pioneers in their art).

Few Greats are recognised in their lifetime, and that’s the real shame, and it has everything to do with them being so different from the norm. Maybe instead of feeling sorry that some of them left us, we should be happy that we recognised them for what they were and were able to repay them and admire them while they were alive. Even if they aren’t great for the whole world - they just have to be great for for a handful of people to make the world a better place. Sort of tie-in to what Andrew said.

Funny timing, I re-watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” yesterday. That may have coloured my post somewhat. :wink:


#7

Yeah. There are many greats who have died, and what can you do? This reminds me of how selfish I thought CS Lewis was, for dying before I could write to him and tell him his books would help me write something at least as wonderful!

Yes, I was very, very young. To young to understand why he didn’t keep writing a Chronicle of Narnia each year til his death.

But all the same there is still his stepson Douglas Gresham out there, etc. Things go on.


#8

Pessoa was born in the same century Beethoven died. :stuck_out_tongue:

and yes, I mean Fernando Pessoa, the great portuguese poet.


#9

Colour me embarassed! Inexcusable!