On Leonard Cohen
When my daughter was tiny, for about six months, I used to give her a bath every single night (parenthood makes you superstitious about routines) and as I did so I'd always sing 'One of Us Cannot Be Wrong', the final track from Leonard Cohen's first record. It's a song I'd first come across when I was 15. Like all suburban teenagers I was a big Nirvana fan and had investigated Cohen after hearing him being name-checked in 'Pennyroyal Tea' (this was the days before algorithms when learning about music required this kind of serendipity).
From then on I periodically loved him, got bored of him, rediscovered him, drifted away, came back, buying and listening to to each one of his records, seeking out and reading his books and, once, spending a truly appalling amount of money on a gig in a castle.
In this way Leonard Cohen became, for me, more of a long-term fixture in my life than any other artist I can think of. There's musicians and albums and songs I've loved more fiercely but never with the same longevity and dependability: love, death, sex, war, religion, faith - he's always been there in the background, ready to come forward during those times when music needs to be serious.
Lately, it's felt very much like one of those times. I've had his latest record, You Want It Darker, on nigh constant circulation for the past three weeks and that Cohen style – weighty yet ironical, unapologetically literary yet unashamedly pop, thematically dependable yet restlessly inquisitive, sophisticated yet unflinchingly existential – which served him so well for fifty years is so richly abundant that it's almost impossible to countenance it being the work of an artist who would deteriorate and die so suddenly after its release. It shows how, although the flesh was failing, the mind and its fearsome artistry were as sharp as ever.
Although I'm obviously sad he's passed away I'm not sentimental about it, or at least not unduly so. He was, after all, Leonard Cohen. He'd reached a ripe age, lived good life in every possible sense and departed knowing that he would leave behind something substantial and lasting: serious songs which will continue to be sung to children.