Kris Kristofferson once told Leonard Cohen that he wanted to steal the opening lines from ‘Bird On A Wire’ to be inscribed on his tombstone. The surprising thing is that he was actually able to choose at all: “Like a bird on a wire/ Like a drunk in a midnight choir/ I have tried, in my way, to be free” is perfect, but then, so is “There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in” from ‘Anthem’; so’s “Dance me to the end of love” or “Nevermind, we’re ugly but we have the music” or “And even though it all went wrong/ I’ll stand before the Lord of Song/ With nothing on my tongue/ But Hallelujah”.
More than anyone else, Leonard Cohen seemed to write epitaphs rather than couplets, his words like pennies on your eyes to keep you rich and help you pay the tollman. In some sense, his music has always felt like it’s got half an eye on the great journey beyond, a soundtrack for taking the final step. As Kurt Cobain sang on ‘Pennyroyal Tea’: “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/ So I can sigh eternally.” […]
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