Dave Buckhout .
Publication Date (V.1): 2006 / (V.2): April 21, 2015
(Originally written in 2006 — R.I.P. Leonard … September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)
Everyone reading this has had that moment. As much incisive shock as it is slow brilliant burn, it is that moment when discovering a creative work changes things, radically. It is so instant, so indelible the euphoric rush, that it weaves strands tight into the fabric of your DNA; and from that moment forward it is on file to be called up at an instant and for no other reason than it is vital to revisit and revere the things that matter. I revere these moments, worship them; and find, looking back, that for me most of this electric light has dropped within the great temple of music. I look back at one moment time-and-again … Years ago, a friend suggested I take in the live tribute concert to Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. I did not know much about the man at the time (so very late to the Cohen party); but then, this concert film—so good, at points great: Rufus Wainwright teasing the Latin beats from “Everybody Knows,” Nick Cave knocking out the title track. It was an electric instant. Not just the concert, so good; but discovery of this man, so great. In that instant I knew much more for knowing of Leonard Cohen; for within the tracers and sparks of that slow brilliant burn I came to realize: he already knew me, and well …
For any of us who struggle with the itinerant label of “creative” or “artist” (or just simply “bohemian”), for those of us who try hard to find a place for all that amidst a world so unaccommodating, so often hostile to its “live to be free” mind-spirit-soul-art mantra, there is everything to learn from someone like Cohen. Here is a man who saw in the work / live dichotomy only opportunity and purpose. He made a conscious decision long ago. To him, the ability to live free through creative art stood above all the frenetic noise and busy narcissism. He stood aside all of that, stepping to the margins of the rushing indifference and hostility and misrepresentation and misunderstanding of art and the artist—and more: their vital role. Leonard Cohen stood aside the oncoming juggernaut that forces so very many creative personalities to forego artistic endeavor for more ‘practical ends.’ He let all that manic failing dishonesty—in all its dismal duplicitous madness—pass him by, and stuck to his art … And all this time later, his spirit still standing. He even seems to wave at the madness as it passes by: a lone individual standing on the subway’s platform, wearing a wry grin, waving to all those faces under glass as they accelerate past. Leonard Cohen is that man waving at the train leaving the station, grinning at—and to—all those people he has never met. He is grinning because he knows something they all don’t. The passengers on that anxious angry train fly by, their lives a promise of the whirlwind to come. And they all—we all—stare at the man waving, grinning, bidding us adieu and wishing us all, truly, safe travels. He is concerned for us, frets for our well-being, our mental health. And yet, we think him ‘off’ — “what’s his deal?” — before diving drone-like back into our narcissism, our heady desperation. Passengers, consumed in (and by) the daily grind, we are the ones that consciously think Cohen ‘off’? It seems more defense mechanism than any pragmatic assessment. For each-and-every such thought is buttressed with a subconscious sigh: “and yet, to be like him, to be like the man on the platform; to be that free with thought not bound to the forces that drive our thoughts, our lives, down narrow alleyways constructed / constricted by others, for the needs, wants, profits of others” … He is that itinerant soul who lives not outside the manic rush—he is not immune—but along its periphery: his own parallel universe in which thought is free to wander where it may, regardless of what others think right or wrong. He is on a plane beyond the routine, understands truth for what it is, not what it is forced to be. There is no constraint or preconceived limit to truth. And so, such a spirit is able to go as far as they are able. Leonard Cohen can go as far as talent and will can take him. That is freedom. That is true freedom.