On Leonard Cohen

Niall Flynn /
Nov 15, 2016 / Music

Leonard Cohen was a giant. Somewhere, he still is.

I used to think that I discovered him relatively late. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years-old that I first decided to go a little deeper than Hallelujah. I’m 22 now, and I realise that wasn’t quite true. Rather, I discovered Cohen at the exact time in my life when I needed to hear him. This week, I’ve come to realise that’s just how it works.

His music has that knack, y’see. It only ever seems to reveal itself when its listener finds themselves in a particular kind of state, or specific moment. When it comes to Leonard Cohen and his beautiful songs, you don’t find them, nor do they find you; rather, it’s a strange, inexplicable meeting in the middle. You come across an artist like Cohen just as much as his music comes across you. It’s a mutual entanglement, inconceivable to rational thought. It happens when it means to, and not a moment before.

See, the sounds of Cohen carry such a transcendence because of their ability to speak. Leonard Cohen talks to you, and at that specific point in time, you’re listening. He says what you need to hear, or what you don’t. Sometimes both. Nobody understood words better. Few ever will.

That’s why – as far as Cohen is concerned – the notion of an obituary seems redundant. What are we going to contribute through strained articulation that he hasn’t already gifted us with himself? If words are to be our tribute to Leonard Cohen, then let them be his. Let them be the sad, the desolate, or the hopeful, the delicately gorgeous. Let them be anything, just as long as they’re the ones that he wrote. Anything else seems a little short.

Bowie was the moment, Prince was the feeling, but Cohen was the words. The world’s quieter without them, and a little lonelier, too. They’ll continue to find you, though – just as they found the 18 year-old me; just as they found all of those before the 18 year-old me. Leonard Cohen was a giant. Somewhere, forever more, he still is.

Words by Niall Flynn

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