Hey, THaT’s No Way To say Good­bye

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

SOME­TIMES THINGS come to­gether, strangely but ap­pro­pri­ately. The news of Leonard Co­hen’s death fil­tered through just as we heard that Don­ald Trump would be the next US Pres­i­dent and just as or­di­nary In­di­ans thronged the streets out­side ATMs and bank branches, hop­ing des­per­ately to with­draw the cash they needed to meet their daily needs. Out­wardly, we were all op­ti­mistic but in­wardly, we knew that there were more dis­ap­point­ments on the road ahead.

Ev­ery­one coped in dif­fer­ent ways. I lis­tened to Leonard Co­hen. And to one song, in par­tic­u­lar. It’s called Ev­ery­body Knows:

“Ev­ery­body knows that the dice are loaded

Ev­ery­body rolls with their fin­gers crossed.

Ev­ery­body knows that the war is over.

Ev­ery­body knows that the good guys lost

Ev­ery­body knows that the fight was fixed.

The poor stay poor, the rich stay rich.”

Fi­nally I tweeted a few lines, be­cause they seemed to me to cap­ture the mood of our times. Ob­vi­ously some peo­ple agreed; the tweet got around 300 likes.

But it was only one of thou­sands of tweets from around the world that quoted from Co­hen’s songs in the af­ter­math of his death. A par­tic­u­lar favourite were the words to An­them. “There is a crack in every­thing/that’s how the light gets in.”

Even as I mourn the loss of Leonard Co­hen, I know the songs will live on

We dis­cussed whether rock was a young man’s game. Sam had worked with Pink Floyd but was hard pressed to think of a great Floyd song from af­ter the early 80s. (“Shine On You Crazy Di­a­mond”, may have been their last hur­rah.) Even the Stones, Sam’s claim to fame (he coined the phrase “the great­est rock and roll band in the world” to in­tro­duce them), have not writ­ten a great song for 30 years. I grieved for David Bowie some months ago but as for the music, it was pretty much down­hill af­ter Let’s Dance (1983). When you lis­ten to Paul McCart­ney in con­cert these days you re­alise how rub­bish the new stuff is. Even my own hero, Paul Si­mon, is un­able to match the glo­ries of his past.

In that sense, rock is dif­fer­ent from other kinds of music. Does any­body care about how old the great jazz mu­si­cians were when they recorded their best stuff ? The leg­endary blues singers were never young and the suf­fer­ing was etched on their faces. The writ­ers of stan­dards (the Gersh­wins, Cole Porter, etc) tran­scended age. And so, I guess, does Hindi film music. When RD Burman com­posed the music for 1942, A Love Story, he was at the height of his pow­ers, even though it was among the last scores he com­posed.

The ex­cep­tion to this whole rock-is-a-young­man’s-thing rule was, of course, Leonard Co­hen, both Sam and I agreed. But that may have been be­cause Co­hen was, al­ways dif­fer­ent.

He was a well-known Cana­dian poet who was drawn into the world of music and en­cour­aged to record his songs (like nearly ev­ery­body else in that era) by the suc­cess of Bob Dy­lan who proved you didn’t need to sing like an an­gel if the words were any good.

His first al­bum ( Songs of Leonard Co­hen) came out in 1968 and in­cluded the songs ( Suzanne, Hey, That’s No Way To Say Good­bye, So Long, Mar­i­anne, etc) that came to de­fine him to a gen­er­a­tion of lis­ten­ers who lis­tened to music for mean­ing. (Is there any­one in that gen­er­a­tion who has not bro­ken up to “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Good­bye”?)

The fol­low­ing year, Co­hen re­leased Songs From A Room which pretty much com­pleted his leg­end and in­cluded the other songs that would be­come famous ( Bird on a Wire, Story of Isaac, The Par­ti­san etc.)

So by 1969, he had al­ready re­leased the songs that a whole

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