By Judith Fitzgerald
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen, this planet's contemporary Shakespeare, in living colour and top-notch ship-shape form including full-frontal sonic back-upper anchorage, will crest the waves this evening in order to provide his stalwart friends, fans, supporters, cheerleaders, B'Losers (a.k.a. Beautiful Losers) and members of the media with an incomparable breath of fresh ear-cheer at NYC's storied Beacon Theatre.
The concert's sold out; LC's stoked up; and, not surprisingly, all involved are currently afloat on the imaginary deck of that cloud-nine boat affectionately dubbed Hallelujah, an appropriate cognomen made manifestly real-to-deal considering the maestro of melancholic munificence will commence the second leg of his wildly successful world-wide tour tonight.
(IOW? While Ottawa welcomes President Obama, our Companion of the Order of Canada takes Manhattan by undeniably automagical storm. That's a fair trade, IMO. Give my regrets to Broadway.)
(We won't even brag to differ vis-à-vis the way in which Hallelujah topped the charts on both sides of the puddle of muddle late last year. BION, that milestone marked an historic red-lettered day for the septuagenarian since, considering his "music-bizthness career" officially commenced 27 December 1967 [with the release of his tried, tested 'n' true blue stun-wondrous debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen] he finally scored his first numero-uno chart-topping tuno, thanks to Mr. Simon "Says" Cowell and Ms. Alexandra Burke acing the reality talent-trial X Factor; however, that's another glory story since, to tell you the truth, I don't own a television.)
This story? Despite the fact LC had a million details and honey-doofers and gofers and whateverfers with whom and which to deal last night, he took a moment to communicate his feelings surrounding his so-called "vocation" (as opposed to his "avocation," singer-songwriter) to me, primarily because of Levi Asher's ludicrous assertion Bob Dylan towers over LC in the poet/singer-songwriter penthouse. (As if, eh?)
See, this tête-à-tête get-to-get dust-up all started when that natty snit-picker lit-kicker and I engaged in a duel of sorts concerning whether BD or LC ranked first in the poet/singer-songwriter stratosphere late last year (on Ms. Margaret Atwood's B-Day no less, the bloody blasphemer!). Not only did Asher go for the jungular juice by describing LC as "a midget" compared with "a giant," he admirably demonstrated his vast ignorance of LC's work by incorrectly citing The Maestro's sig-song as "Bird on a Wire."
As any fule know, it's "Bird On The Wire." (LC once told me, when we were discussing the tune's genesis, Marshall McLuhan's notions concerning media and messages "were in the air" -- Wait for it -- and swirling around his brain at the time he created that electrifying lament for a way of life forever lost; he helplessly watched workers install electricity lines for the first time on his beloved Hydra in Greece. It was one of the last holdouts; but, inexorably and inevitably, the Techno-cRats trumped the Traditionalists, sadly. In Leo's view, that story inevitably ends badly.)
Anyway, the entire brouhahaggle between Levi and yours truly went downhell (for him) from there. It lasted for weeks, lovely glorious weeks when LC topped Best-Of lists upon listings and which, appropriately, climaxed in the definitively up-shutting Asherism inked by The Guardian's cut-above Dorian Lynskey who, with splash and panache to spare, compared a handful of the hundred-plus covers of "Hallelujah," concluding his lovely poetic kicker thusly:
Purists may sometimes yowl but ["Hallelujah"]is malleable enough to weather any treatment. It can be stoic or histrionic, reassuring or devastating, warm and full or "cold and broken", a song that bends but never breaks... One version that is rarely praised is Cohen's own, hamstrung by its chintzy 80s production. But on stage at Glastonbury this year, as sunset purpled the sky, he wrenched every atom of emotion from a song which only he fully understood, and seemed to deliver a timely reminder: This is my song. Everyone else just borrows it.
Damned straight. The tune's irrefutably great; hence, I proved the truth (despite what that sadly misguided -- but otherwise brilliant -- poet Billy Collins erroneously scribbled in "Bob Dylan: The Beatnik Bard" (for the London Times).
Welp, the good news? Asher and I became fast friends as a result of all of this; but, you know, it still right royally bugged my bum the punk refused to acknowledge the obvious, even though I'd handed the incontrovertible proof to him on a 10-foot silver platter.
So, the better news? In order to prove my correctitude, I screwed up my courage and made a beeline for the source, not an action I undertook lightly -- particularly since I knew LC would be sound-checking, dress-rehearsal ragging, hair-cutting, wardrobe-selecting and yadda-yadda-yikesing, for tonight's historic event -- but, once I'm on a jag, nothing stands between the task's completion and me me me.
I posed said burning question to LC (explaining my emerging part in our GlobeBlog, "In Other Words" and, in order to allow me to bring the best news to you (and Asher, too), Dear Readers, LC graciously took a few moments to allow me to reveal his answer (in record time) when I posed another of my zinger-slingers:
"Boss," I asked (since that's what I call him when I'm not calling him the greatest poet/singer-songwriter of the twentieth century, or our contemporary Shakespeare, or My Moon-Man in a Million, or Leo Con Brio or...).
"Boss? Question for you, if you don't mind."
He didn't; thus, I forged ahead, fully aware that seconds were important as he and Coh(en)orts prepared for what shall ultimately be remembered as one of the biggest events of his professional life.
"Leo," I asked, "do you think of yourself as a poet (first) in terms of your vocation?"
Leo being Leo, he koaniacally replied and allowed me to include his response in this post; naturally, in the process, he scored big points for the opposition and effectively put this ol' cow out to pasture while simultaneously enabling his chief bull-shooter, LitKicker Levi, to claim a kind of Pyrrhic victory in the process.
Leo e-responded (and, I faithfully quote his answer verbatim so that you might see how wonderfully kind and unassuming this amazingly gifted poet/singer-songwriter non-pareil can be):
not in the way you do, or Irving [Layton]did
more like a distant person, known to me, but far from my central concerns, filling in the blanks on a questionnaire
Gulp. Gasp. OMGStars. What could I possibly say? "O, frabjous day. O, calloo. O, callay." Asher has yet to gloat; but, I imagine he'll be bragging a swaggadocio any second, now. After all, when the thoroughbred himself confirms the truth for the Cohenistically challenged, the only remaining task involves rearranging the barcaloungers on the good ship Hallelujah.
Never mind. Pas de sweat. G'Luck tonight, Dear Darlin' Leo' du Poetic Dynamite.
Yours till the cow keels overboard, Moooooooodith