A Night with Leonard Cohen
A few months ago, I received an invitation in the mail from Columbia Records to hear the new Leonard Cohen album “Old Ideas” played at the home of the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles – Leonard in attendance.
I’ve been a disciple of Leonard’s music and poetry since 1968 when his first record, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released. Attending meant I would be paying for my travel from Seattle to Los Angeles out of pocket. But I told myself: “You want to do this, so go and do it! You’ll never get this chance again.”
And so I arrived in L.A. on December 13 and cabbed it first to my hotel, and then, with only minutes to spare, headed to an area of the city called Hancock Park. The Canadian consulate’s home is old and gorgeous and surrounded by a dazzling landscape illuminated with flood lights from the ground up. I was in for a night!
Perhaps 50 folks were milling on the patio. After a short while, we were ushered into a small room filled with white wooden folding chairs. Coming through a side entrance, I managed to grab one in the second row and noticed the chair in front of me was reserved. “Hmmm. Leonard would be occupying that seat in a few moments,” I thought. “Oh, man!”
After being introduced, the great singer-songwriter stood up and thanked us for coming. He was a man of few words that night. He then turned his back to the small crowd, took his seat and the music began.
There was total silence from the audience for 45 minutes as his beautiful new record played. I hadn’t been in company that respectful (or terrified) for many years. I mean, folks really behaved!
After the record ended the artist took a few questions. “What was it like to have all these folks listening to your record tonight with you in the room?” someone asked. Part of him was very nervous, he said, and the other part didn’t give a damn what people thought. The small crowd laughed.
Another person asked how his spiritual journey was going. Without hesitation he replied: “I’m not and never have been on a spiritual journey. I recognize there is a greater power. However, I’m just the secretary taking down notes.”
He was speaking to me, one of his many disciples.