There will be more moving and coherent tributes paid to Leonard Cohen than these ramblings, but the news of his death earlier this week genuinely moved me.
I was a late convert to Cohen, thanks to a former girlfriend, and his music, lyrics and wry sense of self-deprecating humour have offered me peace, wisdom and entertainment for nearly two decades. His career has obviously lasted much longer than that, but the great thing about coming to any fanboy party late is that there is more material to enjoy.
Various Positions and I'm Your Man were my entrees to Cohen's music, then I started listening to his earlier work. His last CD, You Want it Darker, is a pleasure I have yet to enjoy but it's purchased and is ready to go.
I plan to wait until I have a quiet hour with just me, the cat and a glass of wine before pressing play, though. I want to savour the moment.
As you'd expect from a great lyricist and an acclaimed poet and novelist, Cohen was also a great story-teller. My favourite Cohen story related to his meeting with Janis Joplin and the story was often told as a prelude to the song, Chelsea Hotel.
In Cohen's own words:
'This is a story that I tell every time I sing this song and I'm going to keep on telling it as long as I'm singing. It's a story about a young woman that I met in an elevator in a hotel in New York City. One of the greatest singers that I ever heard. I was wandering around all night. That was a great elevator, you know. It was only about four feet wide. It was the very hub of my social activity. I didn't get around very much, but sometimes I'd meet somebody in that elevator. Around three in the morning, I used to see this other dismal person in this elevator. And I looked into her eyes. She avoided my eyes and it became clear to me that she wasn't looking for me. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson. I said, 'I am Kris Kristofferson.' She said, 'I thought you were a lot taller.' I said, 'I am a lot taller but it's just photography.' And the truth be told, I wasn't looking for her; she was a kind of sad-looking girl with knotty, curling hair and a very bad complexion. I wasn't looking for her. I said, 'Well, the truth be told, I'm looking for the granddaughter of Mae West.' She didn't even exist. And one thing lead to another. Well, we found ourselves together. And it was a long time later after she died that I wrote this song for her. Her name was Janis Joplin. It was at the Chelsea Hotel.'
Thanks Leonard. You are Kris Kristofferson. And remain so much more.