Thursday, February 12, 2009

Leonard Cohen and Australia on fire

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When I saw the following article in
The Guardian about Leonard Cohen donating a hefty amount to the fire victims in Australia I immediately thought of one of my favorite songs of his (I love the man).

So he's touring again. How I do wish that he would play Portland, Oregon. Only fire could keep me away.....

The legendary singer-songwriter has found it in his heart (and his pocket) to give generously to those who have suffered the loss of loved ones or their homes in the fire disaster

Leonard Cohen might have had a few cash problems in recent years, but the legendary singer-songwriter has still dug deep enough to donate $200,000 (£90,000) to the victims of the Australian bushfires.

Cohen is currently touring the country where bushfires have destroyed entire towns in the state of Victoria, killing an estimated 200 people. Australian tour promoter Michael Gudinski released a statement saying: "Leonard has loved his time in Australia on this tour and is shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the fires." He added that Cohen and his touring party "wish to extend their heartfelt sympathies to those that have suffered the loss of loved ones or their homes through this terrible tragedy".

Authorities are still battling fires that continue to blaze across the south east of Australia, in what the country's prime minister Kevin Rudd described as "a horror few of us anticipated".

The 74-year-old singer returned to the stage last year after a 15-year hiatus to widespread acclaim. However, Cohen has commented that his decision to return to live performing was prompted by his retirement fund having allegedly been pilfered to the tune of $5m (approximately £3.4m) by his former manager Kelley Lynch. Despite the fact he may never reclaim his fortune, Cohen has still found it in his heart (and his pocket) to give generously to the victims of the Australian bushfires.

Cohen played his last show in Australia at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Tuesday February 10. A charity bucket for the bushfire victims was passed around.

And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his ladys command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

These two other presentations of Who by fire were too great not to include here.
Top: at the Glastonbury Festival in 2008.
Bottom: with saxophonist Sonny Rollins

A beautiful interview with Leonard Cohen was covered in El Mundo in September 2001. In it he discusses his years practicing Zen, his Jewish roots, the depression he long suffered, thoughts about love, his children, his writing and his music. Here's a paragraph extracted from the marvelous full interview:
. . . Thus, this is how the Jewish writer became a singing stranger of folk, he did not make any political demand, and instead of jeans he dressed in a dark suit jacket: "I was at least ten years older than the rest of them. Rebellious? No, I always felt that none of those causes was sufficiently radical. They seemed limited to the established models, and I fought against any model. I have looked everywhere, in Scientology ,in Zen, in sex, in drugs, but none of those activities provided me the balance I was looking for. Until I stopped seeking." And he arrived at nothing. . .


May the many in Australia who tragically have lost everything, who have arrived at nothing, find at least a bit of comfort in knowing that the world cares deeply about their suffering.



Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Some years ago i turned on the TV and some charity live concert was playing (late night TV) - Leonard Cohen was singing a song about being trapped in a burning building. It wasn't this one - don't know what it was called though.

One of the first songs i learned to play on my guitar was "Suzanne" which is lots of intricate chord changes.

On the subject of the fire - how horrible that this is all looking like the work of arsonists

secret, fragile skies said...

Thank you so much for visiting/commenting on our blog. It has been a wonderland discovering all these great sites, like yours!

dmarks said...

I didn't know he was still alive.

"Tower of Song" is the one I've heard by him, and I have not heard that for 20 years. But I do remember it.

Looking to the Stars said...

Lydia,thanks for sharing about Cohen. What a good man he is for helping those in the fires in Australia. And I hope those in Australia know that there are many of us that are sending postive thoughts to them as they endure this terrible loss.

distracted by shiny objects said...

Love Leonard. Love that voice. He could read the phone book out loud and I would sit and listen.

laughingyogini said...

Such a beautiful posting, Lydia. Thanks. I particularly enjoyed the last video...kinda jazzy! The article link was also helpful - it brought me up-to-date on Leonard Cohen's life.

I know the person who has taken on his role at Mount Baldy, so it was neat to learn more about LC's life there.

And as a little side note, my youngest nephew, who just turned one year old in Austin TX, was named Cohen after the legendary singer/poet/monk.

Thanks again for a lovely interlude in my day. I'm thinking I need to get that cd that is "better than a week of meditating!"

Anonymous said...

Its wonderful that others around the world are showing care and donating for the benefit of those who lost everything in these fires.

We in Australia have done the same. There's such shock here, at the violence of the fires and everyone is pitching in to help.

Its fantastic to see bloggers from other parts of the world also being aware of our terrible tragedy and helping to spread the word. :)

Di Mackey said...

I had no idea that Leonard was 74 - I squeaked out the question here in my world. :)

Listening to your youtube as I write this. Thanks for posting it.

Lydia said...

@Pixies- Now you have me curious as to what song that might have been. "Suzanne" is an exquisite and haunting song; I should ask my husband to learn it on his guitar!
Yeah, the arsonists need to be caught and after that I don't think there is sufficient punishment for the crime.

@secret, fragile skies- Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. Your blog is wonderful, and that title......

@dmarks- If you look at You Tube you'll find a wealth of Cohen videos. I spent a lot of time looking/listening to them this week.

@Looking to the Stars- My pleasure to feature him. I hope Australians can feel our concern. I haven't heard if the U.S. has yet sent aid in any form, and expect we will soon.

@Distracted- Me too. The phone book would be just fine with me. :)

@laughingyogini- Oh, thanks for your compliment and comments. It's special that you know that person at Mount Baldy, and that your nephew carries Cohen's name! I must also get that cd...

@svasti- I've certainly thought about you and have wondered if you are anywhere near that area. Even clear across the country I know fellow Australians are feeling this as if it were happening in their own towns. I have a friend who is planning on retiring with her husband to Adelaide in 2010. In checking maps it appears that they could be affected by the smoke there. Of major concern for me has been the animals. I heard one report yesterday that said thousands had perished. The video of the fireman administering water to the Koala has touched the hearts of the world. That little girl has become an iconic representation of vulnerability and shock.
Take care.

@Di- So glad you enjoyed the video. I sure loved hearing it over and over (my pets may know it by heart by now). Cohen at 74 is Cohen at 54, 34....he is truly an ageless human being with a soul that seems to deepen with the years.

Downunder said...

I went to his concert in Wine County in NSW. I am astounded that he made such a heartfelt tribute and donation to fellow Australians. This man is one of the all time greatest. May God bless him.

The Acolyte Tao said...

=D I love the song by Leonard Cohen 'Hallelujah,' but I hate him singing it. -.- I like rufus wainright's version...Hm. lol.

laughingyogini said...

I agree with the Acolyte Tao!!!

Lydia said...

@Downunder- I'm glad you found your way to my blog; there are good wishes here from everyone for you and your fellow Australians. At times like this it's nice having a memory to recall, like the Cohen concert you attended.

@Acolyte Tao-
and @laughingyogini- Hallelujah is a great song, and I agree with you two that it's one perhaps fully enjoyed when sung by other artists.

Melinda said...


I have loved Leonard Cohen for many years--from his early albums (Death of a Ladies Man) to the stuff he did in the 1990's. I really loved his songs "Waiting For the Miracle," and "The Future" which were both used in the film, Natural Born Killers.

What a wonderful thing he is doing, also, to give to the people of Australia, who have been devastated by the terrible fires.

I echo your sentiments to the people of Australia--know that all of you are in our thoughts and prayers.



RB said...

Hi. I just found your blog. I've always said that I "loved Leonard Cohen" because I liked the song Suzanne...but this is a beautiful song. Thanks so much for introducing it.

Lydia said...

@Melinda- I'm going to make a point of looking up those two songs from the movie, as I'm not familiar with them. Thanks for the info. ';)
And, yes, you and to the people of Australia.

@RB- Hi and welcome. I'm really glad that you found my blog and hope you'll return! I'll be by yours soon.

Kylita said...

Lydia, I am Kyle (SisSTAR Kylita) and just "met you" on Inner Journey blog by Rhiannon where you had commented on a Loreena McKinnett video. I don't often look at new blogs but your profile caught me ... I am a Capricorn/Cat 57 yrs old ... white hair (I call "platinum") from my mother's genes and resonate with a lot of what you say. I hadn't known of the fires in Australia until I read a blog friend from Singapore. I also treasure Leonard Cohen ... what a calming, sensual presence and voice and soulful lyrics. Also, seems like my most favorite bloggie souls are coming from Oregon this past year. My dad was born there "on the banks of the Umpqua" so my aunt wrote in a poem, but moved to Michigan when he was 5 "in a covered wagon" (?) A friend who lives on the ocean shore in Newport sent me agates. I enjoyed reading your post today and your "son/friend" from across the globe and the poem and Oregon's 150th BD. So many things I learned from you just now!
Much thanks.

Lydia said...

@Kylita- Hey, SisSTAR, what fun and interesting comments you left on my blog! I really appreciate the story of your father's roots here in Oregon and that your visit coincided with the state's birthday. It sounds like it's one of your places of the heart, most definitely. :) Appreciate, too, the similarities we share. I do know what you mean about checking new blogs; I'm selective because there's only so much time you can devote to reading blogs and I want to pay attention to those that mean the most to me. I'm bouncing over to yours now!

Kylita said...

Thanks for your visit also. I may find my aunt's poem about when my father was born in Wilbur (I think she helped deliver him--1 daughter out of 9 kids, he was 3rd from last) and post it on the OR 150 website I just visited. How cool is that to visit on the BD! I am keeping you on my favorites. Also visited Wordsmith. Your blog is just full of good stuff!
p.s. have you let your hair go 'grey' yet? what color was your mom's hair? it's not easy but it can be less hassle and 'grows on ya' ha!
KLH-keep laughin' honey ^;^

Lydia said...

@Kylita- That's thrilling that your father's story can be made a part of the history being gathered for Oregon's 150th year. I'm sure Wordsmith has an appropriate word to describe all this...

My mom's hair was gray at 40. She began coloring it in her 50ss then went gray again in her 60s. Actually I have some real gray roots right now because I'm giving my hair a rest before trying a henna haircolor for gray hair. My sis has begun using it and recommended it. We're both concerned about all the chemicals. Your hair looks great, btw.

Rhiannon said...

Ooh I love Leonard Cohen...have forever...he is an incredible poet and man. I love a lot of his songs..hard to just pick one. The one you picked was perfect for this post. Do you like "Blue raincoat"? "So long Marianne"?.."Chelsie (sorry spelling? Hotel" many? Oh, "I'm your man" is a fun one..:o)

Have you ever seen the movie documentary about Leonard? Bono is in it and sings a song with Leonard. That is a great movie..lots of Leonard talking about his past and life, etc. So, if you've not seen this you can rent it at blockbusters.

So glad you got to "blogmeet" SiStar Kylita...she's a wonderful person..:o)

So much is going on in the world now it seems much pain and sorrow and tragic accidents and murders and just breaks my heart..I'm so sensitive I just cannot watch the news all the time like many just hurts too I just do a lot of meditating and praying to a higher power to stay with all of us in Spirit...

Angelic Blessings,


Lydia said...

@Rhi- yes, yes, and yes to those Cohen songs you mentioned, and I'll have to search out the last! Thanks much for the tip on the Bono/Cohen movie....nope, wasn't aware of that at all.

You really are sensitive, Rhi, which is one of the things I like so much about you. Keep on taking care of your psyche the way you do, because I think that, ultimately, it benefits the whole. :)

secret, fragile skies said...

Beautiful leonard post, blog. Hope to see him at Radio City in may! Love the poem.

Lydia said...

@Secret, Fragile Skies- Oh, you absolutely must go! Go for those of us who can't be there!



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