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Elizabeth Kinder
Photo: Sophie Ziegler

The Elusive Ethnomusicologist

Elizabeth Kinder’s monthly column

The coda to Leonard Cohen’s marvellous song to his love Marianne Ihlen – all sing now: “So long Marianne, it’s time we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again” – came in his beautiful letter to her written around fifty years later as she lay dying.

“Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

“And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more… because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

With his usual poetic prescience the completely gorgeous Leonard Cohen takes his leave just three months later, vacating the premises two days before it’s announced Trump is to take up residence in the White House.

I’ve loved Leonard Cohen with unabated teenage passion since a neighbour introduced me to his music when I was fourteen. His songs are always relevant. They are not “music to walk under a bus to, get out of your room and eat your bloody dinner” – thanks, mum – they are in fact continuously contemporary poetic masterpieces.

Hallelujah, one of the most covered songs of all time, resides in the hearts of millions worldwide, despite his record company thinking it was pants and refusing to release it when they first heard it. In fact the record company rejected the entire album, 1984’s Various Positions because of what can only be described as their cretinous stupidity. That same album contained the fabulous Dance Me To The End Of Love.

Obviously ‘dance’ has to bring me to Ed Balls and his terpsichoral turn on Strictly. Here he displays the self-deprecating wit, verve, grace and style that were mostly absent from his tenure as a politician, in a fab re-interpretation of Psy’s Gangnam Style.

Though it strikes me that if Psy should want to reprise his global hit in the US come January, he may find himself put to work building a wall along with everyone else who isn’t a white racist moron.

Leonard Cohen sang: Dance me to the children who are asking to be born/Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn/Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn/Dance me to the end of love.

End of love, end of times. Trump. What hope can we offer those children? Let me hang back and hide behind those curtains in this dark dawn – foreshadowed by lovely Len in Hallelujah’s last verse:

Maybe there's a God above/All I've ever learned from love/Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you/And it's not a cry that you hear at night/It's not somebody who's seen the light/It's a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

It’s no wonder wonderful Leonard Cohen has moved on. No doubt in an upward direction. Though of course the world moves on too. But I’m sure the sign shows we’re not going the right way.

Elizabeth Kinder


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