A tale of two Cohens: ‘Book Of Cohen’

❉ Leonard Cohen’s ouvre defied convention, and this is no ordinary biography, writes Eoghan Lyng.

I’m Not There, an accretion of motifs and silhouettes showcased the artistry Bob Dylan conducted through two British actors, a black child musician, a woman and Richard Gere. It’s one of Todd Haynes’ most rewarding works, acknowledging his reality through Zimmerman’s. David Cohen accomplishes a similar feat to his namesake poet, Leonard Cohen, in Book Of Cohen (pub. Steele Roberts Aotearoa).

David explores the eptymological properties his surname carries. He finds that it denotes the priestly family of Jewish people, the Aaronic class and the early members of the tribe of Levi. The great songwriter’s book is surfeited with Jewish writers, from Dylan to Lou Reed carrying the beat prose, Graham Gouldman and Marc Bolan writing rock anthems, with Brill Building alumni Carole King and Paul Simon catering for an audience in between.

Leonard was a different animal still. The Favourite Game and Flowers for Hitler showcased a literary ability, a worthier recipient, perhaps, of the Nobel Prize of Literature. Where John Lennon displayed a penchant for narrative after The Beatles’ first two albums, Leonard published these works before his vocal chords had entertained a microphone. His name followed a tradition of familial history, intertwining a lineage both historical and ceremonial. Rabbi Lyon Cohen, it seems, helped found many of the institutions that define Jewish life in Canada, including the first Anglo-Jewish newspaper in North America. David explores the synergy that brought these Cohens together and how it influences him.

On a flight from London to Tel Aviv, David uses this journey to transport readers from 2016 to 1865, until the birth year of The Beatles and Bond carries him on a more linear journey. Leonard’s oeuvre defied convention. An ordinary biography could scarcely pay tribute to the man who bade Marianne Ihlen farewell through a public letter foretelling his departure.

David’s journey as a journalist and writer is signified through press releases detailing Jennifer Warnes’ then-imminent release, Famous Blue Raincoat. First We Take Manhattan matters to him, a song about terrorism raging through the airwaves, a perspective of a song he understands as an insider, knowledge mattering to him for this prerogative. Just as he flirts with lyrical decryption, Leonard flirts with Jesus, calling for him as a friend, without journeying as far down that path as Dylan would. David accepts Jesus through a photograph, a moving picture of a Dublin Chapel details the Virgin Mary in her unconsummated glory. Where Leonard sought to find himself as a Canadian writer in the internationalist sphere of music, David seeks to find himself in Wellington, NZ, aiding himself through Leonard’s words and chords.

Haynes’ medium was a picture of two artists, one through many forms, the other showing himself in those forms. Haynes made a film that viewers convinced themselves was Dylan’s biography, neglecting Haynes import as the film’s true artist. David conveys a similar reflection. In Leonard’s words, David’s make sense. Through Leonard’s life, David lives his to the fullest of his fortitude. A tale of two Cohens, one understanding the importance of his surname in the fullness of the others’ great life. It’s the family line he found for himself in Tel Aviv.


❉ ‘Book Of Cohen: David Cohen on Leonard Cohen’ is published February 28, 2019 by Steele Roberts Aotearoa: : http://steeleroberts.co.nz/product/book-of-cohen/

❉ ‘Hallelujah – The Songs Of Leonard Cohen’ (CDTOP 1544) is released 29 March 2019 by Ace Records, RRP £12.92. Click here to pre-order.

❉ Eoghan Lyng is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His writing has also appeared in Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine and other titles.

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