I enjoyed an excellent concert by Canadian music icon Leonard Cohen Friday night. The show was at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre and I was lucky enough to be there along with thousands of other Manitoba music enthusiasts. What lessons did I learn from Cohen as I watched him perform? Leonard is 78, nearly two decades older than me. I hope as I age I can emulate him in some ways. Like Leonard I want to……….
1) Keep physically fit. I’d be happy to have even half his energy and stamina. The very trim singer and poet stood on stage for over three hours performing song after song. He often struck a prayerful pose, getting down on his knees and then getting up with more grace and agility then would be possible for most people many years his junior. He almost skipped off stage at one point. In his black suit, white shirt, bolo tie and signature fedora he looked very physically fit and attractive indeed, lean and craggy.
2) Keep being creative. Leonard is still writing new songs and poetry. He could easily rest on his laurels and live off the profits of his numerous hits. He performed some of his classic signature pieces at his Winnipeg concert including Bird On a Wire, Suzanne, Anthem and the iconic Hallelujah. But he has also released a new album recently called Old Ideas and he performed songs from it as well like Anyhow, Show Me the Place and Going Home.
3) Keep spiritually in tune. Leonard is a practicing Buddhist but the Jewish faith of his family remains very important to him. The lyrics of many of the songs he performed in Winnipeg attest to his knowledge of the Bible, his belief that faith and hope can heal us and his desire for a world where we value mercy and forgiveness. As I listened to the beautiful If It Be Your Will I whispered to my sister, whose guest I was at the concert, “This sounds just like a hymn.”
4) Keep humble. Leonard was of course the star of the show on Friday night but he didn’t hog centre stage, rather he repeatedly acknowledged the work of the talented musicians and singers who accompanied him, introducing them by name at least four times during the evening and giving them an opportunity to showcase their considerable musical gifts in various songs. He individually thanked all his instrument, lighting and sound technicians. Very classy! Leonard also paid tribute to Canadian music legends George Jones, Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil who have all passed away in the last few months.
5) Keep appreciating the beauty of love. Leonard is the master of the romantic song and when his incredibly deep, husky and oh yes, sexy voice sang I’m Your Man, Dance Me to the End of Love and There Ain’t No Cure For Love I’m sure most of the women in the audience had tears in their eyes. I know I did!
6) Keep on being grateful. I don’t know how many times Leonard thanked the audience during his concert. He was genuinely appreciative of our presence and made sure we knew it. In an article in an Atlantic City arts magazine Cohen is described as having an abiding gratitude about his success as a musician.
There are probably some things about Leonard Cohen’s life, like all our lives, that aren’t exemplary, but watching him perform on April 26th I learned six valuable and inspiring lessons. Thanks Leonard!
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