On Leonard and Leadership

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A leadership gene has been identified. It is documented that while leadership qualities can be learned, this gene can make the difference between success and failure in the leadership game, but how is leadership defined?

There are various kinds of leadership, and a variety of routes to success.

Some leaders come from humble beginnings, to arduously work their way to the summit, using a combination of wit and skill. Others inherit the mountain from their forbears.

“All roads lead to Rome.” This saying has been carried down to us from the 12th century, when Roman roads were straight, and radiated outwards from the centre, like the spokes of a wheel. Our history books tell of the days when Rome was the self-professed capital of the known world, leading by force.

My roads are twisted and of inconsistent width. Back in my teens, Leonard Cohen achieved success with his song, Suzanne, and along with millions of others, I have trailed behind him ever since. Surely this makes him a leader.

For almost 50 years his voice has comforted me. As I eat breakfast I hear him inside my head, singing a farewell song to Marianne or describing the life of a French Partisan. Sometimes he stands back, not wanting to hog my thoughts. Unselfishly, he lets Buffy Saint Marie step in, or Tracy Chapman tell her raw stories, or Roy Orbison with his hope, his brief joy and all of his pain. I enjoy these brief intermissions, but I always return to Leonard. While I chew my dinner he asks a lucky woman to dance him to the end of love. I want to tell him there is no end to love. In bed, I roll onto my side, preparing to sleep. He sings that it’s no way to say goodbye.

“Never goodbye, only goodnight,” whisper.

Millions of appreciative fans feel the same way about him. He touched our lives while he was with us, and he continues to do so after his death, so I say he is a leader. This post is about leadership, but it could be about any one of a thousand subjects which would always lead back to Leonard.

I’d like to commit to writing a Leonard Cohen post one day every week, highlighting a different song each time, but although he is always with me, it’s unlikely it will happen. So, no promises.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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15 thoughts on “On Leonard and Leadership

  1. Love Leonard yet also love his musical collaborator, Sharon Robinson. Surely she would be a leader too? While Leonard wrote most of the lyrics, she also wrote and worked out many melodies too. They were collaborators and Sharon was applauded, by Leonard. However Mr. Cohen was a handsome guy and also an outstanding poet/lyricist. There are a few of his albums I don’t possess. Most of his stuff, I have in collection. Obviously we need a few more leaders like Leonard Cohen. His backing band was superb. Regarding his products, it is difficult to say which is best, etc. I have my faves but that is the thing with their albums. There is always something to savour.
    Cheers Jamie

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    1. I agree with you about Sharon Robinson. Leonard Cohen was a perfectionist. I remember reading about his attention to detail. He wouldn’t have had anything less than an exquisite team.

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  2. Oh Dear Jane, thank you for your lovely article, and of course I’ve plenty a tear in my eyes, his influence on our lives is a wonderful legacy that will stay with us forever. xxx

    “Steer your way past the ruins of the altar and the mall

    Steer your way through fables of creation and the fall

    Steer your way past the palaces that rise above the rot”

    There’s so much more to this lovely song, “Steer Your Way”, from his last CD/album, You Want It Darker, I thought you might appreciate these words.

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    1. All those songs that he created, year by year, day by day, thought by thought… after each of my babies was born, I wondered how I existed without them. It seemed that my life must have been a narrow thing. That’s how it is with Leonard’s songs. I’d hear a new one, and feel as if I – and the world – was not complete until it came into existence… and then another would come along, and another, and I ‘d feel the same way all over again. It seemed to me as if he held the world together.

      When he died, it felt as it the world might cease, but it didn’t; he left his legacy to keep us sane.

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      1. Thank you ❤️ Jane, I could not have explained his life with me any better, and he held me together through each stage of Carole’s MS, and when I suffered my Stroke, I’m sure I would have given up living, except for his words of love and life, that whispered the truth of everything into my soul. And he’s the only reason I took up writing poetry, and kept me from going more insane xxxx,

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        1. I wonder if he knew how deeply he touched lives. For all his fame, I think of him as a modest, humble man. I was deeply offended on his behalf when folks – years ago – called his work “songs to cut your throat to”. I think it was after Songs of Love and Hate was released. To me, he sang of survival, and of the truth of those who didn’t survive. He kept us going when he sang out our lives.

          It means a lot to me to know you – another human being who was saved by Leonard xxx

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    1. It will take you all the way back to the ’60s. Seeing him round about 1975 was a dream come true. He went through his whole set, and AFTER doing an encore he started right back at the beginning. The staff of the theatre were wanting to pack up and go home, but he wouldn’t stop playing. It was toward the end of his tour, and he was quite emotional. It was like he never wanted it to end. he was incredible!

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