Sunday night my husband and I saw famed singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
He’s what he looks like:
That show was fantastic! Well, that’s nice but what’s he doing here, on One City, the buddhist blog for everyone?
As we walked to Radio City, I said to my husband, “You know, Leonard Cohen is a buddhist.”
“Yup,” he replied. And then he gleefully said, “So I bet you think his songs are really un-Buddhist!” Hmmm. . . .
Not only is Leonard Cohen a buddhist, but he’s a pretty serious
one. In August 1996, he was ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk at the
Mount Baldy Zen Center. He’s a student of Sasaki Roshi, an amazing and
influential Rinzai Zen teacher, who recently celebrated his 102nd
birthday. Cohen spent most of the 1990s at Mount Baldy, with his own
head shaved bald, practicing as a monk. He later published a volume of
poetry drawn from his experiences during that time.
strikes many people about Cohen’s songwriting is its depth of feeling.
The emotional rawness of some of lyrics can be spectacular. Whether
he’s writing about lost love in “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” or exulting in
the soaring strains of the much covered “Hallelujah,” his music
expresses a wide emotional spectrum, from the depths to the heights.
As I talked to my husband, I tried to explain how buddhism doesn’t mean
becoming Spock-like or robot-like. And Cohen’s performance was probably
the best advocate, dispelling any lingering misconceptions that Zen, or
buddhism in general, equals an emotionless equanimity, a flat and
featureless terrain devoid of feeling.
I also heard Cohen is
currently touring because his business manager made off with all his
money. Life keeps happening, even when you’re Zen.
And here, for fellow fans, is a very complete set list, thanks to This Week in New York.
Leonard Cohen May 17th @ Radio City Music Hall
Dance Me to the End of Love (1984, VARIOUS POSITIONS)
The Future (1992, THE FUTURE)
Ain’t No Cure for Love (1988, I’M YOUR MAN)
Bird on the Wire (1969, SONGS FROM A ROOM)
Everybody Knows (1988, I’M YOUR MAN)
In My Secret Life (2001, TEN NEW SONGS)
Who by Fire? (1974, NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY)
Chelsea Hotel (1974, NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY)
Waiting for the Miracle (1992, THE FUTURE)
Anthem (1992, THE FUTURE)
Tower of Song (1988, I’M YOUR MAN)
Suzanne (1967, SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN)
Sisters of Mercy (1967, SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN)
Take This Waltz (1988, I’M YOUR MAN)
Boogie Street (1969, SONGS FROM A ROOM)
Hallelujah (1984, VARIOUS POSITIONS)
I’m Your Man (1988, I’M YOUR MAN)
A Thousand Kisses Deep (1969, SONGS FROM A ROOM)
Democracy (1992, THE FUTURE)
So Long, Marianne (1967, SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN)
First We Take Manhattan (1988, I’M YOUR MAN)
Famous Blue Raincoat (1970, SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE)
If It Be Your Will (1984, VARIOUS POSITIONS)
Closing Time (1992, THE FUTURE)
I Tried to Leave You (1974, NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY)
Whither Thou Goest (THE BOOK OF RUTH)