As a recording artist, for me, there are two words- Leonard Cohen.
I just listened (twice) to Cohen’s beautiful posthumous “Thanks For The Dance”. The album was started while what everyone assumed would be his final album (“You Want It Darker”) was produced, three weeks before his death in 2016. Adam Cohen took his father’s narration of beautiful lyrics and wove it into a masterpiece. Well done!
Setting the Stage
Setting the stage, Leonard Cohen was born in 1934. He grew up in Jewish middle-class Montreal; lost his father at nine years of age. He became immersed in poetry while attending McGill University. “Let Us Compare Mythologies”was his first (of many) book(s) of poetry, published in 1956.
In 1966, Leonard Cohen announced to a Montreal television producer, “I want to write songs. He wrote and recorded his debut album, Leonard Cohen, in 1967. He went on to release fifteen studio and eight live albums in his amazing career.
Songs of Leonard Cohen
The songs of Leonard Cohen were essentially poetry. There was actual communication taking place, instead of meaningless image pimping. His words have all emotions on many levels.
Here are but a few of Leonard Cohen’s masterpieces:
So Long, Marianne
Bird on a Wire
Famous Blue Raincoat
As I said, there are many, many more great songs in the Leonard Cohen library. Here is a video on the first song on the posthumous “Thanks For The Dance”-“What Happens to the Heart”:
At 71, Leonard Cohen was forced to start over. In 2005, he discovered much of his his money taken and song rights sold by his long-time manager. He went back to touring and produced some of his finest work- three studio albums in the last five of his eighty-two years.
My point, simply, is this: Leonard Cohen chose to “die with his boots on”. He created up to (even beyond) his departure from this earth in 2016- a true artist and example for us all.
Sometimes it can be good to recharge your batteries with what I call “comfort music”. A rainy Saturday can spell new music adventures, well-worn paths, or both. The result is always rewarding, and opens up new avenues to explore, especially when starting my own compositions.
Starting off the day’s listening was Procul Harum’s 2003 “The Well’s on Fire”. Gary Brooker (Vocalist/Piano) is only remaining original member. The group was founded in London April, 1967. Their breakthrough hit, “Whiter Shade of Pale”, came out the next month to critical acclaim. It is an amazing song that holds up over fifty years since its release.
I saw one of their concerts in 1973 and can say Procul Harum was the finest ensemble I’ve witnessed. B.J. Wilson commanded drums like no one I’ve ever seen. They are a singular symphonic rock group that sounds strong to this day.
Next up on the listening list came the late, great Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher. Rory formed the band Taste in Cork, Ireland, 1966. They were an excellent three piece blues-rock group that broke up shortly after the huge 1970 Isle of Wight Festival .
Rory then formed his own band that featured his virtuosity on acoustic/electric guitar, slide, finger-picking, blistering leads; even mandolin! His performances were always first-rate and high energy. Additionally, he wrote some great songs (see “A Million Miles Away”).
Alas, we lost Rory Gallagher in March 1995 at only 47 years old from MRSA complications. His boundless enthusiasm lives on, however.
Comfort Music at its Finest
Just what is comfort music at its finest? For me it’s Percy Sledge. I listened to a ultimate greatest hits album that is a real soul-soother. What a voice!
From a humble hospital orderly who traveled with the Esquires Combo on weekends, he went on to sell millions of records- his first, a grand slam- “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966.
In 1965, Percy Sledge had just been laid off his construction job and his girlfriend left him to pursue a modeling career. He then wrote “When a Man Loves a Woman”-the first song he recorded! His organist and bassist helped him on the song, and the humble man gave them all of the songwriting credits!
Percy Sledge sang many great songs. I love them all. His voice was smooth as silk; and I’m convinced it has healing properties. He passed in 2015 at 74.
Last, But Not Least
Last, but not least, blues legend born McKinley Morganfield, but known world-wide as Muddy Waters. He grew up near Clarksdale, Mississippi and was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress there in 1941. He moved to Chicago in 1943 where he formed his own band. His first recordings were made in 1946.
Over the years, Muddy Waters recorded such classics as “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I’m Ready”, and many, many more classic blues songs. He had a deep, rich commanding voice that was instantly recognizable.
Let’s start this post with the beginnings of my latest Skyypilot release- “Company Man”. Recently, I went through a foot-high stack of music written over forty years or so. This was just one stack of the compositions! I found a song I wrote in the 1970’s and decided to revisit.
“Ben Was A Company Man” was my original title for this song. Why? As a 6th grader, I delivered newspapers to Ben’s house. He was a factory printer. Ben was on a never-deviating schedule in his spotless navy blue uniform. I worked at that calendar factory a few years later and speculated on a similar lifestyle. It was purely fictional, of course. The song described a man who had lost all individuality, his marriage, his children, and (ultimately) his life to the system. He died a year before he was to retire ahead of an empty future-not a happy ending.
Since then, a few hundred compositions later, my view has changed. Ironically, I became Ben (workwise, anyway) spending my adult life in factories. I chose the banal predictability of blue collar work as opposed to becoming an “act”-no regrets.
My objective is to offer hope at the end of my lyrics. If you know Jesus, there’s always hope!
Once I was young, although I was strong, I was a company man. Living each day pretty much the same way. I was a company man. Gulped down breakfast, then went on my way. One useful tool on a path to decay. Another body that can be on display. I was a company man. I was a company man.
Sometimes respected, more often rejected. I was a company man. Had to pretend means justify ends. I was a company man. Blindly submitting to others’ control. Compartmentalizing my very soul. Purposely keeping away from the fold. I was a company man. I was a company man.
Numbing my mind just to put in the time. I was a company man. Did what I did, with my feelings kept hid. I was a company man. One day, I reckoned to get off the floor. Already elsewhere; one foot out the door. Knew all along that there had to be more. I was a company man. I was a company man.
At my first chance, I just left the dance. I was a company man. Having had my fill; not yet over the hill, I was a company man. Plotted escape right to the day. What happens next- let come what may. No more illusions, no more can I say, ” I am a company man.” No more a company man.