On The Record: Why I’ll Always Fancy Leonard Cohen

NME's columnist Leonie Cooper talks about her love for the off duty professor who wrote about heartbreak and always had a twinkle in his eye.

I honestly thought I’d run out of tears for 2016. My emotions began taking a battering back in early January, when I sobbed at the bus stop on the way to work after hearing about the death of David Bowie. Then there was the sneaky office bathroom weep when Prince sashayed off this mortal coil, the hungover tent wail after finding out about Brexit on the rainy Friday morning of Glastonbury, and the 3am howl as I sat in my pyjamas on the sofa eating Quavers and watching Donald Trump sail to victory just last week.

The final, soggy straw, however, came when I received a text in the middle of the night from my mum a week ago on Friday telling me that Leonard Cohen was dead. Reader, I am not too proud to admit that I bawled my eyes out for a good 10 minutes. Then I put on some of his saddest songs and cried some more as I scrolled through Instagram looking at endless pics of the dapper pensioner posted by heartbroken friends and the strangers whose lunch photos I’ve become far too invested in to stop following anytime soon.

Despite the fact that Leonard Cohen would have been well into his sixties when I first discovered his majestic moroseness, there was something about him that I – a teenager with little to no experience of, well, anything apart from rudimentary shoplifting at River Island and overzealous lip gloss application – immediately connected with. Here was a serious, impeccably dressed man, but one with a definite twinkle in his eye.

He might have looked like an off-duty university professor, but he sang about blow jobs in hotel rooms, going to New York jazz bars in the middle of the night and the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet before spitting you out, leaving you cold, alone and confused. At that point my only experience of love was an all-consuming crush on Blur’s Damon Albarn, but I was sold. There was a new moody babe in town.

Sex, death and decadence ran deeply throughout Leonard Cohen’s work, huge swathes of which were typified by a graceful sleaze and almost stately eroticism. Leonard Cohen was sexual in the way an Egon Schiele painting is sexual, rather than the way a quick scroll through PornHub is sexual. He was dirty yet dignified. He was almost definitely not the kind of man a 15-year-old should be having daydreams about, and yet…

When, years later I finally got to meet the man himself at a press conference for his 2012 album ‘Old Ideas’, it was an overwhelming experience. He might have been frail, but his presence was powerful, as was his mischievous grin when my mate and I went in for a hug. Here’s to Leonard Cohen, always and forever the ultimate ladies man. @leoniemaycooper