In a conversation, Leonard Cohen came up—in particular, his song Famous Blue Raincoat. It is my kind of song. It is written as a letter to a brother. It recounts the story of the brother cheating with the writer’s wife: “So you treated my woman to a flake of your life / And when she got home she was nobody’s wife.” Famous Blue Raincoat is filled with the kind of resignation and tired bitterness that seems to define adult life.
Leonard Cohen came up in a discussion of Jacques Brel. In discussing him and having to defend my high opinion of him, I have come to see that what I most connect with is the sadness, anger, and bitterness of his songs—both in writing and in singing. See if you can spot these elements in this recent performance of Famous Blue Raincoat:
“Thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes / I thought it was there for good, so I never tried.” Wow.