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These Leonard Cohen Lyrics Explain Politics Today

11/11/2016 09:30 EST | Updated 11/11/2016 09:30 EST
Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick
Leonard Cohen performing at Wembley Arena in north London.

Leonard Cohen wasn't a particularly political lyricist. He was concerned with the human condition, and he spent more than his share of time peeking into the darkest corners of the human soul.

But, to paraphrase Nietzsche, if you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss also stares into you. Cohen wrestled with monsters, and he learned a thing or two about them.

Give me absolute control

Over every living soul

And lie beside me, baby, that's an order!

("The Future," 1992)

Remind you of anyone? That song also includes the line "It's lonely here, there's no one left to torture," which could well be an assessment of U.S. foreign relations a few years from now.

But when Cohen did turn political, he reflected an anger and a yearning for justice that might ring true to many today.

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That's how it goes

Everybody knows

("Everybody Knows," 1988)

And if you're one of the (I suspect) many people who are entertaining apocalyptic visions as you await Trump's inauguration, Cohen's "The Future" (1992) more or less paints the backdrop for you.

There'll be the breaking of the ancient

western code

Your private life will suddenly explode

There'll be phantoms

There'll be fires on the road

and the white man dancing

You'll see a woman

hanging upside down

her features covered by her fallen gown...

A misogynistic armageddon? Check. A "white man dancing"? You bet he is.

Eventually, though, you calm down and move to the resignation and depression stages of grief. Leonard's there for you here, too.

I missed you since the place got wrecked

But I just don't care what happens next

It looks like freedom but it feels like death

It's something in between, I guess

It's closing time

("Closing Time," 1992)

And, not unlike in our current political circumstances, it's often hard to find a silver lining in Cohen's words. But he understood that in the darkest places, in the darkest times, you can still find the most beautiful things. And those things will endure.

...She shows you where to look

Among the garbage and the flowers

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love

And they will lean that way forever

("Suzanne," 1967)

Amen, Leonard. Requiem in pace.

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Leonard Cohen Songs