Leonard Cohen and Barry Manilow Say Goodbye | Consequence of Sound
Consequence of Sound’s Henry Hauser takes two “unlikely pairs” in music and compares, contrasts, juxtaposes, and evaluates the commonalities between both parties. Leonard Cohen's "Ten New Songs", produced and co-written by Sharon, is featured.
While Manilow conveys multifaceted emotions through his evocative voice, Leonard Cohen does it with expressionist lyrics. “Alexandra Leaving”, adapted from Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy’s “The God Abandons Antony”, tells of the moment when two lovers part ways. Set to sparse piano, Cohen and producer Sharon Robinson harmonize to set a desolate scene: “Suddenly, the night has grown colder.” To fend off the pain of detachment, we’re tempted to dismiss our erstwhile connection as mere fantasy. But the Canadian singer-songwriter warns us not to belittle our lost bond: “Do not say the moment was imagined/ Do not stoop to strategies like this.” Likening Alexandra’s laugh to “exquisite music,” Cohen and Robinson urge us to recall that when two bodies “formlessly entwine,” they generate a warmth “radiant beyond your wildest measure.” Though it’s clear that Alexandra is gone for good (“say goodbye to Alexandra lost”), Cohen is emboldened by the knowledge that what they had can never be cheapened or demeaned. Sometimes love begets loss, and that’s okay.
The word “goodbye” may not be a tongue twister, but saying goodbye to your sweetheart is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. Fortunately, Manilow and Cohen offer a few tricks to help make it more bearable. Manilow draws strength from his golden memories of a “Weekend in New England”, enabling him to survive apart from his beloved in “the city where nothing is clear.” Cohen, on the other hand, fights the temptation to jettison his bittersweet recollections. Though Cohen is devastated by “Alexandra Leaving”, he ultimately summons the courage to embrace his bygone affair, heartbreak and all. For me, goodbye is the most brutal word in the English dictionary. Still, I wouldn’t want to have to say pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism 10 times fast, either.