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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 222
Wed. Aug 22, 2012

“I Left A Woman Waiting”
Leonard Cohen

1977

“♫ I tried to answer
truthfully/ whatever
happened to my
eyes/ happened to
your beauty
♫”

I realized today Death of A Ladies Man is my favorite all time Leonard Cohen. Like peeling of layers of a mystical poetic treasure, It’s taken almost forty years but I believe Ladies Man is Cohen’s most honest album. Just get through the oversaturation of Spector’s Wall of Sound production to hear Cohen’s most personal tome reflecting the disenchanted musings of Leonard’s affairs of the heart. Why did Cohen delve into such personal waters with albums like Death of a Ladies Man we get some sense of Leonard’s philosophy of love when he said, “It’s not a level playing ground for either of us, for either the man or the woman. This is the most challenging activity that humans get into, which is love. You know, where we have the sense that we can’t live without love. That life has very little meaning without love. So we’re invited into this arena which is a very dangerous arena, where the possibilities of humiliation and failure are ample. So there’s no fixed lesson that one can learn, because the heart is always opening and closing, it’s always softening and hardening. We’re always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who’ve closed down.”

No matter the result, like a fighter with his words, Leonard always returns to his canvas of music. Leonard took a chance with Spector but the collaboration soon became fractured when Phil released Cohen’s “unfinished vocals” with Spector’s over production without his blessing. No matter how many times Leonard’s lost he remains the grateful poet we’ve known and loved , as he explained, “There’s times when I’ve lamented, there’s times when I’ve rejoiced, there’s times when I’ve been deeply indifferent. You run through the whole gamut of experience. And most people have a woman in their heart, most men have a woman in their heart and most women have a man in their heart. There are people that don’t. But most of us cherish some sort of dream of surrender. But these are dreams and sometimes they’re defeated and sometimes they’re manifested.”

Cohen’s studio trouble on Death of a Ladies Man with Spector like his failed loved affairs is one he chalked up to experience. Even when Phil attempted to overpower Cohen’s vocal, Leonard’s voice is what overcomes Spector’s Wall of Sound, and songs like “I Left A Woman” come to life with his immortal musings. Speaking of his past triumphs and failures of the heart and why it’s important to take chances in life, Cohen said, “It’s a ferocious activity, where you experience defeat and you experience acceptance and you experience exultation. And the affixed idea about it will definitely cause you a great deal of suffering. If you have the feeling that it’s going to be an easy ride, you’re going to be disappointed. If you have a feeling that it’s going to be hell all the way, you may be surprised.”

Did you know, according to Maurice Ratcliff’s Leonard Cohen: The Music and The Mystique, “I Left A Woman Waiting” was originally a poem in Leonard Cohen’s The Energy of Slaves? As Ratcliff wrote when he said, “The first two stanzas were taken from ‘Poem number 27’ in The Energy of Slaves, but the third is new. In the original poem, the protagonist tells his “faithless wife” to go to sleep.”

I left a woman waiting
I met her sometime later
she said, Your eyes are dead
What happened to you, lover

And since she spoke the truth to me
I tried to answer truly
Whatever happened to my eyes
happened to your beauty

O go to sleep my faithful wife
I told her rather cruelly
Whatever happened to my eyes
happened to your beauty

There is one Ladies Man song where Spector’s production touches are light and Cohen’s voice comes out loudly victorious, that’s ‘I Left A Woman Waiting.” This song incarnation of The Energy of Slaves‘ “poem 27” is a carnal close-up within the expired expectations in a loving faded of lust. Cohen relives our inner most fantasies for us with songs we discuss. We re-experience his lyrical cravings in a distance without judgment or disgust. “I Left A Woman Waiting” is no exception it shows the genius in the gift of Leonard Cohen’s music is in the words, in his voice and in his muse we trust. Cohen explains his writing process on why returns to songs of longing like “I Left A Woman Waiting,” when he told Jian Ghomeshi of The Guardian UK, “I always had the notion that I had, you know, a tiny garden to cultivate. I never thought I was really one of the big guys. And so my work, the work that was in front of me was just to cultivate this tiny corner of the field that I thought I knew something about, which was something to do with self-investigation without self-indulgence. Also my own voice sounded so disagreeable to me when I listened to it that I really needed the sweetening of women’s voices behind me.”

Those voices behind him sometimes are his angelic backing vocalists but mostly the echoes are from women, ghosts from the pasts who inspired his words, and those lyrics like “I Left A Woman Waiting” become immortalized in song. These snapshots of loss, lust and longing for love are the reason we return to the powerful poetics of Leonard Cohen’s lyrical prose. If you’re new to Leonard’s lyrical rendezvous, get comfortable open up your senses, let Cohen’s words from Death of a Ladies Man resurrect you. “I Left A Woman Waiting” takes you to places so deep, you’ll be imagining sin. But all will end up joyful because of Leonard’s vocal as he croons about delicacies so intimate and clever, strip down your missed conception and surrender to Cohen as he serenades you with his poems, Leonard reignites you with his trademark vocalized grin.

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