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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 255
Monday, Sept 24, 2012

“Famous Blue Raincoat”
Leonard Cohen

1971

“♫ and
when she
came back/
she was nobody’s
wife
♫”

Leonard Cohen once said, “I didn’t write that song, I suffered it.” Suffer is what I think of when I hear “Famous Blue Raincoat.” Why would anyone want to suffer in the center of a triangle? Is it the thrill? Are you just emotionally selfish? Is one just not enough? I guess that’s why I never truly understood strict, old fashioned Mormonism. How can anyone want more than just one spouse? This is some kind of twisted fantasy for some traditional mad men because with all of her problems and needs, is that what you need— another intense woman in your life?

Cohen once explained “Famous Blue Raincoat” as, “this is the tyranny that I feel myself which is the possession of women and women’s possession of men, especially within the sexual embrace.” I remember the scars over her canvas like figure. She felt like a hardcover book that was forever handled but never checked out. She didn’t own a raincoat, the “Jane” in my story, she had a blue wool winter hat. When she would wear it, it made me overlook her baggage under-covered eyes of sadness she tried hiding from me. With that hat she looked like an angel in the Chicago sun. She knew how much I loved when she wore that hat and the way we would walk the North Side streets; I’d kiss her on her generous nose on the Red Line platform as her arm entwined in mine, we would make up stories of Trixie and her mate, who was it…who’s name escapes me just like her memory. It flashes with every year the passes, I forgot a lot more. It’s because now she seems more like a once fascinating footnote, a lyrical segue or a literal conduit to my eventual happiness.

Leonard Cohen once introduced “Famous Blue Raincoat,” as quoted in Sylvie Simmons new book Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, “It’s a song that I wrote in New York and it’s about sharing women, sharing men, and the idea that if you hold on to somebody…” Unfinished like most love affairs fade… the explanation, still waiting from Cohen’s fans, never came.

I remember finally symbolically tossing that old engagement ring in the Mississippi River. Somewhere I have that picture of this significant moment. It was truly the end of my broken connection with “Jane.” We had once upon a time started by the Lake in Chicago and after I tossed away, closing the storybook on whatever remained. It felt like I finally getting rid of that baggage glow from her far-away eyes. That magnetic hold I once believed she had on me was finally extinguished when the ring fell inside the water, drifting away when it sunk to the bottom of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

Cohen once said describing “Blue Raincoat” as, “It’s one of the better tunes I’ve written, but lyrically it’s too mysterious, too unclear.” Ironic because one of Leonard’s most infamous lines, of his “Famous” song was “♫ Did you ever go clear? ♫”

Many years later, I was driving to school, listening to “Famous Blue Raincoat,” it felt like I was hearing “Jane’s” favorite Cohen song with new ears. It’s as if Leonard’s song was reflecting the events of our personal triangle and I found splashes of peace; Cohen once said about his songs, “The most I can hope for is that the songs in some small way have some utility in providing solace, because they are gentle and on the side of healing in some sort of way.” This is why I love Leonard Cohen, his words are like sparks leading you towards the bulbs of light and reason. I realized there were no answers, just expired second chances like used records that skipped to endgame reflections of affairs whose remains were unrecognizable in flames that always returned “Blue.” Her suffering that I once tasted now faded, wrinkled and expanded into our now indifferent distance; in that instance I actually snickered as Leonard sang for her, because after all this time, no matter how much I forget— “Famous Blue” remembers… “Jane—“ And, she still… “sends her regards.”

“♫ It’s four in the morning, the end…♫”

P.S. A Very Happy Belated Birthday to Leonard Cohen. Thank you for the poetry and your songs we keep living!

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