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m : 21 April 2012 • 2:52PM -0400

Re: [MD] I didn't have a song
by MarshaV


Hi Dan,

It was sixteen years ago on April 18th that my husband died.  I've been missing him all week.  I cannot even begin to express how this post has touched me.  For I didn't have a song until I met him, and through him was introduced to Spain, Spanish guitar, Lorca and beauty.  

Thank you.


On Apr 21, 2012, at 1:38 AM, Dan Glover <daneglover@gmai...> wrote:

> Hello everyone
> This isn't directly related to the MOQ and yet it pertains to the
> discussion between David Harding and me about creative freedom in
> jazz. Maybe some of you enjoy the music of Leonard Cohen as much as I
> do, and this is how he describes finding his song. I thought it worth
> sharing:
> It is a great honour to stand here before you tonight. Perhaps, like
> the great maestro, Riccardo Muti, I’m not used to standing in front of
> an audience without an orchestra behind me, but I will do my best as a
> solo artist tonight.
> I stayed up all night last night wondering what I might say to this
> assembly. After I had eaten all the chocolate bars and peanuts from
> the minibar, I scribbled a few words. I don’t think I have to refer to
> them. Obviously, I’m deeply touched to be recognized by the
> Foundation. But I have come here tonight to express another dimension
> of gratitude; I think I can do it in three or four minutes.
> When I was packing in Los Angeles, I had a sense of unease because
> I’ve always felt some ambiguity about an award for poetry. Poetry
> comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I
> feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity
> which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs
> came from I would go there more often.
> I was compelled in the midst of that ordeal of packing to go and open
> my guitar. I have a Conde guitar, which was made in Spain in the great
> workshop at number 7 Gravina Street. I pick up an instrument I
> acquired over 40 years ago. I took it out of the case, I lifted it,
> and it seemed to be filled with helium it was so light. And I brought
> it to my face and I put my face close to the beautifully designed
> rosette, and I inhaled the fragrance of the living wood. We know that
> wood never dies. I inhaled the fragrance of the cedar as fresh as the
> first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me,
> “You are an old man and you have not said thank you, you have not
> brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance
> arose. And so I come here tonight to thank the soil and the soul of
> this land that has given me so much.
> Because I know that just as an identity card is not a man, a credit
> rating is not a country.
> Now, you know of my deep association and confraternity with the poet
> Frederico Garcia Lorca. I could say that when I was a young man, an
> adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets
> and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not
> find a voice. It was only when I read, even in translation, the works
> of Lorca that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I
> copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find
> a voice, to locate a voice, that is to locate a self, a self that that
> is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.
> As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice.
> What were these instructions? The instructions were never to lament
> casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that
> awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity
> and beauty.
> And so I had a voice, but I did not have an instrument. I did not have a song.
> And now I’m going to tell you very briefly a story of how I got my song.
> Because – I was an indifferent guitar player. I banged the chords. I
> only knew a few of them. I sat around with my college friends,
> drinking and singing the folk songs and the popular songs of the day,
> but I never in a thousand years thought of myself as a musician or as
> a singer.
> One day in the early sixties, I was visiting my mother’s house in
> Montreal. Her house was beside a park and in the park was a tennis
> court where many people come to watch the beautiful young tennis
> players enjoy their sport. I wandered back to this park which I’d
> known since my childhood, and there was a young man playing a guitar.
> He was playing a flamenco guitar, and he was surrounded by two or
> three girls and boys who were listening to him. I loved the way he
> played. There was something about the way he played that captured me.
> It was the way that I wanted to play and knew that I would never be
> able to play.
> And, I sat there with the other listeners for a few moments and when
> there was a silence, an appropriate silence, I asked him if he would
> give me guitar lessons. He was a young man from Spain, and we could
> only communicate in my broken French and his broken French. He didn’t
> speak English. And he agreed to give me guitar lessons. I pointed to
> my mother’s house which you could see from the tennis court, and we
> made an appointment and settled a price.
> He came to my mother’s house the next day and he said, “Let me hear
> you play something.” I tried to play something, and he said, “You
> don’t know how to play, do you?’
> I said, “No, I don’t know how to play.” He said “First of all, let me
> tune your guitar. It’s all out of tune.” So he took the guitar, and he
> tuned it. He said, “It’s not a bad guitar.” It wasn’t the Conde, but
> it wasn’t a bad guitar. So, he handed it back to me. He said, “Now
> play.”
> I couldn’t play any better.
> He said “Let me show you some chords.” And he took the guitar, and he
> produced a sound from that guitar I had never heard. And he played a
> sequence of chords with a tremolo, and he said, “Now you do it.” I
> said, “It’s out of the question. I can’t possibly do it.” He said,
> “Let me put your fingers on the frets,” and he put my fingers on the
> frets. And he said, “Now, now play.”
> It was a mess. He said, ” I’ll come back tomorrow.”
> He came back tomorrow, he put my hands on the guitar, he placed it on
> my lap in the way that was appropriate, and I began again with those
> six chords – a six chord progression. Many, many flamenco songs are
> based on them.
> I was a little better that day. The third day – improved, somewhat
> improved. But I knew the chords now. And, I knew that although I
> couldn’t coordinate my fingers with my thumb to produce the correct
> tremolo pattern, I knew the chords; I knew them very, very well.
> The next day, he didn’t come. He didn’t come. I had the number of his,
> of his boarding house in Montreal. I phoned to find out why he had
> missed the appointment, and they told me that he had taken his life.
> That he committed suicide.
> I knew nothing about the man. I did not know what part of Spain he
> came from. I did not know why he came to Montreal. I did not know why
> he played there. I did not know why he he appeared there at that
> tennis court. I did not know why he took his life.
> I was deeply saddened, of course. But now I disclose something that
> I’ve never spoken in public. It was those six chords, it was that
> guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my
> music. So, now you will begin to understand the dimensions of the
> gratitude I have for this country.
> Everything that you have found favourable in my work comes from this
> place. Everything , everything that you have found favourable in my
> songs and my poetry are inspired by this soil.
> So, I thank you so much for the warm hospitality that you have shown
> my work because it is really yours, and you have allowed me to affix
> my signature to the bottom of the page.
> Because – I was an indifferent guitar player. I banged the chords.
> #####
> Dan comments:
> Notice how Leonard Cohen relates that all his songs and music have
> sprung from those six chords the man from Spain taught him and how it
> relates to Bill Evans and the creative freedom he finds in jazz.
> Thank you,
> Dan
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