In September 2013, I was thrilled to see Leonard Cohen live for the first time. I’ve been listening to him since I was a teenager and there have been many times over the years when I’ve turned with gratitude and curiosity to the dark chill and surprise twists of his songs.

Leonard Cohen at O2 Arena in London on 15 September 2013 (Imelda Michalczyk)

Leonard Cohen  (Imelda Michalczyk)

Sinking into his world of beguiling, damning and humorous stories, was both an escape and an instructive reflection on conflictingly beautiful and unpleasant angles of the human psyche.

Much of what I read about the man himself made him sound part mythological. When I finally witnessed one of his shows, the 80-year-old Leonard Cohen defied and exceeded my expectations.

He skipped onto the stage and fell to his knees to sing the opening song. In a sharp suit and hat, he glided through an impressive show, with anecdotes between songs that were warm and hilarious. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen. By all accounts, according to interviews and a letter he wrote to the Marianne of So Long Marianne just before her passing, he was ready to go.

I might feel less ready for his departure, but his wisdom, humour and grace remain in his words and music.

Words and Photography by Imelda Michalczyk.


Leonard Cohen: September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016.