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Leonard Cohen Lives on Forever on Greek Island of Hydra

Leonard Cohen Hydra
Leonard Cohen performing in 2008. Cohen adored his home on Hydra. Credit: Rama/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

Influential singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, who passed away nearly five years ago, was continuously inspired by the Greek island Hydra throughout his long career.

An official music video reminds his fans and music lovers worldwide what a truly great artist Cohen was and how lucky we were to have him here for as long as we did.

The great Canadian musician’s many Greek fans especially will rejoice, since the beautifully-shot video is entirely shot on Hydra island, Cohen’s literal second home.

“Moving On,” released after his death, is Cohen’s song about loss and the feeling of deep, unbearable heartache it creates.

Music video highlights Leonard Cohen’s home on Hydra

The song, which begins with the tolling of a mournful church bell, is carried along by a melancholy mandolin and continues with the characteristic, spoken-word, singing of the troubadour.

Adding a touch of sarcasm in the line, “Who’s moving on, who’s kidding who?” seems the only way the singer can make it through the pain of his loss.

The video shows the house that Cohen bought on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960 which served as his second home for the rest of his life.

The complete absence of any other humans in the sun-drenched house adds even more poignancy to the lyrics.

For the Canadian songwriter, the house on Hydra was not just his summer home, but a place where he felt free to spend months at a time and where he composed many of his lyrics.

This was also the place where Cohen’s great love, the Norwegian woman Marianne Ihlen, who was his muse in the 1960s, lived. She was the subject of one of his first masterpieces, “So Long, Marianne.”

The “stars” of the video are a cat, a donkey, a tangerine, flowers and, of course, the interior of the house where Cohen actually wrote some of his masterpieces, at least in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its serene, stunningly beautiful landscapes, the ancient streets of Hydra, and the breathtaking sunset at the end make the video as moving as the song itself.

Cohen’s life and career

The Canadian songwriter enjoyed a successful career in music which lasted for fifty years.

He was among a handful of revered songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s, along with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, marking the two most important decades in modern music history.

Cohen, who began his adult life as a writer, traveled a great deal, which seemed to him mandatory for anyone who wanted to write from experience. In Hydra, he found the serenity and solitude he needed in order to pen his works.

This is where he wrote his two books, The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966). It was also there where Cohen met Marianne Ihlen, his partner and muse for most of the 1960s.

The Canadian writer found the native people of Hydra mysterious and intriguing, and he came to love living there.

Cohen later said that buying his island house was the smartest decision he had ever made.

The island of Hydra is also where his first two albums were conceived. “Songs of Leonard Cohen” (1967) and “Songs from a Room” (1969), featuring spare arrangements and stark delivery of his poetic lyrics, established the young Canadian as a great name in the music world.

Leonard Cohen viewed as a local on Hydra

Cohen spent so much of his time on the island that by the 1980s, people viewed him as just another local resident. He remained very popular in Greece even though he had only performed in Athens one time.

The 1980s were a time which saw a sea change in the music world, with young audiences uninterested in Cohen’s deep, personal lyrics and spare, acoustic arrangements.

In 1988, however, the troubadour almost completely reinvented himself with “I’m Your Man,” a critically and commercially successful album with catchier arrangements which introduced him to a new generation while luring back his older fans.

After that time Cohen continued being active in the studio, releasing one more album, “The Future,” along the same vein, firmly re-establishing himself in the music business by gaining an all-new audience.

However, in 1995 he put a pause in his music production by entering the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside of Los Angeles and living there for some time. For many, that seemed to signal the end of Cohen’s music career.

Yet he returned to music in 2001 with his “Ten New Songs,” and continued creating for another fifteen years.

Cohen again toured the world and recorded four more albums between 2004 and 2016, the last being the acclaimed “You Want it Darker,” released only days before his death on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82.

Keeping his dark humor until the end, Cohen had once stated, “I intend to live forever.”

Still, in a way, this is absolutely true because his legacy is so powerful that, for many, the songwriter is indeed still around, whispering his bittersweet lyrics in countless ears.

On November 22, 2019 Cohen’s record company released an album of nine songs left over from the “You Want it Darker” recording sessions, with Cohen’s lyrics set to music by his son, Adam Cohen, along with various collaborators.

Entitled “Thanks for the Dance,” the album received as great reviews as if it had been a release from a living artist.

The song “Moving On” is from this album.

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