Simon Kelner: I love to wake to the sound of a gravelly, deep voice


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What joy! I woke up yesterday morning and the first voice I heard was not John Humphrys, nor Robert Peston, but someone equally recognisable, whose words provoked thought rather than anger and induced pleasure rather than anxiety. Leonard Cohen has been here to promote his new album, called Old Ideas, the first produced in a studio for eight years and a snatch of his Today programme interview with another God of modern music, Jarvis Cocker, was enough to help me start the day in an elevated mood. When you're used to hearing politicians talk about bailouts and bonuses, it was a thrill and a privilege to hear Cohen – with that voice, now so gravelly it could have been laid by a McNicholas lorry – talking in a characteristically poetic way about the art of songwriting.

He explained that he'd always found words hard to come by. "I always felt I was scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get a song together," he said. "I never had the sense I was standing in front of a buffet table with a multitude of choices. It was more like what Yeats used to say: I was working in the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart."

Now there was a thought to conjure with before breakfast. Not quite as on the agenda as public sector pension cuts, I grant you, but who wouldn't want a little lyricism with their toast? I should admit to my partiality to Leonard Cohen, inset. Since I listened as a mournful student to "Suzanne", I've reserved a place in my heart for him. Cocker said that there was an "intimacy" to Cohen's music and I certainly think that any man who could perform in front of 20,000 people at London's O2 Arena and turn it into an intimate evening has something quite extraordinary. I saw Cohen twice at the O2 – the first time through a fog of tears, so moving did I find the whole experience – and believed it would be the last time I'd see him perform. After all, he's now 77 and I'm not getting any younger either. The release of a new album offers hope that he may go on tour again – the driving force for the last one was his tricky financial position, owing to a law suit with his former manager, whom he accused of stealing almost £3m from him while he was in a Buddhist retreat.

And with more live performances comes the opportunity to open his work to a new and possibly younger, audience.

He brought the house down at Glastonbury in 2008 and where once he was popular only with sad middle-agers like me, he does have a younger, cooler following as well.

But I don't expect people who didn't grow up with Cohen as a soundtrack to their lives really to get it. I asked a young person in my office whether she liked Leonard Cohen. "Yes, I do," she said unequivocally. "But I'm glad when it stops."

That's the problem with young people. No soul.