“And you treated my woman to a flake of your life,
and when she came back,
she was nobody’s wife.”
“Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen
My 1,000 Favorite Songs
“Famous Blue Raincoat” is without a doubt my all-time favorite song. The way I feel about it is almost indescribable. Every time I listen to it I hear something new in the sounds, the lyrics, the story, the subtext, and within my own history with the song.
I still remember – vividly – the first time I heard it, and how I kept playing it, over and over again.
I have quite a weakness for storytelling in song, and this tale of a marriage failing, screaming infidelities, and the betrayal of a friend all resonate deep within my own life and landscape. I feel the song, and its story, deeply.
That said, beneath the surfaces of this song I think lies so much more than just a song about infidelity and betrayal. I think it goes beyond a song about love, and a love triangle, as well. It is much more complex than all of that.
To me, it seems to be about human interactions and connections. The gray in-between of lovers, and friends. And, the differences that can exist between passion and stability. It seems to be delving deep into the impact we have on each other, and the power of connection. How it can heal and how it can destroy, just like love can.
Someday I want to write characters for this song. My own characters inspired by Leonard’s lyrics, and the way the song makes me feel. My version of Jane and Leonard, and the “other man” (lover, brother, killer, ghost, all of the above). I want to paint them the way I feel the music. Let the characters unravel, betray, fall, and crawl back to grasp hold of some kind of redemption.
I hear redemption here, even if it is wrapped around with sorrow, loss, and a sense of giving up.
I want to write about the “other man”, the main in the raincoat. Maybe it would be from Jane’s perspective, of the blue raincoat man, and of the Leonard in the song who sits alone in a darkened room on Clinton Street in the middle of the night writing a letter that pleads for some kind of reprieve, or understanding.
Is this a “Dear Jane” letter he’s writing? Is it a goodbye? Or is it an action of letting go of all of it – his wife, his friend, the betrayals and his own heart? Or is it forgiveness for all of it, even his part in it all.
“Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes.
I thought it was there for good,
so I never tried.”
What would Jane’s letter say if she wrote one? What is her side of the story? I’ve always wanted to know what regards Jane would actually send.