What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Steven
Posts: 2140
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby Steven » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:03 am

In "Closing Time," there's an "Awful Truth which you can't reveal to the Ears of Youth." What do you take this
to be?
User avatar
LisaLCFan
Posts: 1466
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:24 pm
Location: Canada

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby LisaLCFan » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:05 am

I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it isn't worth a dime! ;-)
Steven
Posts: 2140
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby Steven » Sat Jun 26, 2010 5:06 am

:)
IMM
Posts: 277
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:03 am
Location: Canada

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby IMM » Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:42 am

LisaLCFan wrote:I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it isn't worth a dime! ;-)
You neglected to allow for inflation!
User avatar
hydriot
Posts: 877
Joined: Sun May 21, 2006 3:07 am
Location: back in the UK

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby hydriot » Sat Jun 26, 2010 12:44 pm

That youthfulness is much over-rated!
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
User avatar
LisaLCFan
Posts: 1466
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:24 pm
Location: Canada

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby LisaLCFan » Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:25 pm

IMM wrote:
LisaLCFan wrote:I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it isn't worth a dime! ;-)
You neglected to allow for inflation!
Ha-ha! "It isn't worth a loonie" doesn't quite have the same ring to it, though!
User avatar
remote1
Posts: 2503
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:59 pm
Location: between the snowman and the rain

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby remote1 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 1:36 am

Just to throw a spanner in the works and be the pessimistic, miserable one, with no sense of humour, I'd say that the awful truth is that sexual desire and pleasure decrease with old age; well, according to this song at least... What's your take on what the awful truth is Steven? :)
"We are so lightly here"
Steven
Posts: 2140
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby Steven » Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:29 am

Hi Remote1,

The way I've heard it, the "Awful Truth," as expressed by the song's character, seems to be a reflection of the
guy's feeling a futility in not having achieved some things, seemingly despite what might have been youthful
expectations (now vanished with his advanced years). Perhaps the declaration is only a reflection of the guy's mood being temporarily and/or particularly down, and, if so, perhaps he can come up with more encouraging Truths that he'd not mind revealing to the Ears of Youth on brighter nights when he feels less Sisyphus-like. :)
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1746
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby mat james » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:32 pm

Hi Steven and all,

I think your "Awful Truth" relates to this line in the chorus/refrain;

"looks like freedom but it feels like death"

Maybe he is talking about "sexual freedom", promiscuity.
A life without "love".
Maybe that is the head-space he was in at that moment...living without "love".
The Awful Truth that "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose".

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Steven
Posts: 2140
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby Steven » Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:18 pm

Hi Mat,

I think you are correct.
Cate
Posts: 3457
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:27 am

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby Cate » Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:26 pm

Steven wrote: I think you are correct.
I think he is too - it sounds very lonely.

Perhaps there is a little bit of mortality, everything having an ending is in there as well.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1746
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby mat james » Mon Jun 28, 2010 11:55 am

Closing Time ?
You have got me thinking, Steven.

“looks like freedom but it feels like death
…and I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can't reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn't worth a dime…”

To add a little more to my thoughts yesterday;
The refrain seems reminiscent of a couple of lines from Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”. Leonard seems to be reflecting on a good relationship, lost, just as Kristofferson was;
…“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’ ain’t worth nothing, but it’s free… (Kristofferson)

And Leonard sings;
“…looks like freedom but it feels like death
…it isn’t worth a dime…(Cohen)

I suggest that Leonard may even have been singing Kristofferson’s song as he danced on the polka dots or wrote the song. And Janis Joplin may have been ringing in his ears, so to speak.
Both songs have a theme of breaking into freedom by exiting a good relationship…and the ‘freedom’ both song writers found is rather a hollow and worthless space to be in. A space without Love. In fact it ‘isn’t worth a dime’, “but it’s free”.
And both men are romantics; singers of love songs so that loneliness is intensified.

And it goes further, as Cate suggests,
“Perhaps there is a little bit of mortality, everything having an ending is in there as well.”
In the song “Death of a Lady’s Man” Cohen sings;

“So the great affair is over but whoever would have guessed
it would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed

It's like our visit to the moon or to that other star
I guess you go for nothing...”

Perhaps we all tip-toe over death; die a little, when we are out of luck with Love.

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Steven
Posts: 2140
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby Steven » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:24 pm

Hi Mat,

Janis nailed Kris' song. Leonard spoke of Janis. Kris wrote that incredible song.

Regarding your last line about being "out of luck with Love":
-- maybe the "Chelsea Hotel" words "we are ugly but we have the music" relates to how there may have been
an unlucky break or separation from Love, as the negative self-image description ("ugly") might suggest.
holydove
Posts: 1533
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby holydove » Mon Jun 28, 2010 11:51 pm

I see a couple of possible (perhaps overlapping) meanings in this line:

One is that the "awful truth" is that there is no truth (i.e. absolute truth); or, to put it another way, life has no real "meaning" (in the conventional sense of that term). When we are young, especially if one is a real "seeker" as Leonard always has been, we feel that there is some kind of very important "meaning" to discover in life. Perhaps the narrator of this song, being older & close to "closing time", having spent many years searching, now feels (at least at this moment) that the truth he has discovered is that there is nothing to search for, nothing to find. (Sorry is this seems overly pessimistic - it was my initial sense of the lyric, & it would also be in line with Zen teachings, in which case it's not necessarily pessimistic - in the Zen context, it would ultimately mean that there is no "meaning" in the conventional sense of "meaning" - the only truth is whatever is happening at any given moment).

The "awful truth" could also refer to the realization that everything - including life itself - is transient - nothing of this phenomenal world lasts forever. When we are young, we often have a vision of, & are searching for "true love", which we often see as a relationship that would last forever. "I loved you when our love was blessed/ I love you now there's nothing left. . ." So he still feels the love (which is an interesting hint of optimisim, as I see it - maybe love is the one thing that can last) but the narrator's relationships have all fallen apart, & he is very aware of the transience of all "phenomena" in this life, & how everything changes; but he wouldn't want to intrude on, or blemish the vision that young people naturally cherish, by revealing that "awful truth" to them: the ultimate dissolution of everything.
User avatar
TineDoes
Posts: 218
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:48 pm
Location: Holland

Re: What do you think is the "Awful Truth"?

Postby TineDoes » Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:22 am

holydove wrote:but he wouldn't want to intrude on, or blemish the vision that young people naturally cherish, by revealing that "awful truth" to them:
Or does he know that awful thruth cannot be revealed to the ears of youth; perhaps he knows they may not listen. The young have to discover for themselves.
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

Rotterdam 2008; Antwerpen, Dublin 2009; Gent 2x, Lille , Las Vegas 2x 2010, Gent, Amsterdam, Dublin 2x 2012, Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam 2013

Return to “Leonard Cohen's music”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests