In My Secret Life – The Soundtrack Leonard Cohen & Sharon Robinson Wrote About Julie And Me
I should clarify that, as far as I can determine, Leonard Cohen didn’t know, as he labored over “In My Secret Life” from its first draft in 19881 through numerous revisions until he completed it in collaboration with Sharon Robinson in 2001, that the song was about the role Julie plays in my inner life in 2010.
It just worked out that way.
As many ongoing readers will know from the explanatory description oft-repeated in these pages,
Julie was my much-beloved, fiercely smart, extraordinarily sexy wife, who died in 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. She was also a prize-winning writer. This blog includes many other posts about her and the unlikely but true story of our romance as well as several of her short stories and other pieces.2
In fact, Julie was a vital part of the core of my interior reality from the day I met her, although she was, during the first eight years of that time, a singularly chaste component of my private universe, as I pointed out in the first part of Julie’s Story, This Is How A Love Story Began:
And, starting then, we spent time together, at first studying together, sharing lunch, and, most often, just talking. It was all quite innocent, because, as I would glibly but accurately note when retelling our story to friends — at that point, Julie was still married, and I was still Christian.
But all that was to change.
That change included not only the two of us living together for almost 20 years in an outrageously happy marriage but also her continued presence in my thoughts in the ten years since her death.
Consequently, few who knew about both the song, “In My Secret Life,” and my relationship with Julie were surprised by the content of And We’re Still Making Love In My Secret Life, a post published here in December 2009 on the anniversary of Julie’s death. The pertinent portion of that entry follows:
From the time I heard “In My Secret Life” at the Leonard Cohen Beacon Theatre Concert 10 months ago, however, its words have been on my mind:
And I miss you so much.
There’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In My Secret Life
And, I still have a visceral memory of the shudder I felt when Sharon Robinson echoes the “cry” after Cohen sings “Makes you want to cry.”
So, the choice of content for this commemoration of Julie’s life was obvious.
It was, however, by no means easy and certainly not painless.
Then, a couple of days ago, the happy discovery of bridgebud‘s video of “In My Secret Life” from the August 21, 2010 Leonard Cohen Gent Concert3 triggered the idea of creating a video comprising images of my life with Julie set to that song.
Which brings us to …
Making The “We’re Still Making Love In My Secret Life” Video
To facilitate the timely completion of this project, I limited the pool of potential graphics to photographs already on my hard drive4 plus screen captures of Heck Of A Guy posts. One result of this guideline is that most photos of Julie, taken during the pre-digital camera era, were originally snapshots captured on film that I had scanned into my computer. This, as is evident in viewing the video, does not make for pristine pictures.
Further, the limited pool of images resulting from my self-imposed, arbitrary restrictions rendered fitting the images to the lyrics of “In My Secret Life” what medical researchers like to call a “non-trivial” challenge. A comprehensive grasp of the correlations between the song’s conceits and the video’s illustrations of those ideas requires either an intimate knowledge of our family’s history as well as my memories and mental processes or a looseness of associations at a near psychotic level. As an alternative, I recommend replacing an insistence on a rigorous synchronization of visual and auditory concepts with a less exacting two-part generic strategy that I’ve repeatedly found useful:5
- Show up
- See what happens
Besides, Leonard Cohen’s own comments on “In My Secret Life” indicate the inevitability of flawed rationality:
We all have a sense of a truth. The truth can be the most intimate conversation with one’s heart about its desire and appetite. And when this conversation appears, it comes very close to the truth and a feeling of authenticity. But I don’t imagine to have a metaphysic system without contradictions, and I don’t think this is the poet’s nor the songwriter’s duty. In one of the songs I start by saying: ‘I smile when I’m angry. / I cheat and I lie. / I do what I have to do / to get by. / But I know what is wrong. / And I know what is right. / And I’d die for the truth / In My Secret Life.’ To be understood in the way that you can deceive everybody but yourself. This is the truth viewed in a simple, pragmatic and ordinary way, but it isn’t the great truth of our existence. I can’t control that.”6
In any case, the resulting video provided previously unrealized insights and evoked significant feelings for me. Perhaps it can offer something to others as well._____________________
- A Light-Hearted Apocalypse by Tim de Lisle. The Independent, 12 October 1997 [↩]
- For the location of the various content about or by Julie, see Julie FAQ. [↩]
- See Leonard Cohen Gent Concerts – Sights & Sounds [↩]
- These include, of course, photos of Julie, Da Boyz, and me but also, less obviously, photos such as the opening shot of fog layering over the lawn and farmland around our home. [↩]
- While I’ve faithfully executed this strategy throughout my adult life, I first heard it articulated on Season 1, Episode 22 of Sports Night, the brilliant comedy which ran on ABC from 1998 to 2000. In the dialogue between the Casey and Dan, the sportscasters, the plan was attributed to Napoleon:
Casey: Technically, I have a plan.
Dan: What’s the plan?
Casey: It’s Napoleon’s plan.
Dan: Who’s Napoleon?
Casey: A 19th century French emperor.
Dan: You’re cracking wise with me now?
Casey: He had a two-part plan.
Dan: What was it?
Casey: First we show up, then we see what happens.
Dan: That was his plan?
Dan: Against the Russian army?
Dan: First we show up, then we see what happens.
Dan: Almost hard to believe he lost. [↩]
- Leonard Cohen Gave Me 200 Franc by Martin Oestergaard. Euroman, September 2001 [↩]