Leonard Cohen Songs
Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite musicians. However, not only is he an accomplished musician but a lyricist who stands as one of the greatest poets living today.
You will find him in the poet's bible The Norton Anthology of Poetry, along side such famous poets as Shakespeare, Pope, Donne as well as Cohen's own literary influences Yeats, Whitman and Henry Miller.
But unlike a straight poet, Cohen learned to play guitar and was therefore able to put magnificent music to richly inspiring and sometimes intriguingly personal lyrics that draw a listener in.
One of the defining elements of his musical style is his rich bass vocal and it is a relief to hear this in a day and age predominantly filled with screechingly high vocals.
All vocal ranges have there place but while many singers (male and female) are singing high, Cohen's voice has gone deeper evolving from baritone to bass as he has aged! To hear him can sometimes be a refreshing change.
If you listen to Avalanche (from Songs of Love and Hate released in 1971), it is possible to hear the influence of spanish guitar (a la flamenco) and in a live rendition of this the guitar is tuned lower which again demonstrates the originality of going lower in pitch while the mainstream seem to be going higher.
It is true that some of his early songs can seem extremely melancholy and this can probably be attributed to Cohen's own suffering and experiences. He lost his father at the age of nine and suffered depression, (by his own admission) but his Anthem lyric that "there is a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in" reminds us to be understanding and accepting of fallibility and suffering.
His embracing of Zen Buhddism and finding detachment helped to lift him out of depression he tells us.
"Hallellujah", which so many other artists have covered came out in 1984.
A dry sense of humour seems to come out in his music with "Everybody Knows" which was written in collaboration with Sharon Robinson.
Cohen was born in 1934, on the 21 September but he still manages live performances and in recent concerts (2009) audiences flocked to see him.
His art has stood the test of time and continues to span the generations.
Why? I put it down to the incredible heart, compassion and experience this man seems to have that makes his music so persuasive and so accessible to so many.
His music is not manufactured art but speaks from deep emotional, complicated interpersonal and a rich tapestry of life experiences.
The surprises just keep coming in his compositions which means if you do become a fan of this great man, you might find yourself refamiliarizing yourself with his music again and again!
Thank-you Leonard Cohen for all the great music and words. You are trually an inspiration!