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Tell Me About Leonard Cohen


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I love Leonard Cohen. There´s so much to say about him that I´ll look for a site to link before I tell you this:

He´s from Montreal, 1934. He is a writer and a poet and by the late sixties he began to put music to his poems. He was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1967 and he was succesfull with his songs for the first time; one later he released "Songs of LC" with the famous "Suzanne" (which was recorded by Judy Collins too).

He went on releasing albums full of poetry and his deep voice is almost a trademark. In the mid seventies he retired to a Greek island but he kept on writing and performing.

You surelly heard "The Stranger", "Bird on a wire", "First we take Manhattan" or "So long, Marianne". They´re all beautifull for any LC fan.

I would reccomend you "I´m your man", it´s a great album.

Official page There is also a double album, "I´m your fan", where you can find covers of many Leonard Cohen songs by different performers suchs as REM, Pixies, Lloyd Cole, John Cale and others. It´s an awesome record.

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I think he is an incredible, incredible lyricist. I don't think he really does his words justice in song, however. Kind of like Dylan, I'd prefer to hear someone else covering him. This is not to say that I don't like him musically; I actually have a bunch of his albums. I just think fans of his have done more with some of the songs, as opposed to just having them be vehicles for the words.

Nobody, in my opinion, is better at mixing love and anger in a single poem. From "Everybody Knows":

Everybody knows that you love me baby

Everybody knows that you really do

Everybody know that you've been faithful

Give or take a night or two

Everybody knows you've been discreet

So many people you had to meet

Without your clothes.

He's also quite willing to admit fault without apologizing. The following is also example of his frequent use of religious imagery, from "Hallelujah". This verse is omitted from most versions of the song, for some strange reason:

I did my best, it wasn't much.

I couldn't feel so I learned to touch.

I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.

And even though it all went wrong

I'll stand before the lord of song

With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.

My favorite, though, is "The Reason I Write". He is brilliant at seducing you with romance, but leaving you quite unsettled as he goes on:

The reason I write

Is to make something

As beautiful as you are.

When I'm with you I want to be

The kind of hero I wanted to be

When I was seven years old.

A perfect man

Who kills.

I first got into him via the movie "Pump Up The Volume". They used a few of his songs, including a cover of "Everybody Knows" by Concrete Blonde. Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" is the benchmark, I think, and Rufus Wainwright did it on the "Shrek" soundtrack (though John Cale's voice was used in the actual movie). Fans of "Nip/Tuck" heard Madeliene Peyroux cover "Dance Me To The End Of Love" on the recent "Mama" episode.

My recommended listening:

Songs From A Room ("Bird On A Wire", "The Butcher")

The Songs Of Leonard Cohen ("Suzanne", "Sisters Of Mercy")

Various Positions ("If It Be Your Will", "Hallelujah", "Dance Me To The End Of Love")

I'm Your Man ("Everybody Knows", "First We Take Manhattan")

I like that tribute album Edna mentioned, but the thought of Michael Stipe singing Leonard Cohen is way too depressing for me.

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Good info, Das... you helped me out with Cohen some months ago... ;)

I don´t like REM´s cover neither but the choice of the songs is very good ("Tower of song" is my favourite). I can´t speak of LC in one post, he´s one of my favourite writer/poet/songwriter/singer ever... and all this makes him also very attractive.

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that was very informative daslied! I have also often thought that he is a bit like dylan (but more depressing!) so perhaps it would be worth me buying the cover album. a few months back I decided I needed to try him out so I bought a greatest hits album for a flavour (plus his regular albums are quite expensive ) and although I like it, I can't say i listen to it very much

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to everyone for their input, especially das and Edna. I've listened to snippets of his songs, but I've spent the bulk of my research just reading his lyrics. How amazing. Here are a few that spoke to me...

Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,

your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,

yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,

in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,

but let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,

your eyes are soft with sorrow,

Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.

Bird on the Wire

Like a bird on the wire,

like a drunk in some midnight choir

I have tried in my way to be free.

Like a worm on a hook,

like a knight from some old fashioned book

it was the shape, the shape of our love twisted me.

If I, if I have been unkind,

I hope you can, I hope you can just let it go by. (let it go by)

If I, if I have been untrue

it's just that I thought a lover had to be some kind of liar too.

Humbled in Love

Do you remember all of those pledges

That we pledged in the passionate night

Ah they're soiled now, they're torn at the edges

Like moths on a still yellow light

No penance serves to renew them

No massive transfusions of trust

Why not even revenge can undo them

So twisted these vows and so crushed

And you say you've been humbled in love

Cut down in your love

Forced to kneel in the mud next to me

Ah but why so bitterly turn from the one

Who kneels there as deeply as thee.

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Glad to know you like him, at least lyrically. Musically he's definitely an acquired taste, with that deep, rumbling voice of his.

I have a book of his, called "Stranger Music" I think, that's worth getting. It's basically just a poetry collection, but it's one of those things you can read over and over again and find a new favorite each time.

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  • 8 months later...

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