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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 9:43 pm
by Roy
Leonard Cohen Outlines 'Popular Problems' Album, Unveils Dark New Song
Iconic singer-songwriter preps nine new songs for upcoming album ... z3ArfYlfFG


By Andy Greene | August 19, 2014

Leonard Cohen has confirmed the September 23rd release of his new album Popular Problems, set to be unveiled just two days after his 80th birthday. The album will feature nine new songs and was produced by Patrick Leonard, who worked with Cohen on his 2012 album Old Ideas. Fans that pre-order the album will receive an instant download of Cohen's new song "Almost Like the Blues."

"Yet again, Leonard Cohen has broken musical boundaries with new creative inspiration," Rob Stringer, Chairman/CEO of Columbia Records said in a statement. "These nine new songs are simply sublime and innovative with a unique spirit. We're absolutely thrilled and honored to celebrate this milestone with him."

Most of the songs will be new to Cohen fans, though he did debut "Born In Chains" onstage in 2010 and "My Oh My" was played during a soundcheck that same year. It's unclear whether or not Cohen will support Popular Problems with a tour, though he's already indicated that he will not be doing any shows in 2014.

As Rolling Stone previously reported, word of the release dropped earlier this month at Leonard Cohen Event 2014, an officially sanctioned fan convention held in Dublin, when Jarkko Arjatsalo, a finnish accountant that runs Cohen's authorized fan site, revealed plans for a new album.

Popular Problems is the second album that Cohen has released since his miraculous 2008 return to the stage. He'd been almost completely absent from the scene for 15 years at that point, and he stunned his fans by staging three-and-a-half-hour concerts that quickly brought him from tiny theaters in Canada to sold out arenas across the globe.

His primary motivation for touring was to ensure he'd have an adequate retirement fund. "I was able to restore my tiny fortune within a year or so, but I kept on touring," he told Rolling Stone in 2012. "Touring is like taking the first step on a walk to China. It's a serious commitment."

Track listing for Popular Problems

1. "Slow"
2. "Almost Like The Blues"
3. "Samson In New Orleans"
4. "A Street"
5. "Did I Ever Love You"
6. "My Oh My"
7. "Nevermind"
8. "Born In Chains"
9. "You Got Me Singing"

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:22 pm
by Roy


Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:25 pm
by Roy
Leonard Cohen on Longevity, Money, Poetry and Sandwiches

"I was always like a bear in a honey tree, just trying to get something without getting stung to death" ... z3E8J8huoE


Leonard Cohen performs live in 2013. The Canadian icon talks about his songwriting secrets in a new Q&A.

BY GAVIN EDWARDS | September 19, 2014

Leonard Cohen is our leading poet of love, wisdom, and sorrow – and according to the lyrics of Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea," the guiding spirit in Kurt Cobain's afterworld. We sat down with the singer-songwriter on the occasion of his 13th studio album, Popular Problems, in a formal dining room at the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles (he primarily lives in L.A. and mostly recorded the album in his home studio, but he hails from Montreal). He discussed producer Patrick Leonard ("It was an unusually fraternal collaboration"), his fedora ("I've got about 20 of these") and the aging process ("My high jump is definitely degraded"). Cohen turns 80 on Sunday, and Popular Problems will be released two days after that.

When you finish something like this record, are you proud of it?
It's the done-ness of it that I really like. It nourishes me. Some guys don't know how to open a door.

What are the pros and cons of working at home?
I don't know if there are any cons. It's very nice to go into your backyard and climb up into your studio. We had some good mics there, and both Pat and I had our keyboards, so we were able to flesh out these songs.

Patrick said that part of the process of working together was stripping out any excesses or fripperies.
Yes, both in the music and in the lyric. We were both, I think, quite compassionately savage about our vision. Pat, because he has such an abundance of musical ideas, he'll sometimes overproduce. But he's quite aware of that. So sometimes we'll just say we don't need a chorus here, we don't need horns here, you know, we need to break it down here. And same with the lyric: If something's obscure or just on the wrong side of accessible, then Pat will mention that and I'll happily redirect.

How do you know when a song's working?
You can pretty well tell. We play it for select people, like my daughter – there's a few people who aren't afraid to tell you that it isn't working. We had another song on the album, which was called "Happens to the Heart," which will be on the next album. It's a very good lyric, a very good tune, but we didn't nail it. So we didn't put each other on about it – not for more than a week or two. "You know, this song really doesn't make it." "Thank God you said that, Pat, because I can't stand it."

Has your approach to making music changed over the decades?
I never had an approach. I was always like a bear in a honey tree, just trying to get something without getting stung to death.

Is financial necessity good or bad for art?
I think it levels the ground. I never had huge amounts of money when I was young. I had huge amounts of fame, and I always had the sense of labor and recompense. I always said I don't want to work for pay, but I want to get paid for my song. Financial necessity of course arose in a very acute manner a few years ago. [His then-manager stole over $5 million from his retirement account.] I thought I had a little bread, enough to get by. I found I didn't – for which I'm very grateful because it spurred a lot of activity.

I was curious about a lyric on "Nevermind," "There's truth that lives and there's truth that dies."
"There's truth that lives and truth that dies. I don't know which, so never mind. There is no need that this survive, there's truth that lives and truth that dies." It's one of those phrases that resonates in some corner of the heart. And I don't think it serves us well to explain it or to analyze it or to interpret it. It sounded right to me. There are certain truths that are in a dormant stage that you can't always locate or be nourished by. But they're there.

When you're writing a song, are you aware that you're tapping into something that you may not have a conscious handle on?
Well, I think that sometimes when you're in ninth gear, or when you're really skiing down the slope – you're right on top of the snow, you don't want to go any deeper. As someone said, you learn to stop bravely at the surface. If you hear something that really resonates, you just fold your hands in gratitude and try to incorporate it into the song. Sometimes those obscurities are just bullshit and they have to be excised; they have to be ruthlessly removed even if they sound good. Because they produce a disconnect in the song that every listener feels unconsciously. If you feel somebody's trying to put you on, you really feel it.

Do you write much poetry that isn't suitable for lyrics?
Oh, yeah. And sometimes I think, "What the hell am I doing? It doesn't mean anything, it's deeply irrelevant. Not just to everybody else but to myself." But what else are you going to do? Everything else has gone away. Most of the things that I've liked to do, for one reason or another, it's often inappropriate to do them.

At age 80, are there things you can't do that you used to be able to?
There's a lot of things that you can do that you couldn't do when you were younger. You depend on a certain resilience that is not yours to command, but which is present. And if you can sense this resilience or sense this capacity to continue, it means a lot more at this age than it did when I was 30, when I took it for granted.

What are you good at that has nothing to do with music?
I can make a couple of good sandwiches: tuna salad and chopped egg salad. And Greek bean soup. I was a cook for my old Zen master for many years. So there were two or three dishes that he liked, you know. Teriyaki salmon, a few things. I wouldn't call myself a good cook by any means. My son is a very good cook. My curries are not bad.

Do you write songs faster or slower than you used to?
There's always a group of songs that I'm working at. Some of them are 10 years old, and some of them are just a few weeks old. I'm always trying to adjust these songs to some position where I can bring them to completion. There's a few songs that I would like to finish before I die. One in particular, it's a lovely melody that I can't find any words for. I've been trying for a good 15 years. I've tried many, many versions. And God willing, maybe something will happen.

After you're gone, what would you want people to remember about you?
I never give that much thought. Some people care about their work lasting forever – I have little interest in it. You probably know that great story about Bob Hope. His wife came to him and said, "There's two plots available at Forest Lawn. One looks at some beautiful cypress trees, one looks over the valley. Which do you think you'd prefer?" He said, "Surprise me." That's the way I feel about posterity and how I'm remembered. Surprise me.

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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 2:41 am
by Roy


Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:26 am
by Roy
Miami Sound Machine: 16 Best Musical Guest Stars on 'Miami Vice'

From the Godfather of Soul to the Nuge, here are the more memorable musical greats who graced the iconic Eighties cop show

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7 Leonard Cohen ('French Twist,' Season Two)

Miami Vice wasn't just a cop show for mass audiences — it was a show that catered to fans of musicians across the board. How else to explain Leonard Cohen's unlikely casting as Francois Zolan, a duplicitous French secret-service agent on the second-season episode "French Twist." BONUS: Cohen, a native of Quebec, delivers all of his lines in French. Oui, Miami.

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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 1:56 pm
by Roy
Watch Leonard Cohen's Spellbinding 'Come Healing' Live in Dublin

The legendary singer-songwriter gets down on his knees to perform a recent track in a clip from his new DVD

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By Nick Murray | October 16, 2014

Last fall, midway between the releases of 2012's Old Ideas and the recent Popular Problems, Leonard Cohen played nine shows in the U.K. and Ireland, including two dates at Dublin's 02 Arena. "I'm not quite ready to hang up my boxing gloves just yet," he told the crowd toward the beginning of his one of his Dublin sets. "I don't know when we'll meet again, but tonight we'll give you everything we've got."

Cohen, it turned out, made good on his promise, and now the second of those gigs is being released as a triple-disc CD/DVD/Blu-ray set dubbed Leonard Cohen Live in Dublin. Above, watch the singer perform "Come Healing," one of Old Ideas' most magnificent tracks. In this version, a trio of backup singers lead the way, and when Cohen enters, he sings the song almost in a whisper, dropping down on his knees as if praying in a church pew.

Almost exactly a year later, the legendary songwriter visited L.A. to preview Popular Problems and discuss – among other other things – the possibility of returning to the road. Apparently, he's still keeping his gloves close by: "I'll have another shot or two at it when I go on the road – if I go on the road," the now 80-year-old said, referring to new track "Born in Chains." "The road is beckoning. I know if I run that song down in concert two-or-three-hundred times, I'm going to get it."

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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 7:39 am
by Roy
Weekend Rock Question: What's Leonard Cohen's Best Song?

Cast your vote in our weekly poll ... z3JxQSyCcP


Leonard Cohen, circa 1970

By Rolling Stone | November 21, 2014

Leonard Cohen turned 80 earlier this year, and he celebrated by releasing his new album Popular Problems. It's quite possibly the best LP ever created by an octogenarian, and next month he's releasing the CD/DVD Live In Dublin. There's no word on future tour dates, but we're all hoping he's going to go back on the road in 2015.

Now we have a question for you: What is Leonard Cohen's single greatest song? Feel free to vote for a 1960s classic like "Suzanne" or "Bird on a Wire," a 1980s comeback tune like "I'm Your Man" or "Tower of Song" or something more recent like "Almost Like the Blues" or "Going' Home." (You can also be super obvious and vote for "Hallelujah.") Vote for whatever song you like, but please only vote once and only for a single selection.

You can vote here in the comments, on or on Twitter using the hashtag #WeekendRock.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:17 am
by Roy
Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Albums of 2014

Tom Petty, Lana Del Rey, U2 and more: see how our readers' ranked the year's greatest music

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8. Leonard Cohen, 'Popular Problems'

Leonard Cohen's amazing comeback that began with his 2008 tour and his 2012 disc Old Ideas continued this year with Popular Problems, his 13th LP since emerging on the scene back in 1967. The disc is produced by Patrick Leonard, best known for his work with Madonna in the 1980s. "We were both, I think, quite compassionately savage about our vision," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "If something's obscure or just on the wrong side of accessible, then Pat will mention that and I'll happily redirect." Check out the songs "Almost Like the Blues" and "Nevermind." They are some of the greatest songs ever produced by an octogenarian.

Read more: ... z3MChm6eaB


Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 6:17 pm
by Roy
Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time ... ongwriters

# 16 Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen was a dark Canadian eminence among the pantheon of singer-songwriters to emerge in the Sixties. His haunting bass voice, nylon-stringed guitar patterns, and Greek-chorus backing vocals delivered incantatory verses about love and hate, sex and spirituality, war and peace, ecstasy and depression, and other eternal dualities. A perfectionist known for spending years on a tune, Cohen's genius for details illuminated the oft-covered "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah." "Being a songwriter is like being a nun," Rolling Stone reported him saying in 2014. "You're married to a mystery. It's not a particularly generous mystery, but other people have that experience with matrimony anyway." In 1995, Cohen appeared to reject the worldliness reflected in songs like "The Future" and "Democracy" by putting his career on hold and becoming an ordained Buddhist monk. But he relaunched his career at age 74 and has continued to tour the world and make sensually luminous albums into the 2010s. At 80, he's still our greatest living late-night poet.


Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:59 am
by Roy
T Bone Burnett Explains Leonard Cohen 'True Detective' Opening

It's "the song of the century, so far," music supervisor says

By Richard Bienstock August 14, 2015

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In a new interview with Billboard, True Detective music supervisor T Bone Burnett revealed the meaning behind using Leonard Cohen's Popular Problems track "Nevermind" as Season Two's opening music alongside why different verses of the song were used in various episodes.

"To me, 'Nevermind' is the song of the century so far, coming from one of the wisest men in our culture," Burnett said. "I look at it as an extraordinary gift to the audience. It feels very much like Los Angeles right now: beautiful, dark, brooding, dangerous, covert. The reason the lyrics change is just because there are a lot of important lyrics in the song that all apply, and we’re doing our best to play the whole song for people."

Burnett also addressed widespread backlash against True Detective's second season, noting, "I’ve heard criticisms of the show, and almost all of them are 'This is all clichés, and I can’t understand anything that’s going on. Which is a beautiful dichotomy."

Elsewhere in the interview, Burnett reported that he recently completed production work on a new Elton John album. "It’s a very upbeat rock and roll record. That last album [2013's The Diving Board] was a particular group of very personal material; this is broadcasting. That one was a parlor record; this is a festival," he said.

Burnett was also asked about 2014's Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, a project that saw artists like Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Mumford & Sons' Marcus Mumford record songs based on uncovered Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967.

"That project was one of the most extraordinary events of my life, and I feel like it's still a work in progress," Burnett says. "We got five people that didn’t know each other together for 10 days and wrote and recorded 45 new songs. It was epic, and I don't think that really came across yet. There’s a film we're editing that may end up being the definitive version of that whole event, a concert film we shot at the Montalban [in Los Angeles] that was really the fruit of the whole experience. By the way, there are another 20-some-odd songs we haven't released, and we might put out another album of that stuff next year. I look forward to being a steward of that material over the next several years."

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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2015 7:37 am
by Roy
Bob Johnston, Bob Dylan Producer, Dead at 83

Columbia Records staffer worked on 'Blonde on Blonde,' Johnny Cash's prison LPs and Leonard Cohen's 'Songs of Love and Hate'

By Daniel Kreps August 16, 2015

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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 5:03 am
by Roy
Review: Leonard Cohen's 'You Want It Darker' Possibly His Darkest LP Yet

Octogenarian lady's man seduces the eternal with grim, spiritual beauty

4 / 5 | * * * * / * * * * * ... er-w446058


On his signature classic, "Hallelujah," Leonard Cohen sang about meeting "the Lord of Song." But on the title track of his new LP, the third in a late-game rally that's been as startlingly brilliant as Bob Dylan's, Cohen takes that imagined reckoning with the Almighty deeper, intoning "Hineni," a Hebrew term for addressing God that translates as "Here I am." The punchline, aside from the title's cheeky challenge – true Cohen fans always want it darker – is that with his cantorial delivery, the famous lady's man makes the phrase sound kinda like "hey, baby." In fact, an unlikely EDM remix of "You Want It Darker," by DJ Paul Kalkbrenner, turns the phrase into a dance-floor chant – more proof of how much modern lifeblood still flows through Cohen's voice after five decades on the job.

This is Cohen's gift to music lovers: a realistically grim, spiritually radiant and deeply poetic worldview, generally spiked with a romantic thrum and an existential wink. Following a string of records that have each felt like a swan song, You Want It Darker may be Cohen's most haunting LP. At 82, it might also be his last.

"I'm angry and I'm tired all the time," he sings on "Treaty," a stately parlor march to piano and strings that blooms from breakup lament into meditations on the fool's errand of religion. The Brylcreem-scented slow dance "Leaving the Table" similarly flickers between romantic and spiritual resignation, Bill Bottrell's electric guitar and steel fills flickering like mirror-ball beams as the famous rake ruefully insists, "I don't need a lover/The wretched beast is tame" – as sure a sign of the End Times as Arctic melt.

As on Cohen's 2014 Popular Problems, blues define the vibe. But other colors deepen the narrative. The Congregation Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, who billow across the title track, recall Cohen's Jewish upbringing in Montreal; "Traveling Light" conjures his halcyon years in Greece in the early Sixties with his late muse Marianne Ihlen, the subject of "So Long, Marianne," who died in late July. "Goodnight, my fallen star ..." Cohen sings in a near-whisper amid bouzouki notes, like a man dancing in an empty taverna after closing time.

Like Bowie's Blackstar and Dylan's long goodbye, You Want It Darker is the sound of a master soundtracking his exit, with advice for those left behind. "Steer your way through the ruins of the Altar and the Mall," he sings near the album's end, against a gently bouncing bluegrass fiddle, his son Adam's subtle guitar and Alison Krauss' angelic backing vocals. It's what he's always done, helping the rest of us do the same, as best we can.


Weekend Rock Question: What Is the Best Leonard Cohen Album?
Cast your vote in our weekly poll ... um-w447321


Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in London in 1974. Michael Putland/Getty

Leonard Cohen's new album You Want It Darker landed on shelves this week. Produced by his son Adam, it's Cohen's 14th studio LP, going all the way back to 1967's Songs of Leonard Cohen. Early reviews have been very strong, though the 82 year old is unlikely to promote it with any sort of live activity due to back problems that have greatly limited his mobility.

Now we have a question for you: What is Leonard Cohen's best album? Feel free to vote for an old school favorite like Songs From a Room and New Skin for the Old Ceremony, something from his 1980s comeback like Various Positions and I'm Your Man or a more recent work like Old Ideas and Popular Problems. You can even pick his polarizing Phil Spector-produced disc Death of a Ladies' Man. Just please only vote once and just for a single album.

You can vote here in the comments, on or on Twitter using the hashtag #WeekendRock.

Readers' Poll: 10 Best Leonard Cohen Albums
See which album managed to top 'The Future,' 'I'm Your Man' and 'Songs of Leonard Cohen' ... ms-w447900


Leonard Cohen's new LP You Want It Darker is probably one of the best albums ever released by a person over the age of 80. It's just part of his astounding career renaissance that began when he returned to the road in 2008 for a stunning tour that lasted five years. The show featured songs from throughout his long career, which began all the way back in 1967 with Songs of Leonard Cohen. His singing voice has changed quite a bit since those days and the music has grown much more sophisticated, but brilliant words have never diminished. In honor of You Want It Darker, we had our readers select Cohen's best albums. Here are the results.

10. 'Ten New Songs'

Not a lot of people were focused on Leonard Cohen in 2001. He'd pretty much vanished from the public eye following his 1993 tour in support of The Future. He spent a great deal of time at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles where he worked as the personal assistant to Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Recording new music simply wasn't a part of his life, but in 1999, he began spending part of his time at his daughter's house in L.A. His longtime backup singer and occasional creative collaborator Sharon Robinson started coming by, and they began writing new tunes together. It took a couple of years, but they eventually produced 10 brand-new songs. Always liking a simple title, Cohen called it Ten New Songs. Robinson and Cohen lock vocals on most songs to stunning effect. It didn't get much attention at the time, but "In My Secret Life," "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and "Boogie Street" all came alive on the Grand Tour and are now seen as classics.

9. 'New Skin For the Old Ceremony'

New Skin For the Old Ceremony was the fourth and final chapter from the folkie period of Cohen's early musical career. The songs are sparse, though often punctuated with percussion, banjo and mandolin. Critics were torn when it came out, and it became his first album to not even touch the Billboard album charts. It did far better overseas, beginning a long tradition of faraway audiences appreciating Cohen more than fans in North America. "Chelsea Hotel #2," "Who By Fire" and "I Tried to Love You" are the standout tracks and were part of his live show for decades.

8. 'Songs From a Room'

Proving that his 1967 debut LP was no fluke, Cohen came back in 1969 with the brilliant Songs From a Room. This was an era of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Stooges, but even without loud guitars Cohen was able to pull in a devoted audience with sparse songs like "Bird on the Wire," "Lady Midnight" and "The Partisan." The latter is a cover of World War II-era song about the French Resistance and Cohen even sings a verse in French. It's unlike anything else in his catalog, and only grew in power when he sang it as an old man decades later. Songs From a Room peaked at Number 63 on the Billboard Album Chart. That may seem like a dismal showing, but it's actually the best he did until Old Ideas in 2012.

7. 'Recent Songs'

After the insanity of creating Death of a Ladies Man with Phil Spector, Leonard Cohen was quite ready to make a quiet, normal album. Recent Songs is reminiscent of Cohen's earliest albums, though gypsy violin and Jennifer Warnes' beautiful vocals bring it in a new direction. Warnes became a key Cohen collaborator in the years ahead, and in the 1980s she became famous on her own for singing "Up Where We Belong" with Joe Cocker and "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" with Bill Medley. Back in the 1970s, though, she added pristine harmonies to classics like "The Guests" and "The Gypsy's Wife." Even by Cohen's dismal standards, this one sold poorly and made Columbia less than eager to keep putting these albums out. But to their credit, they never dropped him.

6. 'Various Positions'

Columbia Records has gotten a lot of shit over the years about initially refusing to release Various Positions, but imagine it from their perspective. It's 1984 and the biggest stars in music are Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Michael Jackson. One of your lesser-known artists, who has never seen an album hit higher than Number 63, turns in an album where he's singing along to a cheap-o synthesizer. Nothing sounds remotely like a hit. It's not their fault for not realizing that "Hallelujah" would become one of the most beloved songs of the later part of the 20th Century. They didn't know "Dance Me to the End of Love" would be the opening song to about 600 straight concerts. This was just another album destined to wind up in the cutout bin, and when they finally did release it, that's what happened. All that said, the record is absolutely brilliant. Cohen found a way to make music in the MTV age that sounded modern – but not soulless. His voice had deepened considerably, but pairing that with backup singers and synths resulted in something wondrous.

5. 'Death of a Ladies Man'

Death of a Ladies Man is really the black swan of the Leonard Cohen catalog. It's the album where he had the least creative control and the one he recorded at the height of his debauchery. Sprinkle in a perpetually-drunk Phil Spector (often wielding a gun) recording him in insane late night sessions and you've got one nutty outlier of an album. The theory was that by pairing one genius with another you'd somehow get a double the genius, but the result is pretty much the least-loved album either of them ever made. It does, however, have its fans, as its placement on this list suggests. "Don't Go Home With Your Hard On" and "True Love Needs No Trace" are memorable songs, but it's telling that Cohen never touches any of these tunes when he tours. They probably all cause too many unsettling flashbacks.

4. 'I'm Your Man'

The 1980s were not a kind time to most musical icons of the 1960s. Giants like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney tried to land on MTV and Top 40 radio by making songs they felt were modern, but all they did was alienate their old fans and fail to win over any new ones. The result is a pile of terrible albums by some of the most creative musical minds of the century. By some miracle, Leonard Cohen completely escaped this curse. It helped that he wrote some of the best songs of his life in that time, and that he teamed up with producers like Roscoe Beck, Jean-Michel Reusser and Michel Robidoux. They weren't afraid to use synths and drum machines, but they never sounded cheesy. They actually sounded majestic in Cohen's hands. Every song on this album – including "First We Take Manhattan," "Everybody Knows" and "Take This Waltz" – is a classic, though we're still trying to understand what the hell "Jazz Police" means. These songs would serve as the backbone of his live show for the rest of his career.

3. 'Songs of Leonard Cohen'

Leonard Cohen was a distinguished 33-year-old poet when his debut LP Songs of Leonard Cohen landed on store shelves in the final days of 1967. The public knew "Suzanne" from the Judy Collins cover the previous year, but few people had heard the Canadian sing his own words. His voice wasn't anything to get too excited about, but the lyrics were just stunning. Nobody had heard anything like "So Long, Marianne," "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" and "Sisters of Mercy" since Bob Dylan. The album peaked at Number 83, but everyone that bought it knew they had something special. It turned out he was just getting started.

2. 'The Future'

Following up I'm Your Man was a difficult task, but Cohen was quite up for it. He began work on The Future while dating Rebecca De Mornay, and she even wound up with a producer credit. But romantic bliss didn't exactly seep into the lyrics, considering the album kicks off with a vision of the apocalypse. "Give Me Christ," he sings on the title track. "Or give me Hiroshima/Destroy another fetus now/We don't like children anyhow/I've seen the future, baby it is murder." The rest of the album is filled with equally brilliant tunes like "Waiting for the Miracle" (famously used in the film Natural Born Killers), "Democracy" and "Anthem." The album was met with rave reviews and it gave his career a lot of momentum, but it would be nine years before he recorded another album.

1. 'Songs of Love and Hate'

In late 1970, Leonard Cohen went down to Nashville with Bob Dylan's producer and Elton John's string arranger and cut an album unlike anything else that had ever been heard. He was near the peak of his songwriting powers at this point with masterpieces like "Joan of Arc," "Avalanche" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" just pouring out of him. The latter tune could be his single best lyric, even if it contains evidence of his brief flirtation with Scientology in the line, "Did you ever go clear?" It's the story of a love triangle involving a man, his brother and a woman named Jane. Cohen has complained that the story doesn't quite make sense, but the confusion around the narrative somehow just adds to the power of the song. This isn't a wrong note or word on this whole album. It peaked at Number 145, which just proves that the sales charts don't mean much of anything.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 1:21 pm
by Roy
Inside Leonard Cohen's Late-Career Triumph 'You Want It Darker'
After an epic tour, the singer fell into poor health. But he dug deep and came up with a powerful new album ... ph-w447921


Read how Leonard Cohen's son helped the frail but still brilliant singer-songwriter craft his poetic new LP 'You Want It Darker.' Brian Rasic/Getty

Leonard Cohen has rarely been seen in public since he wrapped up his "Grand Tour" at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, on December 21st, 2013, with a joyous encore of the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me." That five-year, 387-date global odyssey – where he played for well over three hours a night – was a massive musical (and financial) success. But not long after, Cohen began to suffer serious physical problems. "Among many other things, he had multiple fractures of the spine," says his son Adam. "He has a lot of hard miles on him."

The 82-year-old singer-songwriter now lives on the second floor of a house he shares with his daughter Lorca in the Wilshire neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Lorca is raising a five-year-old daughter whose father is Rufus Wainwright.) In Cohen's words, he's "confined to barracks" due to severe mobility issues, but he was determined not to let that stop him from recording his new LP, You Want It Darker. He began work on the album about a year and a half ago, but he had to stop when producer Patrick Leonard (who worked with Cohen on his last two albums) suffered what Adam Cohen describes as "very serious personal problems." Cohen then invited Adam, a singer-songwriter in his own right, to come in and complete the project. "It's increasingly rare for children to be so useful to their parents," says Adam. "To be in such intimate circumstances for such a lengthy period of time with my father was filled with sweetness for me."

Adam turned Cohen's house into a makeshift recording studio, placing an old Neumann U 87 microphone on the dining room table and filling the living room with computers, outboard gear and speakers. He also brought in an orthopedic medical chair for his father. "It's designed to accommodate someone spending many, many hours on it," says Adam. "You can sleep in it, eat in it and practically stand in it." A laptop ran ProTools – Leonard merely had to sing. "Occasionally, in bouts of joy, he would even, through his pain, stand up in front of the speakers, and we'd repeat a song over and over like teenagers," Adam adds. "Sometimes medical marijuana intervened and played a role." The vocal tracking became a form of therapy for Leonard. "At times I was very worried about his health, and the only thing that buoyed his spirits was the work itself," says Adam. "And given the incredible and acute discomfort he was suffering from in his largely immobilized state, [creating this album] was a great distraction."

In typical Cohen fashion, he obsessed over every lyric of the nine songs, most of which were written in the past few years (though "Treaty," featuring the lyric "I don't care who takes this bloody hill/I'm angry and I'm tired all the time," dates back a decade). Some of the songs were dictated into his phone; others he jotted down on a notepad he keeps in the breast pocket of his jacket. "It comes, kind of, by dribbles and drops," he said at a recent L.A. press event. "Some people are graced with a flow. Some people are graced with something less than a flow. I'm one of those."

Although Cohen was never able to make it to the recording studio, where a team of about a dozen musicians, including organist Neil Larsen, guitarist Bill Bottrell and bassist Michael Chaves, worked on the material, he was still very much in command of the sessions. "I spoke to him at length, got his instructions before every session," says Adam. "Then I faithfully tried to serve what I understood his vision to be in the studio. He also had final say and veto power. If you listen to this record versus the other recent ones, it's a little bit more sparse and acoustic."

Today, Cohen is in slightly better health than he was during the making of You Want It Darker. But any sort of tour in support of the album, or even a single live appearance, is highly unlikely. "He's meticulous and requires a lot of rehearsing," says Adam. "It's just not in the cards." But there are at least three songs that didn't make the album, and they may provide a beginning for the next one. "They say that life is a beautiful play with a terrible third act," says Adam. "If that's the case, it must not apply to Leonard Cohen. Right now, at the end of his career, perhaps at the end of his life, he's at the summit of his powers."

Leonard Cohen with his son Adam at an event for 'You Want It Darker' in October Frank Micelotta/Sony Music Canada


Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:53 pm
by Roy
Leonard Cohen Dead at 82
Hugely influential singer and songwriter's work spanned nearly 50 years ... 82-w449792


Leonard Cohen, the hugely influential singer and songwriter whose work spanned nearly 50 years, died at the age of 82. Cohen's label, Sony Music Canada, confirmed his death on the singer's Facebook page.

"It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away," the statement read. "We have lost one of music's most revered and prolific visionaries. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief." A cause of death and exact date of death was not given.

"My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records," Cohen's son Adam wrote in a statement to Rolling Stone. "He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour."

"Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed," his manager Robert Kory wrote in a statement. "I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit firsthand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come."

Cohen was the dark eminence among a small pantheon of extremely influential singer-songwriters to emerge in the Sixties and early Seventies. Only Bob Dylan exerted a more profound influence upon his generation, and perhaps only Paul Simon and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell equaled him as a song poet.

Cohen's haunting bass voice, nylon-stringed guitar patterns and Greek-chorus backing vocals shaped evocative songs that dealt with love and hate, sex and spirituality, war and peace, ecstasy and depression. He was also the rare artist of his generation to enjoy artistic success into his Eighties, releasing his final album, You Want It Darker, earlier this year.

"I never had the sense that there was an end," he said in 1992. "That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot."

Leonard Norman Cohen was born on September 21st, 1934, in Westmount, Quebec. He learned guitar as a teenager and formed a folk group called the Buckskin Boys. Early exposure to Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca turned him toward poetry – while a flamenco guitar teacher convinced him to trade steel strings for nylon. After graduating from McGill University, Cohen moved to the Greek island of Hydra, where he purchased a house for $1,500 with the help of a modest trust fund established by his father, who died when Leonard was nine. While living on Hydra, Cohen published the poetry collection Flowers for Hitler (1964) and the novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966).

Frustrated by poor book sales, and tired of working in Montreal's garment industry, Cohen visited New York in 1966 to investigate the city's robust folk-rock scene. He met folk singer Judy Collins, who later that year included two of his songs, including the early hit "Suzanne," on her album In My Life. His New York milieu included Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, and, most importantly, the haunting German singer Nico, whose despondent delivery he may have emulated on his exquisite 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen.

Cohen quickly became the songwriter's songwriter of choice for artists like Collins, James Taylor, Willie Nelson and many others. His black-and-white album photos offered an arresting image to go with his stark yet lovely songs. His next two albums, Songs From a Room (1969) and Songs of Love and Hate (1971), benefited from the spare production of Bob Johnston, along with a group of seasoned session musicians that included Charlie Daniels.

During the Seventies, Cohen set out on the first of the many long, intense tours he would reprise toward the end of his career. "One of the reasons I'm on tour is to meet people," he told Rolling Stone in 1971. "I consider it a reconnaissance. You know, I consider myself like in a military operation. I don't feel like a citizen." His time on tour inspired the live sound producer John Lissauer brought to his 1974 masterpiece, New Skin for the Old Ceremony. However, he risked a production catastrophe by hiring wall-of-sound maximalist Phil Spector to work on his next album, Death of a Ladies Man, whose adversarial creation resulted in a Rolling Stone review titled "Leonard Cohen's Doo-Wop Nightmare."

Cohen's relationship with Suzanne Elrod during most of the Seventies resulted in two children, the photographer Lorca Cohen and Adam Cohen, who leads the group Low Millions. Cohen was well known for his wandering ways, and his most stable relationships were with backing singers Laura Branigan, Sharon Robinson, Anjani Thomas, and, most notably, Jennifer Warnes, who he wrote with and produced (Warnes frequently performed Cohen’s music). After indulging in a variety of international styles on Recent Songs (1979), Cohen accorded Warnes full co-vocal credit on 1984's Various Positions.

Various Positions included "Hallelujah," a meditation on love, sex and music that would become Cohen's best-known composition thanks to Jeff Buckley's incandescent 1994 reinterpretation. Its greatness wasn't recognized by Cohen's label, however. By way of informing him that Columbia Records would not be releasing Various Positions, label head Walter Yetnikoff reportedly told Cohen, "Look, Leonard; we know you're great, but we don't know if you're any good." Cohen returned to the label in 1988 with I'm Your Man, an album of sly humour and social commentary that launched the synths-and-gravitas style he continued on The Future (1992).

In 1995, Cohen halted his career, entered the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside of Los Angeles, became an ordained Buddhist monk and took on the Dharma name Jikan ("silence"). His duties included cooking for Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the priest and longtime Cohen mentor who died in 2014 at the age of 104. Cohen broke his musical silence in 2001 with Ten New Songs, a collaboration with Sharon Robinson, and Dear Heather (2004), a relatively uplifting project with current girlfriend Anjani Thomas. While never abandoning Judaism, the Sabbath-observing songwriter attributed Buddhism to curbing the depressive episodes that had always plagued him.

The final act of Cohen's career began in 2005, when Lorca Cohen began to suspect her father's longtime manager, Kelley Lynch, of embezzling funds from his retirement account. In fact, Lynch had robbed Cohen of more than $5 million. To replenish the fund, Cohen undertook an epic world tour during which he would perform 387 shows from 2008 to 2013. He continued to record as well, releasing Old Ideas (2012) and Popular Problems, which hit U.S. shops a day after his eightieth birthday. "[Y]ou depend on a certain resilience that is not yours to command, but which is present," he told Rolling Stone upon its release. "And if you can sense this resilience or sense this capacity to continue, it means a lot more at this age than it did when I was 30, when I took it for granted."

When the Grand Tour ended in December 2013, Cohen largely vanished from the public eye. In October 2016, he released You Want It Darker, produced by his son Adam. Severe back issues made it difficult for Cohen to leave his home, so Adam placed a microphone on his dining room table and recorded him on a laptop. The album was met with rave reviews, though a New Yorker article timed to its release revealed that he was in very poor health. "I am ready to die," he said. "I hope it's not too uncomfortable. That's about it for me."

The singer-songwriter later clarified that he was "exaggerating." "I’ve always been into self-dramatization," Cohen said last month. "I intend to live forever.”

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:05 pm
by Roy
Leonard Cohen: 20 Essential Songs
The best from iconic singer-songwriter behind "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah" ... gs-w449797


Poetry, fiction and songwriting were more or less equal forms of expression to Leonard Cohen – although one paid a hell of a lot better than the others. After mastering the mystical power of melody, Cohen went on to enjoy a long, fruitful career marked by spiritual hiatuses, reinvention and a surprising late-career second act unprecedented in American entertainment.

Cohen was the sexy, late-blooming gloom-monger among a small, elite coterie of singer-songwriters who came to define the Sixties and early Seventies. His rumbling voice, Spanish-y guitar lines and deeply poetic lyrics transubstantiated the sacred into the profane and vice versa. While early songs like "Suzanne," "Sisters of Mercy" and "Bird on a Wire" made him a college-dorm fixture, later masterpieces like "Everybody Knows," "I'm Your Man" and "The Future" introduced him to a new generation of post-punks and fellow travelers.

And then, in his 70s, he had to do it all over again, thanks to a larcenous manager. But touring rejuvenated our hero, not to mention his reputation. Cohen's songs, both old and new, sounded deeper, richer, and more important than ever, as this sampling demonstrates.

"Suzanne" (1967)

The opening track of Leonard Cohen's debut album became his career-making signature. Comparing it to a great Bordeaux, he has deemed this immaculate conflation of the spiritual and the sensual to be his best work. Joined by one of the female choruses that would accompany him through his career, "Suzanne" chronicles his real-life relationship with the artist/dancer Suzanne Verdal near Montreal's St. Lawrence River in the summer of 1965. "I don't think I was quite as sad as that," Verdal later said of Cohen's portrayal of her, "albeit maybe I was and he perceived that and I didn't."

"Sisters of Mercy" (1967)

Cohen composed this sweetly haunting waltz – augmented with calliope and bells – during a blizzard in Edmonton, Canada. After letting backpackers Barbara and Lorraine use his hotel bed for the night, Cohen watched them sleep, gazed out upon the North Saskatchewan River, savored "the only time a song has ever been given to me without my having to sweat over every word," and sang it for them the following morning. In it, the girls become not entirely chaste nuns who facilitate the singer's flight from "everything that you cannot control/It begins with your family but soon it comes around to your soul."

"Bird on the Wire" (1969)

Recorded in Nashville, and bearing a strong melodic connection to Lefty Frizzell's "Mom & Dad's Waltz," the prayerlike "Bird on the Wire" draws its title image from Cohen's reclusive early-Sixties residence on the Greek island of Hydra, where birds alighted on newly installed telephone wires like notes on a staff. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Aaron Neville have all recorded it, while Kris Kristofferson requested that its opening lines be inscribed on his tombstone. "The song is so important to me," said Cohen, who frequently opened concerts with it. "It's that one verse where I say that 'I swear by this song, and by all that I have done wrong, I'll make it all up to thee.'"

"Famous Blue Raincoat" (1971)

Among the more enigmatic songs by a composer who claimed to love clarity, "Famous Blue Raincoat" transfers specifics from the songwriter's life onto the "other man" in a romantic triangle Cohen later claimed to have forgotten the details of. The rival possesses the titular Burberry raincoat Cohen long wore and appears to have been into Scientology, which Cohen explored briefly as a way to meet women. A low-key female chorus and ghostly strings add subliminal harmonic movement to a song that, for all its obscurity, ends with a most crystalline sign-off: "Sincerely, L. Cohen."

"Is This What You Wanted" (1974)

New Skin for the Old Ceremony sounds like a break-up album anticipating Cohen's 1979 split from Suzanne Elrod, mother of his two children. "Is This What You Wanted" is a self-deprecating airing of grievances with an increasingly accusatory refrain. Cohen compares himself unfavorably to the woman kicking him out – he's the moneylender, Steve McQueen, and Rin Tin Tin to her Jesus, Brando, and beast of Babylon. The music has a refreshing, even bracing music-hall kick thanks to new producer John Lissauer, and the female chorus has never sounded more classically Greek.

"Chelsea Hotel #2" (1974)

It's certainly no "Bird Song," Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter's bucolic tribute to Janis Joplin. But once Cohen identified the woman "givin' [him] head on the unmade bed" as Joplin, it became easy to see the singer in his snapshot. With their mutual limos idling downstairs, Cohen and fling sympathize and spar, with Joplin getting off the best line: "You told me again you preferred handsome men/But for me you would make an exception." Cohen later regretted revealing her identity. "It was very indiscreet of me to let that news out," he said. "Looking back I'm sorry I did because there are some lines in it that are extremely intimate."

"Lover Lover Lover" (1974)

Cohen often depicted himself as a soldier in art and life, and he improvised the first version of this song for Israeli troopers in the Sinai during the Yom Kippur War. It would later become the first of a batch of unfinished songs he completing while visiting Ethiopia. Eliminating his original opening line about "brothers fighting in the desert," Cohen went on to construct an Old Testament, if not downright Freudian, dialogue between father and son. "He said, 'I locked you in this body/I meant it as a kind of trial/You can use it for a weapon/Or to make some woman smile.'" This is my rifle, this is my gun….

"Who By Fire" (1974)

The solemn, strings-accompanied centerpiece of New Skin for the Old Ceremony is based on a melody for the Hebrew prayer "Unetanneh Tokef," chanted on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when the Book of Life is opened to reveal who will die and by what means. In this duet with folksinger Janis Ian, Cohen conceives his own litany of "the ways you can leave this vale of tears," which include downers, avalanche and "something blunt," ending each verse with the agnostic query, "and who shall I say is calling?" He also encouraged his musicians to improvise Middle Eastern madams around "Who By Fire" onstage.

"Memories" (1977)

Cohen and villainous producer Phil Spector had a rollicking drunken time recording Death of a Ladies' Man together. Cohen taps into both his adolescent sexual angst and his unrequited lust for tall, Teutonic singer Nico in this over-the-top Wall of Sound takeoff on the Shields' 1958 doo-wop hit "You Cheated, You Lied," which he quotes by way of outro. Later, onstage, Cohen introduced "Memories" as a "vulgar ditty ... in which I have placed my most irrelevant and banal adolescent recollections." It's actually rather glorious in its uncharacteristic over-the-top-ness.

"The Guests" (1979)

Following the baroque hysterics of Death of a Ladies' Man, Cohen returned to his acoustic folk roots on Recent Songs. Inspired by the 14th-Century Sufi poet Rumi, "The Guests" sports a Middle Eastern tinge and marks Cohen's first track with one of his favorite vocal accompanists, Jennifer Warnes. Somewhere between a celebration of life's rich pageant and a take-off on Poe's grisly "Masque of the Red Death," "The Guests" provides a glimpse into Cohen's spiritual ambivalence. It's a cold, lonely world out there, but sometimes, as he told filmmaker Harry Rasky, "If the striving is deep enough or if the grace of the host is turned towards the seeking guest, then suddenly the inner door flies open and … the soul finds himself at that banquet table."

"Hallelujah" (1984)

Five years after Recent Songs, 50-year-old Leonard Cohen returned with Various Positions, which contained the most covered song of his career. "Hallelujah" did not impress CBS president Walter Yetnikoff, however, who considered the album an abomination: "What is this? This isn't pop music. We're not releasing it. This is a disaster." Cohen himself considered the song "rather joyous," as did Bob Dylan, who played it live in '88, and Jeff Buckley, whose '94 version launched him into short-lived stardom. "It was effortless to record," producer John Lissauer told Alan Light. "It almost recorded itself. The great records usually do."

"First We Take Manhattan" (1988)

Low-budget synths are in full effect on I'm Your Man, Cohen's first major artistic reboot. In its opening track, fueled by a spare Eurodisco beat in stark contrast to Cohen's seven prior more-or-less acoustic albums, the bloody but unbowed troubadour unspools a fantasy about worldwide musical domination. Originally titled "In Old Berlin," the song also seems to prophesy a bad moon rising. Cohen described the singer as "the voice of enlightened bitterness," rendering a "demented, menacing, geopolitical manifesto in which I really do offer to take over the world with any like spirits who want to go on this adventure with me."

"I'm Your Man" (1988)

"I sweated over that one. I really sweated over it," Cohen said about the overtly carnal title track of his "comeback" album. "On I'm Your Man, my voice had settled and I didn't feel ambiguous about it. I could at last deliver the songs with the authority and intensity required." Set to a cheesy drum-machine beat and sotto voce horn riffs, with more than a little suggestion of a country ballad, Cohen conversationally throws himself at the feet of a woman he's done wrong. He'd never beg for her forgiveness, of course. But if he did: "I'd crawl to you baby and I'd fall at your feet/And I'd howl at your beauty like a dog in heat…."

"Everybody Knows" (1988)

I'm Your Man's apocalyptic-comedy theme continued in this classic Cohen list song. His voice is deeper and more mordant than ever, and Jennifer Warnes adds angelic encouragement. Cohen unspools a string of received ideas – about sex, politics, the AIDS crisis, etc. – which he then goes on to neatly overturn. "It says we're not really in control of our destiny," explained co-writer Sharon Robinson. "[T]here are others running things, and we go about our daily lives with that in the background."

 The synthesizers and disco bass line contrast perfectly with the organic sound of Cohen's voice and the old-world our soloing around it.

"The Future" (1992)

The fall of the Berlin Wall inspired The Future, especially its gloomy, thrilling title track: "Give me back the Berlin Wall/Give me Stalin and St. Paul/I've seen the future, brother: It is murder." A gospel chorus punctuates this rocker reminiscent of Dylan at his most apocalyptic. Decaying Los Angeles had infected Cohen, who's both appalled by the present and pessimistic about what's coming down the track. As he gleefully told one interviewer, "This is kindergarten stuff compared to the homicidal impulse that is developing in every breast!"

"Waiting for the Miracle" (1992)

Cohen sounds like Serge Gainsbourg at his most melancholy here. A low recurring whistle suggests the theme song from some desolate spaghetti Western. In increasingly disconsolate verses, Cohen charts the geography of the "interior catastrophe" he said informed The Future, adding, "All the songs are about that position, but I think treated vigorously, and if I may say so, cheerfully." Is that a marriage proposal to his current girlfriend Rebecca De Mornay in the penultimate verse? If so, it didn't take, because the glam couple separated not long after The Future's release. "The miracle," Cohen would say, "is to move to the other side of the miracle where you cop to the fact that you're waiting for it and that it may or may not come."

"Anthem" (1992)

"To me, 'Anthem' was the pinnacle of his deep understanding of human defeat," said Rebecca De Mornay, who earned a production credit for suggesting its gospel choir. The Future's centerpiece, a magnificent anthem to decay and rebirth, goes back a ways. Cohen began it a decade earlier as "Ring the Bells," but its Kabbalistic roots extend to the 16th century. As for its unforgettable chorus – "There is a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in" – Cohen claims the lines are "very old. ... I've been recycling them in many songs. I must not be able to nail it."

"A Thousand Kisses Deep" (2001)

Leonard's koans became even more profound after he spent five years in the Mt. Baldy Zen Center between The Future and 2001's Ten New Songs. His new record, according to co-writer/producer/singer Sharon Robinson, was "some kind of extension of his time at Mount Baldy. He was still very reclusive during this time." Robinson recorded the music in her garage studio and took it to Cohen, who added his vocals in his own home studio. He gave it the feel of an old folk song, and its sense of desolation and profound loneliness makes it an exceptionally intimate experience.

"Going Home" (2012)

Rejuvenated by the two-year tour he undertook in 2008 at age 73, Cohen returned to the studio to record what would become Old Ideas. Its opening track is marvelously meta, with Cohen's ego or transcendental self or somesuch describing "Leonard" as a "lazy bastard living in a suit." Although thousands of cigarettes had done a number on his voice, Cohen's self-examination offers a remarkable example of self-forgiveness on the way to the long goodbye. Cohen didn't see much future in the song when he first gave it to his producer. "Pat [Leonard] saw the lyric for 'Going Home' and said, 'This could be a really good song,' and I said, 'I don't think so.'"

"You Want it Darker" (2016)

Cohen's long goodbye concluded with a sparsely arranged 14th album produced by his son, Adam. A male cantorial chorus replaces the backing women of yore in its title track, intoning a haunting countermelody to Cohen's baritone growl. Like so much great devotional music, the words could be addressed equally to a deity, an object of desire or a fan. It's hopeful and despairing, bitter and sweet, pious and profane. "Hineni, hineni" – here I am – he declares in Hebrew between verses, "I'm ready my Lord." You want it darker? As he told The New Yorker upon its release, "I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable."

Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Leonard Cohen Songs
"Suzanne," "Famous Blue Raincoat" and your other favorite tracks by the Canadian poet ... s-20141126


Leonard Cohen isn't like most octogenarians. Not only does he regularly play stunning three-and-a-half-hour concerts, but he continues to make music every bit as good as the classics he released five decades ago. If you don't believe us, check out "Almost Like the Blues" and "Nevermind" from his new LP Popular Problems. We asked our readers to vote for their favorite songs by Cohen. Here are the results.

10. "I'm Your Man"

Few people were paying attention to Leonard Cohen by 1988. The miraculous resurrection of "Hallelujah" was still years away, and to many he seemed like an aging 1960s folk singer destined to play clubs for the rest of his life. But then he released I'm Your Man, a brilliant album full of synthpop songs about everything from neo-nazi's to the art of songwriting to whatever the hell "Jazz Police" is about. The title track is a profoundly horny song of pure lust. "And if you want a doctor," Cohen sings. "I'll examine every inch of you." He's played it at virtually every concert he's done since 1988, and it never fails to make the ladies in the audience coo.

9. "Anthem"

Leonard Cohen has written a ridiculous amount of great lines over his long career, but few can compare to "Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." It's the key line on "Anthem," one of the standout tracks from his 1992 disc The Future. The song has sent comfort to people in hard times for many years, including famed blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan. "[That line] that has always stayed with me," he wrote in 2005. "It kept me going in a bleak moment in my life, when I thought, as we all sometimes do, that I couldn’t see how good could come out of the dreck I had turned my life into."

8. "Tower of Song"

A lot of people were surprised when Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, including Cohen himself. "I'm reminded of the the prophetic statement by Jon Landau in the early 1970s," he said. "He said, 'I've seen the future of rock and roll and it is not Leonard Cohen.'" From there, he couldn't do much else but read the lines to his 1988 classic "Tower of Song." The crowd laughed at lines like "I ache in the places where I used to play," but they slowly realized he was delivering a profound statement about his life's work and hushed up.

7. "Dance Me to the End of Love"

Back in May of 1988, Leonard Cohen decided to push "Heart With No Companion" towards the end of the night and open up his show with "Dance Me to the End of Love." He must have really thought it was a good move because, as far as we can tell, it's opened up every single concert he's done ever since — and we're talking well north of 400 consecutive shows. The 1984 song was written on a dinky Casio synthesizer he found in a tourist shop in Times Square. As author Sylvie Simmons tells it in her incredible Cohen biography I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, the machine didn't even have an output jack. Cohen insisted they find a way to make it work in the studio, and the result is a tune that sends chills down the spine of many Cohen fans because they know it means a magical night of music is just beginning.

6. "So Long, Marianne"

Long before he released a single note of music, Leonard Cohen encountered Marianne Ihlen, a beautiful Norwegian woman that would serve as his lover and muse for many years. She was married to writer Axel Jensen when they met and she'd later have his child, but the attraction between Ihlen and Cohen was intense and they eventually they found room in their lives for each other. She inspired many of his most passionate love songs off his early albums, including "So Long, Marianne." He spent months trying to get it just right, and the end result kicks off side two of his 1967 debut LP Songs of Leonard Cohen.

5. "Bird on a Wire"

Leonard Cohen was going through a bout of depression while living on the Greek Island of Hydra when he noticed a bird sitting by himself on a telephone wire. He began writing a poem comparing himself to the lonely bird, but it would be a long time before he turned it into a song he was happy with. During the 1968 Songs From a Room sessions in Nashville, Cohen ran through the song over and over until he got so frustrated that he sent most of the musicians home and gave up. Days before the final session, he simply walked up to the microphone and spontaneously found a whole new way to approach the work. It became one of his most beloved songs, and a staple of his live show for decades.

4. "Everybody Knows"

"Everybody Knows" must be the most pessimistic song in Cohen's vast catalog. Here are things that everybody supposedly knows: The dice are loaded, the boat is leaking, the captain lied, the poor stay poor, the rich get rich, the plague is coming and moving fast. It's quite the bummer, but somehow packaged all together you get the feeling we're going to survive this parade of horrors together. Over the years it's been covered by everyone from Don Henley to Concrete Blonde to Rufus Wainwright.

3. "Famous Blue Raincoat"

Sometime in the early 1970s, a thief stole Leonard Cohen's old raincoat from Marianne Ihlen's New York apartment. God only know what happened to it, but the thief almost certainly had no idea he was stealing an object that belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if not the Smithsonian. It was that very coat that inspired Cohen to write one of his most beloved and mysterious songs. It's written in the form of a letter, possibly to the narrator's brother, who stole his lover, Jane.

"Famous Blue Raincoat" has captivated listeners ever since it first appeared on 1971's Songs of Love and Hate, though Cohen admits he's not happy with the lyrics. "It was a song I've never been satisfied with," he said in 1994. "It's not that I've resisted an impressionistic approach to songwriting, but I've never felt that this one, that I really nailed the lyric. I'm ready to concede something to the mystery, but secretly I've always felt that there was something about the song that was unclear."

2. "Suzanne"

There was a real Suzanne. Contrary to what the song implies, she never had sex with Leonard Cohen. The stunningly gorgeous Suzanne Verdal did, however, serve tea and oranges when he visited her and her boyfriend, renowned Canadian sculptor Armand Vaillancourt, at their home in Montreal. Cohen was forced, as the song says, to "touch her perfect body with his mind." The song began as a poem and was first recorded by Judy Collins in 1966. Cohen cut the song himself the following year. It's the first track on his debut record, kicking off one of the most incredible careers in music history.

1. "Hallelujah"

The year 1984 was a pretty amazing time for pop music, with new releases by Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Van Halen filling the airwaves. Amidst all that greatness came Leonard Cohen's Various Positions, which landed with a thud towards the end of the year. Interest in Cohen was so low that Columbia initially refused to even release it, figuring it wouldn't be worth the effort of printing copies and sending them to stores. Virtually nobody paid attention to a little song called "Hallelujah" that kicked off the second side of the LP.

Cohen, however, knew he had something special. He spent an unusually long time on the lyrics, obsessing over every word and going through 80 different drafts. When the Velvet Underground's John Cale asked him to send over the lyrics so he could cover it, he received a 15-page fax full of discarded verses. Cale cobbled together a new version of the song, which he recorded on the piano. It was that version that Jeff Buckley covered on his 1994 LP Grace, and slowly the song became an absolute sensation, covered so many times that Adam Sandler spoofed the practice at the 12/12/12 charity show at Madison Square Garden.

By now, people that have never even heard the name "Leonard Cohen" know "Hallelujah." It's become a modern-day hymn, performed everywhere from street corners to American Idol. Even people that feel they could go the rest of their lives without hearing it again get a lump in their throats when the spotlight hits Cohen at his shows and he begins singing, "I've heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord..."