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article imageOp-Ed: Reflecting on the legacy of Leonard Cohen

By Tim Sandle     Nov 11, 2016 in Entertainment
Singer, songwriter, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen has passed away at the age of 82. Cohen was one of popular music’s most influential songwriters.
Leonard Norman Cohen was born on September 21st, 1934, in Westmount, Quebec. Cohen began his career as a poet and novelist, moving into popular song during the mid-1960s, motivated more as a means of generating an income. His first set of recordings brought a poetic quality to songs about the human condition.
'Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in' (from the song 'Anthem.')
Initially it was not Cohen’s own recordings that reached the attention of the record buying public, but a cover version of his song ‘Suzanne’, which became a hit for Judy Collins. Several other songs from his first album, ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ (1967) were covered by other artists, including James Taylor. This album was followed by ‘Songs from a Room’ (1969), which featured the much-covered ‘Bird on the Wire’.
Cohen’s early recording were in the folk tradition and strong on acoustics. His work later became more adventurous and it is often overlooked that Cohen had a great sense of melody.
'But I swear by this song/and by all that I have done wrong/I will make it all up to thee.' (from 'Bird on a Wire')
Cohen, after a series of successful albums in the later 1980s and early 1990s, ‘retired’ and became a Buddhist monk at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, east of Los Angeles. On returning from several years of meditative calm, he discovered that his former manager had embezzled his retirement fund. This led to a return to the recording studio and a five year continuing tour (2008-2013). What was remarkable about Cohen at this time was his vitality and the deepening of his voice. Digital Journal reviewed one stage of the tour when the 'Old Ideas' segment came to London.
Although the tour was eventually to prove physically demanding, Cohen continued to record and his most recent album was released in October 2016. Cohen’s last two albums – ‘Popular Problems’ and ‘You Want It Darker’ – were favorably reviewed on Digital Journal.
'O troubled dust concealing/An undivided love/The Heart beneath is teaching/To the broken Heart above.' (from 'Come Healing.')
One reason for Cohen’s enduring popularity was the subject matter. He covered subjects true to human life and if songs that explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality and personal relationships were ‘heavy’ for popular music, Cohen did so with a liberal sprinkling of humour and wit. Two of his songs, widely covered, were 'Hallelujah' and 'Dance Me to the End of Love' (the latter, about the horrors of the Holocaust is commonly misinterpreted.) 'Hallelujah' has been covered by over 500 artists.
'And even though it all went wrong/I'll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.' (from 'Hallelujah.')
One criticism leveled a Cohen was he introduced, at times, a depressive quality to his work. Given that most people, at sometimes in their lives feel low, what Cohen provided was a reflection of the strains of contemporary living and messages of hope.
'Dance me to the children/ who are asking to be born/Dance me through the curtains/ that our kisses have outworn/Raise a tent of shelter now/though every thread is torn/And dance me to the end of love.' (from 'Dance Me to the End of Love.')
Cohen's passing was announced on Facebook. He leaves behind a great legacy and body of work that will be enjoyed today and by generations to come.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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