Cohen has never been some mere celebrity, or just another leftover of the 60s. He was and still is a true explorer in areas of poetry
and music few others have ever glimpsed. I first heard Songs of Leonard Cohen
in my teens. I was otherwise listening to acid rock, heavy rock and everything but lyrical acoustic music. One hearing of Songs of Leonard Cohen
, and it’s been regular listening ever since.
I’m more than tired of writing, let alone reading, obituaries. I see no reason to dig up his various trials and travails. I’d like to do something different for Cohen. Cohen’s work isn’t dead
, and most fans will agree that Cohen the man and Cohen the music and poetry have a lot in common. His death can be considerably exaggerated, in more ways than one.
Cohen the poet and Cohen the songwriter produced some of music’s finest, most enigmatic, most personal songs and poems. You simply don’t forget a Leonard Cohen line when it hits you where it matters.
Musically, he’s “folk”, in the 60s sense. In a more practical and far more meaningful sense, he’s a songwriter with a gift for understatement and no-bull arrangements. He’s neither glib nor ornate; his songs get the job done, efficiently and in some cases amazingly well.
It’s hard to think of someone so expressive as “taciturn”, but he is. He’s funny, with a type of black humor which no patent will ever match. He’s one of the few songwriters in history who’s never bothered being “clever”; he’s incisive, and his words go where few others dare.
You can listen to Leonard Cohen songs in multiple contexts. He can be a commentator, an insight, and a joker at the same time with any line. Try making a cup of tea and listening to Suzanne… you wonder why you don’t have oranges.
He’s also the Robert Crumb of songwriters, personal on levels where most people don’t yet have a persona. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he could have been a neurologist in his spare time in terms of content and depth. At other times, singing or not, he’s almost entirely sensory.
Nobody ever hyped Cohen at any point. I doubt if anyone could have figured out how to hype him. He’s the exact opposite of the more fashionable songwriters of three generations. He was a Bohemian at a time when the word was getting lost in 60s pop culture, but it didn’t poison him, as it did so many others.
He has a sort of 50s rock background somewhere. Hard to tell how it found his way in to his music, but it works. You can hear in some strange beats and almost doo-wop situations.
Anyway, like I said, this isn’t an obituary. Listen to these songs and get a sense of a person.