The Best of Leonard Cohen

I was so sad to learn that singer, songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen passed away on Thursday at the age of 82. He was best known for bittersweet lyrics that put together images in a way not quite like anyone else. Of those who rose to prominence writing folksongs in the late 60s/early 70s, only a handful could be considered excellent poets, and he was certainly one.

I’ve always thought “Suzanne” to be his most beautiful song, and I like the Judy Collins version of it best:

But his own rendition of the same song brings out more of his characteristic melancholy:

He was one of many folk artists I listened to religiously when I was about 16, and collectively they opened up a whole new world for me. No one taught me much of anything when I was growing up, so digesting the rich experiences contained in poetry set to music was a way for me to expand my world and empathize with people far distant in time and space. It was my education in feeling, and as I joke elsewhere, along with the work of visual artists like Picasso it helped prepare me for a lifetime of unemployment. I became quite old for my age listening to songs like “The Partisan”:

 

“Ah, the wind is blowing
Through the graves the wind is blowing…”

But I hope Leonard Cohen will find shelter from the cold, wearing his famous blue raincoat.

Michael Howard

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