Leonard Cohen, who passed away earlier today, leaves a complex body of work behind, produced through five busy decades as a singer-songwriter, a novelist, and a poet. He had a deep and mournful voice that served him well as a singer, but it was really his poetic sensibility that set him apart.
His song “Hallelujah,” for example—which has been covered over 200 times since it was first released in 1984—is a ballad to end all other ballads. As a song, it was majestic (Rufus Wainwright led a choir of 1500 people in singing it in Toronto earlier this year); as a poem, it was able to be both spiritual and thoroughly human: “Your faith was strong but you needed proof/ You saw her bathing on the roof/Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you/ She tied you to a kitchen chair/ She broke your throne, and she cut your hair/ And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”
(Recordings of Cohen doing spoken word are few and far between, and the few left behind show that we’re all the poorer for this. Poems like “Marita” and “The Hypnotist”, read in Cohen’s baritone, are the very essence of the “poetic despair” that he was so known for.)
To honor the man, we’ve put together a Spotify playlist with a few of our favorite Leonard Cohen songs, with a couple of bonus covers.