I guess I thought that everybody loved Leonard Cohen. It seems that in my little circle everyone has a favourite Cohen album, a favourite tune, a favourite poem. Then at lunchtime when we saw the awful news on TV, my excellent friend Paul said “I only know him from that Nirvana lyric…” and suddenly I wondered if Cohen was the biggest secret in the musical world. Known and adored by the few, whilst a mystery to the regular listener.
My favourite movie of all time is Pump Up The Volume and Cohen plays a great part in this beautiful masterpiece, with his songs ‘Everybody Knows’ and ‘If It Be Your Will’ playing alongside the tale of shyness and love. Strangely the soundtrack featured neither of these masterworks, ‘just’ the Concrete Blonde cover of ‘Everybody Knows’, a great attempt but no Leonard. And so the film led me to I’m Your Man and Various Positions and from there, there was no going back, I was hooked. The back catalogue is a strange one, like Bowie, Cohen could flip genres in a second, changing how he came across and the image he portrayed. Take the debut album, a quiet roar from the heart of a poet. Compare this to The Future, a modern epic which blasts from the speakers. And what about Death Of A Ladies Man? Teaming up with Phil Spector, he produced ‘Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On’, the LEAST Leonard Cohen title ever. You could feel him smiling, saying “I’ve got you, again, dear listener”. No matter what style he was experimenting with, he was nothing less than interesting, often epic and heartbreaking, one minute shattering your heart with his melancholic masterworks and the next coming in with a slight and funny story. These different approaches never jarred. In the same way that The Beach Boys could follow Surf’s Up in concert with Fun Fun Fun, Leonard could hit you with Bird On A Wire and then smile wryly through Tower Of Song.
Songs Of Love And Hate, You Want It Darker, Songs From A Room, hell I could stay here all day listing the masterpieces of this beautiful poet, but Cohen is the sort of artist that you will discover and make your own way through. I’m not sure that I will be able to face You Want It Darker for a while though, when I first heard his latest and now last album, it sounded very similar to Bowie’s Blackstar. A man content with his place in the world, saying goodbye in the only way he knew how, through the medium of song. Thank you, sir. You will never be forgotten.