Politics

So Long, Leonard: Ten Must-Listens by Cohen

A list of ten ‘must listens’ by Leonard Cohen, chosen by The Wire‘s editors.

Leonard Cohen perform at the 42nd Montreux Jazz Festival July 8, 2008. Credit: Reuters

Leonard Cohen perform at the 42nd Montreux Jazz Festival July 8, 2008. Credit: Reuters

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died on November 7, aged 82. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships. Also a celebrated poet and novelist, Cohen’s work widely explored themes of politics, religion and sexuality, among others.

It is impossible to select just ten best of Cohen’s, but this is a good beginning, covering his best years.

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‘Hallelujah’, released in 1984, is among Cohen’s most covered songs, with over 300 artists performing versions of the song.

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‘So Long, Marianne’ (1967) was inspired by Cohen’s muse, Dutch woman Marianne Ihlen, with whom the singer spent many years during the 1960s.

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‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ (1971) tells the story of a love triangle and has references to Lili Marlene and to Clinton Street New York, where he lived.

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‘Suzanne’ (1967), one of Cohen’s best-known songs, was inspired by Cohen’s platonic relationship with Suzanne Verdal, the girlfriend of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt at that time.

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“Take This Waltz’ (1988) was based on a poem by Federico García Lorca, Little Viennese Waltz.

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Cohen said “First We Take Manhattan’ (1988) was about an ‘outsider, demented and menacing.’ It has a pop, almost disco beat.

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‘I’m Your Man’ (1988), part of his eight album of the same name, introduced a more modern sound.

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‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ (1974) is about Cohen’s encounter with blues musician Janis Joplin in New York’s famous Chelsea Hotel.

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The lyrics of ‘Everybody Knows’ (1988) include references to wealth inequalities, AIDS, religion and other social problems.

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‘Bird on the Wire’ (1968), among Cohen’s most famous songs, was written during the singer’s relationship with Marianne Ihlen.