I’m not going to wax poetic about Leonard Cohen, he can do that himself, through his music.
These are the 5 of his songs I love:
1. Everybody Knows (made famous in Pump Up the Volume). To me, an echoing voice of many generations, still calling vainly through the haze of lies and corruption.
2. First We Take Manhattan. This song got in my head and has never left; such unprocessed intensity it thrashes around still begging for answers.
3. Hallelujah. First heard in my teen angst years and can sometimes evoke a tear or two as the truth struggles through. Hundreds of versions later, my favs remain by: Jeff Buckley, John Cale, and Mr. Cohen, sorry Bono, yours sucked. Long before Shrek, this was classic.
4. Who By Fire. A prayer by another other name. I might just be reading into this, but I always felt it was about atonement, an expiational yearning, of sorts.
5. Avalanche. Evocative articulation about depression.
I don’t dislike the rest of Cohen’s work, it just doesn’t affect me the way the aforementioned songs do. I’ve seen him in concert several times, I even sat with him once many years ago, in a group. I felt questions bubbling up, but rarely spoke; being a writer and pedantic poet I found myself enjoying just listening to one so exquisitely arcane.
I’m always interested to see what others read into this abstruse artist. There are so many interpretations of his work. I dove into the book, Leonard Cohen and Philosophy: Various Positions, edited by Jason Holt (Open Court), from the Popular Culture and Philosophy series with a keenness that was repaid in full by cool and thought-provoking scrutiny of Cohen’s creations. I revisited some of his songs, to hear what these philosophers had heard. I still didn’t always hear it, but I thank them for their considered analysis. After many decades of listening to Mr. Cohen I realize that reconciling what people say and what they do may remain an eternal mystery…doesn’t mean I have to quit trying.