Singer, songwriter and prolific author Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. In short, the music and writing created by Cohen has been an asset to modern art and culture. But what propelld Cohen into a six-decade career of literary publications and over 2 thousand song recordings was his complex and somber approach to life.
Born in Montreal on September 21, 1934, Cohen entered into a middle class Jewish family. He was raised in what Cohen called a "messianic childhood", being brought up an Othodox Jew. His father owned a profitable clothing store before dying when Cohen was 9. However, Cohen was left with a trust fund that brought about the beginnings of his musical and literary pursuits.
And Cohen was surely talented. He studied English at McGill University where he published his first book of poems, "Let Us Compare Mythologies". Take for example Leonard Cohen's poem "I heard of a man":
I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.
If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.
But what most people know Cohen for is his music. Many have heard and enjoyed songs from his first album "Songs of Leonard Cohen" (1967) such as "Suzanne" and "Sisters of Mercy". And while Cohen only produced 14 albums over the course of 40 years, his style was prolific. Hundreds of artists have covered his music including Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. And while no one could mimic Cohen's deep, gravely voice and melodious guitar style, his inspirational writing remained relevant well into the 20th century.
For instance, Leonard Cohen wrote hundreds of verses about love and heartbreak intended for the song "Hallelujah". Literally hundreds of musicians have covered this song alone. Here are some of my favorite versions.
Of course the original.
The version that the Velvet Underground brought to the forefront of pop music.
The version in "Shrek" because DUH.
And a truly enchanting thousand-person chorus lead by Rufus Wainwright.
The reason I felt like writing about Leonard Cohen this week rather than politics was that, while the election eats up our newsfeeds and minds with ugliness, I needed some beauty. My roommate and I were listening to "Hallelujah" while driving and nearly crying. Emotional response, yes. But in the wake of a potentially war-starting national decision, it was hard to express ourselves. So Leonard Cohen provided an outlet. Thanks buddy.