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September 17, 2004 7:07 AM   Subscribe

70 things you may or may not know about Leonard Cohen (a nice accompaniment to this mefi thread of yore) [via]
posted by shoepal (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cohen was 32 and an established poet and novelist before deciding that songwriting might pay better.

I think this means "...before deciding that songwriting might be a better way for a 32 year-old guy with a big nose to get girls." Hey, it really worked, too -- as you can see from this interesting 70-point biography. Thanks shoepal.

Cohen is a real anomaly among the singer-songwriters of his generation. He has a horrible voice, a dour outlook, he thinks the words to songs are actually important... And yet, unlike, say, Randy Newman, James Taylor and other equally untalented stars, Cohen occasionally plugs into the cosmic pop consciousness, and even when bad (which is most of the time) somehow manages to convey energy and life force. (Excellent version of a Cohen song: "Everybody Knows" by the Washington Squares.) I think Cohen's greatness resides in his total insincerity -- he's really only in it for the girls -- and that's why he's still relevant and vital now. Sex is always news.
posted by Faze at 8:16 AM on September 17, 2004

My first intro to Cohen was when "Everybody Knows" was used in the movie "Pump Up The Volume". Unfortunately, the version on the soundtrack was a cover by Concrete Blonde - while a good cover, it wasn't the version used in the movie!
posted by mrbill at 8:23 AM on September 17, 2004

I actually like his voice, at least the younger version of it.

I like that the lyrics transcend the often poor musical accompaniment, which is likely why his songs are so often covered. I've heard dozens of versions of Suzanne and they all seem to work in their own unique way.
posted by shoepal at 9:27 AM on September 17, 2004

5 Cohen's albums regularly go to no 1 in Norway.

the suicide rate increased...from an average of 5.4 during 1973-74 to 10.3 during 1993-94.

Coincidence or listening to the man NME says has one of the top 10 most depressing albums of all time--you be the judge.
posted by m@ at 9:31 AM on September 17, 2004

I've always maintained that saying somebody has a bad voice isn't the same as saying that they can't sing. Bob Dylan has a bad voice, but he can sing. Tom Waits has a horrible voice, but he can sure sing with it. Leonard Cohen has a really great voice that's deep, congested, and smoky, but he really has never used it to sing very well. Mind you, there isn't a song he's released that I don't own, I just internally think of his albums as poetry recitals set to music.

Without a doubt he's one of the best songwriters I know about, though, and I've always looked for that stuff. I'm really happy he's still around at 70, because simply based on his ouevre you really wouldn't expect him to have toughed it out in this mortal coil as long as he has, or still be so cool.
posted by Hildago at 10:56 AM on September 17, 2004

That's it, Hildago. Unlike Dylan (whom I admire) and Tom Waits (whom I don't), and the aforementioned Randy Newman and James Taylor, Cohen is actually cool -- even at age 70. Chicks are crazy about the guy.
posted by Faze at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2004

m@, that is a very interesting list from NME. Thanks!

Reminds me of the line from High Fidelity, where Rob says something like "Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

6 or 7 of those 10 albums actually helped me get through some rough times.
posted by shoepal at 12:11 PM on September 17, 2004

Hidalgo, you're definitely right. Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen can't sing, but they have near-unparalleled delivery. Janis Joplin & Leonard Cohen? It's a pity there was no such thing as Newlyweds in them days.
posted by Celery at 1:28 PM on September 17, 2004

I have always loved his voice...huge, huge fan. I 've loved him since I was about 14 and bought the Judy Collins' album with "Suzanne," but it wasn't until "The Sisters of Mercy" used in McCabe and Mrs. Miller that I heard him sing. Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, or Cohen, it can't be too low or too growly for me.

So I was really excited to learn he left the monastery and had a new album coming out. It was a major disappointment, but I haven't given up on him.

My favorite song-- maybe my all time favorite song by any artist-- is Famous Blue Rain Coat. It is a heartbreaker of a short story.

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way.
If you ever come back here for Jane or for me
Well, your enemy is sleeping and your woman is free
Yes, and thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

That line, "and when she came back she was nobody's wife," kills me every time.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:29 PM on September 17, 2004

Pretty much in just the past two weeks have I merely started to get into his music. "Suzanne" and "Chelsea Hotel #2" are reason enough to buy as many albums as possible. I barely know anything about him, but it's apparent that he's one of the few greats.
posted by bitpart at 5:03 PM on September 17, 2004

Oh, and if it weren't for Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley wouldn't have whispered God's attempt at human reasoning, nearly killing me.
posted by bitpart at 5:11 PM on September 17, 2004

a better way for a 32 year-old guy with a big nose to get girls.

I think I speak for big-nosed 32 year olds everywhere when I say I hope to God this works.
posted by weston at 6:46 PM on September 17, 2004

I have never liked Cohen (voice, music, poetry, whatever) at all, but — if you'd like to read more about Leonard — Pico Iyer (who I really like) has an interesting chapter about him at the beginning of his new book Sun After Dark.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:32 PM on September 17, 2004

I love his first few albums: Black gold, really. All that synthesizer crap from the eighties isn't worth mentioning, but that early stuff is irrefutable. (Though I've found that many of those eighties pieces that sound terrible in the original recording are great if you play them acoustic. 'First We Take Manhattan' is a perfect example...)

I also love Dylan and Waits; of the three, I think Waits is the only one still putting out material in top form. Dylan's gotten old and quieted down a bit, and Cohen... Well, I haven't heard anything past the eighties stuff, but I can't imagine those were recoverable offenses. For a while, I thought I detected a slump in Waits' music, but he came out of it stronger than ever.

(And I'm glad to see Joy Division ranked twice in that 'most depressing albums' list. Though I'd definitely put Cohen over In Utero any day for downer music. Tracks like 'Very Ape' and 'Tourette's' just don't have the same kick-in-the-balls-depressing quality as, say, 'Diamonds in the Mine'.)
posted by kaibutsu at 1:55 AM on September 18, 2004

I don't know all that much about Cohen or his body of work, but I love "Democracy" and I love his voice on it, as well. I must have something for a deep, guttural delivery, as I also love Bryan Ferry and Benjamin Orr's voices. Any three of them could read me the Dubuque yellow pages, and I'd listen.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:45 AM on September 18, 2004

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