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RIP Leonard Cohen

In a year of loss and a week of troubles, we have lost the great Leonard Cohen at the age of 82.


What is with this year?!  I’ll leave the eulogizing to others and speak of my own experience.  I came to Cohen as many others in my generation did – through Jeff Buckley‘s iconic cover of “Hallelujah”. And I thought of him as I do of Bob Dylan – amazing song writer but I would rather hear the covers.  I’m sure someone just gasped in horror. And that’s ok.  This is a matter of personal taste and  I’m comfortable admitting it because, damn, those are some good songs.  When you can write songs that people want to cover over and over to express what those songs mean to them, then you know you’ve created timeless art.

There is one exception to the Cohen Covers rule for me and it is “Dance Me To The End Of Love”.  His voice was made for this song.  You hear the old world, both in the instrumental choices and musical/melodic choices, and Leonard’s time-worn voice is the perfect vehicle for the lyrics. I was in love at “Dance me to beauty with a burning violin”…

Naturally there are a number of excellent covers.  Check out Madeleine Peyroux’s version and the Civil War’s version to get started.

Of course we must focus, in the end, on “Hallelujah”.  It resonates with so many people an entire book has been written on the subject of it.  I personally collect covers of the song.  The different interpretations help me explore it better. And, when done right, they are heartbreakingly beautiful as only this song can be. I love how Leonard intertwined love, sex, and religion into something simultaneously holy and profane and seductive and bittersweet.

As mentioned above, Jeff Buckley’s version was my first taste and is still my favorite version  For some reason, the official video has a different (and somewhat inferior) performance from the album version, so here is the album version:

The original Cohen, for the purists, is here.  Bon Jovi did a good version here.  Willie Nelson‘s version, made more touching for the years of living behind it, is here.

But I will leave you with KD Lang‘s masterful performance (does she do any other kind? The woman has an amazing set of pipes):

Rest In Peace, Leonard. You are in very good company…