What can one say about the late and great Leonard Cohen that hasn’t already been said. If you didn’t know who Cohen was and you are under the age of 30, someone need only say “Hallelujah” (250 cover versions) and the Shrek movie (a much-sanitized version of the song) takes over from there. If ever there was a song that’s been co-opted, then this one in my mind comes first. Although Cohen himself has changed up the lyrics when performing the song and has written many different verses.
Here’s my take on Leonard Cohen. I had the good fortune to see him perform here in London in December 2012. My dear departed brother-in-law Mark had come by tickets at the last minute and called me, not sure if I was first on his list but I’m forever grateful nonetheless. I (unlike another of my Brothers-in-law, Jim a big Cohen fan) was as one might say a “passing Cohen fan” I had some of his music and was aware his songs had been covered many times, and as with any Canadian artist, we got a far dose of his music on the radio. Needless my opinion changed that night, one of the best performances I have ever seen in my life, the reverence and showmanship-truly amazing!
We arrived late to the concert and approached the usher just as the first song had started, “I’m sorry but Mr. Cohen insists you wait until after the second song before I can seat you”. OK well “that’s different” but when we thought about the concept it says a lot about Cohen and his respect for the music and the audience so as not to interrupt them.
So, standing in the gangway with a few other late comers we heard this song;
Leonard Cohen,” Dance me to the end of Love” originally released Dec. 1984 (Covered 46 times)
Here is a wonderful version by The Civil Wars 2009
The next song was “The Future” from 1992, this one has been covered 4 times.
As we entered at the end of this song Cohen took a moment to talk a bit to allow the late comers to take their seat. We had floor seats and I have to say to see my brother-in-law literally hop over his chair into his seat totally crushing a fedora was pretty cool.
The next song was, “Bird on a Wire” written by Leonard Cohen but originally recorded by Judy Collins in 1968. There are 66 versions of this song.
Leonard Cohen was the second to record the song in 1969 so he his the one doing the covering here this version is from 1979.
Judy Collins from her original recording in 1968
Needless to say, I’m a big Johnny Cash fan and plan to blog him more than once likely, (American Recordings 1994) some irony here…
Katey Sagal & the Forest Rangers – from the Sons of Anarchy
Famously recorded by Joe Cocker in Nov. 1969, also covered by The Neville Brothers in 1990 from a Mel Gibson movie, it reached number two on the US Billboard charts, also done by Leonard’s son Adam in 2010 and Esther Ofarim in 1969.
During the second set I was pleased to hear this, one of my favorites from the pair.
“Alexandra Leaving” written and performed by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson released 2001 with six documented covers.
Reid Jamieson a promising Canadian singer, “Alexandra Leaving” from DEAR LEONARD: The Cohen Collection (a tribute to Leonard Cohen) 2016
Not an “official cover” but I ran across a lovely rendition by Sinnober of “Alexandra Leaving”
Another unofficial version by Jenny Gear, a former Canadian Idol contestant
A song I didn’t really like until I heard it live,
“Famous Blue Raincoat” written by Leonard Cohen, released 1971, this video is identical to the show I saw that night.
Solveig Slettahjell a jazz singer from Norway- “Famous Blue Raincoat” released in 2011
He finished the second encore as I imagine he might have ended many a show “Closing Time” released in 1992. Only covered twice.
I’ll leave with my favorite cover of Leonard Cohen.
k.d. lang from her album Hymns of the 49th Parallel
fun fact: If you are a “Billions” fan Chuck made a reference to Cohen/Chelsea Hotel in the episode ‘Kompenso’ aired June 3. 2018
References; Wikipedia, Secondhandsongs.com, YouTube.com
picture from https://www.hotpress.com/Leonard-Cohen/news/LEONARD-COHEN-TRIBUTE-Death-of-a-Legend/19336407.html