One of the world’s most influential and respected singer-songwriter’s has died at the age of 82.
Leonard Cohen, perhaps best known for his haunting ballad Hallelujah was in the music business for more than five decades.
Despite releasing 14 albums and being regarded as one of the greatest lyricists of all time, Cohen didn’t place an album in the top 10until he was in his 70s.
Already a celebrated poet and novelist, Cohen pursued his music dream with the release of his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1967.
Awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, the singer was also inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Cohen’s songs rarely charted however, covers of his brilliantly written songs often did. Here’s the most famous covers you might not have known were written by the Canadian genius.
The most notable of Cohen’s song was the hauntingly beautiful 1984 song Hallelujah. Still to this day it’s difficult to watch a singing talent show without hearing a cover of the song however the most famous covers were John Cale’s and Jeff Buckley’s. According to the Leonard Cohen files, the song has been covered more than 300 times since 1991.
The UK’s 2008 X Factor winner Alexandra Burke also did a cover of the song which went on to be the highest selling single of the year.
Originally published as a poem in 1966 in his book Parasites of Heaven, it was first recorded as a song by Judy Collins in the same year and later become Cohen’s debut single for his first album.
The song is one of Cohen’s most covered and gave Noel Harrison a minor hit, ABBA’s Frida a Swedish version to release and Bruce Springsteen even recorded it with his band The Castiles. Australian rocker Nick Cave recorded a popular version with his band and soul singer Nina Simone also recorded her own emotional version which went on to almost eclipse Cohen’s own version.
BIRD ON THE WIRE
From Cohen’s second album Songs from a Room, the 1969 signature song rapidly became, like most of the Canadian’s songs, a heavily covered hit. Judy Collins was the first to get her hands on the song which has since been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and k.d. lang.
Country singer Kris Kristofferson even told Cohen he’d be getting the first couple of lines on his tombstone which go something like this,
“Like a bird on the wire.
“Like a drunk in a midnight choir.
“I have tried in my way to be free.”
TOWER OF SONG
The melancholic Tower of Song, released in 1988 garnered worldwide fame after the likes of U2 and Tom Jones decided to cover it. Jones kept the almost dark tone of the song intact which refers to losing friends and going grey and the loneliness that comes with fame.
The song also mentions Cohen’s struggle with his singing career and that, despite huge critical acclaim and respect, his songs rarely charted.
“I was born like this, I had no choice.
“I was born with the gift of a golden voice.”
CHELSEA HOTEL #2
This song detailed his affair with ‘60s rocker Janis Joplin and many artists were a fan of Cohen’s hilariously dry take on himself.
“You were famous, your heart was a legend.
“You told me again you preferred handsome men
“But for me you would make an exception,” he sang.
Like most of Cohen’s songs, Chelsea Hotel #2 quickly received plenty of covers including Lana Del Rey’s haunting version, Lloyd Cole’s 1991 take, Regina Spektor’s stripped back piano version and Rufus Wainwright’s acoustic cover.
HEY THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE
Famous for her jazz and soul vibes, the Killing Me Softly singer Roberta Flack added a cover of Cohen’s Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye to her 1969 debut album and it couldn’t of been a better fit.
She stripped back Cohen’s hit using a simple guitar riff and piano backing for the slow track which was praised second only to her The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face hit.
Cohen’s song was also covered by The Lemonheads which included a Liv Tyler duet, new wave singer Ian McCulloch and of course by Judy Collins.
You’re one in a million in the music world if you haven’t covered Cohen’s pessimistic hit Everybody Knows. Featuring lines such as “everybody knows that the dice are loaded” and “everybody knows that the good guys lost” the 1988 tune has been covered by everyone from Concrete Blonde for the film Pump Up The Volumeto Don Henley, Rufus Wainwright and Bette Midler.
FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT
In the early 1970s, a blue raincoat owned by Cohen was stolen. The thievery inspired one of Cohen’s most famous songs to date. A mysteriously written song, the singer told Rolling Stone, despite the song’s critical acclaim, he isn’t completely happy with it.
“It was a song I’ve never been satisfied with … I’ve never felt that this one, that I really nailed the lyric.”
The song was covered most notably by piano prodigy and tear inducing singer Tori Amos back in 1995, a cover full of rolling piano melodies and emotive vocals.