This man was from before our time. He was introduced to me recently by Pico Iyer, known for “The Art of Stillness.” I was glad it was freely available on Amazon Prime. I picked up the album “Essentials of Leonard Cohen” to get the best of Cohen. In line with my usual habit, I started by listening to his all-time hits “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah,” and ever since, I have fallen in love with this singer from the last millennium. His songs have now become my regular companions during morning walks, meditation, surgery, and relaxation. His voice is distinctive and carries a mystical power of melody. This magnetic voice blends seamlessly with his poetic lyrics, providing the listener with a soothing experience.
“Suzanne” is the opening track of Cohen’s debut album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen,” and also his career-making signature song. It’s a beautiful synthesis of spirituality and sensuality. This song is supposed to chronicle his real-life relationship with the artist Suzanne Verdal by Montreal’s St. Lawrence River in the summer of 1965. The lyrics flow like this…
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
And you know that she’s, but that’s why you want to be there…
“Hallelujah” was a comeback hit for Leonard Cohen when he returned from a long spiritual hiatus at the age of 50. Pop songs had taken over the entertainment world. Neither his album “Various Positions” nor its signature song “Hallelujah” impressed CBS president Walter Yetnikoff, who summarily rejected it, saying, “What is this? This isn’t pop music. We’re not releasing it. This is a disaster.” However, people loved it. Bob Dylan played it live in 1988. The producer, John Lissauer, said, “It was effortless to record. It almost recorded itself. The great records usually do.” The lyrics from the middle of the song read like this…
You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did—well, really—what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
In total, there are 32 tracks on this album. My favorite songs include “Sisters of Mercy,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Is This What You Wanted,” “Lover Lover Lover,” “Who By Fire,” “Memories,” “The Guests,” “First We Take Manhattan,” “I’m Your Man,” “Everybody Knows,” “The Future,” “Waiting for the Miracle,” “Anthem,” “A Thousand Kisses Deep,” “You Want it Darker,” and “Ain’t No Cure for Love.”
Each song is unique. His distinctive rumbling voice, clear-cut rendition, easy-to-follow lyrics, and simple guitar music, combined with a melodious chorus, leave a lasting impression on the mind.
Prof. Dr. Prahlada N.B
6 March 2019