A historical walk through the life and work of Leonard Cohen organized by decade and categorized by topic.
Most of the concert dates are taken from Jim Devlin's amazing resource "Is This What You Wanted." Thanks, Jim!
If you would like to make a contribution to creating this timeline, please contact Marie at email@example.com
Leonard Cohen donates $50,000 prize to Canada
Toronto, May 14, 2012 - Leonard Cohen donated his $50,000 Glenn Gould Prize to the Canada Council for the Arts at a star-studded concert in his honour at Toronto’s Massey Hall.
"The truth is without the help and encouragement of the Canada Council I would never have written The Favourite Game or The Spice Box of Earth," said Mr. Cohen. "I am profoundly grateful."
The Canada Council awarded Mr. Cohen an arts scholarship that helped launch his writing career in 1958, the first year of the Council’s operations. The scholarship was extended for three more years and supplemented with a small travel grant and poetry reading fee.
"We are deeply honoured and moved by Mr. Cohen’s donation back to the people of Canada," said Joseph L. Rotman, Canada Council Chair. "Artists give back in many ways - through making art, through connecting people to each other, through giving voice to Canada abroad - and none more so than Leonard Cohen. How remarkable, then, that he has chosen to make this additional gift to Canada’s leading arts funder to ensure that others can benefit from the same support he received so early in his career."
Leonard Cohen is the ninth recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize, awarded by the Glenn Gould Foundation to celebrate brilliance, promote creativity and transform lives through the power of music and the arts. The Prize was originally administered by the Canada Council for the Arts until 2000. The Council also supported the Glenn Gould International Conference organized by the Foundation in 1992.
—Canada Council for the Arts—
Founded in 1957, the Canada Council for the Arts promotes the study, enjoyment, and production of works in the arts. The Council offers a broad range of grants and services to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations in music, dance, integrated arts, media arts, theatre, visual arts, and writing and publishing. It also promotes public awareness of the arts through its communications, research and arts promotion activities, and houses both the ArtBank and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
"Leonard Cohen donates $50,000 prize to Canada Council," Government of Canada, May 14, 2012.
“Album Review: ‘Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979’”
Although droll and deadpan on stage, the Canadian singer-poet has generally been better served by the studio than the concert hall. But his third set of live recordings — this one from 22 years ago — is also his best, balancing the intimacy of early numbers like “The Stranger Song” with subtly robust band versions of mid-period work like “The Gypsy’s Wife” and the acerbic title song. Alas, the album, his third stopgap release since 1992’s The Future, begs a more important question: Does the 66-year-old make new music anymore? A-
"Album Review: ‘Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979’" by David Browne, Entertainment Weekly, February 23, 2001.
Academy Announces Special Merit Awards Honorees:
Leonard Cohen, Thomas Alva Edison, Michael Jackson, and Loretta Lynn among Special Merit Awards recipients
The Recording Academy announced its 2010 Special Merit Awards recipients today. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Leonard Cohen, Bobby Darin, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, André Previn, and Clark Terry; this year’s Trustees Award honorees are Harold Bradley, Florence Greenberg and Walter C. Miller; and AKG and Thomas Alva Edison are this year’s Technical GRAMMY Award honorees.
The special invitation-only ceremony will be held during GRAMMY Week on Jan. 30, 2010, and a formal acknowledgment will be made during the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, which will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 31 and broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.
"This year’s honorees are a prestigious group of diverse and prominent creators who have contributed some of the most distinguished and influential recordings," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their craft have created a timeless legacy that has positively affected multiple generations, and will continue to influence generations to come. It is an honor and privilege to recognize such talented individuals who have had and will continue to have such an influence in both our culture and the music industry."
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the recording medium while the Trustees Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the industry in a non-performing capacity. Both awards are determined by vote of The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are determined by vote of The Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees as well as The Academy’s Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
—About the Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees:—
With a career that has spanned four decades and 18 albums, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen has worked with the likes of such artists as Elton John, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, and Iggy Pop. He has garnered a number of awards including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and just recently won a GRAMMY Award for his participation on the album Herbie Hancock: The Joni Letters, which won Album Of The Year at the 50th Annual GRAMMYs. This past February, Cohen launched an international tour that began with the reopening of the legendary New York City Beacon Theater.
"Academy Announces Special Merit Awards Honorees: Leonard Cohen, Thomas Alva Edison, Michael Jackson, and Loretta Lynn among Special Merit Awards recipients," GRAMMY.com, December 10, 2009.
Naked truths from the bard of Mount Baldy
Leonard Cohen has always been at the centre of the debate about whether song lyrics can ever be considered poetry. His best work (“It’s coming like the tidal flood beneath the lunar sway,/ Imperious, mysterious, in amorous array,/ Democracy is coming to the USA”) has a verbal rhythm that owes nothing to the musical backing - and since the old groaner’s voice seldom extended beyond four notes, it hardly counts as singing. Cohen was a published poet in Montreal long before he picked up a guitar in 1967. So can we go back to thinking of him as a Real Poet?
Book of Longing is a collection of 150 poems and song lyrics mostly written on Mount Baldy, California, where he has spent 12 years as a Buddhist monk. Slightly too many of them are tiny Zen squibs, thin and precious if sometimes surprising (“The road is too long/ the sky is too vast/ the wandering heart/ is homeless at last”). Their tone veers from Kahlil Gibran glibness (“You go your way/ I’ll go your way too”) to the US poet laureate Billy Collins, with whom Cohen shares a fondness for cute epiphanies inspired by birds or spiders or laundromats. Accompanied by Cohen’s charcoal line drawings (mostly pretty hideous self-portraits), they could pass as greeting cards in an upmarket, if pretentious, gift shop.
The mood of his longer poems is not so much elegiac - the Buddhist monk saying farewell to his former appetites - as atrophic, as Cohen charts the decline of his powers (“Why did you come back to me tonight/ I can’t even get off this chair”). He writes about the inevitable end of love, and the departure of children in the gorgeous “Alexandra Leaving”, which stands up well, sans music. He reflects on the women who have been “exceptionally kind/ to my old age”, presumably not by giving him Wincarnis and Iron Jelloids. He wryly records that not a single woman in the whole of teeming Mumbai betrays the least interest in him.
But instead of self-pity, he maps this wasteland of the heart with humour, and sometimes anger. He announces he is “too old/ to learn the names/ of the new killers” but turns this regretful opening into a chilly harangue against the Bush administration. What appals Cohen is that the new generation of Pentagon warmongers probably grew up as Sixties kids, fans of his music - “all the bloody hand bathers/ and the chewers of entrails/ and the scalp peelers/ they all danced/ to the music of the Beatles/ they worshipped Bob Dylan” - and none of it prevented a single atrocity. His fury is impressive, but more as polemic than poetry.
The best things in this very mixed bran-tub are the ballads - simple quatrains that nod towards both William Blake and Emily Dickinson, and hold in balance the poet’s desire and self-disgust: “Who shall I take/ to the edge of despair/ with my knee on her heart/ and my lips on her hair.” In their jaunty rhythm they hint that, despite his late pursuit of inner peace and cosmic harmony, the former ladies’ man hasn’t quite succeeded in transcending his joie de vivre: “need your hand/ to pull me out/ need your juices/ on my snout.” Amid all the mystic apophthegms and weary sophistication, they sound a nicely ludic note. Perhaps that’s what the great songwriter was all the time - not a great poet, perhaps, but a good, bittersweet light versifier.
"Naked truths from the bard of Mount Baldy" by John Walsh, The Independent (UK), October 27, 2006.
Many more reviews and other info on Book of Longing at the site devoted to the book.
Cohen still the king of cool
If you don’t drink red wine, you will after listening to this album.
Leonard Cohen is cabernet music and this CD, which bottles together tracks recorded live during some 1979 U.K. and L.A. tour dates, is a heady blend of bohemia.
Though capturing Cohen on the tour for that year’s Recent Songs album, only a quarter of the 12 songs here are taken from that disc.
The remainder are tracks that — with the exception of Bird On The Wire, Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye and So Long, Marianne — aren’t extremely obvious choices.
That is, until you hear them.
Backed by the six-piece band Passenger, a violinist and mandolinist, and vocalists Sharon Robinson and Jennifer Warnes (the latter, of course, later went on to record an album of all Cohen interpretations, 1986’s Famous Blue Raincoat), the Canadian bard is at his laidback best here.
Not singing, but wooing. Each performance is full-bodied and deliriously intoxicating.
From the doo-wop of the Death Of A Ladies’ Man track Memories (“I walked up to the tallest and the blondest girl. I said, ‘Look, you don’t know me now but very soon you will; so won’t you let me see, won’t you let me see, won’t you let me see your naked body?” — only Cohen …) to the subdued, sombre pseudo-flamenco of The Gypsy’s Wife, Field Commander Cohen is a draining and drained dusk-until-dawn experience.
Brought up and dusted off from the Cohen cellar, 1979 was a very good year, indeed.
"Cohen still the king of cool" by Mike Bell, Calgary Sun, February 27, 2001.
Ten New Songs (2001) - Leonard Cohen
Rejoining society after a lengthy monastery retreat, Cohen seems a changed man: less bitter and caustic, more Zen and rueful. But thanks to Sharon Robinson, who sets Cohen’s charmingly hoarse whisper to cozy electronic pop, he’s never sounded more sensuous. His first new album in nearly a decade, Ten New Songs, has a powerful, hushed intimacy, culminating in “The Land of Plenty,” an exquisite call to national and personal rebirth. And in case anyone wondered if the 67-year-old had lost his sexual mojo, “In My Secret Life,” a pop-R&B hymn to unfulfilled yearning, puts an end to that question.
"Ten New Songs (2001) - Leonard Cohen" by David Browne, Entertainment Weekly, October 8, 2001.
Bard of Paradise
Masterful exposition on spiritual and
erotic longing from the divine Len
* * * * * (5 Stars - Highest Rating)
It seems like a good few lifetimes have passed since Paul Weller famously dismissed the songs of Leonard Cohen as “music to slash your wrists to”. That was back in 1984, the same year that Cohen’s Various Positions album (one of his most beauteous) went unreleased in the States, when its creator’s stock had fallen as low as it could possibly go, when Cohen was so hopelessly unfashionable that Weller’s famous, knee-jerk remark could pass by uncontested. Two decades on the Laughing Len is just about the coolest man on the planet. A poet, a singer, a part-time monk and a cocksman extraordinaire, he’s universally regarded as the ultimate bohemian.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Cohen became hip again. Perhaps with 1988’s I’m Your Man, when he updated his trademark sound with toytown synths and, nudging his gallows humour to the fore, reminded us that he was indeed the Buster Keaton of despair. Or with 1991’s more expansive The Future, where he dug downwards and outwards to expose the spiritual and cultural vacancy of the times. Though the ’90s, as he disappeared from view, holed up in a Californian mountain-top abbey, his silence was filled by the sound of others (Bono, Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave and all) ringing his praises from a heavily indebted place up on high.
Dear Heather remains more or less faithful to the template of his 2001 album Ten New Songs. A loungey soundscape of ghostly synths, gently palpitating beat-box, almost imperceptible guitar, notional sax and soft, heavenly female voice (Sharon Robinson now sharing shifts with Anjani Thomas) giving permanent fixity to Cohen’s parched vocal. But there’s something more here. Something completed. The vocal sounds more sepulchral than ever. And the words that vocal carries, they sound very final this time. As though Cohen intends this latest batch of songs about spiritual yearning, erotic longing and the limits of intimacy to be his last word on the subjects.
He’s conjured the best of his art by scraping songs from his heart. And the heart is scraped so raw this time around that you can’t help wondering whether the spectre of mortality has become the most regular muse.
As ever, these are mostly songs about love, songs about women. “Go No More A-Roving”, co-written by Lord Byron no less, concedes that the flesh is weak but hints that the spirit might yet overcome and there could still be fireworks at bedtime. “Because Of” humbly admits the dying of the light even as Cohen imagines a beautiful woman bent naked over a bed. On the imperiously jaunt title track, he fantasises about being so enthralled by a woman’s face that he loses the ability to spell words out. Mightiest of all is The Faith, based on a Québécois folk song, where his voice dovetails with that of Thomas in an emotion-swarming hymn to sexual faith and the fleeting beauty of it all. Dear Heather is Cohen’s highest tide yet, his most exquisite marriage of song and poetry and ambiguous grace. Magic is right here.
"Bard of Paradise" by Jon Wilde, Uncut, October 2004.