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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten New Songs: Leonard Cohen
***** highest rating
Laughing Len’s first album since 1992 is a spare, gospel-infused affair that resonates with all the profundity you’d expect of a great poet who’s spent most of his seventh decade in a Zen retreat. “Here It Is” contains his philosophical gist: “Let everyone live, let everyone die / Hello my love and my love goodbye.” It ain’t much, but rendered in Cohen’s aged croak with shimmering harmonic backing from key collaborator Sharon Robinson, it’s enlightenment on a stick. The momentous “Love Itself” draws similar gravity from simple wisdom, this time with Cohen’s much-overlooked humor in spades. Themes of compassion, self-knowledge and the pursuit of higher truth reign, from the ominous “By The River Dark” to the timely prayer for justice, “The Land of Plenty.” “I would die for the truth,” he sighs, “In My Secret Life.” In a medium fuelled by artifice and ego, this may be as close as we get.
"Ten New Songs: Leonard Cohen" by Michael Dwyer, The Age (Australia), 19 October 2001.
From the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame website (https://www.cshf.ca/):
Modern Era Inductees:
Anglophone 1956 to 25 Years Prior to Present; Francophone 1961 to 25 Years Prior to Present
Leonard Cohen, Gilles Vigneault
Ain’t No Cure For Love – Leonard Cohen
Bird on the Wire – Leonard Cohen
Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen (co-wrote with Sharon Robinson)
Gens du pays - Gilles Vigneault (co-wrote with Gaston Rochon)
Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
La Manic – Georges Dor
Le tour de l’Île – Félix Leclerc
Mon pays – Gilles Vigneault
Pendant que – Gilles Vigneault
Put Your Hand in the Hand – Gene MacLellan
Si les bateaux – Gilles Vigneault
Sugar Sugar – Andy Kim (co-wrote with Jeff Barry)
Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Sweet City Woman – Rich Dodson
Songwriter Inductee: Modern Era, 1956 to 25 Years Prior to Present
BIRTH: Montreal, Quebec, 21 September, 1934
With an extraordinary career spanning more than forty years, Canadian musical icon Leonard Cohen has earned the distinction as one of the most influential artists of his generation. A legendary songwriter, Cohen has brought honesty and artistry in a way few others have. His stark images of love, beauty and despair have touched fans and inspired writers and musicians the world over.
Throughout his storied lifetime, Cohen has succeeded as both poet and pop star. Inspired by his own history and romantic experiences, his intelligent musings and musical gifts have endured no matter where he resides – be it the urban chaos of LA and Montreal, the domestic comfort of a Greek island or monastic isolation of a Zen Buddhist Monastery.
His intense lyrics, spiritual observations and deft humour weave throughout his impressive body of work. Cohen’s extraordinary writing and musical talents have gained him numerous accolades, among them: the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1969 which he declined, stating, “the poems themselves forbid it absolutely,” followed by several Juno Awards, honorary degrees, and in 2003, the Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civil honor for achievement in the arts.
Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal on September 21, 1934. He attended McGill University, where at 17, he formed a countrywestern trio called the Buckskin Boys. While still an undergraduate, Leonard became part of Montreal’s burgeoning Bohemian scene and published his first collection of poetry (Let Us Compare Mythologies) in 1956. The Spice Box of Earth (1961), his second collection of poems, catapulted Cohen to international recognition. After a brief stint at Columbia University in New York, Cohen traveled throughout Europe and settled on the Greek island of Hydra where he wrote another collection of poetry (Flowers for Hitler, 1964) and two highly acclaimed novels (The Favourite Game, 1963 and Beautiful Losers, 1966). The books have been translated into many languages including Chinese and Japanese.
After seven years on Hydra, Cohen’s restless spirit led him to the United States where he pursued his career as a songwriter. Championed by singer/songwriter Judy Collins, Cohen appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967 where he caught the eye – and ear – of legendary Columbia A&R man John Hammond (who also recruited Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to the label) and by Christmas of that year, Columbia released his signature debut album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen.
Songs like the enduringly popular “Suzanne,” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “So Long, Marianne,” and “Sisters of Mercy” propelled Cohen to the top of the pop music pantheon. The songs had such power that Robert Altman’s 1971 film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller became, in effect, the first longform video for Cohen’s soundtrack.
Songs From a Room (1969), his second album, and Songs of Love and Hate (1971) further reinforced Cohen’s standing as a sentry of solitude. With “Bird On a Wire,” “The Story of Isaac,” “Joan of Arc,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat,” he continued to stretch the borders of the lyrical landscape of the times. Recent Songs (1979), coproduced with Henry Lewy (who had previously worked with Joni Mitchell), continued Cohen’s dissection of the malefemale union, but also reflected his many explorations into the religious sphere.
Various Positions (1984) marked the full flowering of these religious journeys. Songs like “Hallelujah,” “The Law,” “Heart With No Companion,” and “If It Be Your Will,” are contemporary psalms, born of an undoubtedly long and difficult spiritual odyssey, so difficult that its conclusion left Cohen – in his words “wiped out.” I’m Your Man (1988) was the culmination of Cohen’s professional and personal reintegration, a beautifully crafted work that speaks eloquently to his experience as a musical elder. Buoyed by nowclassic songs like “First We Take Manhattan,” “Tower of Song,” and “Ain’t No Cure For Love,” the album went to #1 in several countries.
Despite many long passages of time between albums, Cohen’s music has been kept on the airwaves through interpretations by artists as diverse as Neil Diamond, Nick Cave, Diana Ross, Joan Baez, Rita Coolidge, and Joe Cocker. Longtime musical colleague Jennifer Warnes released the critically acclaimed Famous Blue Raincoat in 1986, an entire album of Cohen’s work.
In 1992, a number of contemporary recording artists collaborated on a tribute to Leonard Cohen. I’m Your Fan (1991) was the brainchild of Christian Fevret, editor of French rock magazine, Les Inrockuptibles. Originally intended for release on the magazine’s small offshoot label Oscar, the project mushroomed into an 18song cover collection released by Atlantic, featuring such prominent musicians as REM, John Cale, Nick Cave, lan McCulloch, The Pixies, House of Love and Lloyd Cole. Tower of Song (1995) featured interpretations of Cohen songs by more mainstream artists such as Billy Joel, Sting, Elton John, Willie Nelson and Bono. 1992 saw the release of his eleventh album, The Future, an amazingly aural documentation befitting a cultural malaise. It was following the 1993 “Future” tour that Leonard Cohen retreated from public life and lived several years at the Zen Center on Mount Baldy in Southern California.
In January 1999, Cohen came down from the mountain armed with hundreds of new lyrics and poems. He settled in Los Angeles where he released two records, first another live album entitled Field Commander Cohen Tour of 1979 and in October, after nine years, the entrancing collection, Ten New Songs. After such a long silence, the power of this new studio album lay in its singleness, its unity of tone, songs flowing one into the other with a grave, contained intensity. In 2002, many of his best known songs were digitally remastered and released on the double CD The Essential Leonard Cohen.
In 2004, Cohen returned with Dear Heather, produced with collaborators and singers, Sharon Robinson and Anjani Thomas. This musically diverse collection of songs seemed to celebrate the beauty of the world he had returned to with soaring lyrical styles and musical arrangements. Cohen’s supporters and the sizeable online community of newsgroups and chat lines continually dissecting his creations anxiously await his next release. He is now working on new songs for his next album for a possible mid2006 release. He is also working on new songs for Anjani Thomas’ forthcoming album Blue Alert, to be released in Spring 2006.
A lyrical icon whose musical trials and travails have led him through an odyssey of hope, conflict and love, Leonard Cohen has taken us to that place by the harbor and our world has become much richer for the journey.
Strokes, Cohen Lead Releases
—Leonard Cohen Ten New Songs (Columbia)—
It’s been nine years since we last heard from Leonard Cohen — an absence that’s sent his rabid cult spiraling into poetically suave withdrawal. Thankfully, the other Man in Black is back from (somehow worse) depression, artistic inertia and monastic seclusion with Ten New Songs, a ghostly soundscape populated by the usual cavalcade of beautiful losers. Only now, with age, the bloody literary machine cuts even deeper; the voice, having succumbed to cigarettes and life, more achingly speaks that unspeakable desolation. “Confined to sex, we pressed against the limits of the sea/I saw there were no oceans left for scavengers like me,” he sighs on “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” And so it goes: With dim-light instrumentation and the shadowing vocals of longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson, Cohen returns, the undisputed landlord of those dark, damaged places. From the impossible longing of “In My Secret Life” to the sad-bastard boozings of “That Don’t Make It Junk,” Ten New Songs manages to sustain loss’s fragile beauty like never before and might just be Cohen’s most exquisite ode yet to the midnight hour.
"Strokes, Cohen Lead Releases" by Steven Chean, Rolling Stone (US),
October 9, 2001.