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09/21/2011

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I did not realize that it was his birthday. He has a certian iconic status up here, especially in certain circles, though I doubt that the average Canadian knows more than a couple of his songs ("Hallelujah" and "Suzanne" are probably the best candidates).

Speaking for myself, I love him to death. Interviews with him, especially in recent decades, are often fascinating, for he is someone who, in his own way, seems to largely reject secular modernity, and in his enigmatic manner gives us a quite probing critique of it. Secularists, who dominate media and high-brow society in Canada, don't really know what to make of him. I can't think of anyone else who could slip a line like "Destroy another fetus now / We don't like children anyhow" into a song and still be invited back. But he did it.

I think my favourite Leonard Cohen song is "Famous Blue Raincoat". I can listen to it over and over and over again. It never gets old.

Of course I think he's great, one of the top half-dozen or so major artists in popular music (weird to think that that category also includes Britney Spears et.al.). The average American probably wouldn't recognize his name--probably only somewhat-more-than-casual music fans would.

His eclectic mysticism is sometimes so close to Christianity--he mentions in one interview that there was a lot of Catholic influence on him when he was growing up, maybe including a Catholic housekeeper or something like that.

I wouldn't put FBR that high on my list, but is a really good song.

One fascinating thing about Leonard Cohen, as a singer, is how his vocal range has changed over the course of his life. From his (amazing) first record to his latest, I think his range must have dropped a couple of octaves. Something similar happened with Tom Waits, but not to the same degree.

I guess he's not going to live long enough to go sub-sonic, but he's working on it. Not having listened to those old albums much in recent years, I'm a little surprised by how much higher his voice is on those, as in this clip.

I have his "Dear Heather" album somewhere; there's a song or two where he just utters spoken-word poems about being an old lech who, because he wrote all these excellent songs, finds that "women have been exceptionally kind to my old age." Somewhat amusing; being Leonard Cohen, he can get away with anything, I guess.

I haven't actually listened to anything by him in ages, mostly because I know all my favourite Cohen songs on guitar so I can sing them myself. He writes very guitar-friendly songs.

"Dear Heather" doesn't add up to much, imo (either the song or the album). One wonders what Heather's reaction was. But the one before that--"10 Songs"?--is very good.

Yeah, some interesting songs on that one. Although they grab me less than his earlier work - in the energy of youth and middle age, he still peppered his lyrics with military metaphors, as if life and love were a warzone. Then he got old, calmed down, and retreated to a zen monastery. Probably when I'm ten years older I'll prefer his later work.

"Dear Heather" was, IIRC, put out to earn money quick, after getting swindled by his agent and finding himself short of cash until he could get legal redress. Still, some of the songs are good - "Letters" was fantastic. Also, one of his musical collaborators, Anjani, put out an album produced by him, with lyrics by him (often unpublished fragments which she polished up a bit) - it's called "Blue Alert", and is exceedingly good.

I remember reading about that swindle but didn't realize Dear Heather was connected to it. That does shed some light on it. I don't remember Letters specifically--I'll have to listen to it again. I don't know that I'd pick one broad period in his work over another, though I have my favorite and less favorite albums. I like Songs from a Room better than his first album, for instance.

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