has a way to betray
This is mine
These words by (the now late) Leonard Cohen — singer-songwriter, poet, creative visionary — are perhaps so telling of the kind of artiste he was. A unique voice, both melodically and otherwise, Cohen reached out to millions of people with his tunes and with his words.
For a lot of us, Leonard Cohen passing away is the nail in the coffin for 2016. After David Bowie and Prince, this year (so far) is coming to a close with the death of perhaps the sharpest, most creative and resonating voice of his generation. Social media is filled with people tweeting about how they got married to his songs, sung them to their children as lullabies and used them as comfort for heartbreak. Leonard Cohen's music was universal.
This is perhaps an apt tweet to describe Cohen passing on, and how you can turn your grief into positivity:
Congrats to Leonard Cohen for leaving the party before the cops show up
— Brian Gaar (@briangaar) November 11, 2016
If your soul aches with this news, here is a playlist of Cohen songs to help you sail through it.
Tune in, tune out:
'Now Suzanne takes you down/To her place near the river/You can hear the boats go by/You can spend the night beside her/And you know she’s half crazy."
One of Cohen's most popular songs, Suzanne actually began in Cohen's head as a poem way back in 1966, but eventually ended up becoming a song, after many revisions. It personifies the haphazard emotions one has towards a muse; do you worship them, stare at them in awe or be extremely wary of a something having such a power over you? — These are the emotions explored.
Many music scholars believe Suzanne is based on Suzanne Verdal, the girlfriend of Canadian artist Armand Vaillancourt. "He got such a kick out of seeing me emerge as a young schoolgirl, I suppose, and a young artist, into becoming Armand’s lover and then wife," Verdal said in a 1998 interview.
Famous Blue Raincoat
A story of a love triangle (a phrase Bollywood made so popular) between the singer, a woman named Jane and a third person Cohen calls "my brother... my killer", Famous Blue Raincoat has the most haunting melodies, whether its the opening guitar intro or the violin interludes.
One of reasons why this could be called a hard-hitting song on betrayal, is because of Cohen's own thoughts on it. Is he speaking of betrayal or having betrayed someone? "I always felt that there was an invisible male seducing the woman I was with, now whether this one was incarnate or merely imaginary I don't remember. I did have this feeling that there was always a third party, sometimes me, sometimes another man, sometimes another woman," he had said in a BBC Radio interview from 1994.
I'm Your Man
Is there anyone else who can rock the slow, lilting base voice that Cohen celebrates in this song? A pleasant departure from the usual influences in his music, I'm Your Man is from Cohen's more contemporary repertoire, almost like he was telling us, "See this is how I evolve. Take it or leave it."
The beauty of this track is its fluidity. It could be a romantic song, a sarcastic one or a just your midnight jam.
'Everybody knows the fight is fixed, the poor stay poor, the rich stay rich..'
A master of simple yet impactful melodies, Everybody Knows is pretty much a summary of current times, of chaos within discipline. It speaks of politics, class and economic divide, social and personal issues, and gives you the sense that the world may feel like a big, bad wolf, but ultimately it seems like you're standing atop a tower looking down on everything happening below with no control.
"Everybody knows... that's how it goes"
Dance Me To The End of Love
You could say this song is Cohen's ode to the very phenomena of love. A song that he sings to his lover, urging them to love him through all kinds of love: puppy love, adult love, old love — all of it. Aging and death are themes that Cohen explores in many of his tracks, but this one is purely focused on the populist theory of everlasting love.
However, many also believe that Cohen was referring to the Holocaust with this song ('Dance me to the panic till I'm gathered safely in').
"We're both of us beneath our love... we're both of us above."
1000 Kisses Deep
This track was actually a 30-verse poem, but only 12 out of those were actually published. Cohen's own words on the song were, "It’s a song that summaries quite well this feeling of invincible defeat by which anyone is affected. The feeling that everything is temporary and unsubstantial. Of course you have to live your life as though it were all real, but the fundamental reality is far beyond the human’s understanding."
One of his most intense, most layered songs, according to yours truly. If you read the words that make this song, it feels as if Cohen himself is sitting in front of you, reading it out from a journal he wrote when he was much younger, one that entails a window into his soul.
Lover Lover Lover
If there was ever one particular song you could point out from Cohen's entire discography that focused more on its melodies than its words, and a song that could ensure you get lost for multiple minutes in your own thoughts as you subconsciously hum along (no mean feat, this) — it's Lover Lover Lover.
'May the spirit of this song rise, cure and free'
This track personifies a creative abandon; something Cohen was so famous for.