I exaggerate - of course. About the voice part, at any rate. However I do revere Cohen's ability with words. I am astounded that he started with this ability at the beginning of his career and continues with no faltering to this day. And ... his voice does just get better.
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St. Leonard’s Passion
Leonard Cohen releases his 12th album, Old Ideas. The troubadour and poet hasn’t always been popular, but he is always profound.
Leonard Cohen releases his 12th studio album, the profoundly moving Old Ideas, today. None of his records has ever cracked the top 50, and his last album, 2004’s Dear Heather, peaked at No. 131 on the Billboard charts. Those few of his songs that are well-known—particularly the ubiquitous “Hallelujah”—are well-known for being covered by other musicians. He is 77 years old, and his peers are either nostalgia acts or four decades dead, icons of a church that’s fallen into sad disrepair.
But not Cohen: He’s featured on the album’s cover, dressed in a suit and a tie, donning his trademark fedora and wearing dark shades, sitting on a blue wooden chair in a Los Angeles backyard, grinning slightly, and reading a book. It’s a fitting pose for the man he’s become, the kind and pensive dispenser of profound truths who earns in acclaim what he lacks in raw popularity; he’s the only entertainer around who looks as natural receiving Spain’s top literary award from Prince Felipe as he does sharing the dais with Madonna and John Mellencamp at the 2008 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony that honored all three. Even that almanac of cool, the Financial Times, recently saw fit to lionize St. Leonard, calling him “a sage for the post-crisis age.”
It wasn’t a role he was preordained to play. Throughout his life, it often seemed as if Cohen’s greatest talent was for falling out of step. In 1965, when Dylan plugged in and Jim Morrison spent the summer subsisting on LSD and baked beans and forming the Doors, Cohen, then still a poet, appeared on Canadian TV. “I wake up every morning and check if I am in a state of grace,” he told a television crew. “If not, I go back to bed.” He was in his mid-thirties when he first stepped out on stage with a guitar, an experience so traumatic that he fled after a few bars and only came back when Judy Collins, his friend and patron, soothed him and accompanied him back into the limelight. When his career finally took off, mainly in Europe, he realized that the musical milieu with which he most firmly belonged, the singer-songwriters, was rapidly becoming passé. Young fans now wanted their music loud and spirited; Cohen’s was sad and soulful.