Leonard Cohen – The Baritone of Brokeness
Singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen had an impact on the folk music genre with his haunting tone-def songs. One can’t help but listen to his addictive voice that seems to come from deep within his soul.
Initially, his off-key singing somewhat grates at the ears while the emotion and poetic cry capture your full attention. He once describes his style of music as “grotesque.”
Who was this man?
Born in 1934, this Canadian from Montreal began composing folk songs in the mid-1960s. His famous rendition of “Hallelujah” gained recognition with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
Cohen’s style of music did not quite fit into any specific genre of music outside of folk although some tried to define it as rock.
The blueprints of his work
Having a foundation in poetry and music, this young man had a keen intellect that was immersed in Jewish theology. He took these attributes and formed an approach to composing with lyricism as defined from literature, mythology, and poetry.
It wasn’t long before he formed a music group called “The Buckskin Boys.” Their country style of music filled the local cafes of Montreal.
Cohen later attending college and returning to Montreal he continued to write poetry. In 1961, he published a book called “The Spice-Box of the Earth.” His book established his presence as a literary voice.
Cohen takes on Manhattan
It was apparent that he could not earn a living writing books, so his attention shifted back towards music. He realized music would be the vehicle in which his poetry could be lucrative.
Settling in New York, he began to explore the vast music scene. Many potential agents tried to discourage Cohen from pursuing a music career as a performer because he was too old.
It wasn’t until Judy Collins (a famous folk singer) recognized Cohen’s talent. She managed to encourage him to pursue music. Making his debut at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival, he was noticed by a music scout. Before he knew it, his music career took off!
Leonard Cohen goes viral
Cohen released his first album which contained sparse arrangements as his baritone voice delivered melancholy lyrics. He later followed up with another album.
He made numerous appearances at music festivals around the world. Three of his songs he wrote and recorded were featured on the soundtrack of “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” which starred Warren Beatty. However, after this, he did not step back into the studio for three years.
During the hiatus, he continued to write poetry and also welcomed the birth of his daughter.
Off and Running Again
Cohen returned to the studio in 1974 where he recorded new music. One notable song, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” featured the romantic encounter he had with music artist, Janis Joplin.
Taking a five-year hiatus, he focused on his poetry. However, in 1984 he made up for the lack of new music by releasing another new album which focused on spirituality.
The Highs and Lows of a Relic
Cohen seemed to continue to resurface from his numerous hiatus’ to release new work. He would write more poetry and go back into hiding. This erratic pattern of his came to a halt when he realized that his manager had embezzled millions from Cohen. Because of his money now depleted, he retook the road and went on tour to recoup the lost income.
At this point, Cohen was approaching 81 years old; however, he managed to release yet another album! His health began to decline rapidly, and by the age of 82, he had died.
Just previous to his death he received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement!