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On my countdown of My 33 Favorite Recording Artists- #32 is Leonard Cohen. If I had made this list as late as ten years ago Leonard Cohen wouldn’t have made it. I had his albums and was a fan but it was the 2009 live album Live In London a double album clocking in at 2 1/2 hours and including 26 songs that really elevated Cohen to the point where I became an even bigger fan and gave his past catalog even more attention.

Like #33 John Prine – Cohen’s strength is his songwriting. He was a poet before he was a singer-songwriter. He was thirty-three years old when his debut album Songs Of Leonard Cohen was released in 1967.

During his 50 year career as a recording artist Cohen released only 14 solo albums. Until 2012’s Old Ideas which went to #3 on the album chart in the US- his highest charting album was #68. His final three albums were all Top 15. He never had anything close to a pop chart hit. Like Prine- he wasn’t a singles artist. Only one of his studio albums- the debut has gone Gold. What Leonard Cohen did was write great, great songs.

Strange thing- at least to me- Leonard Cohen’s voice seemed to get better with age. The earlier albums- while they had the great songs the production to me was always a little off. I can’t say there are many artists who my favorite album is a live album but the Live In London album sounds so good- not only his voice but the way the songs were done.

Leonard released three new album near the end of his life- after an eight year period of of no studio albums- and those albums were the best charting ones of his career. It was great to see him go out on such great note.

Was thinking about how Cohen had went from an artist I liked to an artist I loved and it probably comes down to growing older. As I got older I appreciated his songwriting more and related to it.  Leonard Cohen was an artist who wrote about adult themes. He wasn’t writing for a Top 40 hits. He was an artist. Like a Dylan or Van Morrison. I believe Leonard Cohen’s songs will live a lot longer than some of the people who have sold a lot more records than he did. I wish I had seen him in concert.

Favorite Leonard Cohen albums

  • Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • Songs of Love and Hate
  • The Future
  • Ten New Songs
  • Popular Problems
  • You Want It Darker

Favorite Leonard Cohen Songs

  • Hallelujah  [Leonard’s signature song}
  • The Future
  • Bird On A Wire
  • Anthem
  • Suzanne
  • First We Take Manhattan
  • So Long Marianne
  • Tower Of Song
  • In My Secret Life
  • Everybody Knows
  • I’m Your Man
  • Chelsea Hotel #2
  • Dance Me To The End Of Love


    • I know virtually nothing about him but have 2 of his CDs that haven’t been listened to: Live and Songs. What you said in your essay, about not being ready for his music when you were younger (paraphrasing) but growing into him may mean I need to give these CDs a listen.

    • adult songs- i kind of think of when i was young- my dad was into country music- and a lot was played on the stereo. I liked a lot of it- Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard but wasn’t a big fan of Conway Twitty- when I grew up I realized why- Twitty’s songs seemed a lot about adult relationships and adult concerns. Same with Leonard. Most of his songs are brilliant- but rather bleak. He never had a hit. I don’t think he ever tried to write a hit or probably cared. Just my guess.

  1. My favourite song from Leonard is, “You want it darker?” One of his later songs but I’m only now catching up with this very gifted man. Thanks for sharing.

    • That was a great way to go out. It is interesting how so many artists towards the end went out on top sort of- I think Leonard’s last few albums really put his career in a new light- like Johnny Cash’s American Recordings albums.

    • I may be in the minority – I know Cash without the American Recordings had a great great career one of the best but my favorite Johnny Cash is the American Recordings.

    • I would recommend the double Live In London from 2009- I think for some reason his singing is at its best- in his 70’s.

  2. I read his novel Beautiful Losers before hearing anything by him and it so depressed me I still have trouble listening to him.
    My wife’s friend saw him on one of the last UK visits. I think he had retired then found he had been defrauded and had to tour to pay the bills – and then found he really enjoyed it.

  3. Malcolm gladwell devoted part of a podcast to cohens song, hallelujah. Spoke of the endless rewrites and slow difficult road to perfection. He also mentioned deportee by Elvis Costello, specifically the live splendid live version on the released goodbye cruel world. Thoroughly enjoyable listen if you’re interested in the process of songwriting…

  4. Knew of him but went back and listened to his catalog after he died – some great stuff – you’re right I think I like his voice better the older he got. That live album was fantastic

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