Table of Contents
- 1. “Suzanne”
- 2. “Hallelujah”
- 3. “Master Song”
- 4. “Dress Rehearsal Rag”
- 5. “Stranger Song”
- 6. “Diamonds in the Mine”
- 7. “Chelsea Hotel #2”
- 8. “Tower of Song”
- 9. “Memories”
- 10. “So Long, Marianne”
- 11. “Love Calls You By Your Name”
- 12. “Bird on a Wire”
- 13. “First We Take Manhattan”
- 14. “Anthem”
- 15. “Famous Blue Raincoat”
- 16. “Avalanche”
- 17. “Story of Isaac”
- 18. “Who By Fire”
- 19. “I’m Your Man”
- 20. “The Future”
Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time. Throughout his career, Cohen wrote and recorded numerous timeless classics that continue to captivate audiences to this day. From his introspective and melancholic ballads to his more upbeat and soulful compositions, Cohen’s music has left an indelible mark on the world of music and culture.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 20 best Leonard Cohen songs of all time. We’ll explore the stories behind each of these songs, the emotions they evoke, and their enduring legacy. From the hauntingly beautiful “Hallelujah” to the introspective “Famous Blue Raincoat” and the emotionally charged “Dance Me to the End of Love,” these songs are a testament to Cohen’s exceptional talent as a songwriter and musician.
Through his music, Cohen was able to express the complexities of the human condition with unparalleled depth and nuance. He had an uncanny ability to capture the essence of love, loss, and longing in his lyrics, which were often delivered with his distinctive deep and resonant voice. Whether you’re a long-time fan or just discovering Cohen’s music for the first time, this article is a celebration of the enduring legacy of one of the greatest artists of all time.
“Suzanne” is a song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, which was first released on his 1967 debut album “Songs of Leonard Cohen”. The song has since become one of his most popular and enduring compositions. “Suzanne” is a poignant and introspective song that tells the story of a relationship between the narrator and a woman named Suzanne. The lyrics are full of vivid imagery and metaphors, such as “She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China” and “And she shows you where to look amid the garbage and the flowers”. The song’s gentle melody and Cohen’s deep, rich voice add to its dreamy, almost mystical quality. Over the years, “Suzanne” has been covered by many artists, including Nina Simone, Judy Collins, and Jeff Buckley, and it remains a beloved classic of the folk and singer-songwriter genres.
“Hallelujah” is a song written by Leonard Cohen that has become one of the most iconic and beloved songs of all time. The song features powerful lyrics that explore themes of love, loss, and spirituality, with a chorus that repeatedly declares “Hallelujah” in joyful praise. The song has been covered by countless artists in a wide variety of styles, from Jeff Buckley’s hauntingly beautiful version to Rufus Wainwright’s lush orchestral interpretation. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the emotional depth and universality of its message, and its ability to connect with listeners on a profound and personal level.
3. “Master Song”
“Master Song” is a track from Leonard Cohen’s 1967 debut album “Songs of Leonard Cohen”. The song features Cohen’s signature poetic lyrics, which are rich in symbolism and metaphor. The melody is haunting and melancholic, with Cohen’s deep, resonant voice adding to the song’s sense of introspection and reflection. “Master Song” explores themes of love, desire, and the search for meaning and purpose in life. With its intricate guitar work and introspective lyrics, the song has become a fan favorite and remains a testament to Cohen’s unique style and vision as a songwriter.
4. “Dress Rehearsal Rag”
“Dress Rehearsal Rag” is a hauntingly beautiful song by Leonard Cohen, which was released on his 1969 album “Songs From a Room”. The song features melancholic lyrics that explore themes of self-doubt, regret, and despair, set to a mournful melody that perfectly captures the song’s sense of sadness and longing. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a man preparing to take his own life, struggling with his own feelings of worthlessness and despair. It is a powerful and emotional song that showcases Cohen’s incredible songwriting talent and his ability to capture the depths of human emotion.
5. “Stranger Song”
“Stranger Song” is a track from Leonard Cohen’s 1967 debut album “Songs of Leonard Cohen”. The song features Cohen’s signature poetic lyrics, which are full of rich imagery and metaphor. The melody is gentle and lilting, with Cohen’s deep, resonant voice adding to the song’s sense of melancholy and introspection. “Stranger Song” explores themes of isolation, alienation, and the search for connection and meaning in life. With its introspective lyrics and haunting melody, the song is a testament to Cohen’s unique style and vision as a songwriter.
6. “Diamonds in the Mine”
“Diamonds in the Mine” is a song by Leonard Cohen from his 1974 album, “New Skin for the Old Ceremony.” The song is a commentary on society’s obsession with wealth and material possessions, with Cohen using the metaphor of diamonds in a mine to represent the value placed on these things. He describes the pursuit of money as a fruitless endeavor, ultimately leading to a meaningless existence. The song features Cohen’s signature poetic lyrics and haunting vocals, accompanied by a sparse yet effective arrangement of guitar and percussion.
7. “Chelsea Hotel #2”
“Chelsea Hotel #2” is another Leonard Cohen song, this time from his 1974 album, “New Skin for the Old Ceremony.” The song is a bittersweet reminiscence of a brief romantic encounter between Cohen and the late singer-songwriter, Janis Joplin, at New York’s Chelsea Hotel in the 1960s. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of their time together, capturing both the passion and vulnerability of their relationship. Cohen’s deep, melancholic voice is perfectly suited to the emotional weight of the song, while the gentle guitar accompaniment adds a touch of nostalgia and longing.
8. “Tower of Song”
“Tower of Song” is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1988 on his album “I’m Your Man”. The song is known for its humorous lyrics and self-deprecating tone, in which Cohen reflects on his own shortcomings as a songwriter and performer. The lyrics include references to other musicians and songwriters, such as Hank Williams, Mozart, and Elvis Presley, and the chorus repeats the phrase “I was born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice.”
“Memories” is a song by American singer Elvis Presley, released in 1968 as a single and later included on his album “From Elvis in Memphis”. The song was written by Billy Strange and Mac Davis and is a nostalgic ballad about looking back on past memories and relationships. The lyrics include lines such as “Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind, memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine” and “Blue days, all of them gone, nothing but blue skies from now on.” The song is known for its emotive vocals and simple yet powerful melody. It has become a beloved classic and a fan favorite, often played at Presley tribute shows and events. “Memories” was also used in the soundtrack of the 1992 film “Honeymoon in Vegas”, which starred Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. In addition to Elvis Presley’s original version, “Memories” has been covered by many other artists, including Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, and Johnny Cash. The song’s enduring popularity is a testament to its universal themes of love, loss, and nostalgia.
10. “So Long, Marianne”
“So Long, Marianne” is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1967 on his debut album “Songs of Leonard Cohen”. The song was written about Marianne Ihlen, a woman who was one of Cohen’s early romantic partners and who later became the subject of many of his songs. The song features Cohen’s signature blend of poetic lyrics and melodic folk guitar, and is known for its haunting melody and bittersweet tone. The lyrics include lines such as “Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again” and “Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now. Then why do I feel alone?” “So Long, Marianne” has become one of Leonard Cohen’s most beloved and enduring songs, and has been covered by many other artists over the years, including Judy Collins, Jeff Buckley, and The Lumineers. The song’s timeless themes of love, loss, and the passage of time continue to resonate with listeners today.
11. “Love Calls You By Your Name”
“Love Calls You By Your Name” is a hauntingly beautiful song by Leonard Cohen, released in 1971. The song’s lyrics are deeply introspective and contemplative, speaking to the universal human experience of searching for love and meaning in life. Cohen’s distinctive voice and poetic lyrics create a sense of intimacy and vulnerability, drawing the listener in and inviting them to reflect on their own journey of self-discovery. The song’s delicate guitar and piano accompaniment provide a gentle backdrop for Cohen’s powerful lyrics, creating a melancholic yet hopeful atmosphere that lingers long after the song has ended. “Love Calls You By Your Name” is a timeless masterpiece that speaks to the enduring human longing for connection and meaning.
12. “Bird on a Wire”
“Bird on a Wire” is a poignant and introspective song by Leonard Cohen, released in 1969. The song’s lyrics speak to the themes of freedom, love, and the human condition, with Cohen’s signature blend of poetic imagery and raw emotion. The song’s gentle guitar accompaniment and Cohen’s haunting voice create a sense of longing and introspection, inviting the listener to reflect on their own experiences of searching for meaning and connection in life. “Bird on a Wire” is a timeless classic that speaks to the universal human experience of seeking freedom and love in a world that can often feel confining and uncertain.
13. “First We Take Manhattan”
“First We Take Manhattan” is a song by Leonard Cohen from his 1988 album “I’m Your Man”. The song was covered by many artists over the years, including Jennifer Warnes, R.E.M., and Joe Cocker. The lyrics of the song describe the actions of a revolutionary or political extremist who is planning to take control of Manhattan, New York City. The lyrics are dark and ominous, with lines such as “I’m guided by a signal in the heavens/I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin/I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons/First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.” The song is often interpreted as a commentary on the rise of extremism and terrorism in the late 20th century. It has been suggested that the song is a critique of the use of violence as a means of achieving political change, and a warning against the dangers of radicalism and fanaticism. The song has been praised for its powerful lyrics and haunting melody, and it remains a popular and influential song in the canon of Leonard Cohen’s work.
“Anthem” is a song by Leonard Cohen from his 1992 album “The Future”. The song is a reflection on the human condition, and the struggle to find meaning and purpose in a world that can often seem dark and chaotic. The lyrics speak to the importance of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity, with lines such as “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” The song is known for its haunting melody and powerful lyrics, and it has been widely praised for its ability to inspire and uplift listeners. Overall, “Anthem” is a poignant and introspective piece of music that speaks to the complexities of the human experience.
15. “Famous Blue Raincoat”
“Famous Blue Raincoat” is a hauntingly beautiful song written and performed by Leonard Cohen. It was released in 1971 as part of his album “Songs of Love and Hate”. The song’s melancholic melody is accompanied by Cohen’s distinctive deep voice, creating a sense of introspection and contemplation. The lyrics are written in the form of a letter, in which the narrator addresses a mysterious figure referred to as “my brother, my killer”. The song explores themes of love, betrayal, and regret, and has become a classic in Cohen’s repertoire, praised for its poetic lyrics and emotional depth. The song has been covered by various artists over the years and remains a timeless masterpiece.
Avalanche is a natural disaster that occurs when a mass of snow, ice, or rock suddenly falls down a mountain or slope. It can be triggered by various factors such as heavy snowfall, wind, and human activity. The force of an avalanche can be incredibly destructive, capable of destroying buildings and infrastructure, and causing injury or death to people caught in its path. In the video, we see the sheer power of an avalanche as it engulfs a group of people on a slope. While it can be a breathtaking sight to witness from a safe distance, it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions and avoid areas prone to avalanches during winter activities.
17. “Story of Isaac”
The Story of Isaac is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1967. The song is a retelling of the biblical story of Abraham and his son Isaac, where Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son as a test of faith. In the song, Cohen questions the morality of blind obedience to authority and power, and the meaning of sacrifice and faith. The simple acoustic guitar accompaniment and Cohen’s haunting voice give the song a melancholic and introspective mood. The Story of Isaac has been hailed as a powerful piece of social commentary and remains a beloved classic of Cohen’s discography.
18. “Who By Fire”
Who By Fire is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1974. The song is inspired by the Jewish liturgy of the High Holy Days, specifically the prayer of Unetanneh Tokef, which asks “who by fire, who by water,” reflecting on the uncertainty of life and the inevitability of death. In the song, Cohen explores the same themes, contemplating the fragility of human existence and the randomness of fate. The haunting melody and Cohen’s deep, soulful voice create a somber and introspective mood that lingers long after the song ends. Who By Fire is considered one of Cohen’s most powerful and moving compositions.
19. “I’m Your Man”
“I’m Your Man” is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1988. The song has a pulsating electronic beat, a departure from Cohen’s typical acoustic sound, and features witty, seductive lyrics about a man willing to do anything for his lover. The song’s catchy chorus, “If you want a lover, I’ll do anything you ask me to,” has become an iconic part of Cohen’s musical legacy. The music video features Cohen, dressed in a suit and fedora, performing in front of a smoky, atmospheric background, capturing the song’s seductive and enigmatic tone. “I’m Your Man” remains one of Cohen’s most beloved and popular songs.
20. “The Future”
“The Future” is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1992. The song is a reflection on the state of the world at the end of the 20th century, exploring themes of apocalypse, war, and social decay. The song’s haunting melody and Cohen’s deep voice create a sense of foreboding and urgency, as he delivers lines such as “I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder.” The song’s apocalyptic vision has been interpreted as a commentary on the Cold War, environmental degradation, and the rise of consumerism. “The Future” is considered one of Cohen’s most powerful and prophetic compositions.