Leonard Cohen Dies at 82: Who Was He? And Does He Matter To Country Music?

Let’s take the second question first.

If songwriters who inspire other songwriters to become better songwriters matter, then absolutely; Leonard Cohen matters to Country Music.

In fact I can guarantee that virtually every artist and songwriter you hear on Y108 doesn’t just know who Leonard Cohen was, they’re probably a fan too.

Welcome to the world of “artist’s artists”, which really answers the first question. Cohen – poet, songwriter, singer – was an artist’s artist. He lived in a universe of composers, singers and players who never reach a mass audience, yet inspire and challenge those who do.

Did you know Charlie Daniels, when he was very young, used to play in Cohen’s band? Is it possible that he inspired Charlie to reach high enough to give us one of the greatest Country songs ever?

Ever see Shrek?

Cohen wrote “Hallelujah” – all EIGHTY verses of it – in 1984. He edited down to just a few, of course, for his original recording that year.

A beautiful tune, but not exactly a radio hit. Neither was Jeff Buckley’s “definitive” version, recorded in 1994 but not released as a single until 2007.

Watch American Idol? Jason Castro and others who’ve performed “Hallelujah” on Idol, The X Factor and The Voice took it from this version.

Wikipedia notes the existence of over 300 different versions.

“Hallelujah” may well be the most popular song ever that was never actually a hit song. At least as of 11/11/16, the date of this post.

Leonard Cohen wrote and recorded much more, of course. His career spanned nearly six decades.

In fact, while doing research for this post, I stumbled across a long-lost song from junior high.

Terry, a classmate in the eighth grade, had long hair and smelled of Clearasil. He also could play guitar and had a way with girls, as much as is possible for a eighth-grade boy. But if you can imagine the above song speeded up and sung in the key of A, that’s how I remember “Suzanne.”

I had no clue Cohen had written it. But now, having heard his version, and covers by Judy Collins and Tori Amos, I understand why it never became a hit song. Maybe Terry should’ve recorded it, LOL.

Leonard Cohen performs on stage at Leeds Arena, England, in 2013. (Photo by Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns via Getty Images)

Leonard Cohen performs on stage at Leeds Arena, England, in 2013. (Photo by Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns via Getty Images)

Those of us who perform, even radio personalities, look to those who’ve gone before, or simply do it better, for inspiration. That’s who Cohen was, an inspiration to many of our favorite artists across all genres of music. Those who knew his work – which, again, includes most every artist you hear on Y108 – will miss him.

Billboard obituary HERE.

Rolling Stone obituary HERE.

 

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