To most readers of this blog, Leonard Cohen is no exotic commodity. An award-winning poet, recognized as a national hero in his native Canada, Cohen was a young man with the world on a string when he decided to return to his original love and try his hand at music. On his way to Nashville, TN, Cohen got waylaid by New York City, the 1960′s, the Chelsea Hotel, and Columbia Records.
Cohen is now recognized as one of the most important singer/songwriters of his generation. He has an unparalleled knack for combining the profound and the profane, and – while Dylan may have brought poetry to music – no one has brought music to poetry as effectively – or as movingly – as Mr. Cohen.
A few years ago, the awkward documentary I’m Your Man failed to give us enough of the man himself, and instead featured other artists performing in lieu of the Canadian Cantor. Luckily, there are two earlier documentaries that shed much light on the dark heart of Cohen’s music.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen catches up with a young Cohen on poetry tour/holiday vacation in a snowy Montreal. This is at a time when Cohen is already recognized as a young genius, an enfant terrible, and a brooding romantic with a mischievous sense of humor. Indeed, it is Cohen’s wit that steals the show in this illuminating film.
(Cohen’s ruminations on “refusing to sleep” as a revolutionary act, are particularly satisfying to the small, pink-eyed elves who are responsible for this humble luminoscript (text of light) …)
Leonard Cohen – Songs from a Life
The next program in our double-feature is a BBC Omnibus documentary, originally produced in 1988. This great follow up to Ladies and Gentlemen’ tracks down Leonard in the full-flush of the relative success that came his way with the release of I’m Your Man.
This same period would find Cohen honored by a top-selling album of his songs recorded by his back-up singer Jennifer Warnes. Famous Blue Raincoat was a unique recasting of Leonard’s music by an amazing vocalist. I’m Your Man also found Cohen himself transforming from a reedy singer in an organic/acoustic setting, to a groaning prophet, descending from the sky on a column of electronic fire. This new album defined the style of music Cohen has continued to make, and it also marks the beginning of an important new stage in his commercial career.
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Be gentle in your sleepy hands on this world.
Be a killer in Heaven.
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