Leonard Cohen, the great poet, singer and songwriter, died this week in Los Angeles at the age of 82. To honor his legacy, The Frame contacted a few musicians who knew him and were influenced by his art.
In 1966, 50 years ago this month, Judy Collins released an album titled “In My Life.” That album included the song, “Suzanne,” which was originally written as a poem by a little-known Canadian writer named Leonard Cohen. Collins’ version of “Suzanne” is considered to be the recording that first introduced Cohen to a wide audience.
When Collins spoke with The Frame, she recalled how that one song started a long friendship:
Of course, he and I have a mutual debt of gratitude: I made him famous and he started me writing songs. He said to me after I recorded three or four of his songs, Please don't stop doing this. This is wonderful. But I don't understand why you haven't written any songs yourself. So I went home and wrote "Since You've Asked," and I've been writing songs ever since.
Several years ago, music producer Hal Willner organized a series of tribute concerts featuring the music of Leonard Cohen. The 2005 show at the Sydney Opera House was featured in a documentary about Cohen titled “I’m Your Man,” by filmmaker Lian Lunson.
Cohen didn’t perform at that show, but Willner later arranged for him to record “Tower of Song,” accompanied by U2. Willner spoke with The Frame about the effect of the video on Cohen's career and his life:
It was done in this place called the Slipper Room in New York City. And I think that was one of the first times that Leonard sang in front of people in a very long time. You can see he's sort of fragile in the video. It was interesting — when he started touring again, it gave him 20 years of youth back. You know he was a whole different guy, skipping across the stage and everything.
We also reached out to Rufus Wainwright, one of the many great musicians to have recorded Cohen's "Hallelujah." Here is his response:
I had very few deeply personal experiences with Leonard, enough to count on one and a half hands ... Like for most of us, for me he dwelled in a higher strata inhabited by some living but mostly passed icons who seemed to have this direct line to the galaxy, whilst at the same time knowing exactly when to take out the trash. Formidable in both the sacred and the mundane. But fortunately I now covet these few personal moments — I'm pretty sure it's about 7 in total (a sacred number of course!) — and credit them with grabbing hold and shifting the direction of the restless path my life has always taken. It was never a fundamental shift, just a kind yet brutally strong nudge towards where I really ought to be heading. I would have liked to have had more time to ask him more questions, and certainly now in this pathetic dinghy, adrift in a violent sea, we all need help in maneuvering a truly busted rudder through a series of magnificent typhoons. But it's ok, it's all in the music. Farewell Leonard, we need you now up there as much as we did down here. Love always, Rufus.