One of the highest grossing tours of last year was by a 70-year-old Canadian gentleman who treaded on the stage wearing a fedora and a double-breasted suit. Say what?
A friend from my record biz days who, occasionally, sends me tidbits of information about my former profession, forwarded me a link to a Don Henley cover of “Everybody Knows”. Many an artist has covered Cohen (the 70-year-old Canadian in question for you youngsters out there) over the years but, despite the lack of vocal range and the ravages of old age on his voice, nobody can sing Leonard Cohen like the Man himself. Never much of an Eagles fan, I found this particular version of “Everybody Knows” nothing short of horrendous but it prompted a visit to You Tube to listen to a couple of my favourite Leonard’s songs, “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Halleluja”.
If, by mysterious and blessed accident, you have never come across “Blue Famous Raincoat”, one of the most perfect songs ever written, do yourself the favor of sitting back, closing your eyes and let the lyrics rip through. Betrayal, love, friendship, forgiveness and back-handed revenge are all in those 6 minutes. It still gives me shivers every time I hear it although I remember the first time as if an emotional brick had hit me. Who can write so eloquently, succinctly and so raw and then half sing and half speak such lyrics?
As to “Halleluja”, Jeff Buckely did make it famous but in this day and age when it is not so difficult to research facts, I was amazed at the idiot who left the comment on You Tube that “Hey, Jeff Buckley wrote this”. As a matter of fact, the late Buckley was barely out of diapers (well, I am exaggerating, he was 18) when Leonard Cohen released it, to scarce success. The official Sony live video of the song shot during the last tour offers an anachronistic sight – an old man crooning in unfashionable clothes, with a keyboard player behind him equally un-rock ‘n roll attired – it’s actually slightly painful to watch but the lyrics haven’t lost any of their magic. And, 70-year-old or not, no one can sing them like Leonard.