For four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. His songs have set a virtually unmatched standard in their seriousness and range. Sex, spirituality, religion, power – he has relentlessly examined the largest issues in human lives, always with a full appreciation of how elusive answers can be to the vexing questions he raises. But those questions, and the journey he has traveled in seeking to address them, are the ever-shifting substance of his work, as well as the reasons why his songs never lose their overwhelming emotional force.
His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), announced him as an undeniable major talent. It includes such songs as “Suzanne,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Good,” all now longstanding classics. If Cohen had never recorded another album, his daunting reputation would have been assured by this one alone.
However, the two extraordinary albums that followed, Songs From a Room (1969), which includes his classic song, “Bird on the Wire,” and Songs of Love and Hate (1971), provided whatever proof anyone may have required that that the greatness of his debut was not a fluke. (All three albums are reissued in April, 2007.)