Stories of the Street

By: sonofabeach96

Dec 27 2015

Category: Uncategorized

9 Comments

On this date, in 1967, Leonard Cohen released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, on Columbia Records.  Cohen was by this time an already established and respected poet and novelist.  His first foray into music was born out of his desire to become a songwriter.  It also foreshadowed the path of his music career in that he achieved more commercial success in Europe vs. the US.

Cohen was certainly acclaimed as a writer, but also had a musical history.  As a youngster, he played in a country and western band called the Buckskin Boys.  His plan as a young adult was to move to Nashville and become a songwriter.  He ended up in New York and became immersed into the folk scene of the mid to late ’60’s.  He had some success getting noticed and in November of ’66, Judy Collins recorded his song, “Suzanne”.  Famed producer Jim Hammond discovered Cohen and signed him to Columbia, and had planned to produce Cohen’s album but became ill, clearing the way for John Simon to step in.

There was some tension during and after the record was made.  Cohen wasn’t happy with some of the arranging, even requesting no drums yet having drums snuck in on several tracks by new producer, Simon.  Cohen wasn’t happy with the final result.  Maybe not coincidentally, the album was not a great success in critically or commercially in the US.   The record peaked at no. 83 on the Billboard charts and didn’t achieve US gold until 1989.  It became a cult favorite in the US and the UK, but it found heightened commercial success there, peaking at no. 13 on the charts and remaining there for over a year.  The critical reception to the album was not highly received either.  For example, Arthur Schmidt of Rolling Stone critiqued the album this way: “There are three brilliant songs, one good one, three qualified bummers, and three flaming shits.”

Revisionist reviews of a more recent ilk see the album in a different light.  Funny how history and subsequent material can alter opinions.  Mojo magazine has described the album as “not only the cornerstone of Cohen’s remarkable career, but also a genuine songwriting landmark in terms of language, thematic development, and even arrangement.”  In a 2012 article in Mojo, the album was described as “brilliant” and that it “sounded like nothing of its kind”.

Cohen has, of course, had a long musical career, pricing 13 albums, his most recent effort being 2014’s Popular Problems.  This in spite of some melancholy related to the transition from poet to songwriter, and containing the creative flow of prose into 4-5 minute intervals.  For example, Cohen says, about writing of one of his most well known songs, “The writing of ‘Suzanne’, like all my songs, took a long time.  I wrote most of it in Montreal – all of it in Montreal – over the space of perhaps, four or five months.  I had any, many verses to it.  Sometimes the song would go off on a tangent, and you’ll have perfectly respectable verses, but that have led you away from the original feel of the song.  So, it’s a matter of coming back.  It’s a very painful process because you have to throw away a lot of good stuff.”

This initial offering by the legendary Cohen was just the beginning of a long and esteemed musical career.  He has garnered multiple Hall of Fame inductions and acquired more awards and recognition than I could possibly list here.  So, in honor of this classic renaissance man, who seems to have limitless artistic abilities, my songs of the day all are from this now-seminal album:

“So Long, Marianne”

“Master Song”

“Suzanne”

“Stranger Song”

“Sisters of Mercy”

 

9 comments on “Stories of the Street”

  1. “It’s a very painful process because you have to throw away a lot of good stuff.” – Sounds like writing a blog post, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful spirit made voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. His voice is kind of relaxing 😮

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right. He has a very distinctive sound. His song “Hallelujah” is one of my favorites. It’s been covered a bunch, but his version is terrific. Quite the songwriter, he is. 😃

      Like

  4. Not bad looking feller!

    Liked by 1 person


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