I first heard Leonard Cohen in the late 1960s at a dinner party. It was being held at the two room Kensington studio of Pamela Rowlands, a Mary Quant makeup artist, who was going out with Ian Gillian of Deep Purple. As we drank some very rough burgundy and dipped our skewered meat into the fondue broth (as I said, it was the 1960s), we listened to the Cohen debut album The Songs of Leonard Cohen. We were transfixed. None of us had ever heard such truth told with such melancholy. Now 40 years later, his publishing company have released (re-mastered) Songs from a Room, The Songs of Leonard Cohen, and Songs of Love and Hate. I haven’t listened to these albums for 20 years and it’s amazing how fresh and relevant they sound. I’ve also got a bunch of bootleg live Leonard albums from the 1970s and 1980s (thank you Bleeker Street Records) and all his recent stuff too.
Cohen’s voice has weathered beautifully. His time on the Greek island of Hydra (my eldest daughter Nikki made the pilgrimage there two weeks ago), coupled with his retreat into Buddhism, has resulted in a weather beaten, mellow, knowing storyteller, as comfortable as the 20-year old adidas sweatshirt I’m wearing this morning. Cohen’s poetry, spirituality, pain, dreams and romanticism are timeless. Listening to him today, I feel I am still close friends of Suzanne and Marianne. Cohen is the creator of true intimacy. My advice? Buy these three re-mastered albums, put on your headphones and close your eyes. Tonight the world can go on without you.