Although I love both all sorts of music and all manner of documentaries, when several years ago my wife proposed that we see the documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, which was then playing in theaters, I was initially reluctant. My problem was that I suffered from a woeful ignorance and underappreciation of this musical maven of Montreal and the impact of his gifted songwriting. Funny thing is that I had previously heard numerous covers by others of his songs — including “Suzanne,” “Hallelujah” and “Chelsea Hotel” — I just did not realize that he was the songwriter.
Well, not long into the screening it struck me how truly good this music was. The movie is really a wonderful tribute to Cohen, bringing together numerous noteworthy singers to perform their own interpretations of Cohen’s songs. There are several standout performances and I’d recommend most. Rufus Wainwright does an emotional version of “Hallelujah” in the movie, even though I best enjoy Jeff Buckley’s rendition of that song among the many exceptional covers that have been done of it.
So, I’ve since mended my ways with respect to Cohen. In addition to his lyrical talents, there are many things to appreciate about Cohen, not least of which is his very laid back, wise and humane perspective on the human condition. Cohen seems to be enjoying a renaissance these days, no doubt propelled in part by his being rediscovered by many through the recent documentary. While I fall into the camp that believes Cohen to be a better songwriter than a singer in his early music career, I believe his now gravelly voice adds a welcome soulful texture that prompts a further listen to his own singing. In this respect, the poignant singing and narrative of Cohen’s own version of “Tower of Song” is riveting.