For those of you who really love this song and want more like it, may I recommend you check out Leonard Cohen’s early albums? They are depressing, as you’ll often hear critics point out…but there are moments of absolute beauty on them. “Suzanne” has never stopped being a lovely song. Neither has “Chelsea Hotel #2”, which is about Cohen’s brief affair with Janis Joplin, and which may be the most honest love song of all time:
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were famous, your heart was a legend
You told me again you preferred handsome men
But for me you would make an exception
And clenching your fists for the ones like us
Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty
You fixed yourself, you said ‘Well, never mind
‘We are ugly but we have the music’
And “Famous Blue Raincoat”, which is sad and slow and haunting, and which may be one of the most perfectly written songs ever. On later albums, you can find “Coming Back To You”, “If It Be Your Will”, and “Anthem”, which is a glorious song.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Also, check out John Cale’s version of “Hallelujah”, which is the version Jeff Buckley was actually covering, not the original.
Finally — Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky”, which always reminds me of both Buckley and Cohen, and has a similar emotional effect on me as “Hallelujah”.
Oh, I almost forgot Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, which is one of the sexiest songs ever written.
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
And dance me to the end of love
My favorite version is the one by a singer named Kate Gibson from the soundtrack to the Jim Cameron film Strange Days, which is a great compilation anyway and worth buying, if for nothing more than the gorgeous song “Fall In The Light” by Lori Carson and Graeme Revell.
My favorite Leonard Cohen song, though, is still probably “Waiting For The Miracle”. I’ll record that some day. It has one of my favorite lyrics ever:
I dreamed about you, baby
It was just the other night
Most of you was naked
Ah, but some of you was light
The sands of time were falling
From your fingers and your thumb
And you were waiting for the miracle to come
That’s how you do duende, kids. (Tom Robbins once said that “nobody says the word ‘naked’ as nakedly as Leonard Cohen”, and he’s goddamn right.)
Finally, if you really want to break your own heart, listen to Jeff Buckley’s cover of Porter Wagoner’s “Satisfied Mind”, recorded shortly before his death. I’ve heard they played this at his funeral…and man, if I’d been there and known him, I don’t think I could have handled that.
(Random information: I nodded at “Suzanne” in my song “When You Get Here”. The original line goes “She shows you where to look amidst the garbage and the flowers” and my line was “Can you find me here amidst the garbage bins and singles bars?” Okay, not very similar, but Cohen was in my head when I wrote that line.)
(Also, I’ve got to give a big shoutout to Summer Johnson, who turned me on to both Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen, amongst some other amazing music, back in the day. Thanks, babe. Every time I hear “Chelsea Hotel #2” I think of our little room and the breeze blowing through it.)