Leonard Cohen’s 20 Best Songs

His greatest tracks, as chosen by Robert Plant, Mark Kozelek, Antony Hegarty, Judy Collins and Cohen's bandmates and collaborators

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Death Of A Ladies’ Man, 1977
A bawdy, boozy Cohen does battle with Phil Spector as Dylan and Ginsberg chip in

BARRY GOLDBERG [keyboardist]: Oh man, what an amazing song. It brought out another side of Leonard. We all have to laugh at ourselves sometimes, and this song took him out of character. Maybe he was afraid of that. It made him more of a rock’n’roll thing, which was so cool. Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan came in to sing on it. They had a great time! Working on that album was really special. I was blown away when I saw Leonard walk into the studio, impeccably dressed, with two beautiful girls on either side of him holding his arms. He was holding a glass of cognac and I thought, ‘This guy has got it down, he’s a dandy troubadour.’ During the sessions things were OK, but I guess during the mixing things didn’t go too well. When you have two geniuses like Leonard and Phil working together egos will get in the way. There were personality differences that turned Cohen off. He was used to having control and having his own way, and he got way too uptight with what Phil was trying to do. It was controversial, and it’s been completely overlooked by lots of Cohen’s stuffy fans who didn’t really understand what Phil was doing, but I genuinely love the record. For me, it’s not unlike Dylan going electric.



Ten New Songs, 2001
Cohen takes a sultry electro-soul stroll down a very dark Boogie Street…

WILL OLDHAM: It was only recently that I started to get past a subtle irritation at the motif of the title line. For years it sounded like a Tin Pan Alley hook, but last week I started to think of my life as being at least 1,000 kisses deep. Jesus, 10,000 maybe? How to calculate that shit? It’s an Ecclesiastes song, vast and entrancing. “Summoned now to deal with your invincible defeat/You live your life as if it’s real.” The reference to “Boogie Street”, a song which appears later on the record, points out that the album is a whole. I like unified records, songs should be put together for a reason. Ten New Songs is a record of such consistency. It’s about love and triumph when the goals are not lofty. Humility, vanity and beauty are all in the mix in his work. He dismisses ugliness almost as a non-quantity, which makes for rough going in life.


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