Win Tickets to See Leonard Cohen at Key Arena
You would be astounded how many press releases we get that declare someone “one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time.” ASTOUNDED. But when it comes to Leonard Cohen, some PR person isn’t massively over-selling their client, they’re just stating the facts. Cohen is one of the greats. His songs are what other songs are measured by. I’d say they’re the gold medal standard of songwriting, but gold medals are handed out every two years and songs like Cohen’s greatest are penned only once.
Cohen is a true singer-songwriter. He’s not a guy with a gorgeous voice who stumbles over obvious phrases. Nor is he a brilliant wordsmith whose voice you tolerate for the lyrics. Nope. Cohen’s unmistakable baritone would be celebrated no matter what he sang and his lyrics are poetry even as they sit on stark white pages.
You don’t forget the first time you hear Cohen. Hell, you don’t forget the first time you hear a Cohen cover. Introduced to the masses year after year with the never needs to be covered again, but will be for all eternity “Hallelujah,” the original version and its verses have been sacrificed for both superior and inferior covers. And whoever’s singing it, be it the latest crop of hopefuls on American Idol or contender for the greatest cover of all time by Jeff Buckley, the song retains an air of perfect wonder for me. A song so good it can be violated at every karaoke club, by every over-sensitive singer songwriter, in every emotionally manipulative death scene in TV shows, yet the song itself remains sacred. That’s song-writing at its best.
For me, my introduction to Cohen came on a mixtape from a crush in the summer between 8th and 9th grade. Snuck between Nirvana, Mad Season and Radiohead there was Cohen’s “Waiting for a Miracle.” It was like nothing I had ever heard, almost spoken word with 80s synthetizers that seemed terribly out of style in 1994 and I was completely befuddled by its inclusion. Its safe to say, I was not an immediate fan. But the song stuck with me. Long after I lost the mix tape and well before the internet made instant answers possible, I thought about that song. About the man who sang it. About its inclusion on the tape. About where in the world it came from. With no answers, I formed a vivid vision of who sang the song, of the cartons of cheap french cigarettes he smoked, of how the world turned to black and white when he entered a room by the sheer force of his melancholy. The song seemed so out of place and so unlike what I was familiar with, I at times wondered if I had dreamt it.
Cohen stayed a mystery until college when a young man in a poetry workshop declared Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” his favorite poem of all time. After 30 poems read aloud, there was one name written in my notebook, in block letters, underlined about seventeen times: “L. Cohen.” By then Google had been invented, barely, and I rushed back to my dorm to search “poet + L. Cohen.” And so I was properly introduced to the man whose voice had lurked in the crevices of my consciousness all those years and whose voice, both sung and lyrically, that had twice made such an impression on me. And it was love on second listen.
Cohen has made that same impression on millions. There aren’t many singer-songwriters who can think about filling arenas usually reserved for basketball teams and teen sensations, but a legend like Leonard can. And like all those emotionally manipulative covers of “Hallelujah,” I can hardly hold that against him.
Leonard Cohen will be playing Key Arena November 9th and we have a pair of tickets for a very lucky reader to see the man in person. Leave a comment with your favorite Leonard Cohen song and we’ll pick a winner at random on May 31st. Please use your real name and email so we can contact you easily.