TV & Movies

So Long, Leonard Cohen: A Primer on a True Canadian Icon

Understatement alert: it's been an effing tough week. Here, we say goodbye to Canadian gentleman Leonard Cohen with some of his most iconic songs

Leonard Cohen

(Photo: Ed Azzopardi/Penske Media/REX/Shutterstock)

You may not know a whole lot about Leonard Cohen, but chances are you’ve heard one of his songs or seen one of his lyrics on a quote card. That song is likely his most famous one, the ultimate weeper “Hallelujah”, covered by everyone from gone-too-soon ’90s rocker Jeff Buckley to fellow Canadian Rufus Wainright and that other (almost) octogenarian heartthrob Bob Dylan. And that quote is probably the Instagram-famous lyric “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” from the song “Anthem”. If you’re on the, ahem, older end of the millennial spectrum, you maybe even played “So Long Marianne” in your Plateau, Montreal apartment—the CD borrowed from your much cooler rock DJ roommate—more than a decade ago while you healed from a break-up.

But Leonard Cohen, who the world lost earlier this week at 82, was more than a single song or an inspirational quote—he was a legit legend. He was a singer, songwriter, poet and novelist whose 60-year career earned him accolades including inductions into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour, and received both a Prince of Asturias Award for literature and the 2012 Glenn Gould Prize for “a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts” (which he humbly accepted at Massey Hall before donating the $50,000 prize money to the Canada Council for the Arts like a damn mensch). His repertoire of songs and poems tackling love, heartbreak, politics, sexuality and religion have resonated with generations of Canadians and his reputation as an artist, a lover, an intellectual and an all-around gentleman will live on long after our tears have dried. Herewith, essential Leonard Cohen listening for heartbroken fans and the uninitiated alike.

1. “Hallelujah”

2. “So Long Marianne”

3. “Suzanne”

4. “Famous Blue Raincoat”

5. Sisters of Mercy”

6. “Who By Fire”

7. “Everybody Knows”

More on Leonard Cohen from Maclean’s Magazine:

Leonard Cohen Recites “
In Flanders Fields”
Leonard Cohen’s Third Act
What’s With That Song “Hallelujah”?