Song of the Day: Leonard Cohen – Sisters of Mercy

A friend of mine once told me an account of the longest time he was ever continually sick. He said it had started out as a bit of a tickle in his throat and gradually progressed into mild pneumonia over the course of several months. Eventually he was prescribed the proper drugs and his body began to heal itself. However, the friend was still suffering from increased fatigue, joint pain, difficulty focusing and other mild but nasty symptoms. So why was this happening? My guess was black mold. The answer was Leonard Cohen. 

My friend explained that Leonard Cohen has always been one of his favorite artists, but his songs tend to approach “soul destroying” territory on several occasions. Cohen is a beautiful songwriter and a graceful, poetic lyricist, but a lot of his music is fucking depressing. Even his faster-tempo songs like “Everybody Knows” are loaded with knife-twisting turns of phrase. Cohen’s protagonists (and especially unseen objects of desire) are loaded with psycho-sexual baggage, and Cohen sprinkles in just enough Biblical allegory to give his work a mythical, eternally damned air.

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The moral of the story is that some artists are best listened to under the proper circumstances. Leonard Cohen, who turned 82 years old this past Wednesday, is a true original; he writes the kind of pieces that resonate with beauty and darkness long after they’ve finished. My personal favorite Cohen song is “Sisters of Mercy.” It’s filled with the acerbic wit and evocative language that still astounds almost 60 years into the man’s career. Happy birthday, Leonard. May you be the first man to live to 150, and may you remain a gentleman throughout.

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