Leonard Cohen turned 79 over the weekend, and if you’ve been lucky enough to see him play live on his most recent tour, you’ll know he has lost exactly none of his genius. He’s arguably our greatest living songwriter, and over the course of a 50-year career has produced some of the most beautiful and memorable lyrics that anyone’s ever written. In celebration of the great man’s birthday, then, our resident Cohen obsessive, Tom Hawking, has chosen his 79 favorite Cohen songs. Click through to count down to #1 and then let us know if you agree.
79. “A Singer Must Die”
Artists are rarely viewed with any warmth by the establishment, and although Cohen is a decorated elder statesman of music these days, there were times in the past when he was less the critical darling. This song deals with negative reactions to our hero’s work, and although screw-the-critics songs are rarely highlights of a musician’s career, Cohen handles the subject with characteristic grace and subtlety.
78. “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On”
People hate this song, and not entirely without reason. But while it’s not exactly amongst the pantheon of Cohen’s greatest moments, it has its own ribald charms. And come on, the idea of Leonard Cohen trying to melt down a red-hot boner in the rain? It’s hilarious!
77. “The Gypsy Wife”
The narrator’s wife is sleeping around, and he’s not happy. This is a strangely conservative song in its own way: “There is no man there is no woman who can’t be touched/ But you who come between them you will surely be judged.”
76. “Hunter’s Lullaby”
A quietly beautiful moment off Various Positions about an absent father.
75. “The Land of Plenty”
The last track off Ten New Songs, and a gentle conclusion to the story of our hero’s return from the Buddhist retreat on Mount Baldy into the modern world, with all its warts and imperfections. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the view of the world in this song with that of The Future, Cohen’s previous record — where that album was full of fire and disgust, this is far more calm and serene, expressing a simple wish that “the lights in The Land of Plenty… shine on the truth some day.”
74. “Lady Midnight”
Honestly, there really aren’t any writers who could make getting rejected by a woman and refusing to take “no” for an answer — in a non-rapey way, I hasten to add — sound so poetic.