Leonard Cohen‘s legacy goes beyond the numerous covers of his songs, and the seemingly endless soundtrack appearances. Those things helped afford him some small measure of fame, but they never gave a full accounting of his genius. Often, Cohen discussed things that others couldn’t (or at the very least wouldn’t) like politics, sexuality, and religion. But he never pulled a punch when it came to his own frailties and, as you’ll see in this list of the Top 5 Leonard Cohen songs, he always approached things with a sharp, writer’s eye.
From: ‘I’m Your Man’ (1988)
Even non-fans might remember Leonard Cohen reading the lyrics from this witheringly self-aware, yet somehow delightfully funny song upon his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Along the way, he makes fun of his basso-profundo voice, appears to unfavorably compare his writing style to Hank Williams Sr., and laments how time wears us all down:
“I ache in the places where I used to play.” As with so much of Cohen’s music, however, there’s something else moving just beneath the surface – a lonesome stillness that adds gravity to every line.
From: ‘The Future’ (1992)
On a twilit album of apocalyptic worry, “Anthem” provides a moment of lasting insight – all of it encapsulated in one line: “There is a crack, a crack in everything,” Cohen sings, before adding: “That’s how the light gets in.” Elsewhere, Cohen wrestles with bigger topics, approaching them with his usual introspective aplomb, but that one line – so full of rugged spirituality – holds everything up.