Songs of Leonard Cohen

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This article is about the album. For an index of Leonard Cohen's music, see Leonard Cohen discography.
Songs of Leonard Cohen
Studio album by Leonard Cohen
Released December 27, 1967
(limited release);
February 1968
Recorded August 1967
Columbia Studio E, New York
Genre Folk
Length 41:09
Label Columbia
Producer John Simon
Leonard Cohen chronology
Songs of Leonard Cohen
Songs from a Room
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[1]
Music Box 5/5 stars[2]
Pitchfork Media (9.6/10)[3]
Q 4/5 stars[4]
Rolling Stone (1967) Neutral[5]
Rolling Stone (2004) 5/5 stars[6]
Uncut 4/5 stars[7]

Songs of Leonard Cohen is the 1967 debut album of Canadian musician Leonard Cohen. It foreshadowed the future path of his career, with less success in the United States than in Europe, reaching #83 on the Billboard chart and achieving gold status only in 1989, while it reached #13 in UK and spent nearly a year and a half in the UK album charts.

Album information[edit]


Although the famed record producer John Hammond (who initially signed Cohen to his contract with Columbia Records) was supposed to produce the record, he became sick and was replaced by the producer John Simon.[8] Simon and Cohen clashed over instrumentation and mixing; Cohen wanted the album to have a sparse sound, while Simon felt the songs could benefit from arrangements that included strings and horns. According to biographer Ira Nadel, although Cohen was able to make changes to the mix, some of Simon's additions "couldn't be removed from the four-track master tape."[8] The instrumentalists - not credited on the album sleeve - included Chester Crill, Chris Darrow, Solomon Feldthouse and David Lindley of The Kaleidoscope, who had been recruited personally by Cohen after he saw the band play at a New York club. Backing vocals were by Nancy Priddy, who at the time was John Simon's girlfriend.[9]


The album became a cult favorite in the US, as well as in the UK, where it spent over a year on the album charts.[10] Several of the songs on that first album were covered by other popular folk artists, including Joan Baez and Judy Collins.

"Suzanne", an ode to a "half-crazy" woman who lives near the St. Lawrence River in Montreal and who is capable of profound personal/spiritual connection with the song's narrator, was ranked 41st on Pitchfork Media's 'Top 200 Songs of the 1960s'.[11] The track "So Long, Marianne" was also featured on the list and ranked 190th.[12] Mojo has described the album as "not only the cornerstone of Cohen's remarkable career, but also a genuine songwriting landmark in terms of language, thematic developments and even arrangements."[13]


Songs of Leonard Cohen was released on CD in 1989, while a digipak edition was released in some European countries in 2003. A remastered version, with bonus tracks, was released in the United States on April 24, 2007, and in Japan on June 20, 2007. The Japanese version was a limited edition replica of the original record album cover with lyric card insert.

In 2009, the album (including the 2007 bonus tracks) was included in Hallelujah - The Essential Leonard Cohen Album Collection, an 8-CD box set issued by Sony Music in the Netherlands.


On the back cover of the album is a Mexican religious picture of the Anima Sola depicted as a woman breaking free of her chains surrounded by flames and gazing towards heaven. In a Rolling Stone interview, Cohen described the image as "the triumph of the spirit over matter. The spirit being that beautiful woman breaking out of the chains and the fire and prison."[14] Cohen found the picture in a botánica near the Hotel Chelsea in 1965.[15]

The album's front cover depicts a sepia tint photo of Cohen credited to Machine.

On Film Soundtracks[edit]

Three of the album's songs, "Winter Lady", "The Stranger Song", and "Sisters of Mercy", were used in the 1971 Robert Altman film McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Music from the album is also used extensively in German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1971 drama Beware of a Holy Whore. Werner Herzog's film Fata Morgana, also of 1971, includes the songs "Suzanne", "So Long Marianne" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye".

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Leonard Cohen.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Suzanne" – 3:48
  2. "Master Song" – 5:55
  3. "Winter Lady" – 2:15
  4. "The Stranger Song" – 5:00
  5. "Sisters of Mercy" – 3:32

Side two[edit]

  1. "So Long, Marianne" – 5:38
  2. "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" – 2:55
  3. "Stories of the Street" – 4:35
  4. "Teachers" – 3:01
  5. "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong" – 4:23

Bonus tracks on 2007 reissue[edit]

  1. "Store Room" – 5:06
  2. "Blessed Is the Memory" – 3:03

Selected cover recordings[edit]


Judy Collins recorded "Suzanne" on her 1966 album In My Life. The seminal British folk-rock group Fairport Convention were also among Cohen's earliest admirers, recording a performance of "Suzanne" (sung as a duet between Sandy Denny and Iain Matthews) for the BBC in August 1968.

A version by Noel Harrison reached no.56 on the US pop chart in 1967.[16] Other versions of "Suzanne" included those by Neil Diamond, Pearls Before Swine, Françoise Hardy, Tori Amos, Nick Cave, Harry Belafonte, The Flying Lizards, Peter Gabriel, Geoffrey Oryema and Nina Simone. Italian singer Fabrizio de André sang an Italian version and Anni-Frid Lyngstad ("Frida" of ABBA fame) also recorded a version of the song with Swedish lyrics by Owe Junsjö for "Frida", her 1971 début album.

Sisters of Mercy[edit]

Judy Collins recorded "Sisters of Mercy" on her 1967 hit album Wildflowers. Sting and The Chieftains performed a Celtic music-influenced version of the song on Tower of Song. "Sisters of Mercy" was also covered by British folk musician Wizz Jones on his 1970 album "The Legendary Me" and by Area, a darkwave band from Champaign, Illinois on their 1988 CD The Perfect Dream. Beth Orton performed "Sisters of Mercy" in the film Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.

Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye[edit]

"Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" was sung by Judy Collins on Wildflowers (1967), by Roberta Flack on her album, First Take (1969), and by The Vogues in 1970. More recent covers include versions by Beth Jeans Houghton, Ian McCulloch, by Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks, The Lemonheads, Sons of the Sea and by Sarah Slean & The Art Of Time Ensemble. It was released as the B-Side of Suzanne.

So Long Marianne[edit]

Brian Hyland released "So Long, Marianne" as a single in 1971, while the britpop group James recorded it on I'm Your Fan. Indie rock band Straitjacket Fits also covered it on their 1988 debut.

Winter Lady[edit]

"Winter Lady" was performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle with Martha Wainwright in the film Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man. Will Oldham, recording under the name Palace Songs, released a version of "Winter Lady" on his 1994 EP Hope. Brazilian singer and songwriter Renato Russo, of the rock band Legião Urbana, also made a recording of this song in 1997.


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Douglas Heselgrave. "Music Box review". Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  3. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  4. ^ Dave Everley Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  5. ^ Arthur Schmidt > Review. "The Songs Of Leonard Cohen". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  7. ^ David Cavanagh Uncut, May 2007, Issue 120
  8. ^ a b Nadel, Ira B. Various Position: A Life of Leonard Cohen. Pantheon Books: New York, 1996.
  9. ^ Sylvie Simmons, I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, 2012, ISBN 1448161479, pp.178-183
  10. ^ "Sixties crooner Leonard Cohen makes comeback concert tour". London Evening Standard. 13 March 2008. Archived from the original on 23 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  11. ^ "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  12. ^ "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  13. ^ Phil Alexander. Mojo magazine. March 2012
  14. ^ "Ladies and Gents, Leonard Cohen". Rolling Stone. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 303. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 

External links[edit]