's career is fast approaching 50 years since his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen,
came out in 1967. Only the elite last that long, and only the damn legends release singles to celebrate their 82nd birthday. Cohen's latest, the ominous "You Want it Darker," will be the lead track on Cohen's new LP of the same name, expected October 21st. The singer-songwriter has managed to stay relevant through new decades and new centuries, even if we've all heard "Hallelujah" one too many times and, still, no one likes Cohen's version the best. As a little birthday celebration, we took an appreciative look at where Lenny was at some notable points in music history.
Little Richard records the legendary hit "Tutti Frutti" with revised lyrics, changing "Tutti Frutti, good booty" to "Tutti Frutti, aw rooty" (Bonus shoutout to
Little Richard's plastic surgeon for keeping him looking exactly like he did 30 years ago).
Here's Cohen during his senior year at McGill University, looking fresh to death with a nice crew cut. Little known fact - that Debating Union presidency was a huge draw on his resume for years. But more importantly, look at that face! Damn, he almost looks like a, well, like a young Leonard Cohen. Try telling me Little Richard wasn't thinking of that face when writing about that good booty.
The Beatles come to America, causing millions of teenagers and old people to simultaneously lose their minds (but for different reasons, wink wink).
"British Invasion? What British Invasion?"
-Leonard Cohen (1964)
In '64, Lenny had not yet become Canadian Bob Dylan. In fact, he was still a struggling, reclusive writer splitting time between his native Montreal and a remote Greek island. But with that leather jacket and a cigarette in hand, you think this man was feeling the heat of Beatlemania? I think not (mostly because it's fucking freezing in Montreal).
The Sugarhill Gang releases "Rapper's Delight," the first widely recognized hip-hop song, which will be immortalized in hip-hop history.
"What's that, son? I'm totally still hip to the hop, the hippie the hippie to the hip hip hop and ya dont stop the rock[proceeds to rap entirety of 15-minute version of "Rapper's Delight]."
- Leonard Cohen (1979)
Cohen may have been a 45-year-old father of two in 1979, but that didn't stop him from getting down with Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee. If that hair doesn't say 'cool dad who's up on the latest music trends,' I don't know what does. We might as well consider him a founding father of hip-hop. After all, "Rapper's Delight" pairs perfectly with Cohen's '79 album Recent Songs (recommended method: play a song from the album in between each of the Sugarhill Gang's verses).
Mark Morrison releases platinum single "Return of the Mack," club anthem which hits No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"The Mack shall not return yet."
- Leonard Cohen (1996)
Industry insiders tell me this absolute classic 90s jam is actually a passionate tribute to Leonard Cohen. Mark Morrison, a massive fan, was torn up by the absence of new Cohen material in '96. Meanwhile, Lenny was in the midst of a nine-year gap between albums, his longest ever. Morrison channeled Cohen to create the voice of 'The Mack,' anticipating a return of epic proportions. Cohen kept fans waiting, instead focusing on being ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1996, taking the Dharma name Jikan, meaning "silent one." Morrison was crushed, but alas, Lenny the Mack returned in 2001 with his album Ten New Songs.
Kanye West sweeps the Rap category at the Grammys with powerhouse album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
"I'ma let you finish, but I straight up invented dark twisted fantasies, bro."
- Leonard Cohen (2012)
Lenny was not happy with Kanye taking credit for the whole 'dark fantasy' thing - we all know "Hallelujah" was the original. Cohen considered storming the stage at the 2012 Grammys, but rethought after realizing Kanye would likely not hesitate to push a 78 year-old man off a stage. Rumor has it, though, that Kanye has put Lenny into the writing credits of MBDTF (don't bother looking, there are way too many names). And, as a sign of respect, Kanye still calls Mr. Cohen 'Lenye' to this day.
So there you have it, a sufficient (disorganized, piecemeal, not accurate in the least bit) timeline of Leonard Cohen's career to celebrate a happy 82nd. Here's to 50 more years of Cohen magically staying relevant - that was him, not a pile of gravel in human form, singing the theme of True Detective's second season in 2015. In all seriousness, it's an incredible feat just to be making music at Cohen's age. For him to be crafting such signature immersive sounds and dark lyrics to this day is worthy of a new level of appreciation. Appreciate Leonard Cohen more, people. I'm sorry for calling him Canadian Bob Dylan. Listen to "You Want It Darker" below.