Leonard Cohen was an artist that was covered countless times by artists. In part because his melodies and rhythms were so simple yet powerful, they could easily be adapted to other musicians’ styles.
In honour of the songwriting legend, here are five of the best Leonard Cohen covers:
Nina Simone – “Suzanne” (1969)
Nina Simone added a whole new dimension to Cohen’s debut single about confusion towards femininity and his own desires. Her version is a lot more upbeat, with a playful piano riff and her voice jumping into a falsetto during parts of the verses.
Joe Cocker – “Bird on a Wire” (1969)
This cover was first released as the second song off Cocker’s second studio album in 1969. His version gives the song a complete soulful overhaul, and like many of the covers Cocker did, it’s better than the original.
Concrete Blonde – “Everybody Knows” (1990)
Cohen’s performance was a prominent theme in the 1990 film, Pump Up The Volume, but it was Concrete Blonde’s version that made the soundtrack and played behind the end credits. The song is a pure turn-of-the-Nineties rock track.
R.E.M. – “First We Take Manhattan” (1991)
This cover first appeared on the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album, I’m Your Fan, then later on certain editions of the “Drive” single in 1992. R.E.M.’s cover features heavy, drawn-out guitar chords and a consistent hi-hat pushes the song forward.
Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah” (1994)
There have been several covers of this tune over the years, but the one by Jeff Buckley on his only complete studio album (Grace) is the one that stands out. Buckley was inspired to cover the tune after hearing Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale’s version of the song from 1991.