So Long, Marianne (1967)
In Marianne Ihlen, Cohen found a muse, and the two were together through the ’60s. This song, inspired by her, is a part of his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. Earlier this year, days before she passed away, he wrote a letter to her, “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine… Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road”.
Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1967)
Few have written better ballads on love and loss than Cohen, and this song stands out from his debut album. Also inspired by former lover and muse, Marianne Ihlen, he sings, You know my love goes with you and your love stays with me/ It’s just the way it changes, like the shorelines and the sea/ But let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie.
Famous blue raincoat (1971)
One for scorned lovers, this song is a letter to a man who supposedly had an affair with Cohen’s lover. In fact, a thief actually stole his coat from Ihlen’s almirah, and that inspired him to write this song. Cohen maintained that he was never quite “satisfied” with this number, although it is one of his most popular ones.
Lover, Lover, Lover (1974)
In 1973, when the Yom Kippur War broke out, Cohen arrived in Israel and sang for the soldiers. It was in Tel Aviv that he wrote Lover, lover, lover, and first performed it there. Later on, the song became a part of his album New Skin for the Old Ceremony.
Chelsea Hotel #2 (1974)
A rather explicit narration of an encounter with Janis Joplin, this song immortalised Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Later on, Cohen in an interview said, “This was the sole indiscretion in my professional life. I deeply regret associating a woman’s name with a song”.
Dance me to the End of Love (1984)
A happy melody, this song is actually inspired by the Holocaust, and since 1988, Cohen has opened every single concert of
his with this song.
Going Home (2012)
Producer Patrick Leonard had to coerce Cohen to put music to this poem, which was originally published in The New Yorker months before the album was released. The song is a conversation between god and Cohen.
His 2012 album Old Ideas dealt with mortality, depression, sex, and love, and this was probably the darkest song in the record. I’ve got the darkness baby/ and I’ve got it worse than you, he sings. Cohen embarked on a world tour for this album after staying away from the road for 15 years, as he was inching close to bankruptcy.