In the wake of Leonard Cohen’s death, many print and online tributes focused on one or another aspect of Leonard’s life or career (e.g., concerts played in certain countries or cities, interviews with specific writers or entertainment/news outlets). While these slants resulted from a certain chauvinism, they do sometimes offer the benefit of emphasizing often overlooked features of Leonard’s talents and impact. In this case, his inclusion in In Memoriam – Country Music’s Fallen Greats of 2016 by Kyle Coroneos (Saving Country Music: December 30, 2016) spotlights country music as a genre that both influenced and was influenced by Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen – November 7th
…Incredibly revered by a beloved crowd of creative types ranging all across the musical and literary world, Cohen was irreplaceably influential on so many songwriters specifically in the way he could weave verse on subjects and emotions so many of us otherwise find too esoteric to communicate. Though Leonard Cohen is rarely identified with country (he was mostly considered a folk artist), you will be hard pressed to find a country music songwriter worth their salt who wasn’t touched by Cohen’s influence in some way, if not overtly challenged by the bar he set for all in the songwriting craft in country music and beyond. But a little known fact about Cohen is that he could have been, and maybe should have been, a country music songwriter and performer. Cohen’s very first musical experience was in a country band called The Buckskin Boys while attending high school in Quebec. It was during this time that he switched from playing regular style acoustic guitar to a more classical, Flamenco style. In 1966 when Leonard Cohen set out to become a professional composer, his plan was to move to Nashville and become a country music songwriter. But somewhere on that path he got sidetracked, and instead fell in with the folk scene in New York. If this seemingly simple decision had gone the other way, it could have significantly changed this history of country, and folk from the incredible impact Cohen could have left on the country space.
Credit Due Department: Photo by Anne M Bray