When folk legend Judy Collins met luminary poet Leonard Cohen in 1966, he sang her “Suzanne” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag” — and altered the course of both their careers. That same year, Collins recorded those two songs on her 1966 album In My Life, which went gold in 1967.
Cohen died Monday night at the age of 82, after more than 50 years of making music and making waves.
“We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” said a post on Cohen’s official Facebook page.
In AG‘s November 2015 issue, Collins reflected on her first impressions of Cohen’s work.
“I was very impressed with Leonard’s songs — nobody had recorded them, he hadn’t even recorded them. When I heard them, I just felt that he was so brilliant and the poetry was so moving,” she explained. “He thought of them as poems and not songs. I said, ‘Oh, yes, they are songs!’”
Collins was instrumental in persuading Cohen to finally perform his own music, arranging for his public debut at a Vietnam War protest concert in 1967 at which she shared the bill. Despite his protest that he’d “die from embarrassment,” Cohen reluctantly played “Suzanne” and the crowd love it, as Collins promised they would.
“The audience responded to his writing. The songs were like water to a person dying of thirst. They were songs for the spirit when our spirits were strained to the breaking point,” Collins wrote in her autobiography, Judy Collins: Trust Your Heart. “His songs carried me through dark years like mantras or stones that you hold in your hand while the sun rises or the fire burns. They kept me centered as I stood in front of thousands of people, my eyes closed, my hands around the neck of a guitar, my voice singing his ethereal lyrics.”
Watch above as Judy Collins and Leonard Cohen perform his song, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” which she recorded for her 1967 album, Wildflowers.
Then remember the “godfather of gloom” by watching these examples of Cohen’s fine songwriting and guitar playing.
A live 1985 performance of “Chelsea Hotel #2”:
Rare BBC footage of Cohen performing “Suzanne”:
A 45-minute special featuring songs such as, “So long Marianne,” “The Window,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and others:
And a full documentary on Cohen’s life and music:
We’ll leave you with these parting words from the legend himself:
“O gather up the brokenness and bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises you never dared to vow
The splinters that you carry, the cross you left behind
Come healing of the body, come healing of the mind”