Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images
Leonard Cohen's tenth album, I'm Your Man, has already sold a quarter of a million albums in Europe.
Leonard Cohen's tenth album, I'm Your Man, has already sold a quarter of a million albums in Europe. Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images
Leonard Cohen, the solitary, itinerant troubadour of the 1960s — he composed and performed "Suzanne," "Sisters of Mercy" and "Bird on a Wire," among many others — has a growl of a singing voice that seems to simmer and grumble up through the chords, almost like an earthquake. His new album, I'm Your Man, has already sold a quarter of a million copies in Europe.
Cohen calls the last track on the album, "Tower of Song," "one of the three or four real songs I've ever written." He says that the song, like many others he's written, does have an element of self-parody.
"Oh yes," he says. "I'm making fun of myself all through the song."
This tendency, Cohen says, does more than create an atmosphere of irony in his music; it is one part of myriad emotions that create a voice which resonates with listeners.
"You just want to indicate that curious thing that we call 'experience' that you hear in the voice of Fats Domino, that you hear in the voice of Aretha Franklin," Cohen says. "It's something in the voice itself. It indicates that the person has been through a life, that they have lived their life on the front line. And that's the sound we like — I like — to hear in a singer, and it includes a lot more than irony. It includes optimism. It includes despair. It includes regret. It includes so many things that you forget about all of them, and you just know that you're listening to a voice — a voice of experience.
Click the "Listen Now" link above to hear more of Cohen's discussion with Scott Simon about his songs and poetry.