Among the singer/songwriter breed, few are genuine trailblazers. Leonard Cohen is a poet pioneer rooted in that Dylan pantheon in terms of artistic influence and resilience. But while Cohen's '60s songwriting brethren aimed for catharsis, his songs have always been knitted with deep concerns. Over the years, the author and singer has addressed the dark complexities of relationships, infidelity, sin, sacrifice, and redemption. In his music, you hear the specters of failure, suicide, and depression, sung in his signature dry, wry baritone. His contemporaries chronicled the struggles happening around them. Cohen focused on the existential conflicts within, the ones seeded in places where the scarring is less obvious.
Cohen embarked upon a music career in the late '60s, at a time when the folkies were painfully earnest. His response to the world's madness and cruelty was harrowing perceptiveness and humor, albeit deadpan and caustic. He focused on themes of transcendence through fiery trials, Christian martyrdom and salvation playing strong roles in his lyrics.
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Cohen credits serious studies of Zen Buddhism in the '90s with some relief from depression. But that was before October 2005, when he alleged that his longtime former manager, Kelley Lynch, had misappropriated more than $5 million from his account, along with publishing rights to his songs, leaving Cohen with only $150,000. Though Cohen won the civil suit and a $9 million settlement, Lynch has ignored both the suit and the subpoena issued for her financial records. Result? He may never be able to collect. Oy. As long as this world retains its dark side, Cohen will never run out of source material.