“You moved in slow degrees/A sudden memory/You’re a Leonard Cohen song”
- Better Than Ezra, “Under You”
“But I was caught, like a fleeting thought / Stuck inside Leonard Cohen’s mind”
- Mercury Rev, “A Drop In Time”
“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld / So I can sigh eternally”
- Nirvana, “Pennyroyal Tea”
It’s almost unbelievable now to think that we almost never heard Leonard Cohen, the singer. A well-regarded poet from the late 1950s through the mid-’60s, it was Judy Collins who encouraged the middle-aged Canadian writer to try his hand at performing his own songs, and the rest is history. She also had a successful cover of Cohen’s “Suzanne”.
Nearing half a century and 12 albums later, Cohen is one of the most celebrated and critically-acclaimed artists of the era. He’s also one of the most covered songwriters alive, with songs like “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah” registering several hundred different recordings alone. To celebrate the arrival of Old Ideas, his first new studio album in eight years, we’ve collected 30 great covers of Cohen songs for your listening pleasure.
For sake of brevity, this list sticks to a one-song-per-artist rule, with other exceptional covers by a musician cited in several cases. The list also doesn’t include any covers of “Hallelujah”, because everyone and their father has covered that one, and only a few come close to the Jeff Buckley version. (A few of the best ones are mentioned in the entries below, if you’d like to look them up for yourself.)