The Original Gangsta

March 16, 2008

We’re a little late on this one, because he was inducted in on the 10th of March, but Kickstart would like to (belatedly) recognise Leonard Cohen’s new place in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame by playing one of our favourite old Cohen vids – this, a piece of live footage from the (here rather skeletal) lady’s man at the Isle of Wight in 1970.

He wasn’t a participant in the book, but Cohen has perhaps one of the most romantic start-up stories of all. After enrolling at McGill and becoming the head of its Debating Union, Cohen wrote his first poetry book, Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1956. After graduating, he spent a year at McGill law school and a year at Columbia, before dropping out and moving to Hydra, a Greek island from which he published two novels: the semi-autobiographical bildungsroman The Favourite Game and the startlingly opaque Beautiful Losers.

In 1967, at 33, he moved to the United States to try to make a go of it in the music game. His style was never going to be the most commercially viable, but his haunting and beautiful meditations of sex, religion, and death found a devoted following that has never abandoned him. Most young people today know the cover versions of Cohen’s songs more than they know him, but we still think he’s the original gangsta.

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