While we must get through yet another weekend without live music as the current health crisis continues to keep venues closed amid strict social distancing measures, it is again time to delve into the Far Out Vault and explore the relationship between two of our favourites; Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen.
Cave has made no secret of his admiration for Cohen, often referencing him as a major musical figure to influence his artistic output. The Australian singer, songwriter and author has, for large parts of his career, chosen to show his appreciation by covering a wide range of Cohen songs in many different formats.
Speaking on French TV in 1994, Cave said: “I discovered Leonard Cohen with ‘Songs of Love and Hate’. I listened to this record for hours in a friend’s house. I was very young and I believe this was the first record that really had an effect on me. In the past, I only listened to my brother’s records. I liked what he liked, followed him like a sheep. Leonard Cohen was the first one I discovered by myself. He is the symbol of my musical independence. I remember these other guys that came to my friend’s house that thought Songs of Love and Hate was too depressing. I’ve realised that this ‘depression’ theory was ridiculous. “
Cave added: “The sadness of Cohen was inspiring, it gave me a lot of energy. I always remember all this when someone says that my records are morbid or depressing.”
Back in 2005, filmmaker Lian Lunson took the project of creating a feature film telling the life and career of Cohen entitled Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. The soundtrack to the film featured a number of well-known figures in the industry putting their spin on Cohen songs. One of those people, of course, was Nick Cave who covered the film’s title:
Cave’s love for Cohen started from a young age and, when sitting down with ABC a few years back, he said: “I remember listening to this song when I must have been 11 or 12. I lived in Wangaratta and I had a friend called Anne Baumgarten, she was quite a morbid kind of creature.
“She used to play Leonard Cohen in her room with burning candles and all that sort of stuff. She’d listen to Songs of Love and Hate over and over again. I started to that myself and became kind of infatuated with the lyric at that point. I saw how powerful that could be.”
He added: “It just had that effect on me and it really kinda changed the way I looked at things. He had a tendency to air his linen in public in a way. I thought that was all very impressive at the time. I still do, of course.”
Ten years after the Cohen film, Cave was back at it again while in session with the Starz pirate show Black Sails. Sat behind the piano and alongside Warren Ellis’ haunting violin in the background, Cave covered Cohen song ‘Avalanche’:
Cohen tragically passed away in 2016 at the age of 82. At the time of his death, Cave led the tributes by saying: “For many of us Leonard Cohen was the greatest songwriter of them all.”
He added: “Utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried. He will be deeply missed by so many.”
To round things off, we’ll end with Cave’s most well-known cover, ‘Suzanne’ taken from the iconic 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen: