Title: Stranger Music (Selected Poems and Songs)
Author: Leonard Cohen
Page Count/Review Word Count: 415
Leonard Cohen’s Stranger Music is a fantastic introductory collection to the work of Leonard Cohen, collecting dozens of his previously published works together to provide an in-depth examination of his writing between 1956 and 1992. It’s also home to my favourite Cohen work – ‘I Long to Hold Some Lady‘. I won’t reproduce it here because I encourage you to go and buy the book, but it’s a good one.
On top of this, it includes the lyrics to many of his most popular songs, including ‘True Love Leaves No Traces‘ and ‘Don’t Go Home Without Your Hard-On‘. Cohen’s a great writer, and his work is underrated and overlooked by many, but he’s one of the rare few songwriters who also qualifies as a poet. He’s earned his stripes, this one.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Chelsea Hotel, which is one of his finest songs, and for Queen Victoria My Love, the beautiful ode that evolved the other way. Chelsea Hotel is a poem which is primarily a song; Queen Victoria is a song which is primarily a poem. With Cohen, the boundaries are often blurred, and it doesn’t really matter whether he’s singing or he’s writing. You’re going to love the outcome either way.
Stranger Music makes a fantastic entry-level introduction to the repertoire of Leonard Cohen, because it contains such a vast selection of his work – even the most casual Cohen fan will have heard some of the songs which are included within the pages, and it’s presented alongside the best of the best of the rest of his extended back catalogue.
The only thing that’s missing is his excellent prose – in fact, I’m of the opinion that his work as a novelist is on a par with, if not superior to, his work as a poet and a songwriter. Cohen is one of those rare writers who has a gift that transcends disciplines and overcomes cultural difference to create spellbinding texts that grab the reader by the proverbials.
Writers like Leonard Cohen are a rare bunch, and so I’d encourage you to grab a copy of this book whether you’re a hardcore fan, a new listener or even if you’ve never heard of him before. He has a way with words that few others can lay claim to, and his inimitable style makes for greatness.