It doesn't need to be said that 2016 has been a traumatic year on many levels, not least when it comes to the passing of several musical giants - like pretty much everything he did, however, Leonard Cohen exited the building with class, understatement and style. Thusly, we celebrate his life via a highly selective playlist containing some of his finest musical moments.
Dig in, then dig deeper.
You Want It Darker (2016)
Like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen's music-making skills were in full effect right up to his moment of departure - reports suggest he was writing and recording right until his passing, when raises the hope of further material to come. Less than a month ago he released his fourteenth and final record to unanimous critical acclaim - the title track is one of the best things he's ever done, a perfect encapsulation of late-era Cohen. Also: Scoring a Top 10 U.S. album at 82 years old (only his second, in a 50-year musical career) isn't too a bad way to depart this mortal realm.
Bird On A Wire (1968)
For many years, Cohen opened his concerts with this signature song, covered to memorable effect decades apart by a pair of Nashville titans, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. Kristofferson memorably commented that he wants the opening lines to serve as his epitaph: ‘Like a bird on a wire/Like a drunk in some midnight choir/I have tried in my way to be free’. In the meantime, they'll serve their writer perfectly.
Tower Of Song (1998)
For his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame back in 2008, Cohen eschewed any conventional notion of an acceptance speech, instead reciting the lyrics from this mid-period Lenny classic - they kick in below around 4'45, and serve as a perfect encapsulation of a truly unique career spent defying any traditional notion of stardom or success. In his own unique way, Leonard Cohen was totally punk rock.
First We Take Manhattan (1987)
Leonard Cohen fell from fashion for a spell in the late '70s, following a spectacularly ill-advised collaboration with infamous producer Phil Spector on the disastrous album Death Of A Ladies Man. The first step to critical rehabilitation: Famous Blue Raincoat, an album of covers by his former backing singer Jennifer Warnes, best known for Up Where We Belong, her Oscar-winning duet with Joe Cocker. A year later, a reinvigorated Cohen released his own version of the song on 1988's return to form I'm Your Man.
Arguably the definitive Cohen song, Suzanne was first published as a poem (then entitled Suzanne Takes You Down) in Cohen's 1966 collection Parasites of Heaven, before being recorded as a song by Judy Collins later that same year. Inspired by his platonic relationship with young dancer Suzanne Verdal, one of the many muses who would inspire his tales of longing and desire, it then became the debut single from his 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen. The rest, as they say, is history.
Everybody Knows (1988)
The Cohen revival of the mid '80s was further buoyed by his unlikely status as go-to guy for atmospheric movie soundtracks; Oliver Stone used Cohen's The Future as the theme tune to his gonzo media satire Natural Born Killers, and this gem from 1988's I'm Your Man has popped up everywhere from cult teen movie Pump Up The Volume to an episode of Homeland. Additional Useless Fact: Guns N' Roses used it as their intro music on their epic Use Your Illusion tours.
Another choice Cohen soundtrack moment came when this late-period gem was selected for the opening credits of the second season of True Detective, starring Colin Farrell - while it's generally agreed that the show was somewhat of a disappointment (to say the least), Lenny's languid tones set the tone perfectly for its labyrinthine - not to mention borderline incoherent - exploration of L.A.'s seedy underbelly.
While the critical consensus might suggest that Jeff Buckey's ethereal take on Cohen's masterpiece is the definitive one, we'd argue that former Velvet Underground man John Cale has truly made the song his own - his version first appeared on the essential 1991 Cohen tribute LP, I'm Your Fan (also featuring Nick Cave, R.E.M. and The Pixies) and has remained a staple of Cale's live sets for over 25 years. It's good enough to make you forget about that X-Factor version, and hear it for the first time all over again.