Hallelujah!: You Can Stream Every Leonard Cohen Album in a 22-Hour Chronological Playlist (1967–2016)

Every­body knows the war is over. Every­body knows the good guys lost.

Per­haps no one since Thomas Hardy has matched Leonard Cohen in the dogged per­sis­tence of lit­er­ary bleak­ness. Cohen’s entry into a Zen monastery in 1996 was a “response to a sense of despair that I’ve always had,” he said in an inter­view that year. Ten years lat­er, Cohen told Ter­ry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, “I had a great sense of dis­or­der in my life of chaos, of depres­sion, of dis­tress. And I had no idea where this came from. And the pre­vail­ing psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic expla­na­tions at the time didn’t seem to address the things I felt.”

Only a hand­ful of peo­ple on the plan­et have expe­ri­enced the “life of chaos” Leonard Cohen lived as an acclaimed poet, nov­el­ist, singer, and one of the most beloved song­writ­ers of the last sev­er­al decades. But mil­lions iden­ti­fy with his emo­tion­al tur­moil. Cohen’s expres­sions of despair—and of rev­er­ence, defi­ance, love, hatred, and lust—speak across gen­er­a­tions, telling truths few of us con­fess but, just maybe, every­body knows. Cohen’s death last year brought his career back into focus. And despite the mourn­ful occa­sion for revis­it­ing his work, he may be just the song­writer many of us need right now.

The great themes in Cohen’s work come togeth­er in his most famous song, “Hal­lelu­jah,” which has, since he first record­ed it in 1984 to lit­tle notice, become “everybody’s ‘Hal­lelu­jah,’” writes Ash­ley Fet­ters at The Atlantic, in a suc­ces­sion of cov­ers and inter­pre­ta­tions from Jeff Buck­ley and Rufus Wain­wright to Shrek and The X Fac­tor. It is here that the depths of despair and heights of tran­scen­dence meet, the sex­u­al and the spir­i­tu­al reach an accord: “This world is full of con­flicts and full of things that can­not be rec­on­ciled,” Cohen has said of the song. “But there are moments when we can… rec­on­cile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hal­lelu­jah.’”

Every­body knows it’s a mess. But it often takes a Leonard Cohen to con­vince us that—at least sometimes—it’s a beau­ti­ful one. If you feel you need more Leonard Cohen in your life, we bring you the playlist above, a com­plete chrono­log­i­cal discog­ra­phy avail­able on Spo­ti­fy—from the sparse, haunt­ing folk melodies of Cohen’s first album, 1967’s The Songs of Leonard Cohen to last year’s grip­ping swan song, You Want It Dark­er. In-between the leg­endary debut and mas­ter­ful sum­ma­tion are sev­er­al live albums, the clas­sics Songs from a Room, Songs of Love and Hate, and oth­ers, as well as that odd 1988 album I’m Your Man, in which Cohen set his grim ironies and uni­ver­sal truths to the sounds of eight­ies synth-pop, inton­ing over slap bass and drum machine the indeli­ble, gen­tly mock­ing lyrics he co-wrote with fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Sharon Robin­son:

Every­body knows that the boat is leak­ing
Every­body knows that the cap­tain lied
Every­body got this bro­ken feel­ing
Like their father or their dog just died
Every­body talk­ing to their pock­ets
Every­body wants a box of choco­lates
And a long-stem rose
Every­body knows

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Say Good­bye to Leonard Cohen Through Some of His Best-Loved Songs: “Hal­lelu­jah,” “Suzanne” and 235 Oth­er Tracks

Hear Leonard Cohen’s Final Inter­view: Record­ed by David Rem­nick of The New York­er

A 17-Hour, Chrono­log­i­cal Jour­ney Through Tom Petty’s Music: Stream the Songs That Became the Sound­tracks of Our Lives

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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