Leonard Cohen: 10 of his best songs about faith, God and spirituality


There aren't many artists who, well into their ninth decade, could provoke a storm of online excitement by releasing a new song. Leonard Cohen is no ordinary artist, of course.

The Canadian singer, songwriter and poet has been releasing albums since the 1960s and on his 82nd birthday this week put out his latest single – You Want It Darker – taken from the album of the same name, to be released next month.

Cohen's music has repeatedly returned to various themes – his relationships with women, power, politics and intimacy. Yet his most recurrent theme is religious faith.

Cohen is Jewish and has often used biblical imagery as well as references to Jesus throughout his 13 albums. For long periods he has been associated with Buddhism, but recent albums have contained more even more biblical allusions. You Want It Darker is a fascinating rumination on God – containing the Hebrew word "Hineni" which means "Here I am" and is said by Abraham and other Old Testament figures.

Quite apart from his commitment to one faith tradition, Cohen's music has a deep spiritual thread running through it and people of many backgrounds have found it challenging and inspiring.

Here, Christian Today lists 10 of his most profound spiritual songs.

1 Suzanne (From Songs Of Leonard Cohen, 1967)

Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said 'All men will be sailors then Until the sea shall free them'
But he himself was broken long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him and you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him for he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

2 The Butcher (Songs From A Room, 1969)

I saw some flowers growing up where that lamb fell down
Was I supposed to praise my Lord, make some kind of joyful sound?
He said, 'Listen, listen to me now, I go round and round and you, you are my only child.

3 The Window (Recent Songs, 1979)

Then lay your rose on the fire, the fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour in the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless thee continuous stutter of the word being made into flesh.

4 Hallelujah (Various Positions, 1984)

I did my best, it wasn't much, I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.

5 If It Be Your Will (Various Positions, 1984)

If it be your will that a voice be true
From this broken hill I will sing to you
From this broken hill all your praises they shall ring
If it be your will to let me sing.

6 Anthem (The Future, 1992)

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

7 Show Me The Place (Old Ideas, 2012)

Show me the place
Help me roll away the stone
Show me the place
I can't move this thing alone
Show me the place
Where the Word became a man
Show me the place
Where the suffering began.

8 Almost Like The Blues (Popular Problems, 2014)

"There is no God in Heaven, and there is no Hell below"
So says the great professor, of all there is to know
But I've had the invitation, that a sinner can't refuse
And it's almost like salvation, it's almost like the blues.

9 Born In Chains (Popular Problems, 2014)

I was born in chains but I was taken out of Egypt
I was bound to a burden but the burden it was raised
Lord I can no longer keep this secret
Blessed is the Name, the Name be praised.

10 You Want It Darker (You Want It Darker, 2016)

Magnified, sanctified be Thy Holy Name
Vilified, crucified in the human frame
A million candles burning, for the help that never came
You want it darker, we kill the flame
Hineni, Hineni, I'm ready, my Lord.

Follow Andy Walton on Twitter @waltonandy