Over lunch last week with a friend, the topic of Leonard Cohen came up. My friend said that everyone she knows tells her that she should love Cohen. Everything about him — his acquired-taste voice, lyrical poesy and under-the-radar existence — fit her profile for music she should like. For some reason, however, she didn’t.
This is a curious, though not uncommon phenomenon when it comes to Cohen. There are those that think he’s one of the greatest artists of all time, and those that don’t and feel a little guilty about it, as if they SHOULD like him, or are ashamed in some way that they don’t. Regardless, he remains one of the most influential and unique songwriters of the last 40 years, with a fascinating career arc that includes literary accolades, a ladies man reputation and a five-year stint in the mountains of California studying Buddhism.
Cohen returned to performing in 2008 and Leonard Cohen: Live in London (Sunday, August 2 at 8:30 p.m.) captures the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer at the age of 73 performing some of his most legendary songs, including “Suzanne,” “Bird on a Wire,” and “Halleluah,” the latter song made popular again last year when Jason Castro covered Jeff Buckley’s version of it on American Idol. Cohen (and Buckley) found a whole new audience. If you’re in the camp of “don’t like but think you should,” I implore you to set aside your preconceived notions this night and give this older, and increasingly more engaging, artist your attention.
Legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger turned 90 earlier this year, and to celebrate, a bunch of his friends joined him at Madison Square Garden to perform songs inspired by his music and activism. Celebrating his milestone birthday on Great Performances: Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden (Saturday, August 8 at 9 p.m.) are Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Arlo Guthrie, Ben Harper, Emmylou Harris, Richie Havens, Kris Kristofferson, Taj Mahal, Dave Matthews, Roger McGuinn, John Mellencamp, Peggy Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and many others.
Also this month, if you miss its NPT premiere on Thursday, July 30, be sure to catch our rebroadcast of Dolly Parton: Live in London on Sunday, August 9 at 7:00 p.m.
Levon Helm Rambles at the Ryman; Tony Bennett‘s an American classic; Country and Bluegrass come home; Playing for Change seeks peace through music and American Masters profiles Nat King Cole … it’s another great month of music programming on NPT.
Read the Rest of the NPT Music Monthly July 2009 on the wnpt.net news page. It’s the complete listing of all the music programming coming to NPT this month, including all the above mentioned artists, plus Death Cab for Cutie, Billy Idol, Roy Orbison, R.E.M., Kris Kristofferson, Chris Botti and plenty more. Subscribe for free at wnpt.net. Tell your friends!