Leonard Cohen: The Last Troubadour Who Peaked At The End Of His Life

Peter Peyman Farzinpour
3 min readFeb 9, 2024
Young Leonard Cohen Posted by Peyman Farzinpour
Young Leonard Cohen

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a troubadour as such:

“In the Middle Ages, troubadours were the shining knights of poetry (in fact, some were ranked as high as knights in the feudal class structure). Troubadours made chivalry a high art, writing poems and singing about chivalrous love, creating the mystique of refined damsels, and glorifying the gallant knight on his charger. Troubadour was a fitting name for such creative artists: it derives from an Old Occitan word meaning “to compose.” In modern contexts, troubadour still refers to the song-meisters of the Middle Ages, but it has been extended to cover contemporary poet-musicians as well.”

Leonard Cohen certainly met that definition, and much more. A handsome, dashing, charming, seductive, but most importantly, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the past century (and for me, up there with Robert Schumann), unlike most contemporary pop/rock/folk musicians, he peaked later in life rather than on the earlier side. His (perhaps greatest) album, Various Positions, which contained the masterpieces “Dance Me to the End Of Love,” “If It Be Your Will,” and his best known and one of the most covered songs in history, “Hallelujah,” was released in 1984/85, when he was already 50 years old, and three of his strongest works, including the brilliant and aptly titled You Want It Darker, in his 70s/80s.

Leonard Cohen From His 2008/2009 Tour Posted by Peyman Farzinpour
Leonard Cohen From His 2008/2009 Tour

Cohen never became a household name like Lennon & McCartney or Bob Dylan (who was rather surprisingly awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016), and yet, from my perspective, he had a gravitas and sense of poetry and lyricism that the other aforementioned three didn’t quite capture (and I’m a great fan of those three). He actually was a poet and novelist to begin with, who later turned into a poet-songwriter. And as a singer-songwriter and composer of beautiful melodies, he managed to meld emotions, stories, poetry, history, the Bible, love, sexuality, the human psyche and frailty, and music, in way very few have been able to craft. I always found it a surprising choice that the Nobel committee selected Dylan rather than Cohen as their choice for a Nobel laureate, given such a radical turn for them (but that’s not the point here). I had the great privilege to see him on his last two tours, and he was magnificent beyond words, and just as captivating as his younger self, even though he was frail and not far from crossing the threshold onto the other side. Those were two of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever witnessed (and this includes a list with the several Berlin Phil concerts conducted by Claudio Abbado). I’m sharing my favorite song of his from one of those tours: “Dance Me to the End of Love”:

Dance Me to the End of Love (Live in London)

-Peter Peyman Farzinpour

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Peter Peyman Farzinpour

Peyman Farzinpour is a conductor, composer, multimedia arts director and professor. He is the Director of ENSEMBLE / PARALLAX and Farzinpour Creative Ventures.