Phil, Vanessa, Neel, Etain, and Bruce
Phil, Vanessa, Neel, Etain, and Bruce

Leonard Cohen, the late great Canadian troubadour

What can you say about the exceptionally talented poet, novelist, and prolific singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.that hasn’t already been said? Well, the Song Talk Radio action team didn’t worry about that. Bruce, Neel, and Phil simply dove into their memories and had a close look at three of his many, many songs. Bruce brought the poetic Bird on a Wire (1969), Neel shared the dark and foreboding Everybody Knows (1980’s), and Phil had us pay attention to one of Cohen’s last recordings, the prescient Leaving the Table (2016).

Have a listen!

3 comments

  1. Avatar
    Michael Darby says:

    This was a great show to learn more about Leonard Cohen, since I hadn’t heard much of his music or poetry. His lyrics are quite captivating and the major appeal to me.

    You mentioned some of the chords in Everybody Knows, so I thought I would share my interpretation of the progression, as well as a couple resources I recently discovered which helped my understanding of music theory.

    If you haven’t already, check out http://www.hooktheory.com. There are a few different resources, but the unique one is a database analyzing 10,000s of popular songs in terms of their chord structure and how the chords relate. Understanding the notation requires a bit of theory, so luckily they have produced two readable e-books, Hooktheory I and Hooktheory II. I just finished the second, which was amazing. I really came away with a much more solid understanding of harmony. (I am not affiliated, by the way).

    Armed with this new knowledge, I looked at the chords of Everybody Knows. The A-major chord is actually just the 5th / dominant of D-minor. Starting in the classical era, composers changed the A-minor chord to A-major, which brings out the leading tone (C#). A-major resolves to Dm as a much stronger cadence. If you play Am-Dm then A-Dm you can hear why the latter is more powerful.

    Similarly, I hear the Eb as a Neapolitan chord. It is the major chord based on the flatted second of the scale, normally played in first inversion. It gets its name from the composers of Naples who liked it. The Neapolitan is usually played, as in this song, as a pre-dominant chord.

    At least this interpretation is consistent with Eb-A-Dm.

    If you like theory at all (which I do) you’ll enjoy these books, as might your listeners.

    (By the way, if you ever do another show on software for song writers, there are a TON of apps which would be helpful for song writers working on chord progressions. A few I like: Suggester, ChordMapMidi, ChordMaps2, ProChords, etc. Just offering these up if you guys have iPhones / iPads).

    • Avatar
      Michael Darby says:

      Thanks, Phil.

      I do use the apps. I play guitar, but I only know so many chords. These apps have a huge variety of extended chords, different voicings, etc. The apps organize chords into those related to the key or progression already out there, so you can just play different ones to see which sounds good. For example, the “Neapolitan” chord mentioned above is an option which one might not think of as being in key, but if you try it before the dominant it sounds good. At least Mozart liked it!

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