While most of the music world (and a huge portion of the “non-music” world) remembers the incomparable Leonard Cohen on the second anniversary of his death, Lindi Ortega decided to do something more. Not only did Ortega (like Cohen, a native of Canada; he’s from Montreal, she’s from Toronto) cover “Suzanne” (Cohen’s debut single from 1967), she curated a playlist of her favorite Cohen songs, covered by artists she admires, including Nick Cave, Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Antony and Jeff Buckley.
Ortega’s great take on “Suzanne” (a Cohen-penned song made famous by Judy Collins the year before he recorded his own version of it) is available now on digital streaming services. Ortega recorded it as part of the Polaris Music Prize “Cover Sessions,” and her version is part of a limited-edition, three-song, gold-vinyl 10-inch also featuring Jean-Michel Blais (covering Feist’s “Mushaboom”) and Weaves (covering Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”).
As for the Cohen-covers playlist she curated, we asked Ortega about five of the tracks she chose. Here’s what she had to say:
“Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley)
“This song is lyrically so masterful and I adore the original. However, Jeff Buckley took it to the next level with his incredible voice. This was the first cover I had heard of Hallelujah – another favorite is k.d. lang’s version – but, I picked Buckley’s on account of nostalgia. It brings all the memories and all the feels.”
“Joan Of Arc” (Jennifer Warnes)
“I only heard about the remarkable Jennifer Warnes after learning she was Cohen’s backup singer and released a record of his songs that featured a few duets with him. The original is not sung as a duet, but it’s amazing how Warnes and Cohen make it feel as if it was always supposed to be a duet. Warnes has such a gorgeous voice. She sings his songs beautifully, and this dark-love-story of song is no exception.”
“If It Be Your Will” (Antony)
“I couldn’t dream of anyone who could do this song as much justice as Antony. He has such a striking original voice, but beyond that, there is an aching in his tone and inflection that makes it all the more gut-wrenching.”
“Bird On A Wire” (Johnny Cash)
“Of course I had to pick this song—I have it tattooed on my wrist. It’s my favorite Leonard Cohen song. The lyric “I have tried, in my way, to be free” is the very reason I fell in love with the work of Leonard Cohen. Put that together with my favorite country badass of all time, and I call that that a match made in the heaven … of my dreams.”
“Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” (Roberta Flack)
“There ain’t much to say here other than Flack has one hell of a voice, and this is one hell of a version of this song. This is another one of Cohen’s songs that gets covered by many. But few hold a candle to Roberta Flack.”
R.I.P. Leonard Cohen (1934–2016)