Covers By Leonard Cohen

Oddly, there seems to be no comprehensive, accurate list of covers by Leonard Cohen – until now.

Cover Song Definition

At least part of the problem previously seems to have been the definition of cover song. The description offered by Wikipedia is representative:

A new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song.

While that explanation seems straightforward enough, it results in flawed algorithms, employed on covers sites such as SecondHandSongs, which has Leonard covering “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” by Judy Collins and “Ain’t No Cure for Love” and “First We Take Manhattan” by Jennifer Warnes. Yep, according to that definition, Leonard Cohen should be considered to have covered songs he wrote that happened to be released first by other artists.

So, I’ve created admittedly an arbitrary but, to my mind, more logical definition of Leonard’s covers. Leonard’s covers fall into two categories: Covers In Leonard Cohen’s Repertoire & Leonard Cohen’s Specialty Covers. Regardless of category, Leonard Cohen covers are songs – not lines written as or performed as poems, which would exponentially complicate matters. Moreover, performances are eligible as covers if they include at least one recognizable line of the original song.

Covers In Leonard Cohen’s Repertoire are songs with lyrics written by someone other than Leonard Cohen, which were previously released by another artist(s), that were performed repeatedly by Leonard Cohen in concert or released on one or more of his studio albums:

  • Always: By Irving Berlin. Released on The Future (1992).
  • Be For Real: By Frederick Knight. Released on The Future (1992).
  • Choices: By Billy Yates and Mike Curtis, popularized by George Jones. First performed by Leonard Cohen at his Apr 26, 2013 Winnipeg concert. (See “Choices” Performed By Leonard Cohen – A Dossier)
  • La Manic: By Georges Dor. First performed by Leonard Cohen at his Nov 29, 2012 Montreal concert. (See La Manic Performed By Leonard Cohen – A Dossier)
  • Passing Through: By Richard Blakeslee, popularized by Pete Seeger, The Highwaymen, Cisco Houston, Earl Scruggs, & others. Performed in concerts from the 1970s through the 1990s. Also released on Live Songs (1973). (See Leonard Cohen Performs Passing Through With Hand Whistle – Bonn 1980)
  • Save The Last Dance For Me: By Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, popularized in 1960 by Ben E. King with The Drifters. First performed by Leonard Cohen at his Aug 12, 2012 Ghent concert and at most shows thereafter. (See Leonard Cohen, Doc Pomus, Phil Spector, & “Save The Last Dance For Me”)
  • Un Canadien Errant: By Antoine Gérin-Lajoie (1842). Released (as The Lost Canadian) on Recent Songs (1979).
  • Whither Thou Goest: By Guy Singer (1954). Performed in concert intermittently beginning in 1988.
  • The Partisan: By Anna Marly with lyrics by Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie. The most popular version is the English adaptation by Hy Zaret, which is the basis for Leonard’s cover. Released on Songs From A Room (1969) and performed in concert through 2013.
  • Go No More A-Roving: By Lord Byron. Released on Dear Heather (2004)
  • Tennessee Waltz: By Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King, popularized by Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys, Cowboy Copas, Les Paul, Patti Page, and others. Released on Dear Heather (2004).
  • Villanelle For Our Time: By Frank Scott. Released on Dear Heather (2004).
  • Die Gedanken Sind Frei: Traditional German song. Origins unknown. Popularized by The Weavers and Pete Seeger. Performed by Leonard Cohen in ten 1976 concerts, including Hamburg: April 24, 1976.
  • Kevin Barry: Irish rebel song recounting the death of Kevin Barry, a member of the Irish Republican Army who was hanged on 1 November 1920. Author unknown. Performed by Leonard Cohen in six 1972 concerts. (See Rare Recording Of Leonard Cohen Singing Kevin Barry – 1972)
  • You Are My Sunshine: Unknown origin. Popularized by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell in 1939. Performed by Leonard Cohen at three 1976 shows.

Leonard Cohen’s Specialty Covers are songs with lyrics written by someone other than Leonard Cohen, which were previously released by another artist(s), that were performed by Leonard Cohen only in soundchecks, interviews, TV appearances, on albums by other artists, or as a one-off in concert:


  1. Reported by Davido []
  2. Reported by Tom Sakic []