Famous Blue Raincoat
In a Nutshell
It's one of the saddest songs you'll ever hear.
Imagine your best friend seduced your wife… and that you had to admit that he'd made her happier just by treating her "to a flake of his life." Now imagine you sat down late one night, your disloyal wife sleeping by your side, to write that friend a letter. What would you say? Would it go something like this? What can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Leonard Cohen (guitar, vocals), Paul Buckmaster (strings), Ron Cornelius (guitar), Susan Mussmano (vocals)
|Album||Songs of Love and Hate|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Betrayal. It's a sadly unavoidable fact of life, as intrinsic to the human condition as love itself. And like love, it can drive a person to all kinds of unusual behaviors, making it love's worthy rival as a great and timeless theme of art and literature. Who can forget the madness of Othello
or the rage of Medea
? Or even the willful ignorance of Willy Loman's spurned wife Linda, who refused to acknowledge her husband's betrayals in Death of a Salesman
? In a way, Leonard Cohen's character (who may or may not represent the actual Leonard Cohen) in "Famous Blue Raincoat" combines all these reactions, and more, into one – rage, acceptance, anger, denial, understanding, confusion, anxiety, gratitude. That's one intense letter… and one intense song.
On the Charts
Though widely influential and widely loved, Cohen has somehow maintained his status as a cult musical figure. His first ever British Top Forty Single came in 2008, when "Hallelujah" hit number 34 on the charts—24 years after its original release. At the time, Alexandra Burke's cover of the song was at #1, and Jeff Buckley's cover was at #2, making "Hallelujah" the best-selling digital song ever.
Yet Cohen classics like "Famous Blue Raincoat" have managed to reach millions of fans over the years without ever making their way too high up the charts. "Famous Blue Raincoat" peaked on the Billboard charts at number 72 in 1987 with that year's version, which was done by Jennifer Warnes.