33 1/3 - Various Artists’ I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
4.66 x 0.41 x 6.52 "
When I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohenhit stores in 1991, Leonard Cohen's career had plummeted from its revered 1960s high. Cohen's record label had refused to release his 1984 album Various Positions--including the song "Hallelujah"--in the United States. Luckily, Velvet Underground founder John Cale was one of the few who did hear "Hallelujah," and he covered it for I'm Your Fan, a collection of Cohen's songs produced by a French fanzine. Jeff Buckley adored the tribute album and covered Cale's cover in 1994, never having heard Cohen's still-obscure original version.
In 2016, Stereogum labeled the tribute album "possibly the most universally derided format in pop music." However, without a tribute album, you wouldn't know the song "Hallelujah." Through Buckley through Cale, "Hallelujah" is now one of the most often-performed songs in the world--and it wouldn't be without this tribute album. I'm Your Fanthus offers a particularly notable example of a much broader truth: Despite all the eye-rolling they inspire, tribute albums matter. They can resuscitate legends' fading careers, or expose obscure artists who never had much of a career to begin with.