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Posts Tagged ‘Hallelujah’

Photo: Gorupdebesanez.
The singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.  

I never knew much about poet/composer Leonard Cohen, but after hearing a radio interview with the producer of a new tribute album — and buying the album — I wanted to learn more.

First let me say a few words about an album in which an Iggy Pop version of a Leonard Cohen song is featured alongside songs sung by the likes of Norah Jones, James Taylor, and Mavis Staples. The way Sarah McLachlan’s voice cracks on “It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah” — oh, wow — gets me every time. There’s an uncharacteristically deep register for James Taylor on “Coming Back to You.” And who wouldn’t love the passionate, aging voice of Mavis Staples on “If it Be Your Will”?

“If it be your will
“That I speak no more
“And my voice be still
“As it was before
“I shall speak no more
“I shall abide until
“I am spoken for
“If it be your will”

I just can’t sing enough praise for this album. The instrumental accompaniments, usually led by guitarist Bill Frisell, are themselves worth the price of admission. I would love to know what instrument is making a sound like Bolivian panpipes. Haunting.

Longtime fans of Leonard Cohen may be as in the dark about the meaning of his lyrics as I am, but I’m sure they all know phrases that stun them without their knowing why. The album was produced by Larry Klein for Blue Note. I am still retro enough to have bought a CD, but if you stream any of the songs, please let me know your reactions.

Now for a bit of Wikipedia background on the artist. There’s even a Warhol connection. Who knew?

“Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death, and romantic relationships. …

“Cohen pursued a career as a poet and novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s, and did not begin a music career until 1967. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was followed by three more albums of folk musicSongs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). His 1977 record Death of a Ladies’ Man, co-written and produced by Phil Spector, was a move away from Cohen’s previous minimalist sound. …

“Leonard Norman Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Westmount, Quebec, on September 21, 1934. His Lithuanian mother, Marsha (‘Masha’) Klonitsky (1905–1978), emigrated to Canada in 1927 and was the daughter of Talmudic writer and rabbi Solomon Klonitsky-Kline. His paternal grandfather, whose family had moved from Poland to Canada, was Canadian Jewish Congress founding president Lyon Cohen. His parents gave him the Jewish name Eliezer, which means ‘God helps.’ His father, clothing store owner Nathan Bernard Cohen (1891–1944), died when Cohen was nine years old. The family attended Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, to which Cohen retained connections for the rest of his life. On the topic of being a kohen, he said in 1967, ‘I had a very Messianic childhood. I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest.’ …

“In 1967, disappointed with his lack of success as a writer, Cohen moved to the United States to pursue a career as a folk music singer–songwriter. During the 1960s, he was a fringe figure in Andy Warhol‘s ‘Factory’ crowd. Warhol speculated that Cohen had spent time listening to Nico in clubs and that this had influenced his musical style.

“His song ‘Suzanne‘ became a hit for Judy Collins (who subsequently recorded a number of Cohen’s other songs), and was for many years his most recorded song. Collins recalls that when she first met him, he said he could not sing or play the guitar, nor did he think ‘Suzanne’ was even a song:

‘And then he played me “Suzanne”  … I said, “Leonard, you must come with me to this big fundraiser I’m doing” … Jimi Hendrix was on it. He’d never sung [in front of a large audience] before then. He got out on stage and started singing. Everybody was going crazy—they loved it. And he stopped about halfway through and walked off the stage. Everybody went nuts. … They demanded that he come back. And I demanded; I said, “I’ll go out with you.” So we went out, and we sang it. And of course, that was the beginning.’

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