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Tony Grist

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Hallelujah! [Dec. 18th, 2008|10:33 am]
Tony Grist
No, I haven't heard the Alexandra Burke version, but I'm sure it'll mug me sooner or later. I just think it's cool that a Leonard Cohen song is going to be this year's Xmas #1.

I was part of Cohen's original core audience. I really did listen to him in a student bedsit round about the time the 60s were shading into the 70s. I believe I was introduced to him by David Reindorp- now Vicar of Chelsea Old Church and Chaplain to the Honourable Artillery Company and the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers. (Read a rather good sermon by him- here)

Even if that wasn't my earliest encounter, I vividly remember Reindorp (we addressed one another by our surnames because that's what one did in English public schools in the middle of the 20th century) enthusing over a sleeve note which described Cohen worshipping at a woman's body as at an altar.

I owned about five records c.1970. One was The Songs of Leonard Cohen. Others were Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence, The Pentangle's Basket of Light and The Doors' Waiting For the Sun. I played them over and over and over.

Hey, I had pretty good taste.

I like how Cohen has gone on writing good songs. That's rare. Songwriting is a young person's game. Most singer songwriters burn out early.

Hallelujah isn't my favourite. My favourites are Suzanne, Tower of Song and First We Take Manhattan.

O.K., the voice is a bit of a drone, but this isn't suicide music. Not everything that's difficult is necessarily depressing. In fact, rather the opposite.  Read the lyrics and they're full of anger and affirmation and a tap-tap-tapping at the doors of revelation.

Cohen is a poet. Yeah, I know that gets said about people who don't deserve it- like Dylan and McCartney- but in Cohen's case it happens to be true. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2008-12-18 11:57 am (UTC)
Leonard Cohen wrote the song, but Jeff Buckley's version make it a hit and a classic. The Cohen version is booooring!
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-12-18 12:26 pm (UTC)
I must second a vote for Buckley's "Hallelujah". His voice has a sweet, ethereal, haunting quality like no other.
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[User Picture]From: richenda
2008-12-18 12:04 pm (UTC)
Is that by any chance reindorp of reindorp (the bishop)?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-18 12:37 pm (UTC)
David Reindorp is Bishop Reindorp's son.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-12-18 12:26 pm (UTC)
I think Paul Simon is also a poet. "Kathy's Song" in particular but also "Bookends" and "America" and so many others. And maybe certain bits of Van Morrison (e.g. Astral Weeks).

It adds an extra dimension to the pop song. Never got into Cohen much though. Can't get past the droning.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-18 12:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think Simon gets there sometimes. He cares about words. He uses them creatively.
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[User Picture]From: ryanstrong
2008-12-18 12:43 pm (UTC)
Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite musicians. Second only to Billy Bragg.

I really enjoy his later albums, actually. Favorite songs are: Famous Blue Raincoat, Waiting For the Miracle, and I'm Your Man.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-18 01:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, I like Billy Bragg too. His two albums of Woody Guthrie songs are brilliant.
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2008-12-18 12:58 pm (UTC)
I suggest having a listen to some of KD Lang's performances of the song. Others here say Jeff Buckley's version is best, but I would disagree.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-18 01:19 pm (UTC)
The newspaper this morning said there were over 100 recordings of Hallelujah out there. I must try and catch up with some of them.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2008-12-18 02:04 pm (UTC)
I've always liked Leonard Cohen best when his songs were covered by Buffy Sainte-Marie. She did a cover of Suzanne at a 1967 concert that absolutely took my breath away. And the version of God is Alive, Magic is Afoot the recorded for her "Illuminations" album was its own kind of magical.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhmeroR20lc

Edited at 2008-12-18 02:06 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-18 05:55 pm (UTC)
I like Buffy Sainte-Marie. In fact I think I was a little in love with her once.
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[User Picture]From: brttvns
2008-12-18 05:35 pm (UTC)

Cohen the Poet

More than any other songwriter does Cohen's imagery and careful use of words (and their connotations) deserve him the title poet. 'Hallelujah', though a great song, is not my favourite of his (that list could ramble - 'So Long, Marianne', 'Famous Blue Raincoat', 'Dance Me To The End Of Love'.......) I just hope that one decent thing may actually be achieved by such awful television - someone may start looking into Cohen's music, then embark on a voyage of discovery collecting other musical tastes and influences.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-18 05:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Cohen the Poet

I understand Cohen stands to earn around $1,000,000 in royalties- which is nice.

He was a poet before he was a songwriter. I think it shows.
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From: algabal
2008-12-18 10:27 pm (UTC)
I don't think he ever even came close to matching his debut album. That was almost a revelatory experience for me.

There's just something...wrong with his later music, even the good songs. I don't like "Hallelujah" at all.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-19 10:48 am (UTC)
I think there has been an effort with the later albums to make them more musical, which- given Cohen's voice and the primacy of the word in his work- rather misses the point.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-19 10:50 am (UTC)
Dylan thinks Cohen is brilliant too. He's covered a number of his songs.

I wouldn't want to judge between them. They're both terrific talents.
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