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Leonard Cohen – Big in Japan

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March 15, 2009 Posted by | Japan, Leonard Cohen, _BABE, _CARTOON | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen reborn in the U.S.A.

from latimes.com

The 74-year-old songwriter is touring America for the first time in 15 years. Why now?

Reporting from New York

Bathed in the indigo light, Leonard Cohen leaned forward like a man eager to feel the wind on his face and, as the crowd at the Beacon Theatre in New York cheered, the 74-year-old singer narrowed his eyes and delivered another one of his unhurried, deep velvet threats:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin


Ten nights ago, Cohen performed his first U.S. concert since 1993 at the restored and resplendent Beacon, which instantly became the stuff of legend — at least in the music circles where Cohen is regarded as one of the great living titans of songwriting. It didn’t hurt, either, that the Montreal native arrived backstage with tantalizing mysteries tucked in that guitar case.

This is the man, after all, who in the 1990s walked away from show business to wear monk’s robes at a Zen monastery near the resort village of Mount Baldy. Then, after returning to his old fedora, he announced in 2005 that he had been robbed blind by his longtime manager.

Either of those life experiences might have led the poet and troubadour to the Beacon stage with a humorless severity. They did not.

“It’s been a long time since I stood on a stage in New York,” Cohen told the adoring, star-studded crowd. “I was 60 years old then. Just a kid with a crazy dream . . . “

The marathon concert (almost three hours) at the Beacon was the 99th performance by Cohen and his supple band during their recent tour of the world, but just the beginning of a major return to America. The 28 dates now announced include an April 10 show at the Nokia Theatre (tickets for that show go on sale March 9) and, one week later, a performance in an unexpected setting — the massive Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. There, the dapper songsmith will share a bill with Paul McCartney, Morrissey and Paul Weller, but also with bands such as the Killers, the Cure and My Bloody Valentine.

The day after the Beacon show, Cohen was clearly pleased with the warm ovations from the night before. His hotel suite at the Warwick Hotel afforded him a view of a Manhattan afternoon that was as crisp as his tailored suit and, when a visitor arrived for an interview, he turned down the twangy country music from his laptop computer and offered a cup of coffee.

“It’s been a great trip, man, a lovely time,” he said. “Have a seat.”

Cohen had a considerable contingent of family and friends at the New York show (as well as recognizable fans such as Harvey Keitel, Rufus Wainwright and Richard Belzer) and he said that “all of us felt a sort of special edge on the night, all of us wanted to do good.”

Cohen looks fantastic, trim and graceful, which is worth pointing out not just for reasons of chronological age, but because of the previous night’s late labors and the long touring road that led up to it — beginning in Canada and then going on to Ireland; Bucharest, Romania; and other European stops, before a run through New Zealand and Australia. “The next one, in Austin, Texas, in four weeks will be our 100th show,” Cohen said, “and it’s just grand. And then we’ll do another 100.”

Finding his niche

The music career of Cohen was a second-chance affair since the beginning. His childhood home in Canada was alive with music and, despite the cultural distance, he found a gripping emotion in the forlorn rhymes of Hank Williams and other Nashville heroes; he had a band as a teen with a sort of buckskin sensibility. But at McGill University in Montreal, his attentions turned to the written page, and he gained national attention for his poems and two novels. When the money didn’t follow, he reached for the guitar.

His big break came when Judy Collins recorded his “Suzanne” for a 1966 album and made it one of her signature songs. More followed, but John Hammond, the esteemed music executive with Columbia Records who had been a key figure in the careers of Bob Dylan and Billie Holiday, believed in Cohen not just as a composer but as a performer.

His songbook, though, has towered far beyond his singing, and a staggering list of artists have interpreted his classics, such as “Bird on the Wire,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Hallelujah,” “Everybody Knows” and “First We Take Manhattan.”

Cohen, these days, has the mien of a profoundly centered man. Part of that comes no doubt from his studies of Buddhism, which date back to the 1970s, and the period of time in the 1990s that he was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk so he might serve in an austere setting as the personal attendant to his teacher, Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi.

“The first and most discernible lesson is to stop whining,” Cohen explained. “And I don’t really need to go much beyond that. It was sort of like boot camp. It’s a rigorous life, it’s cold and it’s above the snow line. Four-thousand feet was the snow line, and we were up around 7,500 feet. A lot of it is involved in surviving the winter. There’s a lot of shoveling of snow. There is very little private space. There’s a saying in Zen: ‘Like pebbles in bag, the monks polish one another.’ Those rough edges get smoothed out.”

Cohen never went to Buddhism seeking enlightenment, it was more about survival, he said. He came in as a patient, not a pilgrim. “I needed something. Things weren’t working in my life. I had drugs and promiscuity, many things. I wasn’t happy. I needed a new way. But it wasn’t about anything holy.” And what about the more recent financial calamity? A court judgment has awarded him more than $9 million — the touring is not a desperate lunge to pay his bills, and when he holds out his hat on stage there’s a smile on his face.

Cohen had a question for his visitor: “I’ve never been to Coachella. How do you think our band will go over there?” Told that his band will find a smart and eager audience and desert splendor, Cohen smiled but still held on to a bit of distance.

“We’d played festivals in the past, and I’m not crazy about the setup. You’re on a roster with a whole lot of other people. You don’t have the evening. I like to be in a room with people for three hours, have a beginning, middle and an end. We can’t do our whole set, it’s not our rhythm. But we have heard it’s a special hospitality there. We’ll play our best and look forward to it.”

He launched into an extended explanation of where the stage magic lies for him, the sweet spot between the practiced and the unexpected. Then, unhappy with the long route to an answer, the poet shrugged and took a four-word path: “There is a flicker.”

No fretting over his legacy

Cohen turned to his computer to play some new music, a somewhat ghostly shuffle called “Amen,” a song laced with religious imagery and heartache, as so many of his compositions have been through the years. Cohen said he is more interested in the next song than pondering the legacy of his past work. He talked about how puzzled he was by McCartney’s decision a few years back to change the credits on certain Beatles classics to “McCartney & Lennon” as opposed to the familiar “Lennon & McCartney,” as if anyone didn’t know who wrote “Yesterday.”

Cohen said he views his work from a different vantage point — his most famous songs now belong as much to the audience and to other singers as they do to him.

“I find I’m feeling much friendlier to my earliest work than I ever did,” he said. “There was a certain time when I knew that the audience wanted to hear ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,’ but I didn’t want to play [them]. Now I really do.

“I think that contrary to Sir Paul’s experience, my sense of proprietorship weakens as I get older. I’m happy the songs exist and that I know them and I know the chords and how to sing them.”

The subject clearly stirred up something for Cohen.

“A poet, one of my closest friends, Irving Layton, probably the best Canadian poet and one of our best North American poets, he was very concerned with his legacy. He was very concerned with his immortality and what would become of his work. I loved the man, so I listened attentively and also with a sense of curiosity. I could never locate that appetite for posterity within myself or think what it means anyhow.”

After a pause, he chuckled, his mind considering all the poets that his late friend Layton would have to conquer to achieve his hoped-for perch in the history books. “You’re up against some heavy competition. King David, Homer, you’re up against Shakespeare, Dante, Donne, you’re up against Whitman. It’s like going up against Muhammad Ali if you’re a pretty good neighborhood boxer, and that’s what I think of myself as. I’m just a pretty good neighborhood boxer. Legacy? I never thought that it would mean anything to me when I’m dead. I’m going to be busy.”

-Geoff Boucher

WELCOME BACK: Cohen connects with his crowd Feb. 19. Photo credits: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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March 3, 2009 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen – First we take Manhattan, Beacon Theatre New York

by TrevMurphy
I’d really like to live beside you, baby, I love your body and your spirit and your clothes

Lenny takes Manhattan with First we take Manhattan at the Beacon Theatre on February 19th, 2009 !

Next he’ll take Berlin!

A typically wonderful performance of this classic track by Lenny and his amazing band!

by Steiner62

from leonardcohen.com

As Leonard Cohen took to the historic Beacon Theatre stage Thursday in New York for his first stateside performance in fifteen years, AEG Live announced a run of North American engagements including dates throughout Canada and a sunset performance at the Coachella Festival in Indio, California. Tickets go on sale to the Canadian public beginning March 2, 2009. CBC Radio 2 is the Canadian broadcast presenter of the Leonard Cohen World Tour 2009.

The North American engagements will extend the phenomenal series of performances Mr. Cohen performed recently in the UK, Europe, Australia and Canada. The performances have been overwhelmingly received abroad, with over 80 five star reviews. As the London Daily Telegraph plainly stated, it is “an extraordinary night of music.”

As he has been throughout his most recent tour, Mr. Cohen will be joined by Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters – who have wowed crowds around the world with their rich and complementary background vocals. Also joining Mr. Cohen on stage are Roscoe Beck (bass, vocals), Neil Larsen (keyboards & Hammond B3 accordion), Bob Metzger (electric, acoustic & pedal steel guitar), Javier Mas (bandurria, laud, archilaud, 12 string acoustic guitar), Rafael Gayol (drums, percussion), Dino Soldo (sax, clarinet, dobro, keys).

Members of Best Buy Canada’s Reward Zone loyalty program will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to select Canadian concert dates three days before they go on sale to the general public. For full details go to: www.bestbuyrewardzone.ca.


art by Zero-Wing

Leonard Cohen – First we take Manhattan


They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those

Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I don’t like your fashion business mister
And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin
I don’t like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby …

And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I’m ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I am guided

Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

(L. Cohen) Stranger Music, Inc.



Audio Clip from leonardcohen.com

First We Take Manhattan

HI | MID | LO
[Windows Media]


NOTE:

We do not host any files here. If this post contains a link to content hosted elsewhere, this is content found by a simple search on the worldwide freedom web. However, if for some valid reason, you object to a said content, or any content here, please let us know and we will remove the content in question.

Any content linked to here is only meant as a taster for the original work itself and is posted on the strict understanding that anyone who downloads the taster, deletes said content within 24 hours. We would assume that these fans will then buy the original work and we greatly encourage them to do so.

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ART, _MUSIC, _PHOTOGRAPHY, _POETRY, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen – First we take Manhattan, Beacon Theatre New York

by TrevMurphy
I’d really like to live beside you, baby, I love your body and your spirit and your clothes

Lenny takes Manhattan with First we take Manhattan at the Beacon Theatre on February 19th, 2009 !

Next he’ll take Berlin!

A typically wonderful performance of this classic track by Lenny and his amazing band!

by Steiner62

from leonardcohen.com

As Leonard Cohen took to the historic Beacon Theatre stage Thursday in New York for his first stateside performance in fifteen years, AEG Live announced a run of North American engagements including dates throughout Canada and a sunset performance at the Coachella Festival in Indio, California. Tickets go on sale to the Canadian public beginning March 2, 2009. CBC Radio 2 is the Canadian broadcast presenter of the Leonard Cohen World Tour 2009.

The North American engagements will extend the phenomenal series of performances Mr. Cohen performed recently in the UK, Europe, Australia and Canada. The performances have been overwhelmingly received abroad, with over 80 five star reviews. As the London Daily Telegraph plainly stated, it is “an extraordinary night of music.”

As he has been throughout his most recent tour, Mr. Cohen will be joined by Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters – who have wowed crowds around the world with their rich and complementary background vocals. Also joining Mr. Cohen on stage are Roscoe Beck (bass, vocals), Neil Larsen (keyboards & Hammond B3 accordion), Bob Metzger (electric, acoustic & pedal steel guitar), Javier Mas (bandurria, laud, archilaud, 12 string acoustic guitar), Rafael Gayol (drums, percussion), Dino Soldo (sax, clarinet, dobro, keys).

Members of Best Buy Canada’s Reward Zone loyalty program will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to select Canadian concert dates three days before they go on sale to the general public. For full details go to: www.bestbuyrewardzone.ca.


art by Zero-Wing

Leonard Cohen – First we take Manhattan


They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those

Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I don’t like your fashion business mister
And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin
I don’t like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby …

And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I’m ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I am guided

Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

(L. Cohen) Stranger Music, Inc.



Audio Clip from leonardcohen.com

First We Take Manhattan

HI | MID | LO
[Windows Media]


NOTE:

We do not host any files here. If this post contains a link to content hosted elsewhere, this is content found by a simple search on the worldwide freedom web. However, if for some valid reason, you object to a said content, or any content here, please let us know and we will remove the content in question.

Any content linked to here is only meant as a taster for the original work itself and is posted on the strict understanding that anyone who downloads the taster, deletes said content within 24 hours. We would assume that these fans will then buy the original work and we greatly encourage them to do so.

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ART, _MUSIC, _PHOTOGRAPHY, _POETRY, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen takes Manhattan

This rollingstone reporter seems to have experienced a real “Road to Damascus” scenario at the Lenny NYC gig last week!

Man, he must’ve picked up some real hot nympho chick at the gig, the way he’s gushing about it!

Nice work rollingstone reporter guy!

Photo: Loccisano/Getty

www.rollingstone.com

February 20, 2009

Good lord, the great Leonard Cohen shocked and awed New York last night in his first U.S. performance in fifteen years.

We weren’t obsessed with Cohen when we walked into the Beacon Theater last night, but three-and-a-half hours later, we walked out a true believer.

The musicians were mind blowing and the mix was magnificent. The trio of background singers — featuring Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters — sounded like angels, and Cohen was just a f*ckin’ badass.

You HAVE to go see this show.

Cohen has just announced a 28-date tour through U.S. and Canada, with gigs at Red Rocks in Colorado, the Paramount in Oakland, Radio City in NYC and, of course, Coachella fest. (Click here for tour dates.)

Also look out for Live In London, the CD/DVD package that documents Cohen’s gig at the O2 Arena last year. Click here for a teaser performance of “Suzanne.”

It’s unreal!

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen – Morning Glory

Fear not comrades, nothing to do with that awful Oasis ditty of the same name!

Instead, a sublime moment from Leonard Cohen’s criminally neglected Dear Heather album – his eleventh studio album, released in 2004 and one of the great man’s greatest LPs.

Written and arranged by the maestro, this glorious song was produced by Leanne Ungar with beautiful background vocals arranged and sung by Anjani Thomas.

The lyrics are, as always, magnificent – a sort of amalgam of zen poetry, mysticism, philosophy and post-modernism with a carnal undercurrent. Not exactly adjectives often associated with Noel Gallagher lyrics!



Morning Glory

No words this time? No words. No, there are times when nothing can be done.

Not this time. Is it censorship? Is it censorship? No, it’s evaporation.

No, it’s evaporation. Is this leading somewhere? Yes. We’re going down the lane.

Is this going somewhere? Into the garden. Into the backyard.

We’re walking down the driveway. Are we moving towards…. We’re in the backyard.

…some transcendental moment? It’s almost light. That’s right. That’s it.

Are we moving towards some transcendental moment? That’s right. That’s it.

Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off? Yes. Do you think you can pull it off?

Yes, it might happen. I’m all ears. I’m all ears. Oh the morning glory!

And at the evening’s end

I wanted to be my voice.

A nightingale.


Soul,
turn orange-colored.

Soul,
turn the color of love.


– L Cohen


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February 19, 2009 Posted by | Anjani Thomas, Japan, Leonard Cohen, Maiko Kazano, _BABE, _MUSIC, _POETRY, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Everyone loves Lenny !

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January 12, 2009 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _BABE, _CARTOON | Leave a comment

Marianne Faithfull

Come over to the window, my little darling,
I’d like to try to read your palm.
I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy
before I let you take me home.
Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

– L. Cohen

Marianne sure looked hot back before the Rolling Stones got their claws into her!

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January 5, 2009 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, Marianne Faithfull, _BABE | Leave a comment

Hallelujah hits number one and two slots in Christmas charts

A rather surreal development in the history of the masterpiece Hallelujah, a song we’ve written about on numerous occasions before.

That Burke chick looks ok (we’d hit that for sure!) but her cover version – at once bland and overblown – is atrociously bad! Like a mixture of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston and a zombie choir. Ewwwwww!!

We’re really happy though that the Cohen coffers are being filled, and however indirectly, the great man is in the public spotlight again!



Some versions of this classic (many of em rather bad!)

Kermit the frog | Mark Viduka tribute | Chris Moyles’ lamb bhuna | My Halloumia | Jeff Buckley | Bob Dylan | k.d. lang | Sheryl Crowe | Rufus Wainwright | U2 | Bon Jovi | John Cale | Imogen Heap | JLS | Alexandra Burke


Hallelujah hits number one and two slots in Christmas charts

entertainment.timesonline.co.uk

The X Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, and the late Jeff Buckley scooped the Christmas No 1 and 2 slots yesterday with their covers of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, the first time in more than 40 years that one title has secured the top two places in the charts. Cohen himself came in at No 36.

Burke, who said she was “gutted” when first told that she would have to sing Hallelujah, notched up 576,000 sales, making her version the fastest-selling single by a female solo artist, beating the record set by Leona Lewis after she won The X Factor two years ago. Burke also smashed the online record, with 289,000 downloads, almost twice as many as Lewis in 2006.

Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company, which compiles the figures, said: “It is a particularly amazing week for Alexandra Burke, who has broken a string of records to announce her arrival in spectacular style.” In addition, Mr Talbot said, chart placings at 1, 2 and 36 “are remarkable for a 25-year-old song which has never previously reached the Top 40”.
Times Archive, 1985: Leonard Cohen live at Hammersmith

The mournful Hallelujah may seem an unlikely choice for a Christmas single and Burke admitted yesterday: “It just didn’t do anything for me.”

What she called her “Whitney Houston spin”, with gospel choir, angered fans of the Cohen and Buckley versions. A campaign to promote Buckley’s 1994 version – released three years before he died aged 30 – saw it finish 496,000 sales behind Burke.

The last time one song held the top two spots is believed to be February 1965, when You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling was No 1 for the Righteous Brothers and No 2 for Cilla Black.

Take That have topped the album charts with The Circus, which sold 382,000 copies last week to take it to a million sales in 18 days, the second fastest album sales in history, after Be Here Now by Oasis in 1997.

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December 31, 2008 Posted by | Alexandra Burke, Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Hallelujah: Why your version is the best

Another piece on Lenny’s sublime Hallelujah, which surreally, thanks to the effects of dilution (the process started with the saccharine Jeff Buckley version on the Grace LP and has never let up, as the song has become – and still becomes – ever more and more diluted!) and having a slew of awful reality show contestants and other muzak mongers recently abuse the song, scooped the Christmas No 1 and 2 slots in UK via X Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, and the late Jeff Buckley.

We’re not sure we see any logic in the argument being espoused in the article below though. On numerous occasions, we’ve first heard a song via a cover-version and have in most cases, having later sought out the original, found that to be even better.

As for the rather ridiculous matter of “best version” of Hallelujah, any real music fan will know that the two original versions by Lenny are clearly best!

There’s also a vid here for a 1995 version from Lord Bono, which the article writer hates, but we find interesting and kinda like – well, it’s far better than most of Bono’s output and far better than 90% of the awful covers of this masterpiece.

Alexandra_burke_2Hallelujah: Why your version is the best

from timesonline.typepad.com

Whose version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is the best? I think there is a political dimension to this question.

Jeff Buckley? Sheryl Crow? Alexandra Burke? Rufus Wainwright? Leonard Cohen? Each has their own interpretation and each their partisan. So let me put forward a theory about why people prefer a particular artist.

They heard that artist sing the song first. (This isn’t true of absolutely every single person and every song, but true of most people and most songs).

When people hear a song they like and become attached to it, they will never enjoy a cover quite as much. The reason is that they anchor to the original. All other versions are departures from the version they fell in love with.

If I compare Rufus Wainwright to Jeff Buckley, I start with the Wainwright. Buckley seems underpowered. But for those who start with the Buckley version, the Wainwright may seem arch.

As Dan Ariely explains at the beginning of Predictably Irrational, we make choices by making comparisons. To do this we need to establish an anchor point.

The political dimension? Well, why does Gordon Brown appear to be soaring when he is in fact behind in the polls? And why are the Tories being asked where they would cut spending when in fact they plan increases? The answer is the same in both cases, it is that the position is compared to the anchor points – the 20 point Tory lead and the Government’s spending plans.

So that’s how you select your favourite Hallelujah version. That, and the fact that it isn’t this truly terrible version by Bono.


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December 31, 2008 Posted by | Alexandra Burke, Bono, Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen, _MUSIC, _VIDEO | 1 Comment

A Collection Of 46 Hallelujahs !





A Collection Of 46 Hallelujahs !

This is a song about the broken.

– L.Cohen

On the subject of the sublime and the slew of versions proliferating lately, here’s a collection of some of the versions proliferating lately, which we see on this blog!

Capt. Kurtz said “I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen…..” when he heard some of these!

Some of em are OK though! They’d be mostly the Cohen, Cale and Dylan versions!

Image



Tracks

01 – Alexandra Burke

02 – Leonard Cohen

03 – John Cale

04 – Jeff Buckley

05 – Bob Dylan

06 – Leonard Cohen (Live)

07 – Katherine Jenkins

08 – Leonard Cohen (Live)

09 – John Cale (Live)

10 – Kathryn Williams

11 – Rufus Wainwright

12 – Allison Crowe

13 – Sheryl Crow

14 – Damien Rice

15 – K.D. Lang

16 – Regina Spektor

17 – Aroof Aftab

18 – David Bazan

19 – Eric Beverly

20 – Erik Flaa

21 – Gordon Downie

22 – I Am Lost At Sea

23 – Imogen Heap

24 – John Jerome

25 – Late Tuesday

26 – Susanna And The Magical Orchestra

27 – The Junebugs

28 – Tony Lucca

29 – Gavin Degraw

30 – Chris Botti

31 – Kate Noson

32 – Lucky Jim

33 – Euan Morton & Denise Summerford

34 – Keren Ann

35 – Jack Lukeman

36 – Clare Bowditch

37 – Ari Hest

38 – Beirut

39 – Elisa

40 – K’s Choice

41 – Dresden Dolls

42 – Street To Nowhere

43 – Naomi Hates Humans

44 – Noam Pelled

45 – Macbrolan

46 – Damien Rice

NOTE:



We do not host any files here. If this post contains a link to content hosted elsewhere, this is content found by a simple search on the worldwide freedom web. However, if for some valid reason, you object to a said content, or any content here, please let us know and we will remove the content in question.

Any content linked to here is only meant as a taster for the original work itself and is posted on the strict understanding that anyone who downloads the taster, deletes said content within 24 hours. We would assume that these fans will then buy the original work and we greatly encourage them to do so.

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December 29, 2008 Posted by | Beirut, Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley, John Cale, Leonard Cohen, _BOB DYLAN, _MUSIC | 1 Comment

Leonard Cohen – The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall


The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall

BBC Radio 2
Saturday 01 November
Mp3 / 114Mb


from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

We’ve written before about one of the greatest songs of all time, ‘s majestic which will surely soon be the most covered song ever – thanks to a slew of awful saccharine versions proliferating lately!

We’ve written about this masterpiece several times before

The popularity now of this great track, when for years the original and best versions (the very different versions from Various Positions and Cohen Live, respectively) were all but ignored, has everything to do with dilution of art and the consequent effect of making art palatable to the masses!
Said process started with the saccharine Jeff Buckley version on the Grace LP and has never let up, as the song has become – and still becomes – ever more and more diluted!

It really grates when morons say that, for example, Buckley’s or Wainwright’s or, Heaven forbid, Bon Jovi’s version is the best! Listen to Lenny’s two original released versions assholes! Just because Lenny’s voice isn’t exactly angelic doesn’t mean the maestro is clueless as to how one of his masterpieces should be properly delivered!

Lenny – and only Lenny – delivers this great song perfectly!

Lately Hallelujah has bizarrely become a standard for idiotic acts in dross muzak shows such as American Idol and some crap UK show called X Factor!

Something’s wrong! Hallelujah‘s not exactly Macca’s mawkish Yesterday (the most covered track of all time, officially)! Or one of those vile Mariah Carey type songs the morons on these shows are always squealing out! Hallelujah is a complex, multi-layered song of beautiful and powerful poetry, above a perfectly sublime and deceptively simple melody.

On the other hand, perhaps, unbeknown to us, the taste of the masses has increased at an infinite rate recently!!!

by tulzdavampslayer

Anyway, here’s an interesting recent BBC Radio show devoted to this great song and hosted by Guy Garvey from Brit Indie darlings Elbow!

Here’s the Beeb blurb;

A Mercury Prize-winner hasn’t got the guts to cover it; Bob Dylan and Bono are two of the many who’ve attempted it; Jeff Buckley’s version is in Rolling Stone’s top 500 greatest songs ever. The song in question? Leonard Cohen’s transcendental Hallelujah.

“I like to imagine Hallelujah as a rather stately creature,” says presenter Guy Garvey (Elbow frontman and said Mercury winner) “It’s a mark of its power and guile that artists who didn’t even write it, feel protective of it.”

The ever eloquent and always genial Garvey does a bewitching job of explaining the nuances and dramatically different interpretations of this magical song, helped by some of the artists and producers who’ve worked on the 120 covers.

Praise be.

Here she be:

http://lix.in/-3b7c93
http://lix.in/-3d0334
114Mb

Here’s a collection of just ten very “varied” covers of this classic! Can you spot the one good version?!

10 YouTube Hallelujah Performances

Big thanks to SonicTrooper and DigitalReporter

NOTE:

We do not host any files here. If this post contains a link to content hosted elsewhere, this is content found by a simple search on the worldwide freedom web. However, if for some valid reason, you object to a said content, or any content here, please let us know and we will remove the content in question.

Any content linked to here is only meant as a taster for the original work itself and is posted on the strict understanding that anyone who downloads the taster, deletes said content within 24 hours. We would assume that these fans will then buy the original work and we greatly encourage them to do so.

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December 29, 2008 Posted by | Elbow, Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen, _MUSIC, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen and Hank Williams


art from chodrawings

Nice piece from ahankwilliamsjournal.wordpress looking at the genius Cohen, his amazing track ‘Tower of Song’ and the homage therein to the great Hank Williams!

Leonard Cohen and Hank Williams: Part 1

Leonard Cohen is one of the most celebrated singer songwriters in popular music.

His music career began in the sixties and along with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and many others he led the wave which brought the songwriter especially the songwriter with a message to the forefront of popular music. The singer songwriter revolution, which as we all know had a long tradition in country and blues, brought to pop a renewed empahsis on language and poetic techniques.

Before his first album, Leonard Cohen had a successful career as a legitimate academic style poet and novelist. Before the albums, and songs, and music there were award winning books of poetry and the friendship, mentorship, and acceptance by the University community and other poets.

Since the sixties, Cohen has become a legendary figure in pop music, playing around the world with sell out shows before adoring fans, especially women, with songs such as ‘Bird on a Wire’, ‘MaryAnne’, ‘That’s no way to say Goodbye’,and ’Suzanne’,

He has been the subject of many cover versions of his songs including the acclaimed ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ by Jennifer Warnes in 1988.

As all Hank Williams fans know, Leonard Cohen famously paid tribute to Hank in a song called ‘Tower of Song’ released in 1988 on the Album ‘I’m Your Man’.

Here are the first three verses of that song.

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song

I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song

I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here
In the Tower of Song

There are five more verses.

Its significant to note that in this song about songwriters and singers, Cohen only mentions one actual real person who is a modern singer/songwriter and that person is Hank Williams.

During a visit to the UK, Cohen was asked about the ‘Tower of Song’ and Hank Williams.

I will take some time looking at this response which I quote here in full.

“If you’re going to think of yourself in this game, or in this tradition, and you start getting a swelled head about it, then you’ve really got to think about who you’re talking about. You’re not just talking about Randy Newman, who’s fine, or Bob Dylan, who’s sublime, you’re talking about King David, Homer, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, you’re talking about the embodiment of our highest possibility. So I don’t think it’s particularly modest or virtuous to think of oneself as a minor poet. I really do feel the enormous luck I’ve had in being able to make a living, and to never have had to have written one word that I didn’t want to write.”

“But I don’t fool myself, I know the game I’m in. When I wrote about Hank Williams ‘A hundred floors above me in the tower of song’, it’s not some kind of inverse modesty. I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song. Your Cheatin’ Heart, songs like that, are sublime, in his own tradition, and I feel myself a very minor writer. I’ve taken a certain territory, and I’ve tried to maintain it and administrate it with the very best of my capacities. And I will continue to administrate this tiny territory until I’m too weak to do it. But I understand where this territory is.”

I want to talk about the curious phrase “inverse modesty” and other aspects of Cohen’s tribute to Hank which I will save until Part 2.

Leonard Cohen and Hank Williams: Part 2

As mentioned earlier famed singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen paid tribute to Hank Williams in his 1988 song called ‘Tower of Song’. Then later in 1994, Cohen expanded on his reference to Hank, to talk what he was trying to say in the song and what he saw as Hank Williams’ place in history as well as his own.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the quotation is when he says he was not employing “inverse modesty” when he said Hank was “a hundred floors above me in the tower of song.” We would normally call that “false modesty”. He means, of course, he was sincere and was not trying to reflect attention back to himself from people who would say “wink wink, nudge nudge” we know you’re trying to get us to think you are really just kidding and know you are far more important than Hank Williams.

Earlier in the quote, Cohen had placed himself and by implication Hank Williams as well, in the long tradition of songwriters, and lyric poets such as Homer, Dante, and Wordsworth. In that respect he calls himself a very minor writer compared to Hank Williams.

He doesn’t force people to compare Hank or for that matter himself to the greats of literature. He says, ” I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song,” but notes that the songs must be understood in, “his own tradition”. As for his own contribution, he says he understands, “I’ve taken a certain territory, and I’ve tried to maintain it and administrate it with the very best of my capacities. And I will continue to administrate this tiny territory until I’m too weak to do it. But I understand where this territory is.” And so it goes back to, “a hundred floors above me.”

I think this is one of the most profoundly deep, and moving tributes to Hank Williams I’ve ever read. It’s complex and sincere. It recognizes that poets from the ancients, to Country Music, to the folk/rock singer songwriters of the 60’s are part of the same tradition.

Now, I know there have been many famous singer songwriters who have talked glowingly about the work of Hank Williams and his standing in the world of songwriting. But what Cohen has done is to lift that praise to a new level bringing Hank into a new place as a part of the legitimate literary world. I’ve always thought the Leonard Cohen song and quotation were special because of his standing as both a songwriter, musician and in the literary world of poetry, novels, and serious literary discussion.

I hope you haven’t been too bored!

Big thanks to ahankwilliamsjournal.wordpress

NOTE:

We do not host any files here. If this post contains a link to content hosted elsewhere, this is content found by a simple search on the worldwide freedom web. However, if for some valid reason, you object to a said content, or any content here, please let us know and we will remove the content in question.

Any content linked to here is only meant as a taster for the original work itself and is posted on the strict understanding that anyone who downloads the taster, deletes said content within 24 hours. We would assume that these fans will then buy the original work and we greatly encourage them to do so.

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December 7, 2008 Posted by | Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen, _ART, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC, _PHOTOGRAPHY, _POETRY | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen’s sublime Hallelujah – More Yada Yada

We’ve just posted a piece about apparently the most covered songs of recent times.

In a few years, Lenny’s sublime Hallelujah will surely be the most covered song, thanks to a slew of awful saccharine versions proliferating lately!

The popularity now of this great track, when for years the original and best versions (the very different versions from Various Positions and Cohen Live, respectively) were all but ignored, has everything to do with dilution of art and the consequent effect of making art palatable to the masses!

Said process started with the saccharine Jeff Buckley version on the Grace LP and has never let up, as the song has become – and still becomes – ever more and more diluted!

It really grates when morons say that, for example, Buckley’s or Wainwright’s or, Heaven forbid, Bon Jovi’s version is the best! Listen to Lenny’s two original released versions assholes! Just because Lenny’s voice isn’t exactly angelic doesn’t mean the maestro is clueless as to how one of his masterpieces should be properly delivered!

Lenny – and only Lenny – delivers this great song perfectly!

Lately Hallelujah has bizarrely become a standard for idiotic acts in dross muzak shows such as American Idol and some crap UK show called X Factor!

Something’s wrong! Hallelujah‘s not exactly Macca’s mawkish Yesterday (the most covered track of all time, officially)! Or one of those vile Mariah Carey type songs the morons on these shows are always squealing out! Hallelujah is a complex, multi-layered song of beautiful and powerful poetry, above a perfectly sublime and deceptively simple melody.

On the other hand, perhaps, unbeknown to us, the taste of the masses has increased at an infinite rate recently!!!

Here’s an article below about the great Hallelujah, which seems basically a distillation of what we wrote about the track HERE very recently – replete with the Dylan angles! ….. Grrrrrrrrr!!!

www.independent.co.uk

The X Factor winner’s single will be a cover of Leonard Cohen’s glorious spiritual hymn, following versions by Dylan, Jeff Buckley and many others. Purists may wince, but this great song has taken on a life of its own.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Of all the incarnations of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” – and there have been many – the X Factor winner’s version will raise the most eyebrows. One of the greatest songs of all time, it has a long and varied history dating back to 1984 – long before any of the talent show’s remaining finalists were even born.

It had a difficult beginning. The story goes that Cohen took two years to pen the song, writing at least 80 verses that were eventually distilled into the six that make up his original. He said: “I filled two notebooks and I remember being in the Royalton Hotel [New York], on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, ‘I can’t finish this song.'” Thankfully, he did.

Cohen has often recalled meeting Bob Dylan in the Eighties. Dylan performed “Hallelujah” in concert at the Montreal Forum in 1988 and he asked Cohen how long it had taken him to write it. Cohen said two years, although it actually took slightly longer (“I lied because I was ashamed to tell him how long it really took”). When Cohen turned the question back on Dylan, asking him how long “I and I” had taken him to write, Dylan replied: “About 15 minutes.”

Though Cohen discarded many verses as he went along, legend goes that 36 verses out of 80 remained. There were two versions of Cohen’s song, the heavily spiritual first version on his 1984 album Various Positions, and the second, more obviously erotic version, recorded at a live show in 1988 and appearing on his 1994 album Cohen Live.

The later version omitted the biblical references of the original, focusing on the chorus and final lines. The first was filled with Old Testament references, beginning with King David’s harp-playing to soothe King Saul (the “chord that David played”) and his later seduction by Bathsheba. The title itself is the Hebrew word meaning “glory to the Lord”. In its six verses it wraps up all the themes pertinent to human existence: love, sex, desire, death, loneliness, weakness, religion, failure, forgiveness, redemption, mercy – and, of course, the act of songwriting itself.

Cohen said of the song: “The song explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have an equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm; with emotion. I know that there is an eye watching all of us. There is a judgement that weighs everything we do.”

But the song that became widely accepted as one of the best of all time did not become so via Cohen’s understated original. When Dylan heard Various Positions, he commented that Cohen’s songs were becoming more like prayers. The Canadian songwriter had started as a poet and novelist and his original ballad is half-spoken in his deep voice.

But it was a later version by John Cale, a former member of The Velvet Underground, that set the modern template. Cale had heard Cohen’s new “Hallelujah” in 1988 and asked him to send him all the verses. Cohen faxed over just 15. Cale took Cohen’s sparse gospel-tinged ballad, reordered the verses and arranged the song for piano. For years, Cale sang his version live before making a studio version for the 1991 tribute album I’m Your Fan, which then appeared on his live album Fragments of a Rainy Season a year later and would become Jeff Buckley’s arrangement.

It was Buckley’s version on his 1994 album Grace that took the song into the canon. It was arguably the highlight of the album. Injecting the emotion of his trembling multi-octave vocals, the build-up to the line “Love is not a victory march/ It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah” is devastating. Buckley’s death by drowning at the age of 30 would immortalise a now wholly poignant song, and it was Buckley’s “Hallelujah” that was ranked as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, not Cohen’s. And like the best cover versions of other great songs, with the fame Buckley brought “Hallelujah” you’d almost be forgiven for thinking he was the writer. Buckley omits two of Cohen’s redemptive verses; he called his version an ode to “the hallelujah of an orgasm”, even saying: “I hope Leonard doesn’t hear it.” He needn’t have worried. Cohen has allegedly acknowledged it to be his favourite version.

“Hallelujah” is not Cohen’s most covered song; that honour goes to “Suzanne”. But it has been covered by more than 100 artists in various languages, many of which have made it on to record. It is also his most famous song thanks to Buckley’s rendition. That Cohen himself penned two versions of it and had a surplus collection of verses left the song open to interpretation, resulting in the numerous covers that followed. Rufus Wainwright’s rendition, which emulated the emotive delivery of Buckley’s, though less subtle, and in which he substituted “holy dark” for “holy dove”, brought the song back to the mainstream – and to a new, younger audience – when it featured, believe or not, in the film Shrek. Wainwright said: “It’s an easy song to sing. The music never pummels the words. The melody is almost liturgical and conjures up religious feelings.”

kd lang recorded it on Hymns of the 49th Parallel and still performs it live, while it has become a signature set-closer for Brandi Carlile. These join Jon Bon Jovi, Kathryn Williams, Allison Crowe, Damien Rice and Willie Nelson. Bono’s bizarre ambient breakbeat version was recorded for Tower of Song, an all-star tribute to Cohen in 1995 (featuring covers by Tori Amos, Sting, Suzanne Vega and Willie Nelson). The classical singer Katherine Jenkins includes a version on her album Sacred Arias.

BBC Radio 2 recently marked the 25th anniversary of the first recording of the song. Presenter Jeremy Vine said: “It is one of those classic songs that is sung better by the people who didn’t write it, because it’s so open to interpretation. For me, I’d take the Kathryn Williams version over Jeff Buckley’s by a shade. Best line, ‘Like how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya’ – and worst probably, ‘The fourth, the fifth/ The minor fall, the major lift’ because that is so self-consciously a muso referencing his own craft. We played all the different versions on my show a couple of years back and it took off with the listeners in a big, big way, because the whole scope of the song is awesome: it is in a category of one.”

Cohen’s publicist still gets sent new versions (the latest in Welsh and Afrikaans) by musicians hoping to see them passed on to Cohen for approval. It really is a song of universal appeal.

It’s this ability to tap into the emotions that has led it to become a song to accompany sad moments on television shows. On the teen soap The OC it featured three times, including the moment when the beautiful Marissa (Mischa Barton) dies in Ryan’s arms. Cale’s version is on the soundtrack of Scrubs and features in the 1996 film Basquiat. Many fans of the song will have discovered it via The West Wing.

As for an X Factor special, it sounds about as appropriate as the fans who swayed in a “Sweet Caroline”-esque singalong at Glastonbury. It’s a song that represents timelessness, and if it means that Buckley’s version, or even Cohen’s original, make their way back up the charts, that can’t be a bad thing.

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December 6, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ARTICLE, _BOB DYLAN, _MUSIC | 1 Comment

Booby Leonard Cohen fanatic !

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December 3, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, Roykeanz, _BABE, _CARTOON | Leave a comment

When Genius Collides – Leonard Cohen’s majestic "Hallelujah" and Bob Dylan


This is a song about the broken.

– L.Cohen


I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world.

– L.Cohen

A sublime moment this! Two of the giants of modern culture collide when his Bobness performs a fine cover of Leonard Cohen’s sublime “Hallelujah“, one of the finest songs of recent times! See vid below at the end of this post.

Lenny and Dylan are probably the greatest two artists of the modern music era, in terms of the quality of their work and their artistic longevity. A propos nothing, both, too, are coincidentally, yet interestingly, Jewish.

The work of these two masters will live on forever.

Lenny talks in a French interview in 85 about meeting Bob in Paris and introducing him to the song;

“It’s a rather joyous song . I like very much the last verse. I remember singin’ it to Bob Dylan after his last concert in Paris. The morning after, I was having coffee with him and we traded lyrics. Dylan especially liked this last verse “And even though it all went wrong , I stand before the Lord of song With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah”

– Leonard Cohen (from an interview in Paroles et Musiques, 1985)

We don’t know any details about where and when this Dylan boot comes from though. We think it could be from Bob’s 1988 tour.

by endraum

“Hallelujah” is an expertly crafted, beautiful and complex song where Cohen’s sculpted poetry juxtaposes secular and religious desire and ecstasy.

The sublime lyric sits astride a sumptuous melody regarding which, Rufus Wainwright – who often includes the song in his live repertoire and who did a decent version of the song on the Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man movie from 2006 – has commented that;

“It’s an easy song to sing. The music never pummels the words. The melody is almost liturgical and conjures up religious feelings. It’s purifying.”

Interestingly regarding the melody, in the section where the lyrics go “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift“, the chords move as described in the lyrics as follows: F (“the fourth”), G (“the fifth”), Am (“the minor fall”), F (“the major lift”).

“Hallelujah” was originally written and composed over the course of a year, and is said to have been a frustrating and difficult process for Lenny.

Cohen says he wrote at least eighty verses, discarding most of them in the process of crafting the song. Cohen is quoted as saying:

“ I filled two notebooks and I remember being in the Royalton Hotel, on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, ‘I can’t finish this song.’ ”

Cohen first recorded the song at Quadrasonic Sound, New York in June 1984, working with producer John Lissauer. The next recording of this song by Leonard Cohen was captured live in Austin, Texas on October 31, 1988 with production by Leanne Ungar and Bob Metzger.

The original incarnation of Hallelujah was as track 5 on Lenny’s Various Positions LP in 1984, which clocked in at 4:34. Here the lyric is much less secular than what it would later become.

The original recording is noted for containing a substantial amount of biblical references in the lyrics, alluding to David’s harp-playing used to soothe King Saul (I Sam 16:23), and his later affair with Bathsheba after watching her bathe from his roof (2 Sam 11:2).

The line “she broke your throne and she cut your hair” is obviously a reference to the source of Samson’s strength from the Book of Judges chapter 16 and to how his hair was cut by Delilah. The third verse refers to “the name” (Tetragrammaton).

An extended and significantly different version of “Hallelujah” was recorded for the Cohen Live LP in 1994, the performance being from an Austin gig in October 1988. This clocked in at a substantially longer 6:54.

The lyrics are very different in this version and in fact only the final verse from the original recording is retained.

In this version, the lyrics have become far more sexual and ambiguous, while the song’s structure has also been slightly reworked.

On stage in Antwerp in April 1988, Cohen describes this version as the the “secular” Hallelujah and speaks about the background to the song’s metamorphosis;

You know, I wrote this song …. it seems like yesterday but I guess it was five or six years ago and it had a chorus called Hallelujah. And it was a song that had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from beginning to the end. And finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore.

And I rewrote this song; this is the “secular” Hallelujah.

by tulzdavampslayer

In the years after his original studio album version, live performances by Cohen were almost invariably of the second version of the song.

Between Lenny’s two released versions of “Hallelujah”, former Velvet, John Cale recorded a very notable cover version, which appeared on the great 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan and, again, on Cale’s beautiful 1992 live album Fragments of a Rainy Season.

See a great “Hallelujah” performance from John Cale below from BBC TV back in ’92.

Cale’s version featured vocals with simple piano accompaniment. Importantly the lyrics are quite different from those on Lenny’s Various Positions. In a 2001 interview with The Observer, John Cale said:

After I saw [Cohen] perform at the Beacon I asked if I could have the lyrics to “Hallelujah”. When I got home one night there were fax paper rolls everywhere because Leonard had insisted on supplying all 15 verses.”

John says he “went through and just picked out the cheeky verses”!

John Cale’s version was far closer to the secular version of “Hallelujah” Lenny had been performing on his tours, the version Cale had heard him perform.

John Cale’s fine version would later feature in the 1996 film, Basquiat, as well as, rather surreally, in the 2001 animated film, Shrek. Strangely, for the latter movie, Rufus Wainwright covered the song as well, and his version appears on the Shrek soundtrack album rather than Cale’s – whose version is far better in our view!

Single released from the “I’m Your Fan” tribute album

Cale’s version would prove very influential since Lenny would not for some time release his updated version of of “Hallelujah”.

Although Cale’s version did not reach a mass audience, it became well known among music cognoscenti. Jeff Buckley would, soon after, begin performing “Hallelujah” at his live shows, in a version heavily influenced by Cale’s. We were lucky enough to catch a couple of his shows from around this time in small clubs such as Whelan’s in Dublin

Buckley later recorded “Hallelujah” for his only completed studio album, 1994 ‘s Grace in a version that would reach a much wider audience than the original Cohen song or Cale’s cover, particularly so after Jeff’s horribly early demise in 1997.

Buckley’s version relied quite heavily on studio technology. Not wholly satisfied with any one take, Buckley recorded the song more than twenty times. Studio engineer Andy Wallace then took three of these recordings to create a single track. The result was a quite commercial sounding version which was more accessible to the music masses than Lenny’s.

Buckley’s is the version that inspired a thousand insipid cover versions by muzak merchants the likes of Bon Jovi (oh, the horror!) et al!! In fact there are countless morons out there who believe Buckley actually wrote the song!

Bizarrely, in March, 2008, Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah”, went to No. 1 on the iTunes chart, selling 178,000 downloads for the week, after being performed by some joker named Jason Castro on the seventh season of the vile television series American Idol. The song debuted at #1 that week on Billboard’s Hot Digital Songs chart, giving Buckley his first #1 on any Billboard chart!

As alluded to above, a slew of other cover versions of “Hallelujah” have been attempted, very variable in quality, to say the least, and most not very good!

Many such cover artists mix lyrics from both Lenny versions, and occasionally make direct lyric changes such as Rufus Wainwright singing “holy dark” and Allison Crowe singing “Holy Ghost” rather than “holy dove”.

“Hallelujah” is a very difficult song to cover well. Bob Dylan, typically, does a great job in the boot recording here though.

It’s up there with John Cale’s fine version.

No, we’re not big fans of the rather saccharine Jeff Buckley version. Nor, surprisingly, the version that cnut did on America Idol this year!!

There’s a nice piece about this majestic song on pagesperso-orange, with some great quotes from Lenny – in interviews or on stage – regarding the song, and also some changed lyrics live, as follows:

Warsaw 22/03/1985

Thank you very much friends. You know, since I’ve been here, many people have asked me what I have thought just about everything there is in this veil of tears. I don’t know the answers to anything. I just come here to sing you these songs that have been inspired by something that I hope is deeper and bigger than myself. I have nothing to say about the way that Poland is governed. I have nothing to say about the resistance to the government. The relationship between a people and its government is an intimate thing. It is not for a stranger to comment. I know that there is an eye that watches all of us. There is a judgment that weighs everything we do. And before this great force which is greater than any government, I stand in awe and I kneel in respect. And it is to this great judgment, that I dedicate this next song: “Hallelujah”.

Interview (magazine “Guitare et Claviers” 1985)

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means “Glory to the Lord.” The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say : “All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value.” It’s, as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.

Interview (Magazine “Paroles et Musiques” 1985)

Here there is an ironic and warm “feeling.” I wanted to get into this tradition of the composers who said “Hallelujah,” but with no precisely religious point of view. And then I realize there is a “Hallelujah” more general that we speak to the world, to life… It’s a rather joyous song. I like very much the last verse. I remember singin’ it to Bob Dylan after his last concert in Paris. The morning after, I was having coffee with him and we traded lyrics. Dylan especially liked this last verse, “And even though it all went wrong, I stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.”

About the second verse, “Your faith was strong but you needed proof”:

According to the Judaic tradition, David asked for ordeal. But the Rabbies said we should be reluctant to do so because ordeal there will sure be!

“David playing psalterion”, Reichenau Movement, Tenth century

Interview (Magazine “Actuel” January 1985)

LC – I intended to say “Hallelujah”. There is a religious Hallelujah, but there are many other ones. When one looks at the world and his proper life, there’s only one thing to say, it’s Hallelujah. That’s the way it is….
Mag – It means “Thank You” ?

LC – The literal translation is “Pray God”. It’s not exactly some gratitude but the affirmation there is a will that we can’t control. What can we do in front of it ?

Mag – A good will or a bad one ?

LC – An impenetrable one.

Mag – Mysterious ?

LC – Saying “Mysterious” is again making a description. This will is obvious from time to time, hidden at other times

Montreux 09/07/1985

This is a song about the broken.

München 12/04/1988

Verse Variation

Forgive me Lord if you’re up there above, but all I ever learned from love …

Antwerp 17/04/1988

You know, I wrote this song a couple of … it seems like yesterday but I guess it was five or six years ago and it had a chorus called Hallelujah. And it was a song that had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from beginning to the end. And finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore.

And I rewrote this song; this is the “secular” Hallelujah.

Nürnberg 10/05/1988 and Roskilde July 2, 1988

Modified verses

But it’s not a cry that you hear tonight And it’s not some gleeful laughter from somebody who says he has seen the light …

alternate version (Roskilde July 2nd, 1988)

It’s not some gleeful christian who has seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah …

Interview, Reijkavik, Iceland June 1988

Yeah another song came on top of that. So I’d already recorded that one. And I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world. The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.

Gothenburg 02/05/93

In solemn testimony of that unbroken faith, which binds a generation one to another, I hereby bestow upon you the ancient priestly benediction “May the Lord bless you and keep you, May the Lord shine His Light upon you, May the Lord be gracious unto you, and grant you the blessings of Peace”.

Paris 13/05/93

verse variation

….Well I’ve seen your walls on the marble arch, but Love is not a victory march

Helsinki 1993

verse variation

….Well I’ve seen your fortress on the marble arch, but Love is not a victory march

by hakanphotography

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah


(Original version from the Various Positions LP)


painting by L Cohen

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah


Baby, I’ve been here before.
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.

Yeah I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
But listen, love is not some kind of victory march,
No it’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, (Hallelujah…)

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below,
Ah but now you never show it to me, do you?

Yeah but I remember, yeah when I moved in you,
And the holy dove, she was moving too,
Yes every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a God above,
As for me, all I’ve ever seemed to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.

Yeah but it’s not a complaint that you hear tonight,
It’s not the laughter of someone who claims to have seen the light
No it’s a cold and it’s a very lonely Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come all this way to fool you.

Yeah even tough it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

(Extended version from the Cohen Live LP)



Bob Dylan performs Leonard Cohen’s majestic “Hallelujah”

From: thcarmine

John Cale performs Leonard Cohen’s majestic “Hallelujah”

From the BBC TV show Later, back in 1992.

From: thecatkeaton

The maestro performs his own majestic “Hallelujah”!
(original Various Positions
version)

From German TV? A very, let’s say, interesting set! Very eighties! Lenny looks quite bemused by it anyway!!


from Duncster

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November 25, 2008 Posted by | Canon, John Cale, Leonard Cohen, _BOB DYLAN, _MUSIC, _PHOTOGRAPHY, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

LC I’m Your Man by *digitaldao

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The old are kind,
but the young are hot …

Nice homage to the great Lenny from digitaldao

Artist’s Comments:

Got this postcard from one of my most favourite poets, lyricist, songwriter, and singer, Leonard Cohen!

The words are from his poems, “SORROWS OF THE ELDERLY” & “THE DRUNKARD BECOMES GENDER FREE”. I’m Your Man is a song, from his extensive repertoire.

Mail us: stupidand@gmail.com

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November 24, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ART | Leave a comment

Take This Longing

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by i-am-god-la-dee-da


Untie for me your hired blue gown, like you would do for one that you love.


Another sublime Lenny song. A somewhat under-rated classic from Lenny’s fourth studio album, New Skin For The Old Ceremony.

Perfectly sculpted lyrics. Pure poetry laden with raw dark desire and lustful longing.

Plenty of complexity too, as one would expect from Lenny, with lots of guilt and self-hate expressed within the confines of the great song. Moments of darkness counterpointed with moments of great humour.

Of course too, the song is infused throughout with ambiguity and potential religious interpretations.

All sung over a sumptuous melody, simply performed.

A minimalist masterpiece.


Leonard Cohen - New Skin For The Old Ceremony Song: Take This Longing
Album:
New Skin For The Old Ceremony
Year : 1974
Label : Columbia

https://i1.wp.com/fc05.deviantart.com/fs37/f/2008/241/7/c/Take_This_Longing_by_tmc.jpg

from tmc


Take This Longing


Many men have loved the bells
you fastened to the rein,
and everyone who wanted you
they found what they will always want again.
Your beauty lost to you yourself
just as it was lost to them.
Oh take this longing from my tongue,
whatever useless things these hands have done.
Let me see your beauty broken down
like you would do for one you love.

Your body like a searchlight
my poverty revealed,
I would like to try your charity
until you cry, “Now you must try my greed.”
And everything depends upon
how near you sleep to me

Just take this longing from my tongue
all the lonely things my hands have done.
Let me see your beauty broken down
like you would do for one your love.

Hungry as an archway
through which the troops have passed,
I stand in ruins behind you,
with your winter clothes, your broken sandal straps.
I love to see you naked over there
especially from the back.

Oh take this longing from my tongue,
all the useless things my hands have done,
untie for me your hired blue gown,
like you would do for one that you love.

You’re faithful to the better man,
I’m afraid that he left.
So let me judge your love affair
in this very room where I have sentenced
mine to death.
I’ll even wear these old laurel leaves
that he’s shaken from his head.

Just take this longing from my tongue,
all the useless things my hands have done,
let me see your beauty broken down,
like you would do for one you love.

Like you would do for one you love.

– Leonard Cohen



From: smakosz56

Mail us: stupidand@gmail.com

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November 24, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ART, _BABE, _PHOTOGRAPHY, _POETRY | Leave a comment

Leonard Cohen 1992 – by Paul Rozzo




A wonderful and extensive interview with the great man back in 92, from Paul Rozzo’s book Songwiters on Songwiting.


L
EONARD COHEN, LOS ANGELES 1992

F ROM SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING
BY PAUL ZOLLO

We are sitting indian-style on the second floor of Leonard Cohen’s home in Los Angeles. On his bookshelf are many books that he’s written himself, including two novels and several volumes of poetry. An unearthly rain is exploding outside as he scans countless notebooks of song, endless revisions that span decades and which fill thousands of pages within hundreds of notebooks. For every verse that he keeps, there are untold dozens that he discards. When I mention that a lesser writer would have been happy with simply two of the six verses that he wrote for the stunning “Democracy” from his album, The Future, he answers, “I’ve got about sixty.”

His tower of song isn’t really that tall, only two floors that I can see anyway, but to him it’s both a fortress of solitude and a factory, a place where he says, “I summon every version of myself that I can to join this workforce, this team, this legion.” It’s here that he gives songs the kind of respect bottles of fine wine receive, the knowledge that years — decades even — are needed for them to ripen to full maturity. Quoting from the Talmud he says, “There’s good wine in every generation,” referring to the new songwriters who crop up every few years. But his own work has extended across generations and decades, packing as much brilliance into 1992’s The Future as he instilled into his first album in 1967. “I always knew I was in this for the long haul,” he says, but somewhere along the line the work just got harder.”

Like Dylan, Simon, and few others, Leonard Cohen has expanded the vocabulary of the popular song into the domain of poetry. And like both Simon and Dylan, Cohen will work and rework his songs until he achieves a kind of impossible perfection. He didn’t need Dylan’s influence, however, to inspire his poetic approach to songwriting. He’d already written much poetry and two highly acclaimed novels by the time Dylan emerged, leading the poet Allen Ginsberg to comment, “Dylan blew everybody’s mind, except Leonard’s.”

In the beginning, Cohen was both a member of a Canadian country group called the Buckskins and a member of what is now known as the Montreal School of Poetry. When he wasn’t playing folk songs on his guitar, he was lyrically chanting his poetry. It was only a matter of time until the words and the music came together and Cohen became a songwriter.

Songwriting was for him then, as it remains today, a labor of love. Few thoughts of making it a career entered his thoughts for many years. “We used to play music for fun. Much more than now. Now nobody picks up a guitar unless they’re paid for it. Now every kid who picks up a guitar is invited to dream.”

The first song he ever wrote was aptly called “Chant,” a poem he loosely set to music: “Hold me heartlight, soft light hold me, moonlight in your mouth…” When John Hammond, the same guy who discovered Dylan, Springsteen, and Billie Holiday, heard some of Leonard’s early songs, he told him, “You’ve got it,” and signed him to Columbia records.

His first album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen, was an extraordinary debut for any songwriter and recording artist. Like later debuts by artists such as John Prine and Rickie Lee Jones, the level of writing on his first record achieved a resounding maturity and musical grace seldom found on a first album. In songs such as “Suzanne” and “Sisters of Mercy,” Cohen moved beyond the realm of the popular song to reach into places previously untouched with words and music.

His following albums continued to resound with beautiful, intimate poetry while stretching the boundaries of songwriting, in such classic songs as “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” “Joan of Arc,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat.” So moved was Kris Kristofferson by the simple valor of Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” that he requested its opening to be inscribed on his tombstone: “Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.” Bob Dylan made the accurate comment that Cohen’s songs had become almost like prayers. It’s true: a certain sanctity connects all of Cohen’s work, a timeless devotional beauty that runs entirely opposite to almost everything that is modern.

He was born on September 21, 1934 in Montreal. His father died when he was nine. At seventeen he went to McGill University where he formed the Buckskin Boys and wrote his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies. His second volume, published in 1961 and entitled The Spice Box of Earth, was acclaimed around the world. But as it’s always been with his careers, the extreme acclaim that his work received never equalled extreme amounts of money. “I couldn’t make a living,” he said.”

For seven years he lived on the island of Hydra in Greece with Marianne Kenson and her son Axel. While there he wrote another book of poems, Flowers for Hitler, and two novels, The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers.

Again the praise was vast and forthcoming but the financial rewards were scarce. The Boston Globe wrote “James Joyce is not dead. He is living in Montreal under the name of Cohen.” But he was frustrated by the inequality between the praise and the money, and rejected the novelist’s life to move to American and become a songwriter.

Contradicting the old adage that the devil is in the details, Cohen has shown many times that the divine can be discovered there. As he once said to Jennifer Warnes, “Your most particular answer will be your most universal one.” It is the unique specificity of his songs that enable one not only to envision them but to enter them. The miraculous “Suzanne” for example, is a song towards which many songwriters have aspired, and it is Cohen’s descriptive use of details, along with one of his most haunting melodies, that distinguishes this astonishing song.

When I mentioned to him that to this day it seems miraculous to me that someone could have written it, he agreed, not egotistically but with a kind of hushed reverence. “It is miraculous,” he said softly.

In conversation he is often Whitmanesque, speaking in evocative and inspired lists of specific human activity similar to the touching human details found in all of his songs. For example, when asked if he felt that many meaningful songs were still being written, he beautifully expounded on the meaning of meaningful songs:

“There are always meaningful songs for somebody. People are doing their courting, people are finding their wives, people are making babies, people are washing their dishes, people are getting through the day, with songs that we may find insignificant. But their significance is affirmed by others. There’s always someone affirming the significance of a song by taking a woman into his arms or by getting through the night. That’s what dignifies the song.

Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.




Are you always working on songs or do you write only for specific projects?

No, I’m writing all the time. And as the songs begin to coalesce, I’m not doing anything else but writing. I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is. So I am working most of the time.

When you say, “what the song is,” do you mean that in terms of meaning, where the meaning is leading you?

Yes. I find that easy versions of the song arrive first. Although they might be able to stand as songs, they can’t stand as songs that I can sing. So to find a song that I can sing, to engage my interest, to penetrate my boredom with myself and my disinterest in my own opinions, to penetrate those barriers, the song has to speak to me with a certain urgency. To be able to find that song that I can be interested in takes many versions and it takes a lot of uncovering.

Do you mean that you’re trying to reach something that is outside of your immediate realm of thought?

My immediate realm of thought is bureaucratic and like a traffic jam. My ordinary state of mind is very much like the waiting room at the DMV. Or, as I put it in a quatrain, “The voices in my head, they don’t care what I do, they just want to argue the matter through and through.”

So to penetrate this chattering and this meaningless debate that is occupying most of my attention, I have to come up with something that really speaks to my deepest interest. Otherwise I just nod off in one way or another. So to find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat.

But why shouldn’t my work be hard? Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with the payload.

So you’re not a writer for whom ideas simply appear?

I haven’t had an idea in a long long time. And I’m not sure I ever had one.

Now my friend Irving Layton, the great Canadian writer, said, “Leonard’s mind is unpolluted by a single idea.” And he meant it as a kind of compliment. He’s a close friend and he knows me, and it’s true. I don’t have ideas. I don’t really speculate on things. I get opinions but I’m not really attached to them. Most of them are tiresome. I have to trot them out in conversations from time to time just to cooperate in the social adventure. But I have a kind of amnesia and my ideas just kind of float above this profound disinterest in myself and other people. So to find something that really touches and addresses my attention, I have to do a lot of hard, manual work.

What does that work consist of?

Just versions. I will drag you upstairs after the vacuuming stops and I will show you version after version after version of some of the tunes on this new album.

You do have whole notebooks of songs?

Whole notebooks. I’m very happy to be able to speak this way to fellow craftsmen. Some people may find it encouraging to see how slow and dismal and painstaking is the process.

For instance, a song like “Closing Time” began as a song in 3/4 time with a really strong, nostalgic, melancholy country feel. Entirely different words. It began:

The parking lot is empty;
They switch off the Budweiser sign.
It’s dark from here to San Jobete,
It’s dark all down the line.
They ought to hand the night a ticket
For speeding, it’s a crime.
I had so much to tell you,
Yeah, but now it’s closing time.

And I recorded the song and I sang it. And I choked over it. Even though another singer could have done it perfectly well. It’s a perfectly reasonable song. And a good one, I might say. A respectable song. But I choked over it.

There wasn’t anything that really addressed my attention. The finishing of it was agreeable because it’s always an agreeable feeling. But when I tried to sing it I realized it came from my boredom and not from my attention. It came from my desire to finish the song and not from the urgency to locate a construction that would engross me.

So I went to work again. Then I filled another notebook from beginning to end with the lyric, or the attempts at the lyric, which eventually made it onto the album. So most of [my songs] have a dismal history, like the one I’ve just accounted.

Generally do you finish the melody and then work on the lyrics for a long time?

They’re born together, they struggle together, and they influence one another. When the lyric begins to be revised, of course, the line can’t carry it with its new nuance or its new meaning. And generally the musical line has to change, which involves changing the next musical line, which involves changing the next lyrical line, so the process is mutual and painstaking and slow.

Do you generally begin a song with a lyrical idea?

It begins with an appetite to discover my self-respect. To redeem the day. So the day does not go down in debt. It begins with that kind of appetite.

Do you work on guitar?

It usually was guitar but now I have been working with keyboards.

Does the instrument affect the song you are writing?

They have certainly affected my songs. I only have one chop. All guitar players have chops. Especially professional ones. But I have only one chop. It’s a chop that very few guitarists can emulate, hence I have a certain kind of backhanded respect from guitar players because they know that I have a chop that they can’t master. And that chop was the basis of a lot of my good songs.

But on the keyboard, because you can set up patterns and rhythms, I can mock up songs in a way that I couldn’t do with my guitar. There were these rhythms that I heard but I couldn’t really duplicate with my own instrument. So it’s changed the writing quite a bit.

Writing in that way could be either more freeing or more restrictive. You have a rhythm that is set but you are free from playing the guitar.

Well, freedom and restriction are just luxurious terms to one who is locked in a dungeon in the tower of song. These are just… ideas. I don’t have the sense of restriction or freedom. I just have the sense of work. I have the sense of hard labor.

Is this hard labor ever enjoyable for you?

It has a certain nourishment. The mental physique is muscular. That gives you a certain stride as you walk along the dismal landscape of your inner thoughts. You have a certain kind of tone to your activity. But most of the time it doesn’t help. It’s just hard work.

But I think unemployment is the great affliction of man. Even people with jobs are unemployed. In fact, most people with jobs are unemployed. I can say, happily and gratefully, that I am fully employed. Maybe all hard work means is fully employed. We have a sense here that it’s smart not to work. The hustle, the con, these have been elevated to a very high position in our morality. And probably if I could mount a con or a hustle in terms of my own work I would probably embrace the same philosophy. But I am a working stiff. It takes me months and months of full employment to break the code of the song. To find out if there can be a song there.’ When you’re working to break that code, is it a process of actively thinking about what the song should say?

Anything that I can bring to it. Thought, meditation, drinking, disillusion, insomnia, vacations…

Because once the song enters the mill, it’s worked on by everything that I can summon. And I need everything. I try everything. I try to ignore it, try to repress it, try to get high, try to get intoxicated, try to get sober, all the versions of myself that I can summon are summoned to participate in this project, this work force.

I try everything. I’ll do anything. By any means possible.

In your experience, do any of these things work better than others?

Nothing works. Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with a song long enough it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you think long enough may be. In fact, long enough is way beyond. It’s abandoning, it’s abandoning that idea of what you think long enough may be.

Because if you think it’s a week, that’s not long enough. If you think it’s a month, it’s not long enough. If you think it’s a year, it’s not long enough. If you think it’s a decade, it’s not long enough.

Some songs take a decade to write. “Anthem” took a decade to write. And I’ve recorded it three times. More. I had a version prepared for my last album with strings and voices and overdubs. The whole thing completely finished. I listened to it, there was something wrong with the lyric, there was something wrong with the tune, there was something wrong with the tempo. there was a lie somewhere in there, there was a disclosure that I was refusing to make.

There was a solemnity that I hadn’t achieved. There was something wrong with the damn thing. All I knew is that I couldn’t sing it. You could hear it in the vocal, that the guy was putting you on.

ök Is “Anthem” in any way an answer to Dylan’s song “Everything is Broken”?

I had a line in “Democracy” that referred specifically to that Dylan song “Everything is Broken,” which was “The singer says it’s broken and the painter says it’s gray…” But, no, Anthem” was written a long time before that Dylan song. I’d say Œ82 but it was actually earlier than that that that song began to form.

ök Including the part about the crack in everything?

That’s old, that’s very old. That has been the background of much of my work. I had those lines in the works for along time. I’ve been recycling them in many songs. I must not be able to nail it.

ök You said earlier that you had no ideas, but that certainly is an idea.

Yeah. When I say that I don’t have any ideas, it doesn’t come to me in the form of an idea. It comes in the form of an image. I didn’t start with a philosophical position that human activity is not perfectable. And that all human activity is flawed. And it is by intimacy with the flaw that we discern our real humanity and our real connection with divine inspiration. I didn’t come up with it that way. I saw something broken. It’s a different form of cognition.

ök Do images usually come to you in that way?

Well, things come so damn slow. Things come and they come and it’s a tollgate, and they’re particularly asking for something that you can’t manage.

They say, “We got the goods here. What do you got to pay?” Well, I’ve got my intelligence, I’ve got a mind. “No, we don’t want that.” I’ve got my whole training as a poet. “No, we don’t want that.” I’ve got some licks, I’ve got some skills with my fingers on the guitar. “No, we don’t want that either.” Well, I’ve got a broken heart. “No, we don’t want that.” I’ve got a pretty girlfriend. “No, we don’t want that.” I’ve got sexual desire. “No, we don’t want that. I’ve got a whole lot of things and the tollgate keeper says, “That’s not going to get it. We want you in a condition that you are not accustomed to. And that you yourself cannot name. We want you in a condition of receptivity that you cannot produce by yourself.” How are you going to come up with that?

What’s the answer?

[Laughs] I don’t know. But, you know, I’ve been lucky over the years. I’ve been willing to pay the price.

How much does it cost?

[Pause] It’s hard to name. It’s hard to name because it keeps changing.

Is it a sense that you are reaching outside of yourself to write these songs?

If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often. It’s a mysterious condition. It’s much like the life of a Catholic nun. You’re married to a mystery.

Do you consider the tower of song to be a place of exile or of retreat?

I think you can use it as a retreat but it doesn’t work. It’s best thought of as a factory. It’s some combination between a factory and a bordello. But it’s just the tower of song.

You’ve spoken about the hard labor that goes into your songs, and part of that must be due to the fact that your verses are so rich, and that you write long songs with many verses. I think other songwriters might have come up with two of the verses in “Democracy” and stopped.

I’ve got about sixty. There are about three or four parallel songs in the material that I’ve got. I saw that the song could develop in about three or four different ways and there actually exist about three or four versions of “Democracy.” The one I chose seemed to be the one that I could sing at that moment. I addressed almost everything that was going on in America.

This was when the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the east. And I was like that gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or something. And I said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen that way. I don’t think this is such a good idea. I think a lot of suffering will be the consequence of this wall coming down.” But then I asked myself, “Where is democracy really coming?” And it was the U.S. A. But I had verses:

It ain’t coming to us European style:
Concentration camp behind a smile.
It ain’t coming from the east,
With its temporary feast,
As Count Dracula comes
Strolling down the aisle…

So while everyone was rejoicing, I thought it wasn’t going to be like that, euphoric, the honeymoon.

So it was these world events that occasioned the song. And also the love of America. Because I think the irony of American is transcendent in the song.

It’s not an ironic song. It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy. So I wanted to have that feeling in the song too. But I treated the relationship between the blacks and the Jews. For instance, I had:

First we killed the Lord and then we stole the blues.
This gutter people always in the news,
But who really gets to laugh behind the black man’s back
When he makes his little crack about the Jews?
Who really gets to profit and who really gets to pay?
Who really rides the slavery ship right into Charleston Bay?
Democracy is coming to the U.S. A.

Verses like that.

Why did you take that out?

I didn’t want to compromise the anthemic, hymn-like quality. I didn’t want it to get too punchy. I didn’t want to start a fight in the song. I wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a confrontation or a call-to-arms or a defense.

There were a lot of verses like that, and this was long before the riots. There was:

From the church where the outcasts can hide
Or the mosque where the blood is dignified.
Like the fingers on your hand,
Like the hourglass of sand,
We can separate but not divide
From the eye above the pyramid
And the dollar’s cruel display
From the law behind the law,
Behind the law we still obey
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

There were a lot of verses like that. Good ones.

It’s hard to believe you’d write a verse like that and discard it.

The thing is that before I can discard the verse, I have to write it. Even if it’s bad — those two happen to be good, I’m presenting the best of my discarded work — but even the bad ones took as long to write as the good ones. As someone once observed, it’s just as hard to write a bad novel as a good novel. It’s just as hard to write a bad verse as a good verse. I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.

You can’t discover that in the raw.

I love the verse that has “I’m stubborn as the garbage bags that refuse to decay / I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet.”

Most of us from the middle-class, we have a kind of old, 19th century idea of what democracy is, which is, more or less, to over-simplify it, that the masses are going to love Shakespeare and Beethoven. That’s more or less our idea of what democracy is. But that ain’t it. It’s going to come up in unexpected ways from the stuff that we think are junk: the people we think are junk, the ideas we think are junk, the television we think is junk.

You also have the line “The maestro says it’s Mozart, but it sounds like bubble-gum.” That junk is sometimes promoted as great art.

Some stuff is being promoted as junk and it is great art. Remember the way that a lot of rock and roll was greeted by the authorities and the musicologists and even the hip people. And when people were putting me down as being one thing or another, it wasn’t the guy in the subway. He didn’t know about me. It was the hip people, writing the columns in the hip newspapers, college papers, music papers.

So it’s very difficult to see what the verdict is going to be about a piece of work. And the thing that makes it an interesting game is that each generation revises the game, and decides on what is poetry and song for itself. Often rejecting the very carefully considered verdicts of the previous generations. I mean, did the hippies ever think that they would be the objects of ridicule by a generation? Self-righteous and prideful for the really bold and courageous steps they had taken to find themselves imbued in the face of an unmovable society; the risks, the chances, the dope they smoked, the acid they dropped?

Did they ever think they would be held up as figures of derision, like cartoon characters? No.

And so it is, with every generation. There’s that remark: “He who marries the spirit of his own generation is a widower in the next.”

You’ve written novels and books of poetry. And you once made a comment about having a calm, domestic life as a novelist before becoming a songwriter. Is the life of a songwriter entirely different than that of the poet or novelist?

It used to be. Because I used to be able to write songs on the run. I used to work hard but I didn’t really begin slaving over them till 1983. I always used to work hard. But I had no idea what hard work was until something changed in my mind.

Do you know what that was?

I don’t really know what it was. Maybe some sense that this whole enterprise is limited, that there was an end in sight.

An end to your songwriting?

No, an end to your life. That you were really truly mortal. I don’t know what it was exactly, I’m just speculating. But at a certain moment I found myself engaged in songwriting in the same way that I had been engaged in novel writing when I was very young. In other words, it’s something you do every day and you can’t get too far from it, otherwise you forget what it’s about

It wasn’t that way for you prior to that time?

It was, but I’m speaking of degree. I always thought that I sweated over the stuff. But I had no idea what sweating over the stuff meant until I found myself in my underwear crawling along the carpet in a shabby room at the Royalton Hotel unable to nail a verse. And knowing that I had a recording session and knowing that I could get by with what I had but that I’m not going to be able to do it.

That kind of change I knew gradually was there and I knew that I had to work in a certain way that was nothing I had ever known anything about.

In the early days, did a song such as “Suzanne” come easy to you?

No, no, I worked months and months on “Suzanne.” It’s just a matter of intensity. I was still able to juggle stuff: a life, a woman, a dream, other ambitions, other tangents. At a certain point I realized I only had one ball in my hand, and that was The Song. Everything else had been wrecked or compromised and I couldn’t go back, and I was a one-ball juggler. I’d do incredible things with that ball to justify the absurdity of the presentation.

Because what are you going to do with that ball? You don’t have three anymore. You’ve just got one. And maybe only one arm. What are you going to do? You can flip it off your wrist, or bounce it off your head. You have to come up with some pretty good moves. You have to learn them from scratch. And that’s what I learned, that you have to learn them from scratch.

There is some continuity between “Suzanne” and “Waiting for A Miracle” [sic]. Of course there is; it’s the same guy. Maybe it’s like you lose your arm, you’re a shoemaker. You’re a pretty good shoemaker, maybe not the best but one of the top ten. You lose your arm and nobody knows. All they know is that your shoes keep on being pretty good. But in your workshop, you’re holding onto the edge of the shoe with your teeth, you’re holding it down and hammering with your other hand. It’s quite an acrobatic presentation to get that shoe together. It may be the same shoe, it’s just a lot harder to come by and you don’t want to complain about it.

So maybe that’s all that happened, is that I got wiped out in some kind of way and that just meant that I had to work harder to get the same results. I don’t have any estimation or evaluation. I just know that the work got really hard.

Why did you move from writing novels and poems to songwriting?

I never saw the difference. There was a certain point that I saw that I couldn’t make a living (as a poet or novelist). But to become a songwriter or a singer, to address an economic problem, is the height of folly, especially in your early thirties. So I don’t know why I did it or why I do anything. I never had a strategy. I just play it by ear.

I just know that I had written what I thought was a pretty good novel, Beautiful Losers. It had been hailed by all the authorities as being a work of significance. Whether it is or not, who knows. But I had the credentials. But I couldn’t pay my bills. It had only sold a couple thousand copies. So it was folly to begin another novel. I didn’t want to teach, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I didn’t have the personal style for that. I was too dissolute. I had to stay up too late, I had to move too fast, it wasn’t a good place for me.

Have you ever had the desire to write another novel?

You toy with it but it’s the regime that I like very much, writing a novel. I like that you really can’t do anything else. You’ve got to be in one place. That’s the way it is now with songwriting. I’ve got to have my synthesizer and my Mac. I can’t really entertain a lot of distractions. [Otherwise] you forget what it’s about very easily.

Is it more satisfying for you to write a song, something that you can enter again after writing and perform?

The performance of songs is a wonderful opportunity. It is a great privilege. It is a great way to test your courage. And to test the song. And even to test the audience.

Earlier you said that you could only write something that you would be able to sing, that —

I’m not trying to suggest that this has any dimension or hierarchy of better, worse. It’s just a shape that it’s got to have, otherwise I can’t wrap my voice around it.

There are songs like “Dress Rehearsal Rag” that I recorded once and I will never sing. Judy Collins did a very beautiful version of it, better than mine. I would never do that song in concert; I can’t get behind it.

But it’s not a matter of excellence or anything but just the appropriate shape of my voice and psyche.

Earlier you said that you couldn’t sing an early version of “Anthem” because it had a lie in it. Does this mean that the songs have to resonate in truth for you to be able to sing them?

They have to resonate with the kind of truth that I can recognize. They have to have the kind of balance of truth and lies, light and dark.

Jennifer Warnes said that you once told her that the most particular answer is the most universal one.

I think so. I think that’s advice that a lot of good writers have given me and the world. You don’t really want to say “the tree,” you want to say “the sycamore.”

Why is that?

I don’t know. And it’s not even true. But there is a certain truth to it. We seem to be able to relate to detail. We seem to have an appetite for it. It seems that your days are made of details, and if you can’t get the sense of another person’s day of details, your own day of details is summoned in your mind in some way rather than just a general line like “the days went by.” It’s better to say “watching Captain Kangaroo.” Not “watching TV.” Sitting in my room “with that hopeless little screen.” Not just TV, but the hopeless, little screen.

I think those are the details that delight us. They delight us because we can share a life then. It’s our sense of insignificance and isolation that produces a great deal of suffering.



It’s one of the great things about your work, your rich use of details. So many songs we hear are empty, and have no details at all.

I love to hear the details. I was just working on a line this morning for a song called “I Was Never Any Good at Loving You.” And the line was — I don’t think I’ve nailed it yet — “I was running from the law, I thought you knew, forgiveness was the way it felt with you” or “forgiven was the way I felt with you.” Then I got a metaphysical line, about the old law and the new law, the Old Testament and the New Testament: “I was running from the law, the old and the new, forgiven was the way I felt with you.” No, I thought, it’s too intellectual. Then I thought I got it: “I was running from the cops and the robbers too, forgiven was the way I felt with you.” You got cops and robbers, it dignifies the line by making it available, making it commonplace.

Each of those three versions work well. And so many of your lines, though I understand how hard you work on them and revise them, have the feeling of being inevitable. They don’t feel forced; they just feel like the perfect line.

I appreciate that. Somebody said that art is the concealment of art.

Is there much concealing?

Unless you want to present the piece with the axe-marks on it, which is legitimate, [to show] where the construction or the carving is. I like the polished stuff too.

At a certain point, when the Jews were first commanded to raise an altar, the commandment was on unhewn stone. Apparently the god that wanted that particular altar didn’t want slick, didn’t want smooth. He wanted an unhewn stone placed on another unhewn stone. Maybe then you go looking for stones that fit. Maybe that was the process that God wanted the makers of this altar to undergo.

Now I think Dylan has lines, hundreds of great lines that have the feel of unhewn stone. But they really fit in there. But they’re not smoothed out. It’s inspired but not polished.

That is not to say that he doesn’t have lyrics of great polish. That kind of genius can manifest all the forms and all the styles.

When you’re working on lines such as those that you mentioned, is that a process of working just with words, separate from music?

No. I don’t remember the chicken or the egg, I know the song began. But I keep moving them back and forth between the notebook and the keyboard. Trying to find where the song is. I had it as a shuffle. I had it as a kind of 6/8 song like “Blueberry Hill.”

So when working on a lyric, there’s always a melody in your mind that accompanies the lyric?

Usually, yes, the line will have a kind of rhythm that will indicate, at the very least, where the voice will go up and where the voice will go down. I guess that’s the rudimentary beginnings of what they call melody.

I asked that because your songs, unlike most, are always in perfect meter and perfect rhyme schemes. It seems it would be possible to work on them just as lyrics, without music.

It doesn’t seem to work that way. Because the line of music is very influential in determining the length of a line or the density, the syllabic density.

You mentioned working on a Mac. Is that musical work as well as lyrical work?

I like to set them up. They usually go from the napkin to the notebook to the Mac. And back and forth. And there’s a certain moment when there’s enough. I like to see it.

They say that the Torah was written with black fire on white fire. So I get that feeling from the computer, the bright black against the bright background. It gives it a certain theatrical dignity to see it on the screen. And also work processing enables you to cut and paste. But I generally have to go back to the napkin and the notebook. But at certain periods during the making of the song, I’ll mock it up as a song just to be able to study it in a certain way.

You mentioned that whole verse about the Jews in “Democracy” that you took out, and in “The Future” there is that line, “I’m the little Jew who wrote the Bible.” There are so many great Jewish songwriters, yet it’s so rare that any of them mention being Jewish in a song —

[Laughs] I smiled to myself when that line came. A friend of mine said, “I dare you to leave that line in.”

You were tempted to remove it?

I’m tempted to remove everything. At any time. I guess I’ve got a kind of alcoholic courage. Most people are reluctant to remove things. My sin is on the other side. I’m ready to discard the whole song at any time and start over.

And I think it’s just as grave a defect because probably, at some point down the line, I’ve thrown away some songs that were pretty good. And they’re buried out there somewhere.

Do you ever construct songs from things you’ve discarded?

I continually recycle.

Do you think being Jewish affects your writing?

I have no idea. I’ve never been anything else. So I don’t know what it would be like not to have this reference. This reference that you can reject or embrace. You can have a million attitudes to this reference but you can’t change the reference.

You’ve studied the Torah and the Talmud?

Yeah, yeah, in a modest way.

When you’re writing a song like “The Future,” for example, which is in A minor, do you choose a key that will match the tone of the song?

Yeah. I choose a key not so much as Garth Hudson [of the Band] would, who has a whole philosophy of music based on keys and colors and what moods different keys produce. I think that’s quite valuable, I just don’t have the chops to be able to do that because I can’t play in all the keys. So I can’t really examine the effects of all the keys. With the synthesizer I could play in all of them but I don’t try that.

Do you think that there are colors that coincide with each key?

I think there are but mostly for me it’s range. Some keys will place the voice a little deeper than others. My voice has gotten very very deep over the years and seems even to be deepening. I thought it was because of 50,000 cigarettes and several swimming pools of whiskey that my voice has gotten low. But I gave up smoking a couple of years ago and it’s still getting deeper.


You actually do sound like a different person on the earlier records.

Sounds like a different person. Something happened to me too. I know what it was. My voice really started to change around Œ82. It started to deepen and I started to cop to the fact that it was deepening.

That very low voice is such a resonant sound. Are you happy with how it has evolved?

I’m surprised that I can even, with fear and trembling, describe myself to myself as a singer. I’m beginning to be able to do that. I never thought I would but there is something in the voice that is quite acceptable. I never thought I would be able to develop a voice that had any kind of character.

In terms of keys again, do you ever change keys while writing?

Oh, yeah. It’s funny, today I was thinking about modulating in a tune which I have never done. I’ve never modulated a song in midstream.

Key changes can be quite corny. I can’t think of a song of yours where you would want one.

No, I don’t know. I think it could be nice. I’ve never tried it. I might find a way to do it — maybe in the middle of a line except in the beginning of a verse. There might be some sneaky ways to do it.

I did it in a certain kind of way in “Anthem.” When I went up to the B-flat from the F. It threw it into another key. So in a sense, that chorus is in another key and then it comes back through suspended chords and into the original key.

So I have looked into them.

Do you feel that minor keys are more expressive than major keys?

I think the juxtaposition of a major chord with no seventh going into a minor chord is a nice feel. I like that feel.

In “Famous Blue Raincoat” which is A minor, the chorus shifts into C major which is very beautiful.

Yeah. That’s nice. I guess I got that from Spanish music, which has that.

You mentioned how much you discard of what you write. Is your critical voice at play while writing, or do you try to write something first and then bring in the critic?

I bring all the people in to the team, the work force, the legion. There’s a lot of voices that these things run through.

Do they ever get in the way?

Get in the way hardly begins to describe it. [Laughter] It’s mayhem. It’s mayhem and people are walking over each other’s hands. It’s panic. It’s fire in the theater. People are being trampled and they’re bullies and cowards. All the versions of yourself that you can summon are there. And some you didn’t even know were around.

When you finally finish a song, is there a sense of triumph?

Oh, yes. There’s a wonderful sense of done-ness. That’s the thing I like best. That sense of finish-ness.

How long does that last?

A long time. It lasts a long time. I’m still invigorated by having finished this last record and I finished it six months ago and I still feel, “God, I finished this record. Isn’t it great?” You have to keep it to yourself after a while. Your friends are ready to rejoice with you for a day or a week. But they’re not ready to rejoice after six months of “Hey, let’s go get a drink, I finished my record six months ago!” It’s an invitation people find easy to resist.

Does drinking ever help you write?

No. Nothing helps. But drinking helps performing. Sometimes. Of course you’ve got to be judicious.

Would it be okay with you if I named some of your songs to see what response you have to them?

Sure.

“Sisters of Mercy.”

That’s the only song I wrote in one sitting. The melody I had worked on for some time. I didn’t really know what the song was. I remember that my mother had liked it.

Then I was in Edmonton, which is one of our largest northern cities, and there was a snowstorm and I found myself in a vestibule with two young hitchhiking women who didn’t have a place to stay. I invited them back to my little hotel room and there was a big double bed and they went to sleep in it immediately.

They were exhausted by the storm and the cold. And I sat in this stuffed chair inside the window beside the Saskatchewan River. And while they were sleeping I wrote the lyrics. And that never happened to me before. And I think it must be wonderful to be that kind of writer. It must be wonderful.

Because I just wrote the lines with a few revisions and when they awakened I sang it to them. And it has never happened to me like that before. Or since.

“Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”

The first band I sang that for was a group called the Stormy Clovers, a Canadian group out of Toronto. I wrote it in two hotels. One was the Chelsea and the other was the Penn Terminal Hotel. I remember Marianne looking at my notebook, seeing this song and asking, “Who’d you write this for?”

“Chelsea Hotel No. 2.”

[Pause] I came to New York and I was living at other hotels and I had heard about the Chelsea Hotel as being a place where I might meet people of my own kind. And I did. [Laughs] It was a grand, mad place. Much has been written about it.

That song was written for Janis Joplin?

It was very indiscreet of me to let that news out. I don’t know when I did.

Looking back I’m sorry I did because there are some lines in it that are extremely intimate. And since I let the cat out of the bag, yes, it was written for her.

“Hallelujah.”

That was a song that took me a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Then I praise da song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, “Fifteen minutes.” [Laughter]

Dylan said, around the time that “Hallelujah” came out, that your songs were almost like prayers.

I didn’t hear that but I know he does take some interest in my songs. We have a mutual interest. Everybody’s interested in Dylan but it’s pleasant to have Dylan interested in me.

It seems that his comment is true. Songs like “Hallelujah” or “If It Be Your Will” have a sanctity to them.

“If It Be Your Will” really is a prayer. And “Hallelujah” has that feeling. A lot of them do. “Dance Me to the End of Love.” “Suzanne.” I love church music and synagogue music. Mosque music.

It’s especially resonant in this time because so few songs that we hear have any sense of holiness.

Well, there’s a line in “The Future”: “When they said repent, I wonder what they meant.” I understand that they forgot how to build the arch for several hundred years. Masons forgot how to do certain kinds of arches, it was lost.

So it is in our time that certain spiritual mechanisms that were very useful have been abandoned and forgot. Redemption, repentance, resurrection. All those ideas are thrown out with the bathwater. People became suspicious of religion plus all these redemptive mechanisms that are very useful.

“Famous Blue Raincoat.”

That was one I thought was never finished. And I thought that Jennifer Warnes’ version in a sense was better because I worked on a different version for her, and I thought it was somewhat more coherent. But I always thought that that was a song you could see the carpentry in a bit. Although there are some images in it that I am very pleased with. And the tune is real good. But I’m willing to defend it, saying it was impressionistic. It’s stylistically coherent.

And I can defend it if I have to. But secretly I always felt that there was a certain incoherence that prevented it from being a great song.

I’d have to disagree.

Well, I’m glad to hear it. Please disagree with any of this.

I think the greatness of that song lies in the fact that you’re alluding to a story without coming out and giving all the facts, yet the story is more powerful because of what you don’t say, or can’t say.

Yes. It may be. When I was at school there was a book that was very popular called Seven Types of Ambiguity. One of the things it criticized was something called “The Author’s Intention.” You’ve got to discard the author’s intention. It doesn’t matter what the author’s intention in the piece is, or what his interpretation of the piece is, or what his evaluation or estimation of the piece is. It exists independently of his opinions about it. So maybe it is a good song, after all. I’m ready to buy your version.

This is all part of this make-believe mind that one has to present socially and professionally if you care about these matters. It’s like asking somebody in a burning building if they care about architecture. [Laughs] Where’s the fire-escape? That’s all I care about in terms of architecture. Can I open the window?

“First We Take Manhattan.”

I felt for sometime that the motivating energy, or the captivating energy, or the engrossing energy available to us today is the energy coming from the extremes. That’s why we have Malcolm X. And somehow it’s only these extremist positions that can compel our attention. And I find in my own mind that I have to resist these extremist positions when I find myself drifting into a mystical fascism in regards to myself. [Laughs] So this song, “First We Take Manhattan,” what is it? Is he serious? And who is we? And what is this constituency that he’s addressing? Well, it’s that constituency that shares this sense of titillation with extremist positions.

I’d rather do that with an appetite for extremism than blow up a bus full of schoolchildren.

When I first started playing guitar and writing songs, one of the first songs I ever learned was “Suzanne.” And I remember thinking, “How does anyone write a song this beautiful?” And to this day, it’s a miracle.

It is a miracle. I don’t know where the good songs come from or else I’d go there more often. I knew that I was on top of something.

I developed the picking pattern first. I was spending a lot of time on the waterfront and the harbor area of Montreal. It hadn’t been reconstructed yet.

It’s now called Old Montreal and a lot of the buildings have been restored. It wasn’t at that time. And there was that sailor’s church that has the statue of the Virgin. Gilded so that the sun comes down on her. And I knew there was a song there.

Then I met Suzanne, who was the wife of Armand Villancour, a friend of mine. She was a dancer and she took me down to a place near the river.

She was one of the first people to have a loft on the St. Lawrence. I knew that it was about that church and I knew that it was about the river. I didn’t know I had anything to crystallize the song. And then her name entered into the song and then it was a matter of reportage, of really just being as accurate as I could about what she did.

It took you a long time to finish?

Yes, I had many work sheets. Nothing compared to the work sheets I have now. But it took me several months.

Did she feed you tea and oranges, as in the song?

She fed me a tea called Constant Comment, which has small pieces of orange rind in it, which gave birth to the image.

I always loved the line, “And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers, there are heroes in the seaweed.” They’re hopeful lines.

Yes. It is hopeful. I’m very grateful for those lines and for that song.

“Bird on a Wire.”

It was begun in Greece because there were no wires on the island where I was living to a certain moment. There were no telephone wires. There were no telephones. There was no electricity. So at a certain point they put in these telephone poles, and you wouldn’t notice them now, but when they first went up, it was about all I did — stare out the window at these telephone wires and think how civilization had caught up with me and I wasn’t going to be able to escape after all. I wasn’t going to be able to live this 11th-century life that I thought I had found for myself. So that was the beginning.

Then, of course, I noticed that birds came to the wires and that was how that song began. “Like a drunk in a midnight choir,” that’s also set on the island. Where drinkers, me included, would come up the stairs. There was great tolerance among the people for that because it could be in the middle of the night. You’d see three guys with their arms around each other, stumbling up the stairs and singing these impeccable thirds. So that image came from the island: “Like a drunk in a midnight choir.”

You wrote that you “finished it in Hollywood in a motel in 1969 along with everything else.” What did you mean?

Everything was being finished. The sixties were being finished. Maybe that’s what I meant. But I felt the sixties were finished a long time before that.

I don’t think the sixties ever began. I thin the whole sixties lasted maybe fifteen or twenty minutes in somebody’s mind. I saw it move very, very quickly into the marketplace. I don’t think there were any sixties.

“I’m Your Man.”

I sweated over that one. I really sweated over it. I can show you the notebook for that. It started off as a song called “I Cried Enough for You.” It was related to a version of “Waiting for a Miracle” [sic] that I recorded.

The rhyme scheme was developed by toeing the line with that musical version that I put down. But it didn’t work.

You quoted Dylan once when you said, “I know my song well before I start singing.” Do you always have the song completely finished before you begin recording?

Yeah. Sometimes there’s a rude awakening. As there have been several times in the past. As with “Anthem.” Several times I thought I had sung that song well and then when I heard it I realized I hadn’t.

What do you think of songwriters who write in the studio?

I think they’re amazing. I have tremendous admiration for that kind of courage and that kind of belief in one’s own inspiration. That the gods are going to be favorable to you. That you’re going to go in there with nothing but the will and the skill, and the thing is going to emerge. And great stuff has been done that way. It’s not like this never works. There are masters of that style. Dylan is one of them. I think he’s gone in with nothing and come up with great things. That is to say that my impression about Dylan is that he’s used all the approaches: the spontaneous, the polished, the unhewn, the deliberate. He masters all those forms.

There aren’t many songwriters of your generation who have been able to maintain the quality of their past work the way you have been able to.

First of all, you get tired. There aren’t that many bullfighters in their forties. You do your great work as a bullfighter in your twenties and your thirties.

There is a certain age that is appropriate to this tremendous expenditure of energy and the tremendous bravery and courage that you need to go into the fray. It often is a young man’s game, or as Browning said, “The first fine careless frenzy.” That is what the lyric poem is based on, the song is based on. But there are some old guys who hang in there and come up with some very interesting work.

In your work you’ve shown that a songwriter can go beyond that early frenzy and come to a new place and do new things that haven’t been done.

I certainly felt the need to find that place. I always thought I was in it for the long haul, touch wood.

Does it have to do with interest, that you’re still interested with the process?

It was to do with two things. One is economic urgency. I just never made enough money to say, “Oh, man, I think I’m gonna get a yacht now and scuba-dive.” I never had those kinds of funds available to me to make radical decisions about what I might do in life. Besides that, I was trained in what later became known as the Montreal School of Poetry. Before there were prizes, before there were grants, before there were even girls who cared about what I did. We would meet, a loosely defined group of people. There were no prizes, as I said, no rewards other than the work itself. We would read each other poems. We were passionately involved with poems and our lives were involved with this occupation. And we’d have to defend every line. We’d read poems to each other and you were attacked! With a kind of savagery that defangs rock criticism completely. There ain’t anybody that I’ve ever read who can come up with anything like the savagery, and I might say the accuracy that we laid on each other.

We had in our minds the examples of poets who continued to work their whole lives. There was never any sense of a raid on the marketplace, that you should come up with a hit and get out. That kind of sensibility simply did not take root in my mind until very recently. [Laughs] I think maybe it’s a nice idea but it’s not going to happen when you write seven minute songs.

So I always had the sense of being in this for keeps, if your health lasts you. And you’re fortunate enough to have the days at your disposal so you can keep on doing this. I never had the sense that there was an end. That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot.

You mentioned the early frenzy of youth. Do you find you need frenzy or conflict in your life to write great songs or can you create from a place of calm?

I certainly think so and I’m looking forward to achieving that interior condition so that I can write from it. But I haven’t yet. I’ve come a long way compared to the kind of trouble I was in when I was younger. Compared to that kind of trouble, this kind of trouble sounds like peace to me. But of course one is still involved in this struggle and while you’re involved in this struggle you know peace is just a momentary thing, but you can’t claim it. I’m a lot more comfortable with myself than I was a while ago. I’m still writing out of the conflicts and I don’t know if they’ll ever resolve.

Do you find the song to be a more powerful artform than others?

I love it. As a mode of employment. I don’t even think about artforms. I’m very grateful to have stumbled into this line of work. It’s tough but I like it. Do you have the sense that some of your songs are lasting and timeless?

Sometimes I have a feeling that, as I’m fond of saying, a lot of my songs have lasted as long as the Volvo.

They’re sturdy.

They seem to be sturdy. This last album [The Future] I think is very very sturdy. If it has any faults it’s that it’s a little too well armored. It seems to have a kind of resilience like a little Sherman Tank, that it can go over any landscape. I don’t know whether that’s something you want parking in our garage, but it seems to have a kind of armored energy.

I’ve tried to make the songs sturdy over the years.

Is it your feeling that songs will continue to evolve, that there are new places to go with them?

I think they will. It’s a very good question and it summons the whole aesthetic. I thin it’s not important that they change or that anybody has a strategy for changing them. Or anyone has to monkey with them

experimentally. Because I think that songs primarily are for courting, for finding your mate. For deep things. For summoning love, for healing broken nights, and for the central accompaniment to life’s tasks. Which is no mean or small thing.

I think it’s important that they address those needs rather than they look into themselves in terms of experimenting with form or with matter. But I think that they will, of course, change. I think that, although there’s got to be songs about making love and losing and finding love, the fact that you’re on the edge of a burning city, this definitely is going to affect the thing. But it affects it in surprising ways that you don’t have to worry about.

Like “Lili Marlene” came out of the war. It’s a very conventional song. A very beautiful song. It touched the troops on both sides. People who had undergone the baptism of fire sang “Lili Marlene” though they thought it was the corniest song in the world. So I don’t think it’s necessary to tinker with the form. It’s just necessary to let the world speak to you.

Do you have a discipline for writing? Do you write at the same time every day?

I get up very early. I like to fill those early hours with that effort.

Most of your writing is done in the morning?

Yes. I find it clearer. The mind is very clear in those early hours.

Is that a daily thing?

Usually. I blow it and fall into disillusion and disrepair. Where the mind and the body and the writing and the relationships and everything else goes to hell. I start drinking too much or eating too much or talking too much or vacationing too much. And then I start recovering the boundaries and putting back the fences and trimming the hedges. But when the thing is working, I find early in the morning best.

I get up at 4:30. My alarm is set for 4:30. Sometimes I sleep through it. But when I’m being good to myself, I get up at 4:30, get dressed, go down to a zendo not far from here. And while the others, I suppose, are moving towards enlightenment, I’m working on a song while I’m sitting there. At a certain moment I can bring what I’ve learned at the zendo, the capacity to concentrate, I can bring it to bear on the lines that are eluding me.

Then I come back to the house after two hours, it’s about 6:30 now, quarter to seven. I brew an enormous pot of coffee and sit down in a very deliberate way, at the kitchen table or at the computer, and begin, first of all, to put down the lines that have come to me so that I don’t forget them. And then play the song over and over again, try to find some form.

Those are wonderful hours. Before the phone starts ringing, before your civilian life returns to you with all its bewildering complexities. It’s a simple time in the morning. A wonderful, invigorating time.

Do you find that your mind is always working on songs, even when you’re not actively working?

Yes. But I’m actively working on songs most of the time. Which is why my personal life has collapsed. Mostly I’m working on songs.

SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING by Paul Zollo, Expanded Edition, Da Capo Press 1997; 656 pages, 18.95 USD. A wonderfully illuminating and inspiring book that features 52 interviews with the following great songwriters: Mose Allison, Joan Baez, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Walter Becker, Jackson Browne, Dave Brubeck, Lindsey Buckingham, David Byrne, Sammy Cahn, Felix Cavaliere, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, David Crosby, Willie Dixon, Donovan, Lamont Dozier, Bob Dylan, Dan Fogelberg, Gerry Goffin, Bruce Hornsby, Janis Ian, Rickie Lee Jones, Carole King, k.d. lang, Tom Lehrer, Jay Livingston & Ray Evans, Los Lobos, Madonna, Graham Nash, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, Yoko Ono, Van Dyke Parks, Tom Petty, R.E. M., Stan Ridgway, Robbie Robertson, Todd Rundgren, Carlos Santana, Pete Seeger, Jules Shear, Paul Simon, P.F. Sloan, Richard Thompson, Townes Van Zandt, Suzanne Vega, Loudon Wainright III, Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Frank Zappa.

The interviews were orginally published in SongTalk, the journal of the National Academy of Songwriters, which has since merged with the Songwriters Guild of America

Paul Zollo is a singer-songwriter, music journalist and author. Born in Chicago, Paul now lives in Hollywood. For an interesting interview with him, in which he discusses his book and declares “…no one is as eloquent and wise as Leonard Cohen,” visit: www.musesmuse.com

To order the book, visit Paul Zollo’s website

Mail us: stupidand@gmail.com

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November 24, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Dylan’s Born Again Years Documented

“Turn it, turn it,
for all is within it,
and contemplate it,
and grow gray and old over it,
and stir not from it.”

Rabbi Ben Bag Bag
from the Mishnah
first century C.E.

Bob’s “Barren-Again”, sorry “Born-Again”, period is looked at in “Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years: Busy Being Born…Again!” a new film written and directed by Joel Gilbert which attempts to explore the most confusing and most debated period of Dylan’s majestic music career.

This movie, and Bob’s oeuvre more broadly, especially the more biblically influenced work, are explored from a Jewish perspective in this wonderful and well written piece by


Jesus, Bob: To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest

Dylan’s Born Again Years Documented

Of all the intangible elements contributing to Bob Dylan’s sustaining genius — prodigious recall of the breadth and depth of American song; a restless, creative spirit, and abiding intellectual curiosity — none has been more powerful than his ability to confound expectations.

Pop vocalists on the radio were not supposed to sing through their noses, or sputter and growl from their throats, but Dylan changed that. Not long after establishing himself on the charts, and seemingly overnight for his fans, he swapped lucid, intimate acoustic protest tunes for esoteric electric epics. Radio songs were supposed to be three minutes long, but Dylan changed that rule, too: The second half of “Like a Rolling Stone” served as its own B-side; disc jockeys simply flipped the record over halfway through. A pivotal figure in 1960s counterculture, Dylan all but disappeared from public view as the underground coalesced as a movement: He was a no-show at the Woodstock music festival, even though it was down the road from his house.

“Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years: Busy Being Born…Again!” a new film written and directed by Joel Gilbert, attempts to explain the most confounding period of Dylan’s career. In the late 1970s, Dylan became, to the shock of many of his fans, a born-again Christian. To add what seemed like insult to injury, his albums “Slow Train Coming” (1979), “Saved” (1980) and “Shot of Love” (1981) — steeped in fundamentalist Christian imagery and with proselytizing intent — anchored a series of revivalist tours.

Dylan’s born-again Christianity was a rebellion too far off for many of his fans. At the heart of the film is the unresolved question of why Dylan did it. Born Robert Zimmerman and raised Jewish (including a bar mitzvah) in Hibbing, Minn., he attended a Zionist summer camp as a kid and then dropped out of a Jewish fraternity house at the University of Minnesota. Dylan had always been the rebel with whom young Jews have identified, now remarkably across three generations. Despite his Jewish roots, his fascination with religion generally and with Christianity specifically has been obvious throughout his career, particularly in the core narratives and myths of American roots music carried by the traditional blues, country and gospel that he loves. Just listen to his weekly radio show, where much of his playlist comes from before 1950 and has the same themes of old-time religion that abound in his own music.

TWO NICE JEWISH BOYS: Robert Zimmerman in 1978


According to his then girlfriend, singer/songwriter Jennifer Warnes, even fellow songwriter Leonard Cohen was bewildered: “I don’t get it. Why would [Dylan] go for Jesus at a late time like this?” This is the same Cohen, no stranger to religious syncretism himself, who wrote, “Anyone who says I’m not a Jew is not a Jew/I’m very sorry but this decision is final” while living as a monk in a Zen monastery. You know you are in trouble when the only Jewish performer to compete with Dylan in the realm of rock ’n’ roll gravitas can’t reconcile born-again Bob with the Dylan who had famously sung “Don’t follow leaders/watch the parking meters” in the ’60s.

Gilbert, lead singer of the Dylan cover band Highway 61 Revisited (“Highway 61 Revisited” is also the name of Dylan’s sixth studio album, released in 1965), and director of “Bob Dylan — World Tour 1966, The Home Movies” (2004), tackles this tense period with a series of talking heads interviews. He rarely allows a religious agenda to stilt the construction of the film’s controversial raw material. His weakness, however, is a fan’s naive compulsion to gather the reflections of anyone who knew Dylan during this period without properly parsing the effect of two full hours of rambling comments bridged by stock images.

According to Mitch Glaser and songwriter Al Kasha, who are not only key figures in the Jews for Jesus movement, but also two of the primary talking heads of the film, the “late time like this” of Dylan’s conversion could have been predicted by those paying closer attention to the chaos around him. Glaser, Kasha and other commentators, like the Rev. Bill Dwyer of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, where Dylan studied and prayed, explain how deep pain drives deep “witnessing” in the realm of born-again Christian acolytes; that the tumult of drugs, social and political burnout and the failures of the sexual revolution left many people broken in ways that the Jesus movement — rooted in heady Southern California, where Dylan and many other counterculture heroes lived at the time — exploited to attract vulnerable souls.

In fact, the Jews for Jesus movement continues this work, with centers of worship around the world almost universally regarded by non-messianic Jews as being beyond the margins of organized Jewish life. Much of the 200-member audience at the November 1 premiere screening and concert for the film, held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture’s auditorium, were among either the hunters or the hunted of Jews for Jesus, as the event was co-sponsored by Glaser’s Chosen People Ministries.

Glaser was there, and he spoke on a panel with Gilbert and former members of Dylan’s band, Regina McCrary and Rob Stoner. Volunteers with nametags designating them as staff members roamed the hall, collecting e-mail addresses and questions from the audience on colored note cards. All this action seemed to be interpreted by the moderator as an excuse for asking how or why one might come to accept Jesus as the savior.

Unfortunately for Gilbert — who self-produced and now distributes his work on DVD, and at one point in the panel discussion stated with some defensiveness that he is a Jew and not a Jew for Jesus — the content of the evening was spoiled by the sheepish attempts of representatives of the movement to appear casual about their religious goals despite obvious missionary pitches and ploys. Gilbert’s mere desire may have been to find an audience for his work, but placement of the event by Glaser’s group, as well as messianic Congregation Sha’ar Adonai at the Society for Ethical Culture — founded as a nonsectarian movement by humanist Jew Felix Adler – added an element of irony to the insult of a messianic soft sell throughout.

TWO NICE JEWISH BOYS: Bartolomeo Montagna’s representation of Jesus the Christ from the early sixteenth century.


Dylan’s religious stances over the years betray vulnerability to extremes and a profound sense of drama for which a messianic soft sell worked quite well. In the early 70s, after a decade as a musical legend, Dylan, then a young father of four, had thought of joining a kibbutz. He also claims in his 2004 memoir, “Chronicles, Volume One” (Simon and Schuster), that a famous image of him praying at the kotel from this period was posed as a way to disrupt the blind loyalty of cloying fans who would come to dread him as a Zionist and finally leave him alone. But by 1979, exposed to change by his innate spiritual character, the many demons come to roost for his generation after the chaos of the ’60s, and a hard divorce, Dylan plunged headlong into the quest for salvation. Maybe he showed up at Chabad Shabbat programs in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights area a few years later, and at Chabad on both coasts on the High Holy Days ever since, but Dylan’s fans still reflect on this Christian period with dismay — and not just because of Dylan’s religion.

The music from this period is as inconsistent as any Dylan has created — from rote melodies with clichéd images of devils, blood, baptism and unbelievers in tunes like “Property of Jesus,” alongside gorgeous tunes like “I Believe in You” and “Every Grain of Sand.” What weakens the music and Gilbert’s film, and even permeated the atmosphere at the premiere event, is a lack of subtly and nuance that animates Dylan’s best work and is lacking in his worst. From 1963’s “With God on Our Side” to 1997’s “Tryin’ To Get to Heaven” and beyond, Dylan is one of the most committed commentators on the human and divine struggle that popular culture has ever seen. Few artists have had more influence on bringing big questions to the sometimes small-minded world of rock ’n’ roll. The key to understanding what is flat and disturbing about Dylan’s Christian period is exploring what is thick and mysterious about his most compelling work.

Most of the time, Dylan embodies a multilayered approach to his subject — with wordplay, rich cultural allusions, insinuations, irony and clusters of unexplained questions. In his writing and performing, Dylan grasps at defining themes with ferocity and dynamism that allow renowned academics like Milton scholar Christopher Ricks (who dedicated some 500 pages to Dylan in his 2004 book “Dylan’s Vision of Sin”) to compare his canon without reservation to that of Shakespeare and Milton. With a few exceptions, including the aforementioned songs, the Christian period of Dylan’s work remains unconvincingly simplistic, overly literal, humorless and blunt.

One way of understanding Dylan’s religious vision throughout the majority of his career comes from an intriguing passage at the conclusion of Moshe Idel’s “Kabbalah: New Perspectives.” Idel reads Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” as a fable for the contemporary decline of mystical knowledge in religious traditions stunted by allowing passionately flat answers to layered questions. From Jewish orthodoxies to Muslim fundamentalism to evangelical Christianity, communities are being deprived of the complexity that religious systems can express. For Idel, the spiritual paralysis of the “man from the country” is emblematic of an entire world of religious seekers who have lost the keys to the locked gate of the splendor of the palace of faith. On the verge of death, the man discovers that the door at which he had waited a lifetime would have opened for him if only he had entered with broad possibilities of understanding rather than with fixed answers and static expectations.

Dylan at his best is Dylan at his most open. As he sings in 1966’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” “To live outside the law you must be honest.” One should not wait for the Law to open the door, direct traffic or guide the journey. So, too, in Dylan’s rereading of the story of “Akedat Yitzhak” (“The Binding of Isaac”), a classic midrash on the irony and irrationality of belief:

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”

Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, ‘No.’ Abe say, “What?”
God say, ‘You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run’
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

Though he uses it as a mythic trail and template for America’s betrayal of the disempowered, the actual Highway 61 runs right down the center of the United States. Beginning in Minnesota at the Canadian border near Dylan/Zimmerman’s birthplace, and ending in New Orleans at the birthplace of the blues he adopted as his roots, the pavement traces the living narrative of slavery’s betrayal, which today’s America, especially after the recent presidential election, continues to unravel. As it challenges God and temporal authority, the song mixes anger, dismay, humor, accusation and wild celebration.

Consider also “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” from 1978, where the narrator poses a series of cutting questions and memories for a messianic stand-in accompanying Dylan’s version of the man “Before the Law”:

Señor, señor, do you know where we’re headin’?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
Seems like I been down this way before.

How long must I keep my eyes glued to the door?
*Will there be any comfort there, señor? *

On the cusp of Dylan’s acceptance of Jesus, a soul exposed to a political and theological abyss stubbornly looks for answers. Not long after “Señor,” Dylan submitted fully to the Law that provides a singular answer to plow through doubt, paradox, hurt and unbelief. It results in the oppressive need to gather more troops to ensure that the “good news” remains fresh and unchallenged. It also results in mostly lousy art.

Gilbert’s film is useful for Dylanologists still trying to answer Cohen’s question about what happened to Dylan’s complex, compelling religious commentary during this phase, particularly when some of his deepest spiritual messages would re-emerge in the late ’80s, with “Oh Mercy” and, most recently, with the albums “Love and Theft” and “Modern Times.” To uncover what keeps Dylan’s vision sharp across his career, apply the Talmud’s famous injunction to Dylan’s oeuvre: “Turn it, turn it, for all is within it.” The songs of Dylan’s Christian period — though sincere artifacts of an honest quest by a restless seeker — are often superficial products of his cultural vision. In the end, Dylan’s genius is that, as he sang of one of his favorite outlaws, “no one really knew for sure where he was really at.”

Stephen Hazan Arnoff is a writer and teacher and the executive director of the 14th Street Y of The Educational Alliance, a Jewish community center in Manhattan’s East Village.


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November 18, 2008 Posted by | Leonard Cohen, _ARTICLE, _BOB DYLAN, _CARTOON, _MUSIC, _OTHER, _RELIGION | Leave a comment