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Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:51 pm
by Roy
10 Great Leonard Cohen Covers
Nina Simone, R.E.M., Lana Del Rey tackle tunes of songwriting great ... rs-w449848


Leonard Cohen wrote songs that seemed perfectly matched to the plainspoken rhythms and dry timbre of his voice. But his compositions were so simple and sturdy that other performers could adapt them to their own styles with little fuss. Here are 10 of the best renditions of Cohen's work.

Nina Simone, "Suzanne" (1969)

Judy Collins was the first to record Cohen's song in 1966, and her austere, gorgeous version presented the title character as a shimmering mystery. Cohen's own take, released the following year as his debut single, gave voice to a man baffled by femininity and his own desire. But Nina Simone endowed Suzanne with a third dimension in 1969 – she's a fascinating character, and the singer finds her and her male adorer both amusing. The arrangement shatters the even-paced rhythms of the previous recordings, with playful piano runs and drums that beat out a jazzy counterpoint. And the way Simone's voice leaps up joyously into a falsetto that splits the final word of the line, "For you've touched her perfect body with your mind" into two syllables is about the most un-Leonard-Cohen-y way of singing you could imagine.

Joe Cocker, "Bird on a Wire" (1969)

When Johnny Cash recorded Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" for his first American Recordings album in 1994, his countrified strum made it a proud loner's anthem while remaining true to the spirit of Cohen's footloose original. But Joe Cocker's version gives the song a complete emotional overhaul, his voice cracking and creaking with a burden of sadness. Cocker's penchant for soulful histrionics could sometimes make you overlook what a smart singer he was, but the way he stretches out the words here with careful restraint, reserving his explosions for the proper moments, is a master class in dramatic pacing.

Roberta Flack, "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" (1969)

Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm" is the sort of flowery, poetic line Robert Flack was born to sing, and Cohen's feathery melody is just as perfect for his clear, unworried voice. Flack recorded "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" for her debut album, First Take, and issued it as the B-side of her first single. The arrangement is lovely: Flack begins a cappella and is gradually joined by a quietly plucked guitar, then soft piano chords and finally a rickety-tack hi-hat that shifts the song into a higher gear.

Concrete Blonde, "Everybody Knows" (1990)

Cohen's performance of this song figured prominently in the Christian Slater rebellious-teen flick Pump up the Volume, but the version that played over the credits had considerable charm as well. The sound is an excellent turn-of-the-Nineties modern-rock thump and shimmer, and Johnette Napolitano's moody delivery is perfect for Cohen's apocalyptic lyric.

Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah" (1994)

"Hallelujah" is such a beloved, much-covered song, it's hard to remember that it was a little-known number from Cohen's critically disparaged Eighties before Jeff Buckley popularized it. This is a modification of the version Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale recorded in 1991, with deliberate fingerpicked guitar and Buckley's voice bending and snapping back into place, as flexible as a reed and just as unbreakable.

Tori Amos, "Famous Blue Raincoat" (1995)

The waves of piano arpeggio utterly transform this version (from the mid-Nineties multi-artist tribute album Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen) into a Tori Amos number even before she opens her mouth. But once she does, her singing is revelatory, interacting more with the sound of the lyrics than their sense. Sometimes she's breathy and floating above, sometimes the consonants catch in her throat, and sometimes she allows words to simply evaporate.

R.E.M., "First We Take Manhattan" (1995)

Another cut from the Tower of Song tribute that remakes Cohen's music in the artist's own image: The first verse, draped with heavy, drawn-out guitar chords, rides an insistent hi-hat chug forward, with Michael Stipe low and brooding; the second verse builds to a martial backbeat, with a parallel vocal from Stipe rising to a higher keen. This would have fit right in on R.E.M.'s guitar-heavy 1994 album Monster.

Anohni, "If It Be Your Will" (2006)

Anohni performed this Eighties number as part of a tribute to Cohen at the Sydney Opera House in 2015, just a month before the release of her own second album, I Am a Bird Now. As captured in the concert film I'm Your Man, it was a career-making performance, showcasing Anohni's rich flutter of a voice, which is well-suited to Cohen's prayerful lyrics and replaces the gravelly resignation of the original with an almost buoyant acceptance.

Anna Calvi, "Joan of Arc" (2009)

Cohen was a poet before he was a songwriter, and his reputation rests on his lyrical gifts. But the excellence of his tunecraft shouldn't be overlooked. Here the British guitarist strips away all language from the original, and the instrumental that remains highlights Cohen's supple melody, whether inflecting the tone of individual notes, slightly bending their pitch for expressive effect or refracting them into chords.

Lana Del Rey, "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" (2013)

Lana's Nico-gone-L.A. murmur is a stylized as ever here, doused in heavy reverb, as is the arpeggiated guitar that accompanies her, adding electronic overtones that fill in every aural space on the recording. It's a lovely performance, and a straightforward one, too – at least until her gender endows the line "You told me again, you preferred handsome men/ But for me you would make an exception" with a much different meaning than it had in Cohen's original.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:54 pm
by Roy
Leonard Cohen Penned Letter to 'So Long, Marianne' Muse Before Her Death
"Well Marianne it's come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon," poet writes ... se-w433144


Leonard Cohen penned an emotional final letter to Marianne Ihlen, the woman who inspired his "So Long, Marianne" and "Bird on the Wire," just days before her July 29th death, Ihlen's friend Jan Christian Mollestad revealed to the CBC.

"Suzanne," "Famous Blue Raincoat" and your other favorite tracks by the Canadian poet
According to Mollestad, after he informed Cohen of Ihlen's looming death from leukaemia, the legendary singer-songwriter-poet responded two hours later with a "beautiful" letter, which Mollestad then read to Ihlen.

"It said, 'Well Marianne it's come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine," Mollestad told the CBC of Cohen's letter.

"'And you know that I've always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don't need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.'"

Two days later, Ihlen "lost consciousness and slipped into death," Mollestad said. Her funeral was held Friday in her native Oslo, Norway.

Cohen met Ihlen in the Sixties while vacationing on the Greek Island in Hydra; he ultimately invited her and her infant son to live with him in Montreal. Ihlen and Cohen remained together for the next seven years, with their relationship serving as Cohen's inspiration for Songs of Leonard Cohen's "So Long, Marianne" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" and Songs From a Room's "Bird on the Wire."

Cohen's verified Facebook page also remembered Ihlen with a series of written tributes from her friends and Cohen biographers as well as a letter Mollestad wrote to Cohen informing the singer of Ihlen's death.
"Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her. It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength," Mollestad wrote.

"In her last hour I held her hand and hummed 'Bird on a Wire,' while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left he room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words: So long, Marianne."

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 4:54 pm
by Roy
How Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' Brilliantly Mingled Sex, Religion
Read story behind legendary artist's most famous song, excerpted from Alan Light's 2012 book 'The Holy or the Broken' ... n-20121203


Leonard Cohen's career had reached a low point when he wrote "Hallelujah." It was 1984, and he had been out of the spotlight for quite a long time. His 1977 LP, Death of a Ladies' Man, a collaboration with Phil Spector, was a commercial and critical disappointment, and his next album Recent Songs fared no better. When Cohen submitted the songs for his subsequent LP, Various Positions, to Columbia, label execs didn't hear "Hallelujah," the opening song of Side Two, as anything special. They didn't even want to release the album, though it eventually came out in Europe in 1984 and America the following year.

It took a few years for "Hallelujah" to emerge as a classic. Bob Dylan was one of the first to recognize its brilliance, playing it at a couple of shows in 1988. The Velvet Underground's John Cale tackled it on the piano for a 1991 Cohen tribute disc, and three years later, Jeff Buckley took inspiration from that rendition and covered it on his 1994 album, Grace. It was that version that eventually created a huge cult around the song, and it's since been covered by everybody from Bono to Bon Jovi. It's far and away Leonard Cohen's most famous composition, even though many people don't even realize that he wrote it.
Alan Light dove deep into the history of the song for his new book, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of 'Hallelujah' by Alan Light, copyright 2012 by Alan Light, Published by Atria, an imprint of Simon and Schuste. Here is an excerpt.

In June 1984, Cohen and Lissauer recorded the album that would become Various Positions in New York's Quadrasonic Sound studios. In the album's arrangements, for the first time on Cohen's recordings, synthesizers were prominent; they would come to define his sound more and more in the years to come. A group of musicians from Tulsa provided the backbone of the arrangements. Sid McGinnis – who joined the band at Late Night with David Letterman that same year and has remained with the show ever since, in addition to recording with the likes of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Dire Straits – provided additional guitar parts.

Jennifer Warnes, who had sung backup with Cohen on previous albums and tours, was brought further into the spotlight as a featured vocalist, a counterpoint to the limited parameters of Cohen's voice. Hawaiian-born Anjani Thomas was one of the backup singers on these sessions; she would go on to become Cohen's longtime companion, and he produced an album of her singing his songs, Blue Alert, in 2006.

Lissauer, a Yale graduate who has gone on to a successful career scoring films, beamed when he spoke of these sessions that took place almost thirty years earlier. Seated in the larger of the two studio rooms he operates from his thirty-five-acre farm about an hour north of Manhattan, he described working on Various Positions as pure pleasure. "I've never had a more rewarding experience," he said. "It was so much fun; we had a great time. Leonard and I got along so well it's almost scary. There were no roadblocks, no disasters; it was great start to finish – it was high art, it was just thrilling."

The songs included several of Cohen's most lasting compositions. The selections that ultimately opened and closed the album, "Dance Me to the End of Love" and "If It Be Your Will," stand among his best-loved work.

Midway through the sessions – Lissauer can't remember the precise sequence, but it wasn't near the beginning or the end – Cohen brought in "Hallelujah" to record. Whatever torment he'd been going through with the song's lyrics over the previous months and years, he showed no sign of confusion or indecision in the studio. "I think it was as it was," said the producer. "There was no 'Should we do this verse?' – I don't think there was even a question of the order of verses, any 'Which should come first?' And had he had a question about it, I think he would've resolved it himself.

"He's not one to share his struggles," Lissauer continued. "If he wasn't up to recording, if he was still working on something, then we just wouldn't go in. But he'd never go in and act out the tormented, struggling artist."

Leanne Ungar, who engineered Various Positions and has remained part of Cohen's production team ever since, said that there was a pragmatic reason he would not have been experimenting with lyrics during the recording. "He wouldn't bring extra verses to the studio because of time pressure," she said. "The meter is running there." It seems that the breakthrough in Cohen's editing – the vision that allowed him to bring the eighty written verses down to the four that he ultimately recorded – was reaching a decision about how much to foreground the religious element of the song. "It had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from the beginning to the end," he once said. "Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the 'secular' 'Hallelujah.' "


Leonard Cohen, Canadian poet and singer-songwriter, plays some of his songs in a small recording studio, lower Manhattan, New York, mid 1980s.
Leonard Cohen in New York in the mid-Eighties Oliver Morris

"Hallelujah" as it exists on Various Positions is both opaque and direct. Each verse ends with the word that gives the song its title, which is then repeated four times, giving the song its signature prayer-like incantation. The word hallelujah has slightly different implications in the Old and New Testaments. In the Hebrew Bible, it is a compound word, from hallelu, meaning "to praise joyously," and yah, a shortened form of the unspoken name of God. So this "hallelujah" is an active imperative, an instruction to the listener or congregation to sing tribute to the Lord.

In the Christian tradition, "hallelujah" is a word of praise rather than a direction to offer praise – which became the more common colloquial use of the word as an expression of joy or relief, a synonym for "Praise the Lord," rather than a prompting to action. The most dramatic use of "hallelujah" in the New Testament is as the keynote of the song sung by the great multitude in heaven in Revelation, celebrating God's triumph over the Whore of Babylon.

Cohen's song begins with an image of the Bible's musically identified King David, recounting the heroic harpist's "secret chord," with its special spiritual power ("And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him" – 1 Samuel 16:23). It was his musicianship that first earned David a spot in the royal court, the first step toward his rise to power and uniting the Jewish people.
"As a student of the sound, I understood the resonances of his incantation and invocation of David," said Bono, who added that he immediately responded to the "vaingloriousness and hubris" of the lyric. "I've thought a lot about David in my life. He was a harp player, and the first God heckler – as well as shouting praises to God, he was also shouting admonishment. 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' That's the beginning of the blues."

But this first verse almost instantly undercuts its own solemnity; after offering such an inspiring image in the opening lines, Cohen remembers whom he's speaking to, and reminds his listener that "you don't really care for music, do you?"

"One of the funny things about 'Hallelujah,' " said Bill Flanagan, "is that it's got this profound opening couplet about King David, and then immediately it has this Woody Allen–type line of, 'You don't really care for music, do you?' I remember it striking me the first time I heard the song as being really funny in a Philip Roth, exasperated kind of way – 'I built this beautiful thing, but the girl only cares about the guy with a nice car.' "

Cohen then describes, quite literally, the harmonic progression of the verse: "It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall, the major lift." This is an explanation of the song's structure (the basic chord progression of most pop and blues songs goes from the "one" chord, the root, up three steps to the "four," then up another to the "five," and then resolves back to the "one"), followed by a reference to the conventional contrast between a major (happy) key and a minor (sad) key. He ends the first verse with "the baffled king composing Hallelujah!" – a comment on the unknowable nature of artistic creation, or of romantic love, or both. In the song's earliest moments, he has placed us in a time of ancient legend, and peeled back the spiritual power of music and art to reveal the concrete components, reducing even literal musical royalty to the role of simple craftsman.

The second verse of "Hallelujah" shifts to the second person – "Your faith was strong but you needed proof." Apparently the narrator is now addressing the character who was described in the first verse, since the next lines invoke another incident in the David story, when the king discovers and is tempted by Bathsheba. ("And it came to pass in an evening tide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon" – 2 Samuel 11:2.)

In a July 2011 service at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the reading of this story was accompanied by a performance of "Hallelujah." The Reverend Dr. R. M. A. "Sandy" Scott delivered a sermon with his explication of the David story and its usage in the song.

"The story of David and Bathsheba is about the abuse of power in the name of lust, which leads to murder, intrigue, and brokenness," said Reverend Scott. He recounted that until this point, David had been a brave and gifted leader, but that he now "began to believe his own propaganda – he did what critics predicted, he began to take what he wanted."

Reverend Scott calls the choice of the word baffled to describe this David "an obvious understatement on Cohen's part. David is God's chosen one, the righteous king who would rule Israel as God's servant. The great King David becomes no more than a baffled king when he starts to live for himself.

"But even after the drama, the grasping, conniving, sinful King David is still Israel's greatest poet, warrior and hope," Scott continued. "There is so much brokenness in David's life, only God can redeem and reconcile this complicated personality. That is why the baffled and wounded David lifts up to God a painful hallelujah."

Following the David and Bathsheba reference, the sexuality of the lyrics is drawn further forward and then reinforced in an image of torture and lust taken from the story of Samson and Delilah – "She tied you to a kitchen chair / she broke your throne, she cut your hair" – before resolving with a vision of sexual release: "and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!" Both biblical heroes are brought down to earth, and risk surrendering their authority, because of the allure of forbidden love. Even for larger-than-life figures and leaders of nations, the greatest physical pleasure can lead to disaster.


Cohen in 1985 Reg Innell/Toronto Star/Getty

"The power of David and the strength of Samson are cut away; the two are stripped of their facile certainties, and their promising lives topple into the dust," wrote Reverend Thomas G. Casey, S.J., a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, of these first two verses. "The man who composed songs of praise with such aplomb and the man whose strength was the envy of all now find themselves in a stark and barren place."

Lisle Dalton, an associate professor of religious studies at Hartwick College, noted the many levels on which Cohen's linking of David and Samson works. "Both are heroes that are undone by misbegotten relationships with women. Both are adulterers. Both are poets – Samson breaks into verse right after smiting the Philistines. Both repent and seek divine favour after their transgressions.

"I don't know a lot about Cohen's personal life," Dalton continued, "but he seems to be blending these two figures together with, we presume, some of his own experiences. There's no 'kitchen chair' in the Bible! There's a biblical irony that highlights the tendency of even the most heroic characters to suffer a reversal of fortunes, even destruction, because they cannot overcome their sinful natures. The related tendency, and the moral message, is for the character to seek some kind of atonement."

In the third verse of "Hallelujah," Cohen's deadpan wit returns, offering a rebuttal to the religious challenge presented in the previous lines. "You say I took the Name in vain," he sings. "I don't even know the name." He then builds to the song's central premise – the value, even the necessity of the song of praise in the face of confusion, doubt, or dread. "There's a blaze of light in every word; / it doesn't matter which you heard, / the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!"

"A blaze of light in every word." That's an amazing line. Every word, holy or broken – this is the fulcrum of the song as Cohen first wrote it. Like our forefathers, and the Bible heroes who formed the foundation of Western ethics and principles, we will be hurt, tested, and challenged. Love will break our hearts, music will offer solace that we may or may not hear, we will be faced with joy and with pain. But Cohen is telling us, without resorting to sentimentality, not to surrender to despair or nihilism. Critics may have fixated on the gloom and doom of his lyrics, but this is his offering of hope and perseverance in the face of a cruel world. Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.

Finally, the remarkable fourth verse drives this point home, starting with an all-too-human shrug: "I did my best; it wasn't much." Cohen reinforces his fallibility, his limits, but also his good intentions, singing, "I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you."

And as he brings the song to a conclusion, Cohen shows that for a composition that has often come to be considered a signifier of sorrowful resistance, "Hallelujah" was in fact inspired by a more positive feeling. "It's a rather joyous song," Cohen said when Various Positions was released. "I like very much the last verse – 'And even though it all went wrong, / I'll stand before the Lord of Song / with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!' " (While the published lyrics read "nothing on my lips," Cohen has actually almost always sung "nothing on my tongue" in this line.) Though subsequent interpreters didn't always retain this verse, its significance to Cohen has never waned: Decades later, when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he recited this full last verse as the bulk of his acceptance speech.

"I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world," he once said. "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."

"He's rescued the word hallelujah from being just a religious word," said the Right Reverend Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon, in the BBC radio documentary. "We're broken human beings, all of us, so stop pretending, and we can all use the word hallelujah because what it comes from is being open and transparent before God and the world and saying, 'This is how it is, mate.' "

In the New Yorker, Leon Wieseltier would refer to the song as "a wryer sort of contemporary psalm with an unforgettable chorus." As Salman Rushdie would many years later, he also noted that "only Cohen would rhyme 'Hallelujah' with 'what's it to ya?' " In fact, every verse is built around the central not-quite-rhyme of "you" and "Hallelujah," as if the pronunciation of "you" that's necessary is a recurrent punch line built into the rhythm of the song. ("They are really false rhymes," Cohen has said, "but they are close enough that the ear is not violated.")

"I always picked up on at least two levels that Leonard's lyrics worked on," said Lissauer. "The obvious, the sexual undertones of so many of his things, and the alienation and loneliness that's often there. Plus, he was able to find unusual ways to talk about subjects that are not unusual. 'Hallelujah' had this unstoppable focus to it, and I knew right away that it was a cornerstone in his career."

Though almost everyone immediately concentrates on Cohen's lyrics, of course we wouldn't still be talking about "Hallelujah" without its simple yet unforgettable melody. It sways, gentle but propulsive, a barely perceptible waltz rhythm adding complexity to a singsongy lilt. "I might have contributed a little bit in that department," said Lissauer with a grin. "You can hear that it's not like a lot of things Leonard's ever done. He had a little help with the chords and the direction of the melody – we had worked together before and gotten comfortable doing that. But it's his song, I've always made that clear. And when we started to get the voicings and the chords and the melody, then it became blessed."

For some of the inheritors of "Hallelujah," it is explicitly the melody that speaks most strongly. Jake Shimabukuro is a young, Hawaiian-born ukulele virtuoso. He has built a huge online following through such mind-blowing, fleet-fingered performances as solo uke arrangements of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"; Guitar Player magazine called him "the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele." But one of the highlights of his live show, and one of his more popular YouTube clips, is a simple, direct instrumental rendition of "Hallelujah."

"To me, it's not about the lyrics at all," said Shimabukuro. "I really think that it has a lot to do with the chord progression in the song. There are these very simple lines that are constantly happening . . ." and though we were seated in the restaurant of a midtown Manhattan hotel, he had to stop to get his ukulele out of its case and demonstrate.

As he ran through the song's chords, he said, "What I like about it is it picks me up. It's very uplifting, and I think it's the way that the melody moves, the way that the chords move. This is the line that made me want to cover this song on ukulele" – he played the melody for the second half of the verse, like the lines "It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall, the major lift; / the baffled king composing Hallelujah!" – "that ascending line just does something to me internally that makes me feel good. You're just playing the scale going up, that's all it is, but there's something about that combination of notes . . ."


Canadian singer and musician Leonard Cohen performs at the Muziektheater in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 18th April 1988 Cohen performs in Amsterdamn on April 18th, 1988 Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty

"The way the melody is structured is quite genius," said David Miller of the popular classical crossover group Il Divo. "It builds, it lifts, then there's always the one word coming back down. It's almost like sex – it builds, it builds, there's that moment, and then the afterglow. To go on that journey, the whole thing taken as an experience, is wonderful."

As for the sound of Cohen's "Hallelujah" recording, producer Lissauer had a clear vision of his own. He had written the arrangement and the orchestration, and those didn't change after they got into the studio. "It was effortless to record; it almost recorded itself," he said. "The great records usually do. The ones that you have to go and beat to death and get clever and do this and that, somehow they just don't have that flow."

Though the song potentially lent itself to a grand, anthemic treatment, and a note on the actual score indicates that the musicians were to perform the song in a gospel style, the producer wanted to hold it back. The drummer, Richard Crooks, played with brushes, not sticks; "we had to get strength without bashing," Lissauer said. The producer felt that a regular bass wasn't a big enough sound to match Cohen's vocals, low even by his usual standards, so he crafted a synthesizer bass part.

"We didn't want it to be huge," said Lissauer. "I didn't want to have a big gospel choir and strings and all that kind of stuff, so even when it got large it always had restraint to it. We decided to do this modified choir that was not gospel, not children; it was just sort of a people choir. We brought everyone in – the band came and sang, my ex-wife came and sang, I sang on it. In a way we were trying to get it to be a community choir sound, very humble.

"We didn't go for overpowering, hit-record-making strings and key changes, or any of the things that would've tweaked it. It got its strength from its sincerity and its focus. We just wanted it to be sort of everyman. And I still stand by that being what it was about – it wasn't about slickness or a gospel-y hallelujah; it was about the real hallelujah."

While this may have seemed like a simple undertaking to the album's producer, to Leanne Ungar, the recording engineer, this approach presented its own complications. "I think John knew just how special it was, because he took such care and extra time with every aspect of the arrangement and mix," she said. "For me, that song was a real struggle. I remember Leonard kept asking me to put more and more reverb on his voice. I love hearing the texture of his unadorned voice and I didn't want to do it. So I've never liked listening back to that recording, because I don't like the solution I arrived at.

"I remember wanting John to replace the synthesized guitar with a real one," she went on. "I also remember wishing we could record a large choir instead of layers of small groups. We wanted the song to keep growing bigger and bigger each chorus, but there are limitations of dynamic range on a recording, so the mix was very challenging."

Between the choir, the '80s-era synthesizer, and Cohen's studied performance, the studio "Hallelujah" is certainly dramatic, though, as with many of his recordings, it flirts with cheesiness. The production hits the goals it was aiming for, but there's a scope, a theatricality to the arrangement that puts it at a bit of a distance – as is often the case, Cohen's work feels a bit sui generis, something that a listener either gets or doesn't, and going back to this original recording, it's difficult to hear what would make the song connect to a universal audience.

For all of its elements, the most striking aspect of the original "Hallelujah" recording, beyond the lyrics, is Leonard Cohen's own vocal performance. Such lines as "I don't even know the name" or "I did my best; it wasn't much" are delivered with a wry, weary humor, creating a real tension between the verses and the soaring, one-word chorus. Those who know the song only through the covers that followed, many of which don't include this section, would be surprised by the additional complexities in the original. The singing creates the sense of struggle, conflict, and resignation that then pays off in the song's climactic, closing lines.

"This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled," Cohen has said, "but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that's what I mean by 'Hallelujah.' That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, 'Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.'…

"The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say, 'Look, I don't understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah!' That's the only moment that we live here fully as human beings."

They finished recording the song, and the rest of the Various Positions album. "I said, 'Man, we're on top of this, this is really going to do it,' " John Lissauer recalled. " 'This is gonna be the breakthrough, this record is really going to be important.' 'Hallelujah' just jumped out at you, plus there was a lot of other great stuff on the album.

"And it went to Walter Yetnikoff, who was the president of CBS Records, and he said, 'What is this? This isn't pop music. We're not releasing it. This is a disaster.' "

Famous and infamous, music industry legend Yetnikoff had risen from the label's legal department to run the company, which he did from 1975 to 1990. His career (which is documented in Fredric Dannen's definitive study of the record business, Hit Men, and in his own freewheeling auto biography, Howling at the Moon) was marked by such earth shattering triumphs as Michael Jackson's Thriller and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., alongside a litany of accusations and allegations about his shady cohorts and abrasive style.

As Cohen recounted the story, when Yetnikoff told him that he was rejecting Various Positions, he said, "Leonard, we know you're great, but we don't know if you're any good."

Lissauer suggests that perhaps the executives at Columbia (a division of CBS; soon to become part of the Sony Corporation) were expecting something more pop-oriented, based on the early reports from the sessions. "The '80s was an awful period for real, artistic singer-songwriters," he said. "The '70s had everything from Paul Simon's solo stuff, James Taylor, Joni, even Randy Newman. But the '80s was all bands and MTV, and Yetnikoff might actually have been looking for a way to weed out the Leonards of the world."

Ungar believes that the rejection of the album was less strategic than that. "I think it was the usual reason – they didn't hear a single."


JULY 24 1988: Leonard Cohen
Cohen in 1988 Andrew Stawicki/Toronto Star/Getty

Many years later, in a 2009 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company about the ongoing success of "Hallelujah," Cohen was sanguine about Columbia's decision. "There are certain ironic and amusing sidebars," he said, "because the record that it came from . . . Sony wouldn't put it out, they didn't think it was good enough. It had songs like 'Dance Me to the End of Love,' 'Hallelujah,' 'If It Be Your Will' – but it wasn't considered good enough for the American market. So there's a certain mild sense of revenge that arose in my heart."

But without the benefit of hindsight, consider Walter Yetnikoff's position. In September 1984, Leonard Cohen would turn fifty. Each of his last three albums – covering a time span that reached back a full decade – had sold less than its predecessor, even in the scattered countries around the world where he did have a following. He had never placed an album in the U.S. Top Ten.

Meanwhile, as Cohen was in the studio recording Various Positions, the summer of 1984 was perhaps the biggestseason in the history of the record business. Over the courseof a few months, Prince's Purple Rain, Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., and Madonna's Like a Virgin were all released,and each went on to sell over ten million copies. MichaelJackson's game-changing Thriller was still riding high onthe charts, more than a year after it first came out. Since its launch in 1981, MTV had become the dominant force inpop music marketing, with a reach and an impact unlikeanything the industry had seen before, and now the world'sbiggest superstars had figured out how to take advantage ofthe exposure and opportunities that it offered.

There could be no arguing that record sales had become very big business, and were getting bigger by the day. Stakes were high. And against that backdrop, it's not hard to imagine that a record company might have had a difficult time knowing what to do with a middle-aged artist, of an elite but very limited stature, at this precise moment in music history. It's perhaps even more difficult to see a label executive being able to hear clearly enough to believe that the simple song with the Bible stories and the one-word chorus might go on to some success of its own. And, to be honest, while the synthesizer sounds were considered state-of-the-art in 1984, they weren't edgy enough to win over younger listeners, and they soon sounded somewhat dated.

Various Positions was released overseas, and two months after CBS passed on it, the independent label PVC Records put it out in the U.S., at the end of 1984. (Columbia would later buy back the rights to the album when it rereleased Cohen's catalogue on compact disc.) But still, once the album reached the public, hardly anyone seemed to notice "Hallelujah," the first song on the LP's second side. Don Shewey's album review in Rolling Stone didn't mention the song, though it noted the album's "surprising country & western flavour" and singled out "John Lissauer's lucid and beautiful production."

Lissauer had never even seen that review until I sent it to him after our interview. In fact, he had no idea that Various Positions had actually been released in the U.S. until four or five years after it happened. When Cohen's manager at the time, Marty Machat, broke the news to the producer that the record had been turned down, he said that it wasn't worth bothering to execute their contract – and so, to this day, Lissauer has never seen a single cent in royalties for his work on "Hallelujah," about which he seems curiously at peace. "I still survive, everything is fine," he said, "but it would be nice to actually get royalties for an album with the most-recorded song in fifty years on it."

The experience essentially ended Lissauer's producing career. Baffled by the label's response to a project that he felt so positive about, he switched gears and turned to making music for films, which he feels has all turned out for the best. But he does express regret that the outcome of the Various Positions saga effectively meant the end of his relationship with Cohen.

"Once they went out on tour and then we got word that the record was a non-record, I didn't see him for fifteen years," he said. "I think we were both so embarrassed. I felt horrible. I felt like I'd ruined his career."

Excerpted from the book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of 'Hallelujah' by Alan Light with permission from Atria/Simon & Schuster, out December 4th.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:59 am
by Roy
Weekend Rock Question: What's the Best Leonard Cohen Song of Past 30 Years?
Cast your vote in our weekly poll ... rs-w449912


In honor of the late Leonard Cohen, we're asking our readers to select his best songs from the past 30 years. Andy Beard/Redux

Just a few weeks before Leonard Cohen passed away, we spoke to his son Adam. "They say that life is a beautiful play with a terrible third act," he said. "If that's the case, it must not apply to Leonard Cohen. Right now, at the end of his career, perhaps at the end of his life, he's at the summit of his powers."

Now we have a question for you: What is Leonard Cohen's best song of the past 30 years? That includes everything he released from 1988's I'm Your Man all the way through You Want It Darker just a few weeks ago. Feel free to vote for a classic like "First We Take Manhattan" and "Waiting For The Miracle," something a little more obscure like "Boogie Street" and "That Don't Make It Junk" or something very recent like "Going Home" and "Treaty." Pick any Leonard Cohen song of the past 30 years you want, just please only vote once and only for a single selection.

You can vote here in the comments, on or on Twitter using the hashtag #WeekendRock.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 3:06 am
by Roy
So Long, Leonard Cohen: Death of a Ladies' Man
How Cohen perfected a new kind of spiritual, sexual songwriting, and kept reinventing himself right up until the end ... te-w449871


Rob Sheffield pays tribute to the late, great Leonard Cohen, a literary-minded giant who kept reinventing himself right up until the end. Reg Innell/Toronto Star/Getty

If there's a moment that sums up the depraved genius of Leonard Cohen, it's his performance of "Sing Another Song, Boys" at the infamous 1970 Isle of Wight festival. The poet wanders onstage at 4 a.m. in his rumpled khaki jacket, with his acoustic guitar, his fierce dark eyes burning holes in the camera, as his hushed voice croaks yet another ballad of doomed lovers. "They'll never, ever reach the moon," he rants. "At least not the one that we're after." He doesn't notice when his voice lurches off key. "It's floating broken on the open sea – look out there, my friends!" Even the hippie-girl back-up singers look a little alarmed at his crazed face. "And it carries no survivors." Cohen's all monkish concentration, eye-fucking a half-million strangers at a miserable five-day outdoor festival, all of them shivering and restless and stoned, yet he lures them all into his reverie. Nobody else could have gotten away with this.

Thanks for your life, Leonard Cohen. This man was both the crack in everything and the light that gets in. Nobody wrote such magnificently bleak ballads for brooding alone in the dark, staring at a window or wall – "Joan of Arc," "Chelsea Hotel," "Tower of Song," "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Closing Time." He was music's top Jewish Canadian ladies' man before Drake was born, running for the money and the flesh. Like Bowie and Prince, he tapped into his own realm of spiritual and sexual gnosis, and like them, he went out at the peak of his musical powers. No songwriter ever adapted to old age with more cunning or gusto. Born in 1934, Cohen made more records in the 2010s than he did in the Eighties or Nineties. He just dropped his final album You Want It Darker a few weeks ago – has there ever been a more hardcore musical statement from an 82-year-old? As he plainly sang, he was ready to go – it was the world that wasn't ready to lose him.

Especially this week – L.C. sure knew how to make a dramatic exit. I'm not the only fan I know who was turning to his music to get through the hellhole of the past days. Just a few hours before the news of his death, I was neck-deep in Songs of Love and Hate, his gloriously baleful 1971 masterpiece – the cheeriest moment on the album comes when Joan of Arc goes up in flames. Yet the brutal wit and spare no-bullshit acoustic groove are emotionally sustaining in bad times like these – every song seems to say, "You think this is as tough as it gets? Just wait. Sincerely, L. Cohen." Like Lemmy, who he resembled in so many ways, he relished the role of the ancient warrior sage, unembarrassed by the passing years, but also unimpressed.

Part of his eternal mystique is that he grew up on his own time – he was well over 30 by the time he made his first record, 1967's classic Songs of Leonard Cohen. He rolled out of Montreal with his shabby baritone, his flamenco-influenced folk guitar, and his vast collection of beatnik muses with swollen appetites. Born a few months before Elvis, he published his first book of poetry (Let Us Now Compare Mythologies) the same year as "Heartbreak Hotel," but he still had another decade left of literary scuffling before anybody heard him sing. He came on as a jaded rake, tormented by love, yet inexhaustibly bemused by the whole agonizing pageant of it. (One choice couplet, from his gem New Skin for the Old Ceremony: "You were Marlon Brando, I was Steve McQueen/You were K-Y Jelly, I was Vaseline.") He stood out from the Seventies folkie milieu for his self-mocking humor. As he wrote in the notes to the 1975 collection The Best of Leonard Cohen, explaining his dapper cover photo: "I rarely ever look this good, or bad, depending on your politics."

But the really weird twist came in the 1980s, when he reached his fifties and almost accidentally got more famous than ever. For me, the first hint that Cohen was worth my sullen adolescent time was Nick Cave's version of "Avalanche" – a revelation that the guy who wrote sentimental chestnuts like "Suzanne" was really a goth-punk O.G. The Smiths nicked the hook of their first hit "Hand In Glove" from him. Cohen claimed his elder-of-elders turf with I'm Your Man, steeped in chilly Euro-pop synths, growling "Everybody Knows" to warn us not to get our hopes up for the 1988 election (or the 2000 election) (or the 2016 election). As he testified, "Everybody knows that the dice are loaded/Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed/Everybody knows that the war is over/Everybody knows that the good guys lost." I'm Your Man and the even-nastier 1992 sequel The Future struck a nerve with a new young audience. (Bob Dylan's Infidels, a strangely forgotten 1983 set of glossy ballads, seemed to provide the template for the final three decades of Cohen's career.) "Hallelujah," a hymn tossed off on a 1985 album his record company didn't bother to release, sat around unnoticed for years until Jeff Buckley exhumed it and turned it into one of the world's most beloved pop standards. Kurt Cobain sighed for "a Leonard Cohen afterworld" on In Utero; in the months after his death, when Courtney Love went back on tour with Hole, she took the stage to "Sisters of Mercy."


Leonard Cohen live at Glastonbury in 2008 Elinor Jones/Photoshot/Getty

In the Nineties, instead of capitalizing on his new fame, he vanished into the hills – he spent most of the decade on a mountaintop Zen Buddhist retreat. He returned in 2001 with the fabulously deadpan title Ten New Songs, featuring pained elegies like "In My Secret Life" and "Alexandra Leaving." When he returned to the road in the late 2000s, he was blunt about his motivation – his former manager had stolen his savings and left him broke. But if you were lucky enough to see any of these shows, it was a night you could never forget – Cohen literally skipping on and offstage, performing for three hours, feeding off the music. At his final show in Auckland, New Zealand, in December 2013, the last song he happened to sing was the Drifters' "Save The Last Dance For Me." Like David Bowie, he scored his own exit soundtrack with a farewell surprise masterpiece, You Want It Darker. And like the Bowie of Blackstar, he didn't try to disguise the rough edges of his voice, facing up to mortality with zero self-pity, though he made no secret about seeing the end in sight. He wrote a touching public note this summer to his onetime muse Marianne Ihlen, as she lay on her deathbed: "Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. ... Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road."

The last time I saw him was a muggy afternoon in the summer of 2014, at an advance listening for his album Popular Problems at Joe's Pub in New York. As a surprise, Cohen himself showed up at the end, gliding through the room, impossibly elegant in his fedora. With his 80th birthday a week away, he announced his new plan: to start smoking again, having quit when he turned 50. "I've been dreaming about that first cigarette for 30 years," he said. "It's been one of my few consistent thoughts. Does anybody know where to buy Turkish cigarettes in this town?"

Everybody in the room kicked themselves for not knowing the answer. But then, Leonard Cohen was always full of questions and mysteries it seemed only he understood. We'll all keep hearing from Leonard Cohen, long after he's gone – speaking to us from a window in the Tower of Song. And as we go into the bitter winter ahead of us, he's a voice we'll keep needing to hear.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 3:17 am
by Roy
Leonard Cohen on Screen: 12 Best Song Uses in Movies and TV
From TV shows and Eighties teen flicks to 'Shrek,' the most memorable needle-drops of the songwriter's back catalog ... es-w449921


From Eighties teen flicks to Nineties teen soaps, 'Natural Born Killers' to 'Shrek" – 12 best uses of Leonard Cohen's songs in movies and TV shows. Photofest, Gijsbert Hanekroot/Getty, Everett Collection

Leonard Cohen's early music career didn't quite crack the mainstream the same way that peers like, say, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell had, but it was films – and later television shows – that helped build, and continue to maintain his legacy. The smoky, deep rasp of his voice, sparse musical accompaniment and gorgeous wordplay has signified the most dramatic moments across the cinematic universe while "Hallelujah" — and its many covers — has become the Pavlov's bell of sadness, grace and grandeur for everyone from cartoon ogres to lovestruck teens. (It's also been applied to some rather questionable sequences; let us never speak of that Watchmen sex scene ever again.) Here are some of the greatest uses of Cohen's iconic songs on both the big and small screens.

'Breaking the Waves,' "Suzanne"

Danish filmmaker/agent provocateur Lars von Trier has always had a love of dropping a bit of music in for poetic and/or ironic effect; remember those Dogville end credits of poverty and squalor in the U.S.A., set to Bowie's "Young Americans"? The choices he made for the chapter headings of his 1996 breakthrough movie run the gamut from glam (Moot the Hopple's "All the Way to Memphis") to glum (Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale"). But it's the use of Cohen's ode to a woman "who feeds you tea and oranges/that come all the way from China" over the movie's fifth section – entitled "Doubt" – that feels most evocative of the film's moody, lovelorn tragedy. Go directly to the 2:15 mark above and watch how it plays over a gray, fog-strewn shot of a ruined house. It's a perfect melding of melancholy sound and vision.

'Pump Up the Volume,' "Everybody Knows"

He was just a quiet Phoenix high school loner who secretly broadcasts a pirate radio station from his parents' basement; then Christian Slater's suburban transplant adopted the mouthy, anti-authoritarian alter ego "Hard Harry" and quickly turned his community upside down. Cohen's suavely apocalyptic diatribe is the disruptive D.J.'s theme music that recurs throughout the movie, a dark signal the man on the mic sends out to jolt his complacent listeners out of their comfort zone. A second version of the song, recorded by modern rockers Concrete Blonde, plays as the introduction to Harry's final broadcast, and another second Cohen song, "If It Be Your Will," appears in the film as well.

'McCabe and Mrs. Miller,' "The Stranger Song"

Upon viewing Robert Altman's brilliant 1973 "anti-Western," you may wonder which came first, its script or the three Leonard Cohen songs – "The Stranger Song," "Sisters of Mercy," and "Winter Lady" – that provide its score. Even the director wasn't quite sure: "I think the reason they worked," Altman said of the tracks, "was because those lyrics were etched in my subconscious, so when I shot the scenes I fitted them to the songs, as if they were written for them." The film opens with Warren Beatty riding into town accompanied by "The Stranger Song," whose drolly delivered yet mesmerizing images of card games, smoky dreams, and notions of risk versus security uncannily distill the themes of Altman's masterpiece. Cohen initially expressed reservations about the film but came around after a second viewing, declaring it "really beautiful."

'The West Wing,' "Hallelujah"

Jeff Buckley's haunting version of the much-utilized Cohen ballad soundtracks the climax of the third season finale of Aaron Sorkin's D.C. TV drama. After Secret Service Agent Simon Donovan (Mark Harmon) is gunned down during a bodega robbery, the opening "secret" chords begin. At a theater performance, White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) is told of her bodyguard/potential romantic interst's death; the news sends her wandering distraught and dazed through Times Square. We cut between her eventual public break down, and the sight of investigators arriving at the crime scene as Buckley's voice wafts upward in desperate prayer.

'True Detective,' "Nevermind"

There are any number of reasons to want to push the off-the-rails second season of HBO's anthology show out of your memory; the stellar credit sequence, however, is the one major keeper from this sophomore slump. And it's Cohen's track off of 2014's Popular Problems, playing over ominous overhead shots of Los Angeles freeways and the cast silhouetted against blood-red landscapes, that really makes the expressionist titles pop. "I've dug some graves/you'll never find," the troubadour croaks, sounding like the Grim Reaper pouring himself a stiff shot of Scotch before taking some souls. "I have a name/But never mind." Those lyrics lend a sense of mystery and majesty to this Hell-Ay noir before we've even seen a frame of the show's cops-and-mobsters tale. That the series never got better than those opening moments is a shame, but never mind. It showed impeccable taste upfront.

'Natural Born Killers,' "The Future"

Oliver Stone's 1994 satirical take on the tabloid-fueled rise of sexy serial-killer celebrities Mickey and Mallory Knox opens with what's essentially a music video for Cohen's sardonic, pessimistic prophecy. Juliette Lewis's Mallory shimmies in a bikini top and tight pants in a divey New Mexico desert cafe as Woody Harrelson's Mickey watches discreetly from his seat at the counter. A customer sidles sleazily up to Mallory, who teases him a bit before brutally kicking his ass. When the guy's buddy tries to intervene, Mickey guts him with a knife. The mayhem proceeds from there – all the while, Cohen's burlap voice repeats its warning: "I've seen the future, it is murder." Yes, it most certainly is.

'The L Word,' "I'm Your Man"

If Cohen's music sounded increasingly sophisticated throughout the Seventies and Eighties, it was largely due to his refusal to be pinned down. Many of his best songs unfurl like authoritatively declaimed Zen koans (pun intended), and the title track of his great 1988 album was a one-size-fits-all come-on any Buddhist Casanova might envy. Which made it ideal for the slightly surreal parking-garage dance number performed by genderqueer Ivan Aycock (Kelly Lynch) for Kit Porter (Pam Grier) in the final episode of this groundbreaking series' first season. The steam builds as Ivan vamps around his car, lip-syncing Cohen's lyrics ("I sweated over that one," he said of the song) and making the receptive Kit an offer she can't refuse: "If you want a driver, climb inside/ Or if you want to take me for a ride/ You know you can/ I'm your man."

'Transparent,' "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye"

Leonard Cohen arrived on the cusp of the sexual revolution, which turned out to be a lot messier than anyone could have predicted – and the gender politics reflected in Transparent are, if anything, even more complicated. Heard in the end credits of this episode, in which an elderly woman decides to mercy-kill her coma-debilitated husband, the singer's gently devastating kiss-off to his lover in "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" resonates with equal parts affection and flight. One of the relatively lighter tunes on his 1967 debut, the wave-like lines of "No Way to Say Goodbye" have much to say about the universally ambivalent relationships at the center of the Amazon show's ongoing meditation on selfishness and the price of personal satisfaction.

'Secretary,' "I'm Your Man"

"If you want a lover/I'll do anything you ask me to," goes the first line of Cohen's swooning slow-burn of a love song, a perfect encapsulation of the power dynamics involved in this 2002 indie about a boss (James Spader), his new personal assistant (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and their burgeoning S&M-fuelled relationship. Right before that lyric drops, however, we hear the sounds of spanking mixing with the tune's synthesizers, and what could be pleasure, pain or some combo of the two. We watch as Gyllenhaal's secretary crawls on all fours, eats out of her master's hand and has a riding saddle placed on her back. "And if you want another kind of love/I'll wear a mask for you," Cohen's voice intones, and by the end of the sequence, his lyrics almost feel like dictation for the mutually appreciated degradation.

'Shrek,' "Hallelujah"

In 2001, a brand new generation of Cohen listeners was born, thanks to the most unlikely of sources: a ginat, flatulent green ogre. The DreamWorks animation hit became an unlikely vessel of Baby's First Leonard Cohen discovery when the film used John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah" to highlight a heartbreaking sense of melancholy within a mostly humorous, off-kilter kid's film. This is the sound that greats Shrek when returns to his swamp after suffering what he thought was a rejection from the princess he had fallen in love with. The film's official soundtrack features Rufus Wainwright's cover instead of Cale's version, but either way, you can't go wrong; if you have to listen to different versions of this most covered of Cohen's songs, these are two of the best.

'Take This Waltz,' "Take This Waltz"

Sarah Polley named her second film for Cohen's song, a stately invitation to a melancholy kind of love that soundtracks a time lapse montage of a couple starting a new life together. The opening notes play as a seated Margot (Michelle Williams) looks back and smiles in recognition at someone. This is Daniel (Luke Kirby), the man she left her husband for – and as Cohen sings we see the pair in a brightly lit loft space, kissing and having sex. Time is illustrated by the addition of more furniture to the room and the couple's evolution from passionate and adventurous (not one but two different threesomes) to placid, with the two sitting together on the couch watching television as the song wraps up. It's evolution of a domesticated relationship in three and a half minutes.

'The O.C.,' "Hallelujah"

This perennial Cohen soundtrack favorite was used twice over the course of the teen soap, and both instances highlighted devastating moments in the relationship of tragic lovers Marissa and Ryan. In the Season One finale, bad boy Ryan must leave the wealthy town of Newport where he had been living; Jeff Buckley's cover plays as the kid leaves for Chino and his girlfriend drinks away her pain. In Season Three, Imogen Heap's version soundtracks Marissa's tragic death after a car crash – with Ryan left holding his girlfriend in his arms one last time as the scene flashes back to the two of them years ago.You may begin weeping now.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:25 am
by Roy
See Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton Sing Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' on 'SNL'
Cold open pays tribute to late singer-songwriter while offering catharsis following Donald Trump's Election Day victory ... nl-w450168

Following the election of Donald Trump and the death of Leonard Cohen, 'SNL' opened with Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton singing Cohen's "Hallelujah."

As catharsis after an emotionally exhausting week that witnessed both the election of Donald Trump and the death of Leonard Cohen, Saturday Night Live opened with Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton sitting alone at the piano and singing Cohen's "Hallelujah."

After weeks of opening each pre-Election Day episode with amusing, over-the-top debate night sketches between McKinnon's Clinton and Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump, there was no laughter to be heard in the latest cold open. McKinnon, in her Hillary wig and white pantsuit, simply turned Cohen's oft-covered Various Positions classic into her character's own personal concession speech.

"Maybe I've been here before / I've seen this room and I've walked this floor / I used to live alone before I knew you," McKinnon's Clinton sang, with the actress breaking character to wink at the camera.

"I'm not giving up and neither should you," McKinnon, as Clinton, said following her performance. "And live from New York, it's Saturday night."

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 11:31 am
by Roy
How Leonard Cohen Met Janis Joplin: Inside Legendary Chelsea Hotel Encounter
"We fell into each other's arms through some process of elimination," Cohen said of affair that inspired "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" ... el-w450211


Read the story of Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin's brief romance at the Chelsea Hotel, which inspired Cohen's famously explicit "Chelsea Hotel No. 2." Roz Kelly/Getty, Baron Wolman/Getty

By Jordan Runtagh

In the spring of 1968, the Chelsea Hotel was far more famous than its occupant in Room 424. Leonard Cohen had forsaken his life as an established novelist and poet in Canada for a place in New York City's flourishing folk singer-songwriter scene, and so far the gamble hadn't paid off. In an era when "don't trust anyone over 30" was a common mantra, the 33-year-old's early auditions often concluded with dismissive variations of "Aren't you a little old for this game?"

Though the intellectual pedigree and the dense lyrical thickets in his music drew the inevitable comparisons to reigning rock poet laureate Bob Dylan, his 1967 debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was met with limited success when it was released the previous December. Adding insult to injury, a legal technicality cost him the copyright to three of his best songs – including "Suzanne," which had recorded by Judy Collins.

A New York Times article from the period captured his malaise as he anxiously struggled to construct his new identity: "He puts up at the Chelsea or the Henry Hudson Hotel, rarely mixes with the local litterateurs, and sometimes spends whole days in front of the mirror trying to figure out where the lines in his face came from."

While Cohen's gloomy, gritty and romantic mythology was still in its nascent phase, the Chelsea's was fully formed. Situated at 222 West 23rd Street, the imposing redbrick ruled the block with a gothic grandeur. Its four hundred rooms had housed literary luminaries including Mark Twain, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Jackson Pollock and Arthur Miller, who offered a succinct summation of the bohemian ambiance: "No vacuum cleaners, no rules, no shame." Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey while in residence there, and Jack Kerouac pounded out On the Road in his room. Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen's tragic visit was still more than a decade off, but poet Dylan Thomas entered his fatal coma during his Chelsea stay in 1953.

By the Sixties, the Chelsea Hotel had become a headquarters for the emerging rock elite, hosting Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and Dylan himself. Some paid tribute to their temporary digs in song. Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" name checks the hostelry, as does the Lou Reed–penned "Chelsea Girl" and Jefferson Airplane's "Third Week in the Chelsea."

It was, in journalist Thelma Blitz's estimation, "a big, boho fraternity house" – and it suited Cohen's desires perfectly: "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. It was a grand, mad place," he told SongTalk in 1993. "I love hotels to which, at 4 a.m., you can bring along a midget, a bear and four ladies, take them to your room and no one cares about it at all."

The room in question was not much to brag about. A bare bulb illuminated a flimsy bed, a puny black-and-white television, a hot plate on which cook meals and little else. A sink spewed rusty water, when it decided to run at all.


Cohen in New York, 1968. "She wasn't looking for me, she was looking for Kris Kristofferson," he would recall of meeting Joplin. Roz Kelly/Getty

It was in these decrepit conditions that Cohen found himself late one night in the spring of 1968. With the sorry state of his music career weighing heavily on his mind, he decided to take a walk to clear his head. "It was a dismal evening in New York City," he later reminisced during a concert. First he stopped at Bronco Burger, a local greasy spoon. "I had a cheeseburger; it didn't help at all," he said with laconic humor. Then he headed to the White Horse Tavern, an iconic Greenwich Village watering hole favored by generations of writers and freethinkers. "I went to the White Horse Tavern looking for Dylan Thomas, but Dylan Thomas was dead."

Having failed to raise his spirits, Cohen returned to the Chelsea around 3 a.m. He crossed its famous lobby, crammed with an eclectic collection of paintings given by tenants in lieu of rent money, all the way to the elevator – creaky, unusually cramped and often cited as the slowest in the city. It required a certain knack to get it to function. "I was an expert on the buttons of that elevator," he told a New York City audience in 1988. "One of the few technologies I really ever mastered. The door opened. I walked in. Put my finger right on the button. No hesitation. Great sense of mastery in those days."

Once inside, he was joined by a woman with wild hair and even wilder clothes. It was the resident of Room 411, a 25-year-old singer from Port Arthur, Texas, named Janis Joplin. She and her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, were in town recording their second album, later titled Cheap Thrills, at the same Columbia studio used for Songs of Leonard Cohen.

Cohen was suddenly less lonely and very intrigued. The elevator's sluggish pace bought him time to strike up a conversation, which he'd recreate repeatedly in concerts for years to come.

"My lungs gathered my courage," he remembered in 1988. "I said to her, 'Are you looking for someone?' She said 'Yes, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson.'" It was obvious that Cohen was not the large, gruffly handsome songwriter, but he made a play anyway. "I said, ‘Little lady, you're in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson.' Those were generous times. Even though she knew that I was someone shorter than Kris Kristofferson, she never let on. Great generosity prevailed in those doom decades."

By the time the elevator jerked to a stop on the fourth floor, it was understood that they would spend the night together. "She wasn't looking for me, she was looking for Kris Kristofferson; I wasn't looking for her, I was looking for Brigitte Bardot. But we fell into each other's arms through some process of elimination."
Their affair would be gone with the morning light, and they would meet only a handful of times after that. "The last time I saw her was on 23rd Street," he remembered. "She said, 'Hey man, you in town to read poetry for old ladies?' That was her view of my career." She died on October 4th, 1970, of a heroin overdose. Just a few days before her death, she recorded Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee," which would become her only Number One song.

Cohen was shaken by the loss of his fellow musician and one-time inamorata. "I was saddened by her death," he told Sounds U.K. in 1976. "Not because someone dies – that in itself isn't terrible. But I liked her work so much; she was that good that you feel the body of work she left behind is just too brief. There are certain kinds of artists that blaze in a very bright light for a very brief time: the Rimbauds, the Shelleys, Tim Buckley – people like that. And Janis was one of them."


Joplin performs at the Fillmore East, 1968. "They both gave me nothing," she once said of her affairs with Cohen and Jim Morrison. Julie Snow/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

In 1971, not long after her death, Cohen was seated at the bar of a Polynesian restaurant in Miami nursing a "particularly lethal and sinister coconut drink." His thoughts turned towards his fallen friend, and soon words began to fill his cocktail napkin.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel

You were talking so brave and so free

Giving me head on the unmade bed

While the limousines wait in the street

It came together slowly. He had help on the music from his guitarist and bandleader Ron Cornelius while on a transatlantic flight from Nashville to Ireland. "It was back when you could sit in the back of the plane and smoke," Cornelius told author Sylvie Simmons in her book I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. "And for the best part of this eight-and-a-half-hour flight Leonard and I sat there smoking and worked on that song. When he finally landed in Shannon, it was complete."

They called it simply "Chelsea Hotel." The song got a number of intermittent live airings, but Cohen's perfectionist streak took hold and he continued to tinker with the lyrics. Later that year, during a visit to Asmara, Ethiopia, he retreated deeper into his memories.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel 

You were famous, your heart was a legend
You told me again you preferred handsome men 

But for me you would make an exception

And clenching your fist for the ones like us 

Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty 

You fixed yourself, you said, "Well, never mind
. ...
We are ugly but we have the music"

The verse transformed the song. It managed to reanimate the fire and ice of Joplin's psyche—her brash braggadocio and her insecure vulnerability—and provided a universal rallying cry to lonesome misfits the world over. He titled the affectionate tribute "Chelsea Hotel No. 2," to distinguish it from the prior incarnation.

Cohen premiered the song on March 23rd, 1972, during the third show of his residency at London's Royal Albert Hall. It became a concert mainstay for several years before he committed it to wax during sessions for 1974's New Skin For the Old Ceremony.

While he hinted that the song was about "an American singer who died a while ago" in the notes to his 1975 greatest hits album, Cohen first revealed the song's muse during a concert in Montreux, Switzerland, on May 25th, 1976. It quickly became part of the song's lore. "She would not have minded. My mother would have minded," he said at the time.

Yet over the years, he began to feel remorse for kissing and telling. "There was the sole indiscretion, in my professional life, that I deeply regret," he told the BBC in 1994. "Because I associated a woman's name with a song, and in the song I mentioned, I used the line 'Giving me head on an unmade bed while the limousines wait in the street,' and I've always disliked the locker-room approach to these matters. I've never spoken in any concrete terms of a woman with whom I've had any intimate relationships, and I named Janis Joplin in that song. I don't know when it started, but I connected her name with the song, and I've been feeling very bad about that ever since. It's an indiscretion for which I'm very sorry, and if there is some way of apologizing to the ghost, I want to apologize now, for having committed that indiscretion."

It would perhaps soothe his conscience to know that Joplin also spoke of their brief affair – in less than glowing terms. "I live pretty loose. You know, balling with strangers and stuff," she admitted in a 1969 interview later published in Richard Avedon and Doon Arbus' book The Sixties. "Sometimes you're with someone and you're convinced that they have something to tell you. So maybe nothing's happening, but you keep telling yourself something's happening—innate communication. 'He's just not saying anything. He's moody or something.' So you keep being there, pulling, giving, rapping. And then, all of a sudden about four o'clock in the morning you realize that, flat ass, this motherfucker's just lying there. He's not balling me.

"I mean, that really happened to me. Really heavy, like slam-in-the-face it happened. Twice. Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen. And it's strange 'cause they were the only two that I can think of, like prominent people, that I tried to ... without really liking them up front, just because I knew who they were and wanted to know them. And then they both gave me nothing. I don't know what that means. Maybe it just means they were on a bummer."

A bummer, indeed. Cohen was not known for having the sunniest of outlooks, but Joplin's death served as a cautionary beacon throughout the rest of his life. "The game is rough from a lot of points of view; because the prizes are big the defeats are big, too. Life is rigorous, and the invitations to blowing it are numerous and frequent. Me? I'm careful as I can be without it getting too much of a drag. Anyway, I'm too old to die that kind of a spectacular death. For me to commit suicide or OD would be ... unbecoming."

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 11:42 am
by Roy
How Leonard Cohen's Music Turned 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' Into a Masterpiece
Why the collaboration between singular songwriter and maverick filmmaker Robert Altman remains the perfect Cohen movie soundtrack ... er-w450052


How Leonard Cohen's music transformed Robert Altman's 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' into a masterpiece – and why it's the perfect Cohen movie soundtrack. P. Ullman/Getty, Photofest

By Tim Grierson

In early 1971, Leonard Cohen was still a relatively unknown singer-songwriter. Despite releasing two critically acclaimed records – 1967's Songs of Leonard Cohen and 1969's Songs From a Room – the Canadian artist, who previously plied his trade as a novelist and poet, had yet to tour the U.S. He was then living on a farm in the small town of Big East Fork, Tennessee while preparing the release of that March's Songs of Love and Hate. "I had a house, a jeep, a carbine, a pair of cowboy boots, a girlfriend … a typewriter, a guitar," he once recalled. "Everything I needed."

One day, he decided to go into town and check out a movie. He eventually decided on Brewster McCloud, a bizarre comedy about a Houston kid (played by Bud Cort) who wants to fly. The movie was a commercial and critical flop; Cohen saw it twice that day. "It's a very, very beautiful and I would say brilliant film," he told Crawdaddy! in 1975. "Maybe I just hadn't seen a movie in a long time, but it was really fine."
That night, the singer-songwriter traveled to Nashville to do some studio work. While there, he got a phone call: "This is Bob Altman," the voice on the other line said. "I'd like to use your songs in a movie I'm making." Cohen was flattered but had no idea who this guy was: "Is there any movie you've done I might have seen?"

Altman mentioned his smash success M*A*S*H, which Cohen had missed. The filmmaker then said, "I also did a small movie that nobody saw — Brewster McCloud." As Cohen later recalled to Altman biographer Mitchell Zuckoff, "I told him, 'I just saw it this afternoon — I loved it. You can have anything you want.'"
Thus began one of the great pairings of film and soundtrack of the modern era. The movie Altman was making was McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which legendary director John Huston would later reportedly proclaim the greatest Western ever made. It's certainly one of the most visionary, with Altman transforming Edmund Naughton's novel into a sad, beautiful tale of the American dream playing out in Washington State at the turn of the century. A luckless schemer named John McCabe (Warren Beatty) encounters the enigmatic madam Constance Miller (Julie Christie) in burgeoning, rustic Presbyterian Church, and these two entrepreneurs' destinies are soon to be intertwined.

In much the same way, Altman's and Cohen's legacies would forever be linked by McCabe. The movie is inextricably connected to Cohen's songs. It's impossible to imagine Altman's masterpiece without them.
The poet-musician may not have been familiar with Altman, who died in 2006, but the director certainly knew the songwriter – the iconoclastic auteur loved Songs of Leonard Cohen when it came out. "[W]e'd put that record on so often we wore out two copies!" he once professed to film scholar David Thompson. "We'd just get stoned and play that stuff. Then I forgot all about it." When Altman started dreaming up McCabe, he drew inspiration from Cohen's music — without realizing he had. After shooting the film and moving to the editing stage, he happened to hear some Cohen for the first time in a while and had a revelation: "'Shit, that's my movie!' … ack in the cutting room we put those songs on the picture and they fitted like a glove. I think the reason they worked was because those lyrics were etched in my subconscious, so when I shot the scenes I fitted them to the songs, as if they were written for them."

Altman initially inserted about 10 Cohen tracks into the film, eventually settling on three tunes: "The Stranger Song," Sisters of Mercy" and 'Winter Lady." But as musicology professor Gayle Sherwood Magee suggests in her book Robert Altman's Soundtracks, the lyrics to other Cohen songs certainly seem to presage McCabe plot points — specifically, "Suzanne" (which describes a woman with details that are emulated in Mrs. Miller) and "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong" (which references a "blizzard of ice" reminiscent of McCabe's snowy death after he runs afoul of a mining company). Even when you don't hear Cohen's music gracing scenes, the songwriter's spirit pervades the film.

This indelible trio of tracks, all of which appear on the first side of Songs of Leonard Cohen, served as McCabe's musical themes. "The Stranger Song" drifts over the film's opening credits as McCabe comes to Presbyterian Church on horseback. Before we've even been formally introduced to our antihero, Cohen paints a picture of this mournful man as a cardsharp ("It's true that all the men you knew were dealers") who has a mysterious past ("I told you when I came I was a stranger") and is seeking sanctuary ("He was just some Joseph looking for a manger").

The second, "Sisters of Mercy," enters the picture when we meet Mrs. Miller's prostitutes, Cohen's gentle song echoing the characters' warmth and generosity: "They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on … you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night."

The final track, "Winter Lady," is Mrs. Miller's theme, expressing the devotion McCabe feels for this woman who's captured his heart, even though he knows any sort of meaningful relationship is impossible. "Traveling lady, stay awhile / Until the night is over," Cohen sings, unwittingly providing an inner monologue. "I'm just a station on your way / I know I'm not your lover." If "The Stranger Song" ushers us into McCabe, then "Winter Lady" — which plays over the closing credits — is our farewell to the movie and the man, who ends up lying dead in a snowdrift, never to see his better half again.

But it wasn't simply the lyrical allusions that made Cohen's music so perfect for McCabe. Just as Altman lived to subvert genre clichés and incorporate unconventional filmmaking techniques — such as his inspired use of overlapping, sometimes muffled dialogue, which gave his scenes a sophisticated, lifelike texture — Cohen was his own brand of maverick, crafting a unique sound by using nylon strings on his guitar that distinguished him from other folk singers of the time. "It's essentially a Spanish style," Cohen music arranger Javier Mas revealed in Anthony Reynolds' book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, later adding, "He has got that nice tremolo playing that makes an incredible sound in his songs."

Cohen's desire to go his own way also provoked him to recruit the string band Kaleidoscope, which mixed folk, bluegrass and Middle Eastern sounds, to provide the distinctively exotic musical backing for Songs of Leonard Cohen. Their searching, haunting instrumentation lent his songs their elusive, wistful power — although, as pointed out by music critic Robert Christgau, the film version of "The Stranger Song" differs from the stripped-down album rendition, emphasizing the band's musical flourishes as Cohen had intended before his producer nixed the idea.


Warren Beatty, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and director Robert Altman, on the set of 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller.' Photofest

In McCabe, Cohen's aural landscape is an ideal compliment to Vilmos Zsigmond's brilliantly dreamy cinematography. He remembered in Robert Altman: The Oral Biography that when they first sat down to discuss the movie's visual strategy, Altman "described it in images, very old, like antique photographs and faded-out pictures, not much color." Using that at his guide, the Oscar-winning cameraman developed a technique, now known as flashing, which gives film an underexposed, grainy quality that's akin to looking at old photos. Zsigmond's worn images unknowingly mirrored Cohen's spectral tunes — they felt timeless but also idiosyncratic and trailblazing. No Western had ever looked or sounded like this.

Altman has said that with this moody Western, he was trying "to illustrate a heroic ballad. Yes, these events took place, but not in the way you've been told. I wanted to look at it through a different window, you might say, but I still wanted to keep the poetry of the ballad." It's reminiscent of something John McCabe mumbles to himself while thinking of his beloved: "I've got poetry in me," he insists to her, even though she's not there to hear it. "I do, I've got poetry in me. I ain't going to put it down on paper. I ain't no educated man. I got sense enough not to try it."

McCabe and Mrs. Miller's beauty and poignancy comes from the attempt to put that poetry onto the screen in gorgeously hazy visuals and piercingly sad ballads that transport the viewer to a bygone world — an old, violent America frontier that was soon to be snuffed out and tamed in the name of manifest destiny. That beauty and poignancy are even more acute now that its two main progenitors for its sound and vision are no longer with us.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:26 pm
by Roy
Listen to 'Rolling Stone Music Now' Podcast: Life and Music of Leonard Cohen

Tune in to our weekly podcast ... en-w450367


We tell the amazing life story of Leonard Cohen in our latest podcast. Michael Putland/Getty

The latest episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, our first-ever podcast, is now available. Listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify or check it out below.

He was a poet, a singer-songwriter, a monk, a septuagenarian arena headliner, and much more: We tell the amazing life story of Leonard Cohen, and go in-depth on his catalog, including the unlikely story of "Hallelujah." Also: How will music change in the face of a Donald Trump presidency?

Listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify and tune in next week for another episode.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:33 pm
by Roy
Leonard Cohen's Son Adam Pens Tribute to Late Singer
Son remembers father's "approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work" ... er-w450241


Adam Cohen, the son of Leonard Cohen, penned a tribute to his late father Saturday. Getty (2)

By Daniel Kreps

Leonard Cohen's son Adam penned a tribute to his late father that also thanked fans for their "kind messages, outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father."

"My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he'd asked," Adam Cohen wrote.

"As I write this I'm thinking of my father's unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work."

Adam would go on to thank his father for his wit and humour, "the wisdom he dispensed," their conversations and for teaching him how to love Montreal and Greece.

"And I'd thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him," Adam Cohen added.

Rufus Wainwright, the father of Cohen's granddaughter Viva, said of the late singer-songwriter in a statement, "I had very few deeply personal experiences with Leonard, enough to count on one and a half hands. Like for most of us, for me he dwelled in a higher strata inhabited by some living but mostly passed icons who seemed to have this direct line to the galaxy, whilst at the same time knowing exactly when to take out the trash. Formidable in both the sacred and the mundane."

Cohen died last week at the age of 82. His family did not reveal his cause of death, but Adam wrote at the time, "My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor."

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:17 am
by Roy
Watch Leonard Cohen Read Surreal Poem in Animated Interview
Singer-songwriter also recalls bizarre origins of folk classic "Sisters of Mercy" in "Blank on Blank" update of 1974 talk ... ew-w450362

Leonard Cohen reads a surreal original poem and recalled the origins of "Sisters of Mercy" in an animated update on a 1974 interview.

Leonard Cohen reads his surreal poem "Two Went to Sleep" and recounts the profound origins of his 1967 classic "Sisters of Mercy" in a 1974 interview newly animated for PBS' "Blank on Blank" series. The chat, which originally aired on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City, is available via the Pacifica Radio archives.

Upon the request of interviewer Kathleen Kendel, Cohen delivers "Two Went to Sleep" (from his first poetry book, 1956's Let Us Compare Mythologies) in tranquil, dulcet tones.

"Two went to sleep almost every night," he reads. "One dreamed of mud, One dreamed of Asia. Visiting the Zeppelin. Visiting Nijinsky. Two went to sleep. One dreamed of ribs. One dreamed of senators. Two went to sleep. Two travelers. A long marriage in the dark. The sleep was old. The travelers were old. One dreamed of oranges. One dreamed of Carthage. Two friends asleep. Years locked in travel. Good night, my darling, as the dreams wave goodbye."

He later recalls the bizarre inspiration of "Sisters of Mercy," a folk ballad from his debut LP, Songs of Leonard Cohen.

"I was in Edmonton during a tour by myself of Canada," he says. "I guess this was around '67, and I was walking along one of the main streets of Edmonton. It was bitter cold, and I knew no one, and I passed these two girls in a doorway, and they invited me to stand in the doorway with them. Of course I did. And some time later, we found ourselves in my little hotel room in Edmonton, and the three of us are going to go to sleep together. Of course I had all kinds of erotic fantasies of what the evening might bring.

"We went to bed together, and I think we all jammed into this one small couch in this little hotel, and it became clear that wasn't the purpose of the evening at all," he continues. "At one point in the night, I found myself unable to sleep. I got up and by the moonlight – it was very very bright, the moon was being reflected off the snow, and I wrote that poem by the ice-reflected moonlight while these women were sleeping, and it was one of the few songs that I ever wrote from top to bottom without a line of revision. The words flowed, and the melody flowed. And by the time they woke up the next morning, it was dawn, [and] I had this completed song to sing for them."

Cohen died last week at age 82. As tributes poured in from the music community, the singer-songwriter's son Adam thanked fans for their sympathy.

"As I write this I'm thinking of my father's unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work," he wrote.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:46 am
by Roy
Readers' Poll: 10 Best Leonard Cohen Songs of the Past 30 Years
See what song managed to top "Anthem," "The Future" and "First We Take Manhattan" ... rs-w450346


By Andy Greene

Thirty years ago it looked like Leonard Cohen's recording career was basically over. His label didn't even want to release his last album (despite the presence of a little song called "Hallelujah"), and once they reluctantly did it didn't even crack the Billboard 200. He seemed resigned to a fate of singing old classics like "Suzanne" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" at tiny theaters for the rest of his life. Then came 1988's I'm Your Man, which was packed with new masterpieces like "First We Take Manhattan" and "Tower of Song." It sounded unlike anything in his catalog, or anything else in music for that matter. It was the beginning of an incredible creative rebirth that continued right up to his death last week. We had our readers select his best songs of the past 30 years. Here are the results.

Watch Tori Kelly's touching 'Hallelujah' for the 2016 Emmy's 'In Memoriam.'

10. "In My Secret Life"

In October of 2001, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Enya, Nickelback, Linkin Park and Staind all had albums near the top of the Billboard 200. Very few people in the industry were thinking about Leonard Cohen, but that month he quietly returned from a self-imposed nine-year exile with Ten New Songs. The moody, reflective album kicks off with "My Secret Life," which is essentially a duet with his backup singer Sharon Robinson, who co-wrote every song on the album. Only hardcore Cohen fans even knew such an album existed, but "In My Secret Life" got a new life on the Grand Tour of 2008 to 2013 where it was a regular part of the show. Every night Cohen and Robinson would lock voices on the song, creating absolute magic.

9. "Democracy"

Leonard Cohen didn't write a lot of political songs, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square around the same time inspired him to pick up his pen. "Everyone was rejoicing," he said. "I thought it wasn't going to be like that, euphoric, the honeymoon." He centered his song around America. "This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another," he said. "This is the real laboratory of democracy." The song confused a lot of people, but he laid out his views right there in the lyrics: "I love the country, but I can't stand the scene/And I'm neither left or right/I'm just staying home tonight/Getting lost in that hopeless little screen."

8. "I'm Your Man"

The title track to I'm Your Man doesn't have much of a hidden message. In one of his most unapologetically lustful songs, he tells a woman he's ready to do anything she wants. "If you want a lover, I'll do anything you ask me to," he sings. "And if you want another kind of love/I'll wear a mask for you/If you want a partner, take my hand, or/ If you want to strike me down in anger/Here I stand/I'm your man." He sang this at basically every concert he did the final three decades of his life, and it never failed to make the women in the audience swoon.

7. "Closing Time"

Leonard Cohen probably didn't write "Closing Time" to give him a perfect song for late in the encore section of his show, but that's what it became. It's a euphoric song about the end of a wild party. "The fiddler fiddles something so sublime," he sings. "All the women tear their blouses off/And the men they dance on the polka-dots." As the song goes on, the scene seems a bit more dangerous. The cider is laced with acid, and there's a sensation in the air that "looks like freedom but feels like death." He'd often sing this after the three-hour mark of the show. People would be getting their coats on, preparing to leave, and then he'd do another three songs.

6. "First We Take Manhattan"

"First We Take Manhattan" was first heard on Jennifer Warnes' 1986 Leonard Cohen Tribute disc Famous Blue Raincoat. Cohen went to the set of the video and was photographed eating a banana, an image he used on the cover of 1988's I'm Your Man. Cohen cut the song himself on that album, upping the menace factor by about 500 percent. The tune was inspired by the rise of terrorism and white nationalism around Europe at the time. Sadly, it remains all too relevant today.

5. "You Want It Darker"

Leonard Cohen's health took a severe decline in the final couple of years of his life, and near the end, he was barely able to leave his daughter's home in suburban Los Angeles. He refused to let that stop him from recording music, so his son Adam brought recording equipment into his house and recorded his voice right into a laptop. You Want It Darker came out days before Cohen died, and the lyrics of the title track made clear he was in a rough spot. "If you are the dealer, let me out of the game," he sang. "If you are the healer, I'm broken and lame." It made for a brilliant final act.

4. "Waiting for the Miracle"

For those that first heard "Waiting for the Miracle" in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, it's hard to hear it without thinking about Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis committing brutal acts of violence. But if you know it from The Future or the many live performances, it's a song with slightly less baggage. "Waiting for the Miracle" sets a very somber mood and Cohen paints a vivid portrait of a world in crisis. "There ain't no entertainment and the judgements are severe," he sings. "The Maestro says it's Mozart, but it sounds like bubble gum."

3. "The Future"

The future Leonard Cohen presents on the title track to his 1992 album is a pretty dark place. "Give me Christ," he sang. "Or give me Hiroshima/Destroy another fetus now/We don't like children anyhow/I've seen the future, baby: It is murder." Yikes. It's the first song on the disc, and it sets the tone for an album with more than one or two bleak moments. On the album he sings "Give me crack and anal sex," but in concert it became "give me crack and careless sex." The former was clearly related to the AIDS epidemic, and he ultimately thought better than equating it with one type of sexual activity.

2. "Anthem"

Leonard Cohen wrote countless lines of poetry during his 82 years of life, but the single most memorable one may be: "Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." The 1992 tune is about accepting the imperfect things in life, and understanding that we all fall short of greatness. In a 2005 essay, Andrew Sullivan reflected on it. "There’s a line in a Leonard Cohen song that has always stayed with me," he wrote. "It kept me going in a bleak moment in my life, when I thought, as we all sometimes do, that I couldn't see how good could come out of the dark I have turned my life into." He was talking about "Anthem." Many others have turned to the song during times of crisis. It's just one of Cohen's many gifts to the world.

1. "Everybody Knows"

Leonard Cohen wrote "Everybody Knows" in 1988, but to many Americans right now, it probably feels like it was written for this very moment in history. "Everybody knows the war is over," Cohen sings. "Everybody knows the good guys lost/Everybody knows the fight was fixed/The poor stay poor, the rich get rich." The timeless song was most famously used in 1990's Pump Up the Volume, but it's been covered by everybody from Don Henley to Bette Midler. No matter how many times Cohen sang this song in concert, lines like "everybody knows the plague is coming" were always chilling. It was co-written with Sharon Robinson, once again proving her pivotal importance to the Leonard Cohen saga.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:53 am
by Roy
A Visit With Leonard Cohen: Poetry, Britney Spears and More With a Master
Singer-songwriter opened up about writing process, literary influences, Chelsea Hotel years in candid 2001 interview ... re-w450774


Leonard Cohen discussed life at the Chelsea Hotel, his literary inspirations, his surprising knack for real estate and more during a candid 2001 chat. Eamonn McCabe/Redferns/Getty

By Mark Binelli

I met Leonard Cohen in 2001. He was staying at the Mayflower, a modest, somewhat faded hotel on Central Park West, just up the street from the Trump International. As I recall, his label had originally put him up in a much fancier place, but he hadn't liked the vibe and switched without telling them. He'd recently spent several years at a Zen monastery in Los Angeles and had an otherworldly stillness about him. I felt more fidgety than usual. I remember his lighter and cigarette frozen in the air in front of his face – he'd been about to light a smoke when I asked a question, and he paused to answer in a long and perfectly formed paragraph, his hands not moving at all. Later, he poured me coffee from the room service cart, asked if I wanted cream, added it himself.

The Q&A that ran in Rolling Stone was a very short excerpt from our conversation. Throughout, Cohen was self-deprecating and drily funny. His new album at the time, Ten New Songs, had been his first in nearly a decade, and when I asked about the long gap, he quoted Isaac Bashevis Singer: "I believe he said, 'Every creative person knows the painful chasm between the inner vision and the ultimate expression.' Well, I was never bothered by that. Because I had no inner vision! And that's why it takes me so long to write a song. I have the appetite to write – to bring something to completion, to show off – but I don't have anything particular to write about, and it takes me a while to discern what that will be."

He told me about his life as a young poet in Greece, where he bought a house for $1,500 in 1960 ("I have a very good sense of real estate. I bought my house in Montreal for $7,000 in 1975. I should have gone into real estate"), and his decision to turn to songwriting: 'I'd already published three or four books at that time, but I couldn't make a living. In hindsight, it seems the height of folly to decide to solve your economic problems by becoming a singer. But I didn't have many options. I was on my way down to Nashville – I thought I'd be able to make a living as a studio musician down there – when I came through New York and bumped into that so-called folk-song renaissance."

Famously, he moved into the Chelsea Hotel. "Dylan Thomas had stayed there, so for young poets, it was a kind of shrine," he told me. "It was dangerous. There was a lot of acid around. At your own risk you would accept a potato chip in someone's room, because it was usually salted with something. But it was an excellent time." When his first album came out, Harry Smith, the avant-garde filmmaker and record collector best known for his highly influential Anthology of American Folk Music, was also living at the Chelsea. "And he said a very kind thing to me," Cohen recalled. “Because people were talking about the excellence of the lyrics. And he drew me aside, in a very sincere way, and said, 'Leonard, I know people are talking about the excellence of the lyrics. But I want you to know: the tunes are great.'"

Unlike the vast majority of interview subjects, at least in my experience, Cohen also had a number of questions for me – for instance, he wondered if I ever felt conflicted as a journalist who also wrote fiction. "Well," I began, "if I'm interviewing someone I'm not interested in, like Britney Spears ..." Cohen perked up. "I imagine that would be quite delightful," he said.

"I've always thought of poetry as a verdict rather than an intention."

Then he told me about his own "brief and disastrous" career as a journalist: "I had put out a little book in Canada, my first book of poems, and it had come to the attention of the editors of Esquire that Glenn Gould had praised the book. So they asked me to interview him. Generally he didn't give interviews. So I went up to visit him. He was in Ottawa at the time. He was supposed to give me a half-hour. We ended up talking for three hours. But after about 15 minutes, I stopped taking notes. I thought that what he was saying was etched indelibly into my mind. When I got back home to Montreal, I didn't remember anything. Esquire started calling me every day and I stopped answering the phone. I never did write the story. I had to return the advance."

I asked about his favorite lyricists and he quoted the "great haiku" made famous by Fats Domino: "The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill." I asked if he ever felt tempted to tinker with the lyrics of finished songs and he quoted his friend Leon Wieseltier: "Leon said what he likes most about his work that’s published is its quality of done-ness." We talked quite a bit about poetry. "I’ve never dignified what I do with that term, poetry," he said. "I've always thought of poetry as a verdict rather than an intention. It’s a verdict for another generation to make. And even the succeeding generations reverse the decisions of the preceding ones. So I like to describe myself as a songwriter."

I'd forgotten, before listening back to the interview tape the morning after he died, that he'd quoted the last stanza of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" from memory. It felt, during that week of all weeks, like something deliberately left behind:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Rest in peace.

Re: Rolling Stone News on Leonard Cohen

Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:59 am
by Roy
Leonard Cohen at Home in 1992: Singer-Songwriter on Pop Success, New Love
In an unusually intimate interview, Cohen discussed surprising career evolution, revealed deep generosity

By David Browne ... ss-w449890


During an intimate 1992 interview at his home in Montreal, Leonard Cohen discussed his pop-music ambitions, his early musical inspirations and more. Roy Tee/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

It was about 9 o'clock one Montreal morning, and I found myself at Leonard Cohen's front door.
It wasn't a trip I'd initially anticipated. It was late 1992, Cohen had just released a new album, The Future, and I'd jumped at the chance to finally interview someone I'd listened to and nearly worshiped since teenage years, when I asked my parents for a copy of The Best Of one Christmas. To my dismay, the interview had been set for his hotel room in Manhattan. Wearing a suit and sitting on the edge of his bed, Cohen was welcoming and patient, talking about how the industry seemed to be more appreciative of him now, especially starting with his previous album, I'm Your Man.

"People have been very kind," he said, talking of his once-indifferent label, Columbia. "My phone calls are rapidly answered. Limousines receive me at the airport. There are flowers in my hotel. So I know something's going on, and it's quite agreeable." He smiled at the idea that no one was mocking him anymore for implying we were in the end-of-world times. He was 58 and he called bands like the Stones "mere children."

As I got up to leave, I asked if we could continue the conversation elsewhere – perhaps in his home in Canada. With no hesitation, he said, "Of course. Come on up." His handler was taken aback and not terribly thrilled I'd suggested this, but Cohen had decreed, so it would be.

That sense of generosity – artists like that rarely jump at the chance to have a reporter barge into their home – was my latest indication that Cohen was no ordinary musician, singer or writer. To those who discovered him, at whatever point in their life, he was heroic on multiple levels. He wasn't conventionally handsome, didn't have a pop-star or rock-star voice, and seemed perpetually in need of another cup of coffee, both on record and in photos. He was more Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate than Mick Jagger. Yet for those of us who were gawky or couldn't sing well but wanted to consider ourselves well-read, articulate or funny, he was salvation. The first song of his I ever heard was "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," which was beautiful, tender, and sensuous, but didn't give a full picture of the wit, charm, and spirituality in his songs and voice-of-God delivery.

Cohen had a home in California at the time, where a friend told me he loved to watch his clothes go round and round in the washing machine, but on this grey, wintry, dusky morning, he was back in his native country. So there I was, standing in front of an unassuming brownstone in Montreal's Jewish neighborhood, next to delis and hardware stores on a main shipping drag. Cohen himself had suggested I arrive at that early hour – early for musicians, anyway – and the man who opened the door looked as if he'd already been up for a while. He was dressed in a three-piece suit and invited me into the long, cozy kitchen. "Have you had Canadian bagels?" he asked; when I said I hadn't, he insisted I must and lit up the oven.

"This notion that the common people aren't up to the complexities or sophistication of my work is completely inaccurate and elitist."

While he fussed over the bagels, we talked more about the album, Canada and Bill Clinton's election (he was already a fan of Clinton's wife, for numerous reasons). He talked about his music and image and the frustrations he often felt at being pigeonholed as a cult act, even by his label. "I've always suggested to them in my mild-mannered way that they might stop thinking of me as an intellectual poet, that they might take their lead from some of these European countries and think of me as a pop singer," he said. "This notion that the common people aren't up to the complexities or sophistication of my work is completely inaccurate and elitist. Everybody has more or less the same emotional life. The heart is not subject to education, certainly not of the university variety. The heart just cooks and splatters like shish kebob in everybody's breast."

No, it was not your standard rock-star setting or even interview.

In words that would take on more meaning a decade or more later, when he would be rediscovered, Cohen said that morning, "The young are perennially interested in integrity, and they tend to resurrect artists on that basis. I know I did as a kid when i started to write. The people who had a certain air about them, of having taken the whole thing seriously – people like Hank Williams, Leadbelly, Yeats. The young have an unerring sense for bullshit." He smiled. "They're good at that. One is happy to be on the other side of the barn."

Suddenly I heard the sound of footsteps descending from the stairs from an upper floor. Turning around, I saw it was Rebecca De Mornay. The two had been a rumored item for a while at that point, but the sight was still shocking: of De Mornay, at the peak of her The Hand That Rocks the Cradle phase, blond, lithesome and wearing one of Cohen's sweatshirts.


Cohen with Rebecca de Mornay in 1992 Keith Betty/Getty

"I never laid a hand on her," Cohen deadpanned.

As gracious as Cohen was, she joined us at the table. A bottle of red wine sat there, although I can't recall if either of them had any at that moment. She was about 25 years younger than Cohen. He called her sweetheart and she rubbed his arm. They'd met each over five years before. "Solid-gold artists would kill for this kind of anguish," he said to me, followed by a smile.

"I first heard you when I was 10," De Mornay said to me as Cohen listened. "My mother was going out on a date and wanted me to go to sleep, so she lit a candle – for a child alone in a house – and said, 'I'll put a record on that'll put you right to sleep.' And that's when I first heard Leonard. And I remember it did put me to sleep. But it was comforting." Cohen smiled bemusedly, the slightest roll of an eye.

At one point, perhaps no longer amused by all the small talk, Cohen looked directly at me: "So, why are you here?"

I was taken aback: For a moment, a steely strength, which surely accounted for his durability as much as his songs, emerged. I told him I thought this would be a better place for a conversation than a hotel room, and with that, his guard went back down and on we talked. "I've never chosen a style that was deliberately obscure," he said. "I've always tried to write hits. I never came up with the idea of writing a song that would mystify anybody and prevent anyone from tapping their foot to it. It's just that nobody tapped their foot to it." De Mornay laughed.

Two of his local friends stopped by, one a sculptor, for more coffee. Cohen told them about his busy promotional schedule. "Oh, yes," he told them with a proud smile. "You have no idea how hot I am to the record company." He flashed an all-teeth, almost-boyish can-you-believe-it? grin. "No idea."
At one point Cohen perked up. "We'd better make a quick raid on the smoked meat factory, so you can have a taste of the smoked-meat sandwich for which Montreal is famous," he told me. With an indication that Cohen and De Mornay needed some degree of alone time, the three of us – me and his friends – headed out the door.

We returned with sandwiches and scarfed them down, but soon it was afternoon and I had to leave. Snow had started to flicker in Montreal, and I began packing my bag. "Do you have a scarf?" Cohen asked. I said no, I hadn't brought one, and he pulled out a long, thin scarf with a black-and-red checkered pattern, and handed it to me. I thanked him but said I couldn't possibly take his scarf, but like a nice Jewish mother or father, he insisted, and I took it.

The scarf remains in my closet. As rock-star interview mementos go, it's admittedly mundane. But now, as we really do seem to be facing apocalyptic times, it's a reminder of the comfort and wisdom he left behind, the kind that could always get anyone through good and bad weather, and good and bad times.