Humbled In Love

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Parsifal
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Humbled In Love

Postby Parsifal » Thu Aug 27, 2009 1:45 am

It's only recently occurred to me that this has recently supplanted The Smoky Life as my favourite song on Recent Songs.

I'm not sure why, though....

I think it has to do with both the song and the arrangement being so unexpected: this sounds like it could have been written to order for Manhattan Transfer (don't think they ever covered it, but they should have done). And that guitar solo is so unexpected, as well....

And then there are those ever-elusive lyrics...it could be about many things:youthful passion viewed from the jaded perspective of middle age, the realisation that this is as good as it gets, sexual dysfunction, etc, etc....probably all of those and many more.


Anyone else got any opinions on this one? :)
holydove
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby holydove » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:37 pm

I too love this song and have been listening to it more closely lately; it warrants more contemplation (years of it, actually, as is the case with all of Leonard's songs & poetry), but at this point, my take is that it describes a relationship where the partners involved have uncovered layer after layer of each others' souls, broken each other down, torn each other part, been to the depths of the depths and back again; broken every vow and promise. However, it sounds to me like the narrator does not see this as a bad thing (". . . why so bitterly turn from the one/ Who kneels there as deeply as thee. . ."); and he's saying, can't we just be here in the mud and all the mess together?

He goes even further with "Oh here where there is no description. . . No sinner need rise up forgiven/ No victim need limp to the stand", where he perhaps is referring to a state of mind where they have transcended the perception of either one of them as perpetrator or victim, or even the need to define any act as "sinful", or "criminal" (ie, unacceptable); they are in a place where things just are what they are, and they are just who they are; no need for definitions, labels, blame, or justification.

In the last verse, he describes a vision of a virgin welcoming a man into her "gown", and "the stranger's cold armour" dissolving. And "why trade this vision for desire/when you may have them both/ you will never see a man this naked/ I will never hold a woman this close". I wonder if "the stranger" is the same "stranger" from The Stranger Song, and that stranger who could not give up his armour of aloofness, who could not bare himself, or allow himself to be revealed and vulnerable, has now done so. And perhaps, with the idea of not having to trade "this vision for desire", he is saying that the state of innocence, where the partners are willing to totally reveal themselves, is not really separate from the state of "desire", desire referring to the mess of emotions in which they now find themselves, now that their "beauty" (their facades, appearances, defenses, etc.) is "broken down".

This is what I get so far, any other perspecives are totally welcome. . .
deleuze68
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby deleuze68 » Sun Nov 01, 2009 12:56 am

Does anymore know who supplies the back-up male vocals for this song?
astranger
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby astranger » Sat Mar 13, 2010 8:06 pm

deleuze68 wrote:Does anymore know who supplies the back-up male vocals for this song?
giving this a bump since I searched for this topic to ask the same question
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B4real
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby B4real » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:33 am

I suspect the back-up man’s voice belongs to Mitch Watkins. He did tour with Leonard in 1979 at the time Recent Songs with “Humbled in love” was recorded. He played bass guitar, keyboards and sang vocals live with him on the 1979, 1980 and 1985 tours. In 1976-1981 he was a member of the highly acclaimed Austin jazz group Passenger. I have no conclusive proof he is the one – just a time line to go by and knowing that he did sing vocals with Leonard at that time. My own CD info doesn’t show further information except the song track listing.

Roscoe Beck also played with Leonard at the same time but his voice is of a much lighter quality so I don’t think it was him. Or it could simply be an anonymous studio voice as has happened with some songs onThe Future.
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Davido
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby Davido » Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:07 pm

B4real wrote:I suspect the back-up man’s voice belongs to Mitch Watkins. He did tour with Leonard in 1979 at the time Recent Songs with “Humbled in love” was recorded. He played bass guitar, keyboards and sang vocals live with him on the 1979, 1980 and 1985 tours. In 1976-1981 he was a member of the highly acclaimed Austin jazz group Passenger. I have no conclusive proof he is the one – just a time line to go by and knowing that he did sing vocals with Leonard at that time. My own CD info doesn’t show further information except the song track listing.

Roscoe Beck also played with Leonard at the same time but his voice is of a much lighter quality so I don’t think it was him. Or it could simply be an anonymous studio voice as has happened with some songs onThe Future.
Mitch Watkins did indeed play electric guitar on this track, but on 'Background Vocals' were Stephanie Spruill, Maxine Willard, Julia Tillman, James Gilstrap and Roger St. Kenerly.
Gilstrap was primarily a session vocalist, though he has had a solo hit.He has worked with many artists including Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker and Elkie Brooks.
'Northern Soul' was very big in my home town, and Gilstrap's song "Run, Run, Run" on Bell Records was highly regarded.
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bluesboy
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby bluesboy » Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:08 pm

The low voice on Humbled In Love was the record's producer, Henry Lewy. The band Passenger played on much of the Recent Songs album (1979) and all of the band's members (Roscoe Beck, Mitch Watkins, Bill Ginn, Steve Meador and Paul Ostermayer) have toured and/or recorded with Leonard in the years since. Bill Ginn passed away in 2004.
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tomsakic
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby tomsakic » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:55 pm

The credit in the booklet says:
2. Humbled In Love
Drums: Steve Meador
Bass: Charles Roscoe Beck
Electric Piano: Bill Ginn
Electric Guitar: Mitch Watkins
Saxophone: Paul Ostermayer
Background Vocals: Stephanie Spruill, Maxine Willard, Julia Tillman, James Gilstrap, and Roger St. Kenerly
Btw, when LC was once asked is there any of his songs he dislike, he mentioned that he's embarrassed because of Humbled in Love.
MaryB
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Re: Humbled In Love

Postby MaryB » Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:10 pm

tomsakic wrote:Btw, when LC was once asked is there any of his songs he dislike, me mentioned that he's embarrassed because of Humbled in Love.
I am loving this song right now (but then, I'm always loving most everything he's done)

And you say you've been humbled in love
Cut down in your love
Forced to kneel in the mud next to me
Ah but why so bitterly turn from the one
Who kneels there as deeply as thee

Fantastic lyrics (& melody)! (Bonus: Word that no one pronounces like LC = bitterly :D ) I don't understand why he would be embarrassed by this song. Did he not like his own lyrics or was it because of the emotions revealed here........? There are many things that he has said in the past, that I wonder, could he still make those statements today.

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