Tuesday, November 15, 2016

R.I.P. 2016 Leonard Cohen

"And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"

Leonard Cohen
September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016

When Leonard Cohen died last week, he was most often described as the writer of the song "Hallelujah."  My generation knew him first as the guy who wrote "Suzanne." "She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China." Very exotic in 1967, long before everything came from China--tea, oranges, teacups, etc.

He was also a poet and a novelist (I remember Beautiful Losers) which confirmed new possibilities for the rest of us.  His time as a monk informs the imagery in a lot of his lyrics, including "Suzanne" and especially "Hallelujah."

 But his song "Hallelujah" is widely recognized as a classic, and it has quite a story--one version told in this Washington Post piece, which includes a few versions recorded by Cohen and others (although the one from Shrek is credited to Rufus Wainwright, but it's actually John Cale.  Cale's version was in the movie, Wainwright's on the CD soundtrack.  I love Wainwright's voice but for me Cale's version is the most moving.  Here's a link to a youtube of it without the cartoon sounds.)  Different versions (k.d. lang, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, etc.) have different sets of lyrics.

The song came into prominence again this week because Kate McKinnon sang it to open the first post-elect Saturday Night Live, in character as Hillary.

May he rest in peace.  His work--very obviously--lives on.

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