Friday, October 5, 2012

Music T: Thank Cohen It's Friday

Leonard Cohen has a style to his music and writing unlike any in the world. And I don't think that it's hyperbolic to say so. No one else's music, in my experience, sounds or feels like Cohen's. (Try to convince me otherwise. Seriously. Go ahead.) Maybe what it is is that no one really tries to sounds like him because it's not possible to do so without being obvious that you ARE trying. In live concert, Cohen imbues the largest arena with the intimacy of a living room or, more evocatively, a bedroom. Close your eyes and he's singing to you, playing for you, speaking just for you. The quality and talent of musicians he gathers to his inner circle is nothing short of stunning. And with a body of work spanning four decades - nearly five now - he does not skimp on the portions. His shows in Vancouver the last few years have started promptly at 7pm. No opener, just straight into 3 hours plus of song and poetry. I love getting floor seats to his shows because you actually get to sit in your seat. His most ardent fans sit and focus on the music and artistry on display.


Arguably, his best known song, "Hallelujah" has been covered (according to Wiki) by over 200 artists since its release in 1984. Its inclusion in the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremonies was touching but rather out of sync with the spirit of the ceremony if one were to review the lyrics:

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

Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah

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

Hallelujah, hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much

I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah

Although I've never met the man in person, a friend's mother ran into him before a concert in her hotel lobby in Edmonton a couple of years ago. She took the opportunity to let him know that she was a fan and was on her way to the concert. He took the time to ask her name and what she did for a living. When she told him she was a nurse, he was smooth as silk in telling her that he really needed a nurse to travel with the band "and look after this old body of mine..." *sigh*

I can't really put my finger on a favourite Cohen song but I have said, and will most probably say again, that I'm "in a _______ mood". The blank may be filled with:



or





or

but there will always be a Cohen song that fills it perfectly.