From Vicki Woodyard. Note: Originally posted July 31, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Note: Leonard Cohen performed at the Bottom Line in New York City on Nov 29, Nov 30, and Dec 1, 1974 (two shows each night). And, Harry Chapin wasn’t the only celebrity musician to visit; Judy Collins & Janis Ian also came by (see photo at link).
Credit Due Department: Clippings are from Jem Treadwell’s Leonard Cohen Scrapbook
2. Leonard Cohen
Songs Of Leonard Cohen
A key album for any singer-songwriter intent on turning real life experiences into song, Cohen’s debut is scattered with names, places and events explicitly drawn from his first 33 years. “Suzanne” recalls his ritualistic – and platonic – meetings in Montreal with Suzanne Verdal, while the titular woman of “So Long, Marianne” is Marianne Jensen, his lover and muse for much of the ’60s. “Sisters Of Mercy”, which dramatises a night spent with two women in an Edmonton hotel room, is the first of countless Cohen songs seeking spiritual salvation from a sensual encounter. His songs turned inward to much darker effect on Songs Of Love And Hate, but his debut album set the standard.
Uncut’s 50 Best Singer-Songwriter Albums by Tom Pinnock (Uncut: June 12, 2015)
In reality, he was a guy who always meant everything he was singing but also knew where he fit into the pop world — and that wasn’t alongside Barbra Streisand in any lung-busting competition. So Cohen relied on other musical tools to put emotion across, which in 1984 meant a primitive Casio synthesizer that gave ‘Hallelujah’ all the atmosphere of a storefront church. And guess what? You compare his version now to the dozens of others that have sprung up since and Cohen’s feels the most desperate and alive by far.
From What did Leonard Cohen really mean when he sang ‘Hallelujah’? by Mikael Wood (LA Times: Nov 11, 2016). This is an especially well written, convincing article examining Leonard Cohen’s musical and lyrical construction of Hallelujah. Highly recommended.
Both The Energy of Slaves and Death of a Lady’s Man are almost wholly bare of Jewish reference. We are nowhere near the lush and loveable biblical imagery of Cohen’s best known song, Hallelujah. In a few poems in Death of a Lady’s Man one gets the impression that Cohen has been reading his Bible. In one he suggests that the patriarch’s prescription for building an altar there is useful material for him as he thinks of building a book of poems. Jewishness, when it enters the poems, is a kind of occult code, as mysterious as the 16th century image on the book’s dust cover. Cohen’s poetry volumes for the ’70s remain secret books; deeply personal, cruel in their emotional landscape; unlike almost anything else in our literature from the period. They’re not an easy read. But they are fine to hold in your hand, like an old dinged-up but eminently playable guitar.
From The books that got away: Leonard Cohen in the ’70s by Norman Ravvin (Canadian Jewish News: January 20, 2017). The complete article is available at the link.
Join us for an interdisciplinary panel discussion of the ethical dimensions of Leonard Cohen’s life and work…and catch a choir performing selections from Cohen’s songbook.
When: Feb. 9, 2017, 12:15-2PM
Where: Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility, Munk School of Global Affairs, 1 Devonshire Place, University of Toronto
Information from and registration available at University Of Toronto Centre for Ethics