Video: JiHAE Performs Hallelujah In Tribute To Leonard Cohen

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Leonard Cohen was my biggest inspiration and a guiding hero in my journey as a singer/songwriter. I discovered him when I heard Nina Simone’s haunting version of ‘Suzanne.’ I recall the very moment I heard ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ at a friend’s place in Soho. Listening to that song was like diving into a sad novel, with its rich tale of love, friendship and betrayal. There are times all of us realize that the world is not a fair place and we begin to see through all the lies and deceit around us. Listening to ‘Everybody Knows,’ shook my world and blew my mind like no other song. I celebrate Leonard Cohen for the gifts of all of his songs and for the way he graciously encouraged me as a songwriter. I’m grateful that he left treasures behind to move and shake many more generations of songwriters to come.

— JiHAE

JiHAE – Hallelujah (by Leonard Cohen)

Ongoing readers may recall that JiHAE has been featured in previous Cohencentric posts:

In addition to being a singer-songwriter and multimedia artist, JiHAE is an actor, currently starring in “Mars,” the National Geographic docu-drama produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. She plays twin sisters, Hana Seung, a pilot turned Commander, and Joon Seung, Secretary General of IMSF (NASA of the future).

Dave Stewart Comments On Writing “It Just Feels” With Leonard Cohen

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The Dave Stewart Comment

Because not every Cohencentric reader relentlessly tracks every new comment on every week-old post, it seems worthwhile to point out that Dave Stewart, listed in Wikipedia as “a Grammy and BRIT Award winning English musician, songwriter and record producer, best known for his work with Eurythmics,”  but more pertinently identified here as the titular Dave Stewart of Leonard Cohen Tells How He Came To Write “It Just Feels” With Dave Stewart lived up to his reputation as one of the good guys by leaving this comment on the article:1

Hi Everyone ,

I have to agree with Leonard here, we met we talked we got excited as artists do and the rest is a bit of a blur , not our best work although now I think I could do those lyrics justice

The Context

Note: This material was originally posted May 23, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. At that time, “It Just Feels” had been released only in a 1992 album by Sylvie Maréchal. Mr Stewart’s comment preceded JiHAE’s 2015 version of “It Just Feels” by a few years.

When Stewart writes “I have to agree with Leonard here, …” he is referring to the response, contained in the original post,  from Leonard Cohen to my queries about how he and Dave Stewart came to write “It Just Feels:”

Allan –

It’s a bit of a blur, but somehow Dave Stewart and I were in touch -not sure if we actually met – and I got a bunch of lyrics to him, I guess it was by fax.

These were lyrics that I couldn’t seem to invite into a tune myself.  I very much admired Dave Stewart’s work, and I thought he might be able to do something with them.

I believe he was the primary mover in the enterprise. I don’t recall being in touch with Sylvie Maréchal.

I don’t remember how it all turned out.  Memory very shaky here.

I think I had the general feeling that it wasn’t his best work, or mine.

Leo

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  1. Note: The image atop this post is a dramatization of Dave Stewart stating his comment in  a comic speech bubble. This graphic is for illustrative purposes only; Cohencentric Guy does not purport or imply that Mr Stewart has used comic speech bubbles to convey this or any other sentiment – although Mr Stewart’s role as co-creator of the comic books Walk-In and Zombie Broadway would seem to indicate the potential for such methodology. No celebrity commenters or Canadian singer-songwriter-icons were harmed in the making of this dramatization. []

Leonard Cohen Tells How He Came To Write “It Just Feels” With Dave Stewart

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The “It Just Feels” Story

In 1992 Song “It Just Feels” By Leonard Cohen & Dave Stewart Reappears In 2015 JiHAE Album, we began a discussion about “It Just Feels,” one of those few songs written but never performed by Leonard Cohen.  In addition to providing recordings of both the 1992 and 2015 renditions of the song and some fundamental data about its history, lyrics, and the album in which it appeared, that earlier post noted that “It Just Feels” is a lesser known Leonard Cohen composition that gives rise to a number of questions:

  1. Why did Leonard Cohen write one song and one song only (“It Just Feels”) with David Stewart, best known, at least by folks in my cohort, for his work with Annie Lennox in The Eurythmics?
  2. Why was “It Just Feels” performed first in 1992 by Sylvie Maréchal, who has since denounced the album(s) on which the song appeared?1
  3. Why is the song reappearing in 2015 as a track on JiHAE ‘s forthcoming Illusion of You album?

The first step in resolving these issues is acquiring a more complete picture of Dave Stewart.

Dave Stewart

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Annie Lennox was lead singer and Dave Stewart the “music half” of the Eurythmics, an incredibly popular pop-rock group that achieved worldwide renown for their hit singles and albums, including chart toppers such as Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

During the same time Stewart was recording and touring with the Eurythmics, he was also working with other musicians.  In 1985, Stewart co-produced the album Southern Accents for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, as well as co-writing several songs for the album. That same year, he  also produced the debut solo album by Feargal Sharkey. In 1986, he collaborated with Bob Geldof on tracks for his debut solo album Deep in the Heart of Nowhere.  In 1987,  Stewart  co-wrote and co-produced several tracks for Mick Jagger’s  album Primitive Cool.

Stewart and Lennox disbanded the Eurythmics in 1990.2

Dave Stewart then moved to France where he soon released two albums, both of which went gold in France, with his new band  The Spiritual Cowboys. In 1990, his  instrumental with  saxophonist Candy Dulfer, “Lily Was Here,” did well on the charts in Britain and Europe. He also began writing film soundtracks  and collaborated extensively with other musicians, including singer Terry Hall of The Specials.3

One of the singers Stewart4 produced was  Sylvie Maréchal.

Faith Healing and Voie Lactée albums

Dave Stewart produced and wrote songs for Maréchal’s second album, Faith Healing  (1992) and the French version of Faith Healing, Voie Lactée, which was released in 1993.

“It Just Feels,” the second track on both Faith Healing and Voie Lactée, is officially  credited to “Leonard Cohen – Adaptation: David A. Stewart / Johnny Turnbull.”5

Which brings us to …

The Dave Stewart – Leonard Cohen Connection

Jarkko Arjatsalo, webmaster at LeonardCohenFiles and LeonardCohenForum, responded to my queries about Cohen’s work with Dave Stewart with this note:

The song has always been some kind of a mystery for me, too. I remember that I got some secondhand information about it in mid-90’s. The story was that Dave and Leonard met at a party, discussed their work and somehow got an idea to write a song together. I cannot confirm whether it is true or not.

We know for sure HOW they did it – they sent drafts back and forth by telefax. This was again confirmed by Dominique Boile who found a newspaper clipping from his archive.

At some point there was a rumor that L was singing in the  background in one of the songs on Dave’s own solo album. I asked Leonard about it some ten years ago or so and he said it is not true.

Unfortunately that’s all I know!! Attached is Dominique’s clipping!

Note that this clipping does not refer directly to Faith Healing (1992) or Voie Lactée (1993), the albums which included “It Just Feels,” but instead pertains to  Greetings From The Gutter, a 1994 album Stewart released to little  commercial success. I asked Jarkko to address this point. His comments follows:

Indeed this clipping refers to the “Greetings from the Gutter” album.

However, I heard the telefax story already before this album was made,

so probably L and D produced songs more than once!

At this point, I had contacted a dozen or so renowned Cohenologists.  Of this group, only Jarkko and Patrice Clos, webmaster of the French Leonard Cohen Site, were able to provide concrete information about the issues at hand.6 Messages sent to Sylvie Maréchal and Dave Stewart went unheeded.

What’s a blogger to do?

Well, said blogger could, theoretically, ask Leonard Cohen – heck, why wouldn’t he take time from recording a new album, playing with the grandchildren, etc  to answer a question or two about an obscure song he co-wrote for someone else almost 20 years ago?

More to the point, said blogger, while not the perpetually hopeful, optimistic sort, did want to eventually publish a post about this song and felt obliged to first make a good faith attempt to obtain the needed information from at least the obvious possible sources, not the least obvious of which would be the songwriter himself.  (Besides, a no-reply from the songwriter would fit nicely with the no-replies from the performer and the album producer to make a complete set.)

So, I sent this message to Leonard Cohen:

Leonard –

I’m writing in hopes you would be willing to answer a couple of questions about “It Just Feels,” the song for which you and Dave Stewart share credit and which Sylvie Maréchal performed.

1. How did the mechanics of the collaboration work?  I’ve been told you collaborated with Dave Stewart on this song by exchanging faxes – and that you also worked with him on other songs via faxes as well.  Are either or both of those points accurate?

2.  How did you come to write a song with Dave Stewart for Sylvie Maréchal?  In an interview, Sylvie Maréchal seems to imply you wrote the song specifically for her, but, as above, I’m told you collaborated with Dave Stewart on other songs so it’s possible he was the primary mover in the process. Or both could be true. Or neither. Or … .  Anyway, if you could help me understand why you decided to write this song with Dave Stewart and for Sylvie Maréchal, I’d be grateful.

Allan

Shortly, I received the response:

Allan –

It’s a bit of a blur, but somehow Dave Stewart and I were in touch -not sure if we actually met – and I got a bunch of lyrics to him, I guess it was by fax.

These were lyrics that I couldn’t seem to invite into a tune myself.  I very much admired Dave Stewart’s work, and I thought he might be able to do something with them.

I believe he was the primary mover in the enterprise. I don’t recall being in touch with Sylvie Maréchal.

I don’t remember how it all turned out.  Memory very shaky here.

I think I had the general feeling that it wasn’t his best work, or mine.

Leo

So, in this game of Pop Music Clue, we now know it was Leonard Cohen in  the music room with a fax machine, 7 motivated  by his admiration for Dave Stewart’s tunes.

And we know Leonard Cohen thinks

I had the general feeling that it wasn’t his best work, or mine.

Well, it’s not as cool as, say, Leonard confessing that the song somehow resulted from a hitherto secret romantic tryst or, for that matter, as Leonard using this opportunity to finally accept my long-standing, ongoing open invitation for an interview with me,8 but I suppose bloggers can’t be choosers.

Credit Due Department: Stewart photo: “Dave Stewart(musician)” by Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia – Dave Stewart. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Cohen photo by Josep M Martí

Note: Originally posted May 16, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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Other Posts About “It Just Feels”

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  1. More about this in a future post []
  2. The Eurythmics reunited in 1999 for the album Peace and another world tour and in 2005 to record two new tracks for the greatest hits package Ultimate Collection. []
  3. Mac enthusiasts may recall that in 1993, Stewart also appeared in an  for the Power Macintosh in which he riffed on the word “power.” []
  4. While our interest in Stewart centers on the early 1990s when “It Just Feels” was written and recorded , it would be remiss not to note that he has become increasingly recognized not only as an especially talented musician and producer (Stewart won a Grammy as a producer and was named “Best Producer” at the 1986 BRIT Awards in London) but also as an entrepreneur, recently winning a ranking as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company Magazine.  In 2002, Stewart developed a campaign turning former South African president Nelson Mandela’s   prison number into a telephone number for donating to the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa; he then wrote and recorded songs with Paul McCartney, Bono Edge, and others that could be heard only through that number. He  also co-produced the album Destination Anywhere for Jon Bon Jovi, as well as co-writing several tracks (1997), collaborated with Bryan Ferry on his 2002 album Frantic, co-writing several tracks and co-producing one of them, co-produced Ringo Starr’s 2008 album Liverpool 8, collaborated with Mick Jagger to record songs for the Alfie soundtrack (2004), co-created the comic books Walk-In (2006) and Zombie Broadway (2008), both published by Virgin Comics, …  – there’s more but you get the idea. []
  5. Sylvie Maréchal: Discography []
  6. The material obtained from Patrice Clos will be included in a later post on singer Sylvie Maréchal. []
  7. This is not, of course, the first Leonard Cohen story in which a fax machine has played a role.

    The best known example is described in  Why Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ endures by Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune, April 30, 2009):

    John Cale once asked Cohen for the lyrics to the song because he wanted to perform it, and was stunned when Cohen faxed over 15 verses, only a few of which the songwriter used in his original version.  [emphasis mine]

    Jarkko himself was the recipient of faxed goodies from Leonard Cohen. As Jarkko tells it in Thus Spoke Jarkko – The Jarkko Arjatsalo Q&A:

    Some of Leonard’s lines from our first contacts are still located in The Files: “I want to send, among other things, the first manuscript scratchings for Suzanne and other early songs. I’d like to make the process clear, or at least throw some light on the mysterious activity of writing.”

    The next day, Leonard’s manager sent me a super long telefax (the machines of that time still used rolls) with drawings and early manuscripts of poems and song lyrics. A few days later, color copies of the same items materialized in Finland by courier. I started uploading those tidbits to the “Blackening Pages” section of The Files, one by one. Many of these drawings and poems were later published in Leonard’s “Book Of Longing.” [emphasis mine]

    And from  Who held a gun to Leonard Cohen’s head? by Tim de Lisle (The Guardian, 17 September 2004):

    In 1995 Cohen’s manager, Kelley Lynch, put together Tower of Song, a set of his compositions sung by bigger stars including Sting and Bono. She asked Phil Collins, who turned her down. Cohen himself sent Collins a fax, saying: “Would Beethoven refuse the invitation of Mozart?” Collins faxed back: “No, unless Beethoven was on a world tour at the time.” Cohen understood: “It’s kind of a pain in the ass, to think about somebody else’s dismal songs when you’re not even in the studio.” [emphasis mine] []

  8. For the record – If Leonard finds it more comfortable, I would agree, as an alternative, to be interviewed by him. []

1992 Song “It Just Feels” By Leonard Cohen & Dave Stewart Reappears On 2015 JiHAE Album

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Left: Sylvie Maréchal – Voie Lactee (1992) ; Right: JiHAE – Illusion Of You (2015)

Note: The interest generated by Video: JiHAE Sings It Just Feels – “A Poem About An Orgasm” By Leonard Cohen & Dave Stewart a few days ago led me to republish this relevant content that was originally posted May 1, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. The material about JiHAE has obviously been added.

Leonard Cohen As Singer-Songwriter

While Leonard Cohen the songwriter typically writes for Leonard Cohen the singer, there are a few pieces he has written for others, never recording them himself.1 The best known of these are “Priests,” which was recorded by Judy Collins (Wildflowers, in 1967), Richie Havens (Richard P Havens, 1983, in 1969), and Enrique Morente (Omega, in Spanish, in 1996)2 and “Summertime,” which was written by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson in 1980 during the Field Commander Cohen Tour and recorded by Diana Ross (Red Hot Rhythm And Blues, in 1987), Roberta Flack (Set The Night To Music, 1991), and Sharon Robinson (Everybody Knows, in 2008).

“It Just Feels” is a lesser known Leonard Cohen composition that gives rise to a number of questions:

  1. Why did Leonard Cohen write one song and one song only (“It Just Feels”) with David Stewart, best known, at least by folks in my cohort, for his work with Annie Lennox in The Eurythmics?
  2. Why was “It Just Feels” performed first in 1992 by Sylvie Maréchal, who has since denounced the album(s) on which the song appeared?3
  3. Why is the song reappearing in 2015 as a track on JiHAE ‘s forthcoming Illusion of You album?

Let’s look at the easy stuff first.

“It Just Feels” – The Lyrics

It Just Feels
Written by Leonard Cohen and David A Stewart, recorded by Sylvie Maréchal (Voie Lactee, France 1993)4

It feels so good
And it feels so right
It feels like I’ve been rescued
In the middle of the night
And all the tricks and all the angels
And all the dirty rotten deals
They don’t count now
They’ve been cancelled
And it feels, it just feels
Thank you Babe, thank you Babe

It feels so good
And it feels so right
It feels like I’ve been rescued
In the middle of the night
And the sweetest voice has spoken
And the deepest wound is healed
And the darkness is exploding
And it feels, it just feels
Thank you Babe, thank you Babe

It comes so sweet
And it comes so fast
It comes like windows breaking
I can take a breath at last
Thank you for the breaking
And thank you for the breath
And for sayin’ it was nothing
Nothing meaning life or death
Thank you Babe…it just feels

The similarity of some of these lyrics to portions of “Feels So Good,” which Leonard Cohen introduced on the 2009 Tour, has been noted, but an elaboration on this topic is beyond the scope of this post.

“It Just Feels” – The 1992 Sylvie Maréchal Version

sylvie2In the early 1990s, Sylvie Maréchal was an up and coming vocalist who performed in French and English and who had somewhat of a following in her native France. A review of French music companies in the May 22, 1993 issue of Billboard, for example, reports,

Sylvie Maréchal … sings equally well in both French and English and is another BMG artist with international potential.

In the same issue of that trade journal, Philippe Crocq, writing in “Remedy For A Down Music Market: Talent,” noted

The following artists made a significant impact last year… Sylvie Marechal: Produced by Dave Stewart for RCA, this bilingual (French/English) artist looks set for a long and successful international career.

“It Just Feels” was first released in 1992 as the second track on Faith Healing, Sylvie Maréchal’s second album. It was also the second track on the French version of Faith Healing, Voie Lactée, which was released in 1993.

Sylvie Maréchal – It Just Feels

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“It Just Feels” – The 2015 JiHAE Version

jihaexIn 2015, “It Just Feels” has resurfaced in live performances and as a track on the soon to be released Illusion Of You album by JiHAE.  Future posts will include more  about JiHAE, including a Q&A with this fast rising star. For now, listen to her rendition of this “song about an orgasm” by Leonard Cohen & Dave Stewart.

JiHAE – It Just Feels

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Other Posts About It Just Feels

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  1. More precisely, these are songs Leonard Cohen has written that others have recorded and released and that Cohen has never recorded and released. As Jim Devlin pointed out in Jim Devlin – What Comes To Mind About Leonard Cohen, Cohen recorded “Priests,” but the song was never released as part of an album. []
  2. LeonardCohenFiles []
  3. More about this in a future post []
  4. Lyrics and credits from LeonardCohenFiles []

Video: JiHAE Sings It Just Feels – “A Poem About An Orgasm” By Leonard Cohen & Dave Stewart

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JiHAE – It Just Feels

Other Posts About It Just Feels

Q&A With JiHAE: Collaborator With Leonard Cohen & Dave Stewart On “It Just Feels”

1200px-JihaeLiveDCNote: It is useful to keep in perspective that this Q&A with JiHAE, who has earned co-writing credit for “It Just Feels” and will release it on her 2015 Illusion of You album, was originally posted Nov 21, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. The preceding posts about Leonard Cohen, Dave Stewart, & “It Just Feels” (listed below) were first published two years earlier, in 2011:

JiHAE

This excerpt from a recent interview1  provides a helpful introduction to Jihae:

… a singer and songwriter with a sultry voice and raw energy who’s not afraid to express her opinions. JIHAE isn’t a new face in the music industry: her debut LP My Heart Is An Elephant featured guest percussion from filmmaker Michel Gondry and Lenny Kravitz on guitar and bass, while 2008’s Elvis Is Still Alive showed off her dynamic vocal range and more avant-garde musical influences. She’s performed at Cannes Film Festival, the United Nations and even received a nod from Hillary Clinton, but JIHAE’s talents aren’t just limited to her smoky voice. The artist has composed scores for The North Face Japan + Nanamica and more, wrote and directed a multimedia rock opera with Academy Award-winning playwright and director John Patrick Shanley and if her face looks at all familiar, it’s because JIHAE’s been a regular model for Eileen Fisher ads. In the midst of all these creative endeavors, she’s somehow also found time to start a hybrid indie label and multimedia company, Septem, to support rising artists as well as social causes. It’s these years of experience and her worldliness (having lived in South Korea, Nigeria and Sweden before settling down in New York) that set JIHAE apart from emerging talent.

And, as mentioned, she has reworked “It Just Feels” and performs it on her upcoming album.

JiHAE – It Just Feels

Naturally, I had questions. Happily, she had the answers.

Q&A: Jihae

1. I know Dave Stewart sent “It Just Feels” to you. Why do you think he felt it would be a good fit with you? What did he tell you about “It Just Feels?”

I was told it was a poem he had co written with Leonard Cohen in the 90’s about an orgasm. He said he thought I could do the poem justice. Dave was well acquainted with my previous work and felt I could put a great melody and music to the poem.

2. What was your initial impression of the lyrics?

I found them to be simple and visual.

3. Would you describe how you went about fitting words to music in this case?

I started off with finding a melody and then the chords.. It all came together pretty quickly.

4. What did you know about Leonard Cohen before working on “It Just Feels” and has your opinion of him and his music changed since then?

For a long time I’ve considered Leonard Cohen as The master of song writing, and regarded him as one of my heroes. I remain unchanged in my opinion.

Did you have any direct contact with him yourself?

We’ve emailed back and forth a few times. I’ve not yet met him in person but we spoke of having tea together one day.

5. I’ve read that Dave Stewart sent a recording of your live performance to Leonard Cohen, asking about giving you co-writing credit. What did Leonard have to say about your effort?

“Beautiful and brilliant”and he said giving me a co-writing credit would be ok with him. It was the most beautiful and astounding gifts in my life. The moment I got this email, all the years of struggling as an independent artist felt ever more worthwhile.

6. Was “It Just Feels” a one-off event or do you have thoughts about working with Leonard Cohen directly or indirectly (e.g., covering his songs) in the future?

There are a number songs I’ve wanted to cover: Everybody Knows, Suzanne, I’m Your Man, Famous Blue Raincoat, Hallelujah. I have an ongoing covers project so one of those may most certainly end up in that album.

7. What made you decide to make “It Just Feels” part of your new “Illusion of You” album?

I was at the beginning the writing process of my new album, Illusion of You so it felt only natural to include it and didn’t find a need to make a decision on the matter.

Credit Due Department: Photo “JihaeLiveDC” by Trafficattic – I took a photograph of Jihae performing live on Earth Day in Washington D.C.Previously published: It’s been used on Jihae’s Facebook account.. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia.

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  1. Interview: Jihae by  Nara Shin. Cool Hunting: 23 September 2013 []