Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Kanye West’s “The Life Of Pablo” & Continuing Creativity

kanyelcIn Kanye West, Leonard Cohen And Death Of The Creative Full Stop (Music Industry Blog: August 16, 2016), Mark Mulligan examines Kanye West’s “The Life Of Pablo” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”1 as exemplars of musical works that have become richer and more powerful by continuing to evolve long after the initial release, escaping what the author terms “the straight jacket [sic] of the album, turning everything into a creative full stop.”

The minor flaw (of a typo or two) and the major lift (from Gladwell’s podcast) notwithstanding, the premise is intriguing and the piece well worth reading. The full article can be found at Kanye West, Leonard Cohen And Death Of The Creative Full Stop


  1. The piece relies heavily on Malcolm Gladwell’s account of “Hallelujah’s” history from his podcast, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah “is so not Picasso; it is Cezanne” – Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History []

Video: Watch Eric Church Cover Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – Red Rocks: Aug 9, 2016

Eric_Church_2012_CroppedEric Church, country music singer-songwriter, overwhelmed his Aug 9, 2016 Red Rocks audience with an unanticipated cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Church told his fans, “I’m gonna try something here. This could go bad… [Hallelujah was] something I put on my crew about an hour ago” before performing the song accompanying himself on guitar.

Church also described his special connection with the song and the venue:

Last time I was here — this is a true story — I played here, and we were leaving, and I was playing some music in my headphones and I was leaving here, and we pulled out, and the light was still on the rocks, like it is right now, and this song was playing in my headphones.

Eric Church – Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
Red Rocks: Aug 9, 2016


Credit Due Department: Photo by Townsquare Media – File:Eric Church 2012.jpg (cropped)Flickr, CC BY 2.0,via Wikipedia

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah “is so not Picasso; it is Cezanne” – Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History

600px-MalcolmgladwellMalcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History: Episode 07 Hallelujah, focuses on different kinds of genius and different paths to creativity. While the official blurb (shown at the end of this post) doesn’t indicate it, the prime example (starting at about the 18 min mark) is the evolution of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I highly recommend reading, in conjunction with this podcast, How Genius Happens: The untold story of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by Josh McNall (joshuamcnall.com: Aug 2, 2016)

From Revisionist History: Episode 07 Hallelujah

In 1984, Elvis Costello released what he would say later was his worst record: Goodbye Cruel World. Among the most discordant songs on the album was the forgettable “The Deportees Club.” But then, years later, Costello went back and re-recorded it as “Deportee,” and today it stands as one of his most sublime achievements.

“Hallelujah” is about the role that time and iteration play in the production of genius, and how some of the most memorable works of art had modest and undistinguished births.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Kris Krüg – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia

“It really is about love and about affirming the existence of love” Leonard Cohen on being asked if he is “singing to God”

Does seeking this connection [“with something beyond your body, mind, and the frailty of the whole dismal situation”] mean that, in essence, Cohen is singing to God?

You could put it that way, but – though this may be blasphemy – it transcends God as we might imagine we know God, transcends theology. In the end, it really is about love and about affirming the existence of love.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Songs Of Longing – The Joe Jackson Interview. The Irish Times: November 3, 1995. Accessed 05 April 2014 from LeonardCohenFiles

Note: Originally posted Apr 12, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Recommended Reading: Leonard Cohen’s Defense Of Wounded Love By Titus Techera

national review2

Leonard Cohen’s Defense of Wounded Love by Titus Techera (National Review: July 14, 2016) is a thorough, dense analysis of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. It’s not a quick read but investing  the effort necessary to comprehend the ideas proffered is rewarded. I’ve excerpted one section as an example of the quality of this piece.

Baby, I’ve been here before:
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor,
I used to live alone before I knew you,
and I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
but listen, love — love is not some kind of victory march,
no, it’s a cold and it’s a very lonely Hallelujah!

This is the first direct address to a beloved. Again, the condition for addressing one’s beloved is the distinction between private and public, between secrets and authority, between the banal and the sublime. Love implies a kind of reciprocity that experience rarely confirms — poetry makes up the difference. We knew failed love makes men incredulous, but now we’re beginning a new half of the poem with a completed shift: It is the addressee who flies the flag; it is the singer or poet who disbelieves. The defeated lover alone can say, Love is not war and there is no victory march, therefore. There is more truth in the loneliness of the failed lover than in the enthusiasm of the successful one. The song of love gives succor to the wounded — not wings to the proud. Maybe beautiful songs compensate for ugly experiences. But that does not account for the source of beautiful songs.

Now, let’s briefly take the architectural imagery seriously: This is politics. The first half-stanza is about the house of the lonely: We all live there, vulnerable to love — openness to love precedes any actual experience, including failure. That awareness fends off the grandeur of the second half: Addressing the beloved as love itself, the lover blames love’s pageantry, what is called idealism. Like the reverse demonization suggested by the Pilgrims, it makes for tyranny. The pride of love triumphant is a perpetual threat. Eroticism might lead to a rebellion against the order of God; and not just in the Sixties. The cold, lonely song of praise is man’s authentic relation to God, devoid of political ambitions.