In You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen sings “Hineni, hineni; I’m ready, my lord,” which was Abraham’s response when God called on him to sacrifice his son Isaac. It is also the name of a prayer of preparation and humility, addressed to God, sung by the cantor on behalf of the congregation on Rosh Hashanah. At the Oct 13, 2016 L.A., press event, Leonard talked about using “hineni” in the lyrics of his new album’s title song to reference a “willingness to serve” that is – in the right circumstances – universal to humanity.
As I wrote in 1975 or 1976, ‘These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood.’ I had this sense that some thing had happened, and that people were kind of hanging on to their little bits of furniture and bobbing about in the torrent. Therefore, descriptions like ‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘anti-abortion,’ these definitions that were current and still define the political life, were entirely irrelevant, considering the catastrophe and the predicament people found themselves in.
Note: “These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood” is a line from the lyrics of The Gypsy’s Wife, released on Leonard’s 1979 album Recent Songs.
There’s also a joke about country and western in [The Captain]. The guy who has to be educated – he says, ‘I didn’t risk my life for some country western song.’ But the argument is won by the captain. By the end the kid takes the captain’s bars and accepts the responsibility of leadership. If he is not exactly converted to country music, he is converted to certain values that exist in country music, like the notion of manly self defense.
Note: The pertinent lines from The Captain follow (bolding mine):
“I left a wife in Tennessee
And a baby in Saigon —
I risked my life, but not to hear
Some country-western song.”
From Tortoise-Shell by Biba Kopf. New Musical Express, March 2, 1985. Originally posted May 23, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
In a LeonardCohenForum post about the Nov 26, 2013 Leonard Cohen concert, Bev aka B4real reported
Near the beginning of Going Home Leonard sang this line ‘He just doesn’t have the cojones to refuse‘
In the original lyrics that line reads
He just doesn’t have the freedom to refuse
Like many Cohen admirers, I’m intrigued by the changes he frequently makes in his lyrics. I am especially taken with the substitution of “cojones” for “freedom” because – well, mostly because it’s just so damn cool.
And, it’s not a trivial change. “He just doesn’t have the freedom to refuse” could, for example, be legitimately interpreted as a Calvinistic declaration that refusal is not and never could be an option because every human’s life and behavior has long ago been predetermined and free will is an illusion. The ability to refuse – if one has the courage – is, however, implicit in “He just doesn’t have the cojones to refuse.”
Yep, it takes cojones to make a change like that.
Note: Originally posted Nov 30, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric