Leonard Cohen Songs Key In Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Singers Of Mercy: How McCabe & Mrs Miller Changed The Western Soundtrack by Charlie Brigden (The Quietus: April 29th, 2018) is an insightful essay on Altman’s use of Leonard Cohen’s music in his landmark movie. An excerpt follows but the full article, available at the link, is recommended reading:

‘Sisters of Mercy’ introduces McCabe’s prostitutes and notably the male reactions, the gawping construction workers and McCabe’s own shyster approach to it all that comes to a head when Alma stabs one of the punters. Cohen’s music just lingers as it’s clear McCabe is in over his head, and it’s no coincidence that this immediately precedes the arrival of Mrs Miller. Mrs Miller’s theme is ‘Winter Lady’, and we first hear it echoed in her smoky yellow room, post-opium session, but it’s used beautifully when she stands outside in the falling snow, scared at the inevitable fate of her and McCabe, Cohen uttering “you chose your journey long before you came across this highway”.

More McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Other posts about Leonard Cohen’s music in McCabe & Mrs. Miller and video clips of Cohen’s music in that film at 

Recommended Reading: Leonard Cohen And McCabe & Mrs. Miller

The Stranger Song: Leonard Cohen and McCabe & Mrs. Miller

The three Cohen songs, “The Stranger Song,” “Sisters of Mercy,” and Winter Lady,” work in perfect harmony with the film and allow Cohen to play the part of an invisible, informal narrator, filling in the blanks left by the naturalistic, show-don’t-tell, style of the film. As nothing much is offered by the film’s dialogue in the way of back-stories, motivations and desires, it is left to Cohen and his songs. And as McCabe and Mrs. Miller swoon across with the film’s patient, meditative narrative, a larger picture emerges, like pieces of a puzzle falling into place.

The above excerpt is from The Stranger Song: Leonard Cohen and McCabe & Mrs. Miller by C Depasquale. Aquarium Drunkard: Nov 5, 2013. Complete article available at link.

While the significance of Cohen’s music for Altman’s 1971 film, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, is an often-addressed cinematic topic, this exposition is especially well written and insightful. Highly recommended.

Note: Originally posted Dec 11, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Listen To “Mpivahiny” – Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song” In Malagasy

This cover is so beautiful and moving that
it can cause the fall of a few tears!!!

Dominique BOILE sends this enthusiastic recommendation for this Malagasy cover of Leonard Cohen’s The Stranger Song:

Band: Lôlô Sy Ny Tariny
Country: France
Year: 1982
Album: Madagascar
Song: Mpivahiny (in Malagasy) The Stranger Song

Leonard Cohen’s The Stranger Song Featured In Stranger In Paradise Film

The video starts just before The Stranger Song begins.

Stranger in Paradise, which opens Dutch documentary festival IDFA, is, quite literally, a classroom exercise which assembles would-be migrants in a Lampedusa detention centre and gives them – and the viewer – a brutally direct lesson in the realities of European refugee politics.

From ‘Stranger in Paradise’: IDFA opening film

Credit Due Department: I was alerted to this use of a Leonard Cohen song in a movie by a LeonardCohenForum post by Jarkko Arjatsalo.

Highly Recommended Reading: Stranger Songs: The Music of Leonard Cohen in McCabe & Mrs. Miller By Robert Christgau

mccabe-miller-soundtrackx1200

Over the years, at least a half-dozen posts on the topic of the music of Leonard Cohen in McCabe & Mrs. Miller have appeared at Cohencentric and its predecessors.1 Even if you’ve read all the reviews referenced in those entries, there is still more to learn from Stranger Songs: The Music of Leonard Cohen in McCabe & Mrs. Miller by Robert Christgau (Criterion: Oct 5, 2016). The excerpts below indicate Christgau’s grasp of detail and his nuanced, articulate observations.

Before Altman even tried to negotiate permissions, he laid Cohen’s songs over his footage, and the mesh amazed him. “I think the reason they worked was because those lyrics were etched in my subconscious, so when I shot the scenes I fitted them to the songs, as if they were written for them. I put in about ten of them at first—of course, we way overdid it—and then we ended up with the three songs that were finally used, and I thought they were just wonderful.”

The film version of “The Stranger Song” differs from the one Altman had played to death on successive copies of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s late-1967 debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen—produced, as it happens, by another John Simon (rather too schlockily, Cohen always thought). After starting off with the first three verses of the album version, the soundtrack interpolates a long, elegiac, Spanish-tinged guitar solo—amplified acoustic, I think—by David Lindley, for forty years now a go-to multi-instrumentalist but at the time merely a member of the California band Kaleidoscope, who were handpicked by Cohen to play behind him on the record only to be cut off at the pass by Simon the producer. Then the album version returns for two verses, after which it doubles back to the capper of the second verse, with the final three verses saved for a later scene. Thus the mood-setter ends: “That is curling up like smoke above his shoulder/It is curling just like smoke above his shoulder/He was just some Joseph looking for a manger/He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.”

The entire piece can be read at

Stranger Songs: The Music of Leonard Cohen in McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Also see

View Videos: Leonard Cohen’s Music in McCabe & Mrs. Miller

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s music in McCabe & Mrs. Miller can be found at 

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  1. DrHGuy.com & 1HeckOfAGuy.com []

Bob Seeger On Leonard Cohen Inspiring His Song “Beautiful Loser”


quoteup2
I’ve been a huge fan of Leonard Cohen all my life and he had a book of poems called ‘Beautiful Losers’ and I gravitated toward that title and put my own spin on it.
quotedown2

Bob Seeger

 

Bob Seger talks Tom Waits, Tom Cruise, Leonard Cohen, and Civil Wars by Melinda Newman. Hitfix: Nov 9, 2011. (Note: Beautiful Losers is, of course, Leonard Cohen’s second novel)

In another interview1 Seeger commented further on the genesis of his song, “Beautiful Loser:”

quoteup2
The song was a long time coming. The original concept came from Leonard Cohen’s line, ‘He’s reaching for the sky just to surrender’ — you know, people who set their goals so low that they’ll never be disappointed.quotedown2

Bob Seeger

Note: “He’s reaching for the sky just to surrender” is from The Stranger Song by Leonard Cohen

In Bob Seger Changes His Tune About Detroit by Steve Inskeep (NPR: January 8, 2007), Seger elaborates:

That [Beautiful Loser] was really inspired by Leonard Cohen, whom I’ve always been a huge fan of. And he actually had a book of poems called Beautiful Losers… When I had read that he had written that — I’ve never read the poems — but I’ve heard every Leonard Cohen song ever written because I’m a big fan. And it struck me — boy, what a great title for a song, you know? There’s a song [“The Stranger Song”] in a great [Robert] Altman film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller… I think it was something about a dealer and “like every dealer he is reaching for the card that is so high and wild, he’ll never have to deal another.”… He’s reaching for the sky just to surrender. And those two things, the title Beautiful Losers from Cohen’s book and “reaching for the sky just to surrender,” I can relate to that. People who set their goals so high that they’re impossible, so they have comfort in failing. Does that make any sense? And that’s what “Beautiful Loser” is all about. You… I don’t know how to describe it but … I think I just did and that was the idea of the song. Whether or not I communicated it or not I’m not sure but… I just thought it was a clever title which I lifted blatantly from Leonard Cohen (laughs), and a different subject matter to write about. How some people are like that.

Bob Seger – Beautiful Loser
From the Beautiful Loser album

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  1. Mobbed in Michigan, the “Beautiful Loser” is second billed elsewhere by Patrick Goldstein. Rolling Stone: July 29, 1976 []