A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘leonard cohen

[PHOTO] “Anthem” by Cohen, in chalk and in song

The other day, I was walking along College Street in west-end Brockton Village when I saw that someone had written, in chalk on the sidewalk, the lyrics of the Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” from his 1992 album The Future. I had seen similar chalk inscriptions on nearby sidewalks, but this was much the most extensive, occupying eight panels of concrete.

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (1) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (2) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (3) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem", College between Margueretta and Brock (4) #toronto #collegewest #brocktonvillage #collegestreet #sidewalk #chalk #leonardcohen #poetry #lyrics #anthem

A 2008 live performance of the song by Cohen is as close a we’ll have to an official video.

Four years ago, Quartz shared an explanation by Cohen of this song, a rarity.

The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

The full lyrics, of course, are sheer poetry.

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent:
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Written by Randy McDonald

March 29, 2020 at 12:30 pm

[NEWS] Fourteen links

  • By at least one metric, New Brunswick now lags economically behind a more dynamic Prince Edward Island. CBC reports.
  • NOW Toronto looks at toxic fandoms. (“Stanning” sounds really creepy to me.)
  • This CityLab article looks at how the particular characteristics of Japan, including its high population density, helps keep alive there retail chains that have failed in the US.
  • MacLean’s looks at Kent Monkman, enjoying a new level of success with his diptych Mistikôsiwak at the Met in NYC.
  • Can there be something that can be said for the idea of an Internet more strongly pillarized? Wired argues.
  • I reject utterly the idea of meaningful similarities between Drake and Leonard Cohen. CBC did it.
  • Toronto Life looks at the life of a Hamilton woman hurt badly by the cancellation of the basic income pilot, here.
  • Inspired by the death of Gord Downie, Ontario now has the office of poet-laureate. CBC reports.
  • Is Canada at risk, like Ireland, of experiencing two-tier health care? CBC considers.
  • A French immigrant couple has brought the art of artisanal vinegar to ile d’Orléans. CBC reports.
  • Shore erosion is complicating the lives of people along Lake Erie. CBC reports.
  • MacLean’s notes how Via Rail making it difficult for people without credit cards to buy anything on their trains, hurting many.
  • Michelle Legro notes at Gen that the 2010s is the decade where conspiracy culture became mainstream.
  • This essay by Robert Greene at his blog talking about what history, and historians, can do in our era is thought-provoking.

[PHOTO] Leonard Cohen, “Happens to the Heart”

Pitchfork, among others, notes the release of a video for a new Leonard Cohen song, “Happens to the Heart” off of the posthumous album Thanks for the Dance. Both song and video are beautiful; recommended.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 25, 2019 at 11:01 am

[URBAN NOTE] Five notes: Montréal, New York City, Palm Springs, Johnstown, global warming

  • The Guardian reports on a new exhibition dedicated to Leonard Cohen in Montréal’s Musée d’art contemporain.
  • Apartments in Manhattan lacking doormen have apparently become cheaper recently. Bloomberg reports.
  • The city council of Palm Springs, long a queer mecca, is now composed entirely of out LGBTQ people. The Desert Sun reports.
  • Politico visits Trump voters of the declining industrial city of Johnston and finds people who still support him.
  • National Observer shares maps of sea level rise revealing the exceptional vulnerability of the cities of Canada.

[LINK] “Leonard Cohen, Judaism’s Bard”

The Atlantic‘s Jonathan Freedland outlines the strong Jewish interests in the music of Leonard Cohen.

Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan, Allen Konigsberg became Woody Allen, but Leonard Cohen stayed Leonard Cohen. Coming of age at a time when showbusiness demanded Jews not make their background too obvious, Cohen was happy to be named less like a folk icon than a senior partner in an accountancy firm. It seems an obvious point, but it nods to a larger one that was either overlooked or underplayed in the extensive obituaries that followed Cohen’s death last week. Put simply, Cohen was an intensely Jewish artist—along with Philip Roth, perhaps the most deeply Jewish artist of the last century.

Of course, there’s been no shortage of writers or performers with a Jewish sensibility. Allen’s earliest films were steeped in Brooklyn shrugs and Manhattan angst, with plenty of Jewish neurotic shtick. Dylan’s “Neighbourhood Bully,” telling of a besieged, encircled state of Israel, might be the most AIPAC-friendly song in the rock canon. But the Jewishness of Cohen’s work is on an entirely different level.

Sure, he could adopt the requisite shrug of self-deprecation. “I’m the little Jew who wrote the bible,” he sang in “The Future.” And he was finely attuned to the epic forces of 20th-century Jewish history. “Dance Me to the End of Love” was prompted by the knowledge that a string quartet played at the Nazi death camps: “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” Cohen sings. In 1973, he volunteered to fight for Israel during the Yom Kippur war, saying, “I am committed to the survival of the Jewish people.” Told he was more use wielding his voice than a gun, he entertained IDF troops in back-to-back performances. During a 2009 concert in Ramat Gan, he blessed his audiences with the ancient benediction of the Cohanim—the priesthood from which his name is derived.

But none of this is what sets Leonard Cohen apart as a singularly Jewish artist. Rather it’s his deep and serious engagement with not only Jewish culture and history, but with Judaism itself.

His new and last album, You Want It Darker, for example, begins with the choir of the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue he grew up in. The chazan, or cantor, of that synagogue sings on the title track, incanting the single word Hineni, a word of tremendous significance for religious Jews. Here I am. It is the answer Abraham, the first Jew, gave when God called out to him, asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. (The same episode is recalled by Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited.) It’s the reply Moses gives when God speaks to him through the burning bush. It stands as a declaration of submission to divine authority (submission being a frequent Cohen motif). In the song, Cohen follows Hineni with the unambiguous statement, “I’m ready, my Lord”, as if offering himself up for death.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm

[PHOTO] Five photos from the Choir! Choir! Choir! celebration of Leonard Cohen in Christie Pit

Last night, I went to the Choir! Choir! Choir! celebration of the life and music of Leonard Cohen, held last night at 9 o’clock in the man-made amphitheatre that is Christie Pit.

Assembled for Cohen #toronto #christiepit #leonardcohen #choirchoirchoir

Assembled for Cohen, 2 #toronto #christiepit #leonardcohen #choirchoirchoir

Assembled for Cohen, 3 #toronto #christiepit #leonardcohen #choirchoirchoir

Assembled for Cohen, 4 #toronto #christiepit #leonardcohen #choirchoirchoir

Assembled for Cohen, 4 #toronto #christiepit #leonardcohen #choirchoirchoir

Break #toronto #christiepit #leonardcohen #choirchoirchoir

The sound on my recording of “Suzanne” is not the best, but I think you might be able to get something of the power of the event, of the hundreds upon hundreds of people gathered together.

I liked the Toronto Star report of the event by Alicja Siekierska.

The outpouring of love for Leonard Cohen continued in Toronto on Wednesday, as hundreds of mourners gathered in Christie Pitts Park to sing some of the legendary singer-poet’s greatest hits.

Led by Choir Choir Choir, they began with “Bird on a Wire,” belted “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodby”e and, of course, performed an emotional rendition of Cohen’s best known song “Hallelujah.”

It was an emotional evening for many, but despite the sombre goodbye, it was a joyful event truly celebrating the work and life of Cohen.

“I want everyone in Montreal to hear us from here,” Choir Choir Choir co-founder Daveed Goldman exclaimed to the crowd, just before launching a boisterous version of “So Long Marianne.”

Clad in warm clothing, gatherers young and old began tricking in an hour before the event started. By 9 p.m., the hill in the park was packed, flickering candles lighting up singing faces.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 17, 2016 at 10:03 am

[MUSIC] On the genesis of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

Writing in the Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews tells the story of how Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” came to be.

In the early 1980s, Leonard Cohen sat on the floor of a New York hotel room, wearing only his underwear and remembered “banging my head on the floor and saying, ‘I can’t finish this song.’”

He had been working on it for years.

Cohen, who died Thursday at 82, was many things: poet, writer and monk, among them. But the Canadian-born artist spent most of his career as a musician, one of the most influential songwriters of the past six decades.

During that career, he wrote many gorgeous songs, which he sang in his smooth, smoky basso. But, as every obituary written about the man (including The Washington Post’s) has led with, he attained fame with the song he was attempting to write in that hotel room, the song for which he wrote more than 80 verses before trimming down to five, the song whose third line reads, ironically, “You don’t really care for music, do you?”

The song is “Hallelujah,” which appeared on his 1985 record “Various Positions.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 13, 2016 at 2:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Montrealers mull over best way to pay tribute to Leonard Cohen”

Allan Woods at the Toronto Star reports on the debate in Montréal as how to best memorialize Leonard Cohen.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who was in Jerusalem when the news emerged, wrote on Twitter Thursday night that the city would honour one of its best-known citizens, one of the few who was able to straddle the city’s linguistic divide.

Coderre wrote that, in the meantime, “I will profit from my voyage to say a prayer for Monsieur Cohen at the Wailing Wall and bring back a rock from Jerusalem out of respect.”

Outside Cohen’s Montreal home, which overlooks a small park and is several strides from the city’s main street, Saint-Laurent Boulevard, fans contributed flowers, photographs, fedoras, candles, cards, cassettes and even a Montreal bagel, to a makeshift memorial.

[. . .]

“It’s a good question that we’re all kind of thinking about. It’s on my mind, too. I’m struggling to come up with an answer for it,” said Zev Moses, executive director of the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

For Montreal Jews, Cohen was a figure who challenged its religious traditions, but went on to become a source of pride, giving other Jews a sense that they were “cool,” Moses said.

“What do you even say about this giant and what he meant for the Jewish community, to the country and to so many people around the world?”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Montrealers make solemn pilgrimage to Leonard Cohen’s home”

Laura Beeston’s article is the first of three recent articles in the Toronto Star about Montrealers’ reaction to the death of Cohen.

Montrealers continued to mourn on Friday, as a memorial to the late, great Leonard Cohen grows with each passing day.

Swelling and waning all day, crowds made their solemn pilgrimage to 28 Rue de Vallieres, where the famous poet and songwriter owned a home, laying flowers, lighting candles and listening to his famous baritone blast through a boom box decorated by a black fedora.

The mood is sombre. Real tears fall down the cheeks of those who have gathered here; a sense of loss is visceral. What is Montreal without its patron saint of songwriting?

“We love him, I will not say we loved him. We love him,” said Chantal Ringuet, who published a French-language anthology Les revolutions de Leonard Cohen last April (published by PUQ in 2016), which features artists, translators, researchers and personal essays about the prolific poet.

“I think that he had this ability to help us dream, to love, to live through the difficult moments… and he was what we call a passeur in French, a bridge builder between cultures.”

Cohen is part of the Canadian literary canon, but Quebec — and especially Montreal — also fiercely claim him as their own, and one of the few symbols, other than the Habs, that unite both English and French Montrealers with pride.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 13, 2016 at 1:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • Antipope shares a guest essay by an author pointing out how duelling was a social plague.
  • ‘Nathan Smith’s Apostrophen shares an essay noting that being a Donald Trump supporter who reads gay romance is a contradiction.
  • Beyond the Beyond notes new European Union interest in defense integration.
  • blogTO reports that a Torontonian designed the new Starbucks holiday cup.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly wonders how much our parents shape us.
  • D-Brief looks at Semantic Scholar, an AI tool for scholars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on methane humidity near Titan’s surface and an active drainage system.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the interest of Florida attorney-general Pam Bondi at the interest of serving in the administration of Donald Trump.
  • Language Hat shares a lovely poem translated from the Russian.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the upsurge in hate crimes post-election in the United States.
  • The LRB Blog shares one man’s memories of Leonard Cohen.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the problems of Saudi Arabia.
  • The NYRB Daily notes the largely negative effect of the Internet, and social media, on the election.
  • Savage Minds notes how anthropology teachers can teach the Trump election.
  • Towleroad shares RuPaul’s horror at the election.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues the Gary Johnson candidacy helped Hillary, though by not enough.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that a state ideology would make Russia totalitarian.