Monday, March 06, 2006

Leonard Cohen: First we Take The Hall of Fame

Casey Dorrell

On sunday, february 5th, Leonard Cohen was inducted into into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He shared the honour with dubious others such as Anne Murray and Gilles Vigneault who are both responsible for a collection of pretty absymal songs (with the exception of Murray's "Snowbird" of course).

Cohen made a short acceptance speech saying,

"If I knew where the good songs came from, I'd go there more often," pausing before adding, "So it is that we shuffle behind our songs into the hall of fame — shuffle awkwardly, not quite believing that we wrote them but happy that [we did]. You have been so good to me over the years, my heart is full of gratitude."

Leonard Cohen, of course, is a Canadian born singer-songwriter, and also a novelist and poet, though he hasn't published much in the latter two mediums for some time. A long-time citizen of L.A., Cohen is known for his deep, almost spoken-word delivery which is typically accompanied by ample synth and sometimes cheesy cabaret-style female backing vocals. While his musical arrangement is, at times inferior, his lyricism on his early work is rarely short of brilliant.

This is what's made his songs so frequently covered, particularly the song "Hallelujah". So, in addition to Cohen's personal induction, five of his songs were also given the honour: "Ain't No Cure for Love", "Hallelujah", "Bird on a Wire", "Everybody Knows", and "Suzanne". Manhattanites must have some pull with the Hall of Fame voters.

As part of the big CBC sponsored event (oxymoron?), three of Cohen's songs were covered live. k.d. Lang performed her great, but now tiresome, cover of "Hallelujah", Willie Nelson (inexplicably) covered "Bird on a Wire" as he did on a pretty atrocious Cohen tribute album about a decade ago, and Rufus Wainwright delivered an awesome cover of "Everybody Knows". The show is set to be on CBC television tonight, but Mocking Music being great as we are, have mp3s of the performances so you don't have to watch it.

A new documentary by Lian Lunson entitled "I'm Your Man" features several new covers, mostly from a tribute performance in Sydney, last Australia Day (January 26th). Artists who paid tribute included Beth Orton, Nick Cave, Bono, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, and Antony Hegarty (Of Antony and the Johnsons).

I've included a few notable covers along with the Hall of Fame performances and the original Cohen songs. Willie Nelson's cover is interesting merely as an oddity, and k.d. Lang's cover won't please most of you much, but I do recommend Wainwright's great version of "Everybody Knows".

Leonard Cohen's induction in typical CBC overblown superlative
Leonard Cohen - Bird on a Wire
Willie Nelson - Bird on a Wire (Live @ Songwriters Hall of Fame)
Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah
k.d. Lang - Hallelujah (Live @ Songwriters Hall of Fame)
Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows
Rufus Wainwright - Everybody Knows (Live @ Songwriters Hall of Fame)
Pixies - I Can't Forget (Leonard Cohen)
Dead Boy and the Elephantmen - The Night Comes On (Leonard Cohen)
Rufus Wainwright - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Bob Dylan - Hallelujah (Live 1988 Leonard Cohen cover)

Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man
Various Artists - I'm Your Fan

Comments on "Leonard Cohen: First we Take The Hall of Fame"


Blogger Jennings said ... (7/3/06 10:37 pm) : 

Great post . . . .


Anonymous joshua said ... (8/3/06 1:46 pm) : 

Casey -
amazing post! thanks so much for catching these lovely spawning salmon before they disappeared into the great Canadian wilderness.
: )


Anonymous Morgan said ... (8/3/06 4:36 pm) : 

Have you guys heard the Lucky Jim version of Hallelujah? It's on some EP or single - it's my favrite version fo the song I've heard, but it's like a $14 import. It's great though, if you can track it down it's worth the effort.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (8/3/06 8:36 pm) : 

The all-time worst version, which I was going to include, but it myseriously disapeared from my Hard drive, is Bono's version circa mid 90's. Has to be heard to be believed.


Blogger Liz said ... (9/3/06 1:57 am) : 

Fans should also listen to Sting & The Chieftains covering "Sisters of Mercy," Judy Collins doing "Suzanne," Tori Amos doing "Famous Blue Raincoat," and... aw, forget it. I love Leonard Cohen (at least, his older stuff), and it's definitely worth hearing the originals before listening to the random covers.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (16/3/06 9:45 am) : 

In my opinion the alltime best version of Hallelujah is by Kathryn Williams


Blogger madrigalia said ... (28/4/06 7:34 pm) : 

I just came upon this site and like it a lot (as a fellow Ottawan). But I have to mention one thing, though -- Anne Murray performed "Snowbird," but she didn't write it. Gene MacLellan, who also wrote "Put Your Hand in the Hand," met Anne on "Singalong Jubilee" and likely introduced her to the song then.

As to what other songs Anne Murray wrote, well, I have no idea.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (28/4/06 9:40 pm) : 

Being an avid CBC listener, I'm aware of that, and didn't actually say she wrote it. I imply that she was responsible for it, and since I'm talking about the production values and her singing, I think she is.

I've got no clue on what songs she wrote either. :D

Glad you like the site and come back!


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