leonard cohen: you're our man

This evening, Leonard Cohen will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My reaction? It's about time.

Few artists in the realm of popular music can truly be called poets, in the classical, arts-and-letters sense of the word. Among them are Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. Leonard Cohen heads this elite class. In fact, Cohen was already an established poet and novelist before he turned his attention to songwriting. His academic training in poetry and literature, and his pursuit of them as livelihood for much of the 50s and 60s, gave him an extraordinary advantage over his pop peers when it came to setting language to music. Along with other folk-steeped musical literati, Cohen raised the songwriting bar. (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum)

I love this line from Cohen's Anthem. It just may be my favorite lyric. Ever.

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

I recently discovered a remark that Cohen made about this bit of his poetry: That’s the closest thing I could describe to a credo. That idea is one of the fundamental positions behind a lot of the songs.

And regarding his work and method:

You know, you scribble away for one reason or another. You’re touched by something that you read. You want to number yourself among these illustrious spirits for one advantage or another, some social, some spiritual. It’s just ambition that tricks you into the enterprise, and then you discover whether you have any actual aptitude for it or not. So I’ve always thought that I, you know, do my job OK.

It thrills me to know I'm sharing an area code with Mr. Cohen - at least for the evening. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air live from the Waldorf-Astoria on VH1 Classic tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST. BTW, Lou Reed will present Mr. Cohen.

O Canada. You must be so proud of this Native Son.

K.D. Lang performs Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Juno Awards, Winnipeg, 2005. (Of the 10,983,477 listens to the guskillion covers of Hallelujah on YouTube, I claim 795,517. K.D. gets into it here, for sure.) Word has it that Damien Rice will perform Hallelujah at the induction ceremony this evening.

Rufus Wainwright performs Everybody Knows. This is a clip from the Cohen-tribute film I'm Your Man. Rufus talks about meeting Cohen for the first time. Cohen says a word or two. The song begins at 1:51.

Martha Wainwright performs Leonard Cohen's Tower of Song. Late Night with Dave.

Our Man himself, performing Hallelujah. (Love the set. Looks to be borrowed from The Muppets, c. 1985.)

:photo © sony bmg; quotes via the vancouver sun; the rock and roll hall of fame + museum


/// said...

This is a FANTASTIC post! And thank you OH so much for your sweet E R I N S P I R A T I O N comment; you are too kind [and creative!], Diana!

Jane Flanagan said...

I love Leonard so much (hence the recent stay at the Chelsea Hotel). His poetry and his music are extremely sensual and remind me of those heart-wrenching university love affairs, when everything was at once romantic and devastating and wrought with emotion (ahh how I've mellowed with age!)

There was a fantastic documentary on CBC about the woman who inspired Suzanne and Leonard's life in Montreal that I'll try to find for you.

We always seem to love the same people!

Bayou Contessa said...

I have always been bowled over by Leonard Cohen-you are so right he is a true modern poet. Diana, you are right on Again!

Jen said...

Oh, oh, PERFECT Leonard, and perfect post. I couldn't agree with you more and I couldn't have said this so eloquently.

/// said...

OK WOW--- I know I've already commented, but I keep coming back and am LOVING the photo that's just staring me in the face each time!!! :)

Luisa Perkins said...

It IS about frickin' time.

I don't know whether you have heard The Duhks' cover of "Everybody Knows," but that's my favorite one.