Colette’s Corner: Look Ma, I’m in the Hall of Fame

24 Mar

Don’t want to be remiss in posting about the recent inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Colette, once again, provides a wonderful dossier on the legendary Leonard Cohen.  I have a few comments on the other inductees following Colette’s post… 

Leonard Cohen:  A Hall of Famer at last…..
            The great Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was just  inducted into the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame, an honor well-earned. And  the 74-year old troubadour  just announced he’ll be embarking on his first tour in many years, with dates announced in Canada and Europe.  None, unfortunately, announced yet for the U.S., but a fan can hope — can’t she?
            Leonard Cohen, Canada’s great troubadour, has a songbag that’s deep, varied and stuffed with gems.  Many other brilliant musical artists adore his songs and eagerly cover them.  And his own recordings and live versions of his odes are husky, conversational, yet uniquely moving.
              Born into a Jewish Montreal family in 1934,  Cohen was a Canadian star as a gifted poet, fiction author and composer before his American popularity began, thanks to Judy Collins’ famous interpretation of his dreamy love song, “Suzanne.”  In 1967, Columbia Records brought out “The Songs of Leonard Cohen.” More albums followed, and the use of some of his songs in popular movies (starting with Robert Altman‘s  “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”) brought his brilliantly  tunes to more listeners.    Every wave of new singer-songwriters since has re-discovered him, and cherished his songs.
              To me, Cohen’s wit, lyricism, his ability to celebrate humanity’s angels and demons, and his miraculous turns of phrase and “humanitarian cynicism,” as someone put it, give his work a European flavor and tone.  But his songs are globally admired and performed, as they should be. They speak to the mind, the heart and the intellect at the same time.   A recent documentary about him, featuring a concert in Australia of his songs sung by Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave and others, is worth a look:  it’s called  “I’m Your Man.”
              I was fortunate to meet Cohen in the early 1990s, during his last U.S. tour.  I had one of those “six degrees of…” connections to him:  we shared a wonderful friend, who had died a few years earlier.  Leonard and I talked about her,   about music, and about his devotion to Zen Buddhism.  (He spent  five years in a Zen monastary in California, and was ordained as a Buddhist monk there.)
             Sometimes when you meet a hero of yours, you are disappointed.  The absolute opposite occured for me in this instance.   Leonard was warm, kind, funny, and open.  As our hour together ended,  I asked him to sign a book I had of his lyrics and poems.  He took a beautiful little ink stamp out of a special case, telling me it spelled out his name in Japanese characters.  He stamped my book, and then wrote a dedication, saying it was for “a member of the family.”  How thrilled I was to be part of that extended “family,” and I still am. 
             Congratulations, Leonard, for the good things coming to you — all deserved.   And here is a small tribute to your genius:
The beautiful ballad that started off Cohen’s American popularity:
  — SuzanneLeonard Cohen & Judy Collins, during the 1960s
One of Cohen’s best known, most recorded tunes, “Bird on the Wire”  (a 1979 performance):
A very cool cover of the same song, by New Orleans’ fab Neville Brothers:
== “Bird on a Wire” — The Neville Brothers
One of my favorite Cohen tunes, written to a former friend of his who became a Scientologist  (clip also from the 1970s):
— “Famous Blue Raincoat” — Leonard Cohen
In recent years a cult has developed around this moody,  soaring anthem.  Here’s Cohen performing it:
 — “Hallelujah” — Leonard Cohen
And here is a rendition of it that has its own fervent cult, by the late Jeff Buckley:
 — Jeff Buckley — “Hallelujah”
In the 1990s, Cohen put out some terrific, scarey new songs — sensuous, mordant, darkly prescient.  Here’s one of my favorites, “The Future” —

 — “The Future” — Leonard Cohen

Here’s his great “ladie’s man” anthem,  in a hit version by fellow Canadian Michael Buble — you’d think his style wouldn’t mesh with Cohen’s but give a listen:
 — Michael Buble, “I’m Your Man”
Finally, a marvelous song about getting older, but being a musician at heart forever:
— “Tower of Song”  — Leonard Cohen
And here is a 10-minute clip of his induction ceremony for the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame, featuring a mini-documentary and Lou Reed’s little speech:  “We’re so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is….”   Yes, Lou, I agree!
 — Leonard Cohen‘s hall of fame tribute,  March 2008

Other inductees from this year’s class include:

John “Cougar” Mellencamp

  Cherry Bomb


  Like a Virgin

The Dave Clark 5

  Catch Us If You Can

The Ventures


Little Walter

  Hall of Fame film

  Wild About You Baby (With Hound Dog Taylor)

Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff who were architects of the “Philly Soul Sound” and who wrote for and worked with the likes of Lou Rawls, The O’Jays and Teddy Pendergrass were also inducted, but I think that warrants an individual post.


Posted by on March 24, 2008 in colette's corner, music legends, rock


11 responses to “Colette’s Corner: Look Ma, I’m in the Hall of Fame

  1. Shrewspeaks

    March 24, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Cohen and Madonna mentioned in one post…my culture muscle has a bit of a cramp

  2. music maven

    March 25, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Such is life in America.

  3. AH

    March 25, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Watching that night the “One of these things is not like the others” game came to mind. An award for brilliant marketing might be more appropriate for Madonna.
    Very glad the Ventures were honored. Have a weakness for drums and this perfomance is outstanding, imho

    The Ventures Original Members 1984 – – Caravan

  4. Colette

    March 25, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Anybody out there like Leonard Cohen? Just curious!

    and sorry about the Nevilles link — here’s a better one for their “Bird on the Wire,” with of course Aaron Neville on ethereal lead vocal:

  5. AH

    March 25, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Colette, I enjoyed your post late last night – especially the personal insight – but Y.T. was being a pain. Just now had time to listen to the Cohen videos – nice selection – had not heard The Future – liked much! Afraid he has been another “aware of but not really explored” artist for me – that is being corrected – thank you for the nudge. As to your question – put me down as a Yes.

  6. Colette

    March 25, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Sorry about the video glitches! Thanks for the response.

  7. Bama

    March 25, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    My all time favorite Leonard Cohen song:

    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    There are so many though! Avalanche, Sisters of Mercy, Woke Up This Morning…

    Just an amazing poet, musician, man…

  8. Colette

    March 25, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    yes, thanks so much for reminding me of that beautiful song Bama!

    “You live your life/As if it’s real/A thousand kisses deep….”

    brings to mind this gorgeous Cohen waltz–
    “Dance Me to the End of Love” (great wedding tune) via Madeline Peyroux:

  9. Shrewspeaks

    March 25, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I have Cohen, I respect Cohen. But he is never top of mind for me. I think I like a more visceral sound rather than cerebral.

    And my Cohen-Madonna comment was out of today respect for Cohen.

  10. Colette

    March 25, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for clarifying! Whatever Madonna is, she ain’t no Leonard Cohen.

    And I like visceral too….and cerebral…..especially both at once!

  11. Bama

    March 25, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Ooohh…Loved the Madeline Peyroux version of that song…so lovely.


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