The Cohen/Buckley Shark Has Definitely Jumped

…when somebody does “Hallelujah” on American Idol.

For those of you who really love this song and want more like it, may I recommend you check out Leonard Cohen’s early albums? They are depressing, as you’ll often hear critics point out…but there are moments of absolute beauty on them. “Suzanne” has never stopped being a lovely song. Neither has “Chelsea Hotel #2”, which is about Cohen’s brief affair with Janis Joplin, and which may be the most honest love song of all time:

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel You were famous, your heart was a legend You told me again you preferred handsome men But for me you would make an exception And clenching your fists for the ones like us Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty You fixed yourself, you said ‘Well, never mind ‘We are ugly but we have the music’

And “Famous Blue Raincoat”, which is sad and slow and haunting, and which may be one of the most perfectly written songs ever. On later albums, you can find “Coming Back To You”, “If It Be Your Will”, and “Anthem”, which is a glorious song.

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

Also, check out John Cale’s version of “Hallelujah”, which is the version Jeff Buckley was actually covering, not the original.

Finally — Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky”, which always reminds me of both Buckley and Cohen, and has a similar emotional effect on me as “Hallelujah”.

Oh, I almost forgot Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, which is one of the sexiest songs ever written.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove And dance me to the end of love

My favorite version is the one by a singer named Kate Gibson from the soundtrack to the Jim Cameron film Strange Days, which is a great compilation anyway and worth buying, if for nothing more than the gorgeous song “Fall In The Light” by Lori Carson and Graeme Revell.

My favorite Leonard Cohen song, though, is still probably “Waiting For The Miracle”. I’ll record that some day. It has one of my favorite lyrics ever:

I dreamed about you, baby It was just the other night Most of you was naked Ah, but some of you was light The sands of time were falling From your fingers and your thumb And you were waiting for the miracle to come

That’s how you do duende, kids. (Tom Robbins once said that “nobody says the word ‘naked’ as nakedly as Leonard Cohen”, and he’s goddamn right.)

Finally, if you really want to break your own heart, listen to Jeff Buckley’s cover of Porter Wagoner’s “Satisfied Mind”, recorded shortly before his death. I’ve heard they played this at his funeral…and man, if I’d been there and known him, I don’t think I could have handled that.

Good stuff.

(Random information: I nodded at “Suzanne” in my song “When You Get Here”. The original line goes “She shows you where to look amidst the garbage and the flowers” and my line was “Can you find me here amidst the garbage bins and singles bars?” Okay, not very similar, but Cohen was in my head when I wrote that line.)

(Also, I’ve got to give a big shoutout to Summer Johnson, who turned me on to both Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen, amongst some other amazing music, back in the day. Thanks, babe. Every time I hear “Chelsea Hotel #2” I think of our little room and the breeze blowing through it.)

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  1. Semper Cohen, semper dolenz, as Leonard may have said had he been an Elizabethan singer-songwriter (Dowland was a rock star). The best line about poker ever written, from “The Stranger Song:”

    “Ah you hate to see another tired man lay down his hand like he was giving up the holy game of poker And while he talks his dreams to sleep you notice there’s a highway that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder.”

    I can’t remember if it was in the soundtrack to “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”, but I always associate the song with the movie.

  2. “Sisters of Mercy” is a fine song and if you have a moment you should look on you tube and search for leonard cohen and sonny rollins you will find the most amazing version of “Who By the Fire”!

  3. Oh, and as a woman I must say that “I’m your man” is definately one of the sexiest songs EVER!!!

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