The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan Light“A venerated creator. An adored, tragic interpreter. An uncomplicated, memorable melody. Ambiguous, evocative words. Faith and uncertainty. Pain and pleasure.” Today, “Hallelujah” is one of the most-performed rock songs in history. It has become a staple of movies and television shows as diverse as Shrek and The West Wing, of tribute videos and telethons. It has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, and k.d. lang, and it is played every year at countless events—both sacred and secular—around the world.
Yet when music legend Leonard Cohen first wrote and recorded “Hallelujah,” it was for an album rejected by his longtime record label. Ten years later, charismatic newcomer Jeff Buckley reimagined the song for his much-anticipated debut album, Grace. Three years after that, Buckley would be dead, his album largely unknown, and “Hallelujah” still unreleased as a single. After two such commercially disappointing outings, how did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy, a song each successive generation seems to feel they have discovered and claimed as uniquely their own?
Through in-depth interviews with its interpreters and the key figures who were actually there for its original recordings, acclaimed music journalist Alan Light follows the improbable journey of “Hallelujah” straight to the heart of popular culture. The Holy or the Broken gives insight into how great songs come to be, how they come to be listened to, and how they can be forever reinterpreted.
First We Take Manhattan
One wonders if they're not too preoccupied by their journey to admire the starry sky under which they sail before they smash into and mutilate…. Improvising odes to the awful yet spectacular yet mundane live images of war technology -- images often scrubbed of sound, as they were behind Williams as he spoke, and showing only the bloodless American point of origin -- is Gulf War-era broadcasting technique. Its ceremonial tone is an attempt to live up to the gravity of the moment. The reach for the poetic, the pronunciation in Williams' voice, and the quoting of a cultural icon were all gestures meant to glorify the moment, and to officiate it. Even if you didn't immediately recognize the lyric Williams quoted, an alarm probably sounded in your head if you knew anything about Cohen's music. The Canadian bard, he of "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah" and "Everybody Knows", excelled at gloom first and foremost, but ambiguity was a close second.
With his debut album, Cohen took the music world by surprise with his mystifying lyrics and specific tone of voice.
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It was originally recorded by American singer Jennifer Warnes on her Cohen tribute album Famous Blue Raincoat , which consisted entirely of songs written or co-written by Cohen. The song's oblique lyric is suggestive of religious and end time themes with references to prayer, meaningful birthmarks and signs in the sky. Ben Hewitt writing for The Guardian in drew attention to the lyric's apocalyptic nature, imagining Cohen "greedily eyeing world domination like a Bond villain". Cohen explained himself in a backstage interview:  "I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song. I think it's a response to terrorism.
The plot against Leonard Cohen's "First We Take Manhattan" has been threatening to destroy a great song for almost twenty-five years. The plot was hatched in via Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat album where her vocal is accompanied by a Nazi-ish male voice ranting in German. Her follow-up video augmented this interpretation with louder rant and an array of sinister images. For Warnes, Cohen's song is about a 's-style Red Army Faction terrorist, about to launch a campaign to conquer the world through catastrophic violence. According to Cohen biographer Ira Nadel Warnes "disliked" several stanzas previously recorded by Cohen and tried to get him to rewrite them. Although Cohen participated in the Warnes video and subsequently in a similar video by Dominique Issermann his comments on Norwegian radio shortly after Warnes album was released suggest that he understands that his song operates via a suppler metaphor and subtler dynamic.
The official forum of Leonardcohenfiles. Search Advanced search. Quick links. Search New posts Logout Register. Is it about terrorism? Since I'm trying to write a theme statement. And why is the line worded that way " First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin"?