Thursday, October 21, 2004

if I, if I've been unkind
I hope you can just let it go by
if I, if I've been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you

I've been listening compulsively to k.d. lang's new CD since the day I bought it, back in August. This bit of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a wire" particularly grabbed me. And yet, when you reduce the lyrics to their essentials, they end up sounding like

Roses are red
violets are blue
if I've been untrue
it was never to you

In his lyrics in general there's this wild combination of images that stop you in your tracks like a punch to the gut and other images that seem like he came up with them (a) out of nowhere or (b) to fit with the rhyme scheme he'd established.

--but then, I'm probably a generation late for the "is L.C. a genius or a hack?" debate.

(edit: a bunch of people seem to be finding this blog by searching for "Leonard Cohen Hallelujah" (or "alleluia" as the case may be). As a public service, here is a webpage that has words and guitar chords. Some of the words on that page are different from the versions that I have, but they make a good start anyway. Besides LC's own recording, and k.d. lang's on the CD above, there's lovely versions by Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, and also the version that was used in the movie "Shrek" (apparently not RW although his version is on the CD soundtrack)--and I'm sure there are others that I don't know about.
There. enjoy.)

2 comments:

Julie said...

You are so right, we are late to the debate. But I totally want to come out on the side of genuis; his images are so much more evocative and poetic than the vast majority of people making music.

On the other hand, I actually like covers of his music far more than I like to listen to him...sometimes I get the feeling he would rather be a poet, but other musicians can better channel the feeling and the musicality of this words. And as I try to find words to quote that have made me cry as I've heard them sung, I realize they are hollow printed as poetry.

Julie said...

BTW, I bought the CD too (thanks!) and it has been in heavy rotation. Hallelujah is the best, and Helpless is a close second.