It’s Canada Day, and so I need some Canada Day music. And there’s a LOT of it. I came across this list of the Best Canadian Musicians: 25 Icons From The Great White North.
I’m eliminating anyone whose music I don’t own, which is not a knock on the artists. I don’t have any albums by Shawn Mendes, Drake, Ron Sexsmith, Blue Rodeo, Justin Bieber, Feist, Bryan Adams, Rush, or Rufus Wainwright (though I have music by each of his parents). And I was not familiar with Broken Social Scene, Joel Plaskett, or Al Tuck.
I do have Bob & Doug McKenzie with Geddy Lee from Rush doing Take Off.
Diana Krall. My wife and I have seen her live, though not simultaneously. Maybe a quarter century ago, I caught her open for Tony Bennett at Tanglewood. We have about a dozen and a half of her albums. She is one of my wife’s K girls, along with Alison Krauss. Popsicle Toes
Daniel Lanois. I LOVE his album Acadie. Of course, I have several albums he’s produced for others, including U2, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, the Neville Brothers, Emmylou Harris, and Bob Dylan. The Maker
Leonard Cohen. I had one LP years ago. I have songs of his covered by Judy Collins, Jennifer Warnes, and others, but in the past thirty years, I’ve come to appreciate him as a teller of his own tales. If you get a chance, see the 2022 movie about him. Almost Like The Blues
Neil Young. I have scads of Neil Young, from Buffalo Springfield to CSNY to at least 20 solo albums; here is the list from 2010, and I’ve gotten some since then. Mr. Soul from Trans, because why not?
When we were in the Berkshires last week, my wife recommended that we go to the Images Cinema in downtown Williamstown, MA, to see the documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song. She knew this would be the type of film I would be interested in seeing. I didn’t even know of its existence.
It is, the New York Times called “a definitive exploration of [the] singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn.”
It starts off with the poet and perhaps dilatant songwriter too shy to go out on stage. His then-new friend, Judy Collins, who had just covered his song Suzanne, went out on stage with him. He developed some confidence in performing, but developed some bad, though not uncommon, habits.
Leonard and his producer created an album containing Hallelujah and other good songs. In 1984, his label, Columbia, initially rejected it! (Yet they released an overdone album produced by Phil Spector.) The path of the song, involving perhaps 150 verses, Bob Dylan, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and far too many versions from American Idol and similar programs, is a fascinating tale.
Then in his seventies, Leonard has a musical resurgence. I have two albums of his from the 2010s, which I enjoy. He died in 2016 at the age of 82.
“Approved for production by Leonard Cohen just before his 80th birthday in 2014, the film accesses a wealth of never-before-seen archival materials from the Cohen Trust, including Cohen’s personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage, and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews.” The film’s copyright is 2021, but the release date was July 15, 2022.
At some point, Leonard considered changing his first name to September. It’s not only his birth month, but it is also the month that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur often fall. I was particularly fascinated with him negotiating with his religious beliefs.
As luck would have it, Kelly has already written an essay about the song and has linked it to a Cohen version of Hallelujah.
The documentary is recommended if you can find it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m STILL recovering from the election. Oh, maybe it’s not just the election, maybe it was Leonard Cohen’s death, and Leon Russell’s and, interestingly enough, Gwen Ifill’s. When I heard the news about the PBS newswoman, I sobbed for twenty minutes, and I’m not even sure why.
Maybe it was because the electoral process often missed Gwen Ifill’s sagacity as she, mostly quietly, fought the cancer. Surely, it’s because, at 61, she was younger than I. Maybe it was seeing how her death affected others. Pete Williams, reporting on MSNBC, could barely get the words out without choking. Or maybe it was her calm in rough seas.
What I have noticed is that people before the vote had different points of view. But it has NEVER come out so vigorously, post-election. Some folks in my circle got into a bit of a Facebook tussle over Donald Trump, which was largely about how his family seemed to monetize everything in the transition, from “as seen on 60 Minutes” bling to the greatagain.GOV website seeming to hawk Trump businesses, to a potential conflict if his adult kids were to get security clearance.
As this quote from Hot Air notes:
If Trump has real estate in the UAE and the Trump kids discover that there’s a developing terrorist threat there, and they decide to sell that property because of it, they’ve used secret national intelligence made available to them by their father to avoid a financial loss for the family. It’s as far from a blind trust as you can get: Instead of the managers of Trump’s wealth being completely independent of him, they’d be exploiting him to see things on the global financial landscape that they otherwise never would have known. It’ll be a “superhuman-sight trust,” not a blind trust.
And even if they’re scrupulous somehow about keeping business and government separate, just by pure chance they may end up selling assets or buying assets in a place that later coincidentally turns out to be strongly affected by some Trump administration policy. The public will assume corruption even if it’s not there, which will damage Trump. For the sake of his own credibility, he should stick with a blind trust.
Of course, the request for clearance “never happened,” I’m told; I suspect it was a trial balloon. And “Trump isn’t taking a salary” though he ought to. And “the Clinton stole the silverware.” And it all got rather testy after that. But in years past, who we and they voted for just would not have come up. And, for the most part, it didn’t matter; one didn’t think less well of the other.
I shan’t mention the white nationalist champion the Prez-elect picked as his chief strategist or the climate science denier who’s heading his EPA transition team or his anti-gay potential SCOTUS pick or Rudy Guiliani.
My favorite Barack and Joe meme actually involved Michelle and Jill asking why was it always the guys? “Male patriarchy.”
So I’m in a major funk. Even doing Chuck Miller’s quiz thing didn’t help: Year given: 1986 Age: 33 Now: 63 Relationship status: Living with someone Now: Married Living in: Albany Now: Albany Pets: None Now: Two cats Was I happy?: There were elements of happiness. I had my 33 1/3 party in July because. I still have a copy of the invitation somewhere in the attic. Work at FantaCo was interesting because I was working on a comic book. Now: Well, you WOULD ask AFTER the election Kids: None Kids now: One
I know others in similar, or worse, situations, and I feel for them. Oh, and I attended my cousin’s funeral last week.
When I saw that jazz man Mose Allison had died, I didn’t believe it, not because, at 89, he couldn’t have passed away, but because I was unfamiliar with the source. It wasn’t until I read it in the New York Times that I was satisfied it was true. This is exhausting over time.
But the one thing that gives me a modicum of hope is that a LOT of people seem really stirred up to engage in activism. As the Rev. William J. Barber II noted, A Dying Mule Always Kicks the Hardest. “Why Donald Trump’s election means ‘we must work together for a Third Reconstruction in America.'”
It has been stated by some that folk singer Judy Collins “discovered” Leonard Cohen because she was the first major artist to cover his tunes, starting with her sixth Elektra album, 1967’s In My Life, with Suzanne and Dress Rehearsal Rag.
She, however, would hastily disagree. On the liner notes of her tribute album to him, 2004’s Democracy Now, she writes: “what is more true is that he discovered me, and in that first year after our meeting, he told me I should be writing songs.” Subsequently, she did. They displayed a creative synergy, with her pushing him to perform, initially, at a WBAI (NYC) public radio fundraiser, quite literally. In return, she said, “I trusted Leonard more than anyone I had known…at times, more than myself.”
All these songs were sung by Judy Collins on Democracy Now:
Most of the songs on Democracy Now were previously recorded by Judy, but there were three songs newly recorded by her, all written by Cohen, except the Song of Bernadette, co-written with William Elliot and Jennifer Warnes.
And speaking of Warnes, who was a backup singer for Leonard Cohen in the 1970s, she also did a tribute album called Famous Blue Raincoat back in 1986, reissued with additional songs in 2007. Among the tunes, Song of Bernadette, Bird on the Wire, and
Of course, no Leonard Cohen discussion would be complete without the oft-covered Hallelujah. I opted for the version by fellow Canadian k.d. lang, which she initially recorded for an album of tunes by Canadian songwriters, 2004’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, and performed at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, CANADA.
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