My Favorite Of A Favorite: Hallelujah
I’ve been up all night, smoking cigarettes and drinking gin from a jelly jar.
No, but I always thought that’s what writers should do. It’s so Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
I actually have a cold, and can barely take in a breath without coughing. Smoking would be lethal.
However gin from a jelly jar? Do-able.
We all house images in our mind of how things should take place. Romantic images of the places we want to be, or the people we would like to become. My dear friend Karen was always amazed at my vegetable garden. She and the family would come up from the big city to my country home, and she would stand at the edge of it, looking at the ripening tomatoes and trellises of peas and beans. Then, every time, she would begin to wax poetic about how if she had a garden she would go out everyday with her long apron tied around her waist and gather the bounty; placing it in the scoop of it as she held the ends up, making a vegetable hammock.
I blame this:
The images we have in our mind are powerful. They paint over reality in a spectrum of water colored haze. They make the mundane beautiful and the beautiful ecstasy.
That brings me to Leonard Cohen.
I know, you’re thinking she’s going to hang herself this time folks. How the hell can she get from Laura Ingalls to Leonard Cohen.
Let’s find out.
There is nothing that can compete with Leonard’s version of Hallelujah. Nothing. No one can compete. Hands down. Fin!!
But there in lies the challenge. If Cohen’s interpretation of his own classic is my favorite of a favorite without challenge: then I must challenge it.
That’s what Laura would have done. She was feisty and spunky.
I can do better.
So I’ve gone on my quest.
So many covers of this song. The most recent/popular choice is probably Rufus Wainwright’s version from Shrek. Sadly, now a generation refers to this song as “The Shrek Song.” Not exactly what Cohen had in mind when he penned it. It’s a lovely rendition but that alone is enough to take it off my list. Sorry Rufus.
The second problem is that so many people tend to over sing it. They don’t understand that the power is in the words, and clutching their chest and crouching in pain isn’t necessary. Jon Bon Jovi, another fine singer in my estimation, really went, as I use to say in college, all Broadway on our ass. Singing on stage, and singing in front of a microphone are two separate interpretations Jon starts out over the top. Within the first few bars he’s wincing in pain. Stop it. We get it. You’ve been there. You’ve felt the pain of each word. Move on.
The trick is to make us hear the pain, not see it.
That leads me to kd lang. She has a flawless voice that can make you feel every emotion by the way she hits a note. Her inflection and intonation are so subtle you may not even notice it, but you will feel it. She will take you on a journey of heart rendering love.Don’t get me wrong, she uses her entire arsenal, putting herself in and out of the song, working the audience in subtle ways. When she hits the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift you not only hear the technical ability of her talent, but like Cohen, you also feel it being portrayed.
kd lang is able to water-color the images of this song in a performance that I’m sure Leonard must have thought worthy of his masterpiece.
Love, pain, and redemption; all generations have faced this. It’s the one thing all classes, cultures, and sexes share, as far back as Laura Ingalls Wilder.
OK, that sucked. They all can’t be gems.
Too much cold medication.