A broken hallelujah Rock and roll, redemption, and the life of Leonard Cohen

Liel Leibovitz

Book - 2014

A meditation on the life of the Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist discusses his performing career, which began despite his crippling stage fright, to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company [2014]
℗2014
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
281 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 251-264) and index.
ISBN
9780393082050
0393082059
Main Author
Liel Leibovitz (-)
  • "Looking for the note"
  • The soul of Canada
  • The prophet in the library
  • Notes from a Greek isle
  • "One big diary, set to guitar music"
  • Waiting for the sun
  • "All close friends of the artist, please leave"
  • "There is a war"
  • "A secret chord"
  • "A manual for living with defeat."
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Leibovitz presents a thoughtful examination of the music of Leonard Cohen, the elegant Canadian wordsmith and musician, through a strong Jewish perspective. Tellingly, Leibovitz calls Cohen a prophet. He examines the musician's life and work through the angles of Jewish eschatology, Zen Buddhism, Canadian poetry, and American rock and roll, as well as "lust and lucre." Yes, there are biographical details here, but A Broken Hallelujah offers something else: a finely etched musical portrait of a complicated man—both highly spiritual and sensual—and the often exquisite music that he has created over many decades, austere and melancholy songs that dare to find beauty amid ugliness. Leibovitz himself has a distinctive voice and approach to Cohen's work as he looks at the influence two Jewish scholars had on Cohen, the Canadian poets Irving Layton and A. M. Klein. He explores the evolution of Cohen's public persona as the Poet, and states that the one theme that has consistently preoccupied Cohen is redemption, which he describes as "a discretely Jewish affair," "a wholly Canadian affliction," and unquestionably universal. "It was more than enough for a lifetime of work," he concludes. A sparkling and psychologically insightful perspective on a unique artist. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Leibovitz tracks Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen's career from classics like the late-Sixties "Suzanne" to the January 2012 album Old Ideas, his highest-charting release in America, to explain why Cohen is still big. [Page 68]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Fact and fandom blend together in this brief biography of Leonard Cohen, the unlikely elder statesman of rock and roll who began his career as one of Canada's leading poets. This is in part due to the self-mythologizing persona of the depressive, largely enigmatic singer, but also explains the Leibovitz's inconsistent tone. There are long, slow stretches of scholarly analysis concerning Cohen's place in Canadian literature and the relationship between his frequently morose lyrics and Jewish theology. Liebovitz isn't alone in praising Cohen's demanding lyrics, but some sections appear less biographical and more an insistent attempt to explain Cohen's status as "a connoisseur's choice," as opposed to a mainstream pop music icon. On "Suzanne" and "Sisters of Mercy," Leibovitz writes that they are a pair of "tightly knit creations, almost too perfect to live in this world." Still, Leibovitz manages a graceful celebration of Cohen's late-in-life renaissance, where his artistry and self-consciousness forged the iconic "Hallelujah," recorded in 1984, after 10 years' tormented labor. This vivid account of the stage-shy musician struggles to quell the author's admiration for Cohen, but succeeds in introducing this interesting, sometimes elusive life in song. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Fact and fandom blend together in this brief biography of Leonard Cohen, the unlikely elder statesman of rock and roll who began his career as one of Canada's leading poets. This is in part due to the self-mythologizing persona of the depressive, largely enigmatic singer, but also explains the Leibovitz's inconsistent tone. There are long, slow stretches of scholarly analysis concerning Cohen's place in Canadian literature and the relationship between his frequently morose lyrics and Jewish theology. Liebovitz isn't alone in praising Cohen's demanding lyrics, but some sections appear less biographical and more an insistent attempt to explain Cohen's status as "a connoisseur's choice," as opposed to a mainstream pop music icon. On "Suzanne" and "Sisters of Mercy," Leibovitz writes that they are a pair of "tightly knit creations, almost too perfect to live in this world." Still, Leibovitz manages a graceful celebration of Cohen's late-in-life renaissance, where his artistry and self-consciousness forged the iconic "Hallelujah," recorded in 1984, after 10 years' tormented labor. This vivid account of the stage-shy musician struggles to quell the author's admiration for Cohen, but succeeds in introducing this interesting, sometimes elusive life in song. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A meditation on the life of the Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist discusses his performing career, which began despite his crippling stage fright, to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

This meditation on the life of the Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist discusses his performing career, which began despite his crippling stage fright, to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 13,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A Broken HallelujahA Broken Hallelujah

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Brings to life a passionate poet-turned-musician and what compels him and his work.