Monday, April 27, 2009


One night last week I was sitting in front of my computer, too tired to do anything useful, so I went to Youtube and typed in "Hallelujah." Started checking out versions of Leonard Cohen's masterpiece. Jeff Buckley's is stunning. Rufus Wainwright's is beautiful, although he insists on losing the rhymes for the hook. I had never heard the John Cale recording before, and that was amazing (piano, fiddle, cello).

There's also a young woman named Alyssa Bernal who was a surprise. At a glance I assumed that she had acheived her popularity on her looks (sexist? I suppose, but listen/look at some of our other currently singers, make and female) . Turns out she has a great voice. On the other end of the scale we have Dylan's recording, which was not so impressive.

This all popped into my head because I happened to see a review of the movie Watchmen (which I haven't seen), by Marvin Olasky in a Christian magazine in which he complains that "It's pornographic in part, most obnoxiously in a sex scene that uses Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as sacrilegious musical background."

My question is, does Olasky think Cohen's song is sacriligious, or is it just the use of it in a sex scene that he finds to be so? If the former, I'll grant him his opinon. If the latter, I think he's missing the point of the song, which seems to be about the spirituality of lust.

I may have missed one, but I don't think any recordings on Youtube included the last verse, which Cohen sang a live recording. It has the to-die-for line "I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch."

Watching the piano versions where Cale and Wainwright pour out endless sets of triplets I was thinking: Hmm, some Celtic band ought to record it as a jig. 6/8 time. Wouldn't that annoy people?

Here is Mr. Cale's version.

ceremonial cabbage

The first Saturday in April, the 4th, was cool but beautiful in Bellingham, Wa. We made sure to be downtown before 10 AM for the annual opening of the farmer's market in the City of Subdued Excitement. I was there with someone who recently moved to town so I made sure she had a good view as Mayor Dan Pike officially opened the year by throwing out the ceremonial First Cabbage to the young daughter of one of the vendors.

As people applauded I told the newcomer. "Well, that's it. The highlight of the year in Bellingham."

A woman nearby nodded her head solemnly. "Subdued excitement."