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A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen
     

A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen

by Liel Leibovitz
 

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

Why is it that Leonard Cohen receives the sort of reverence we reserve for a precious few living artists? Why are his songs, three or four decades after their original release, suddenly gracing the charts, blockbuster movie sound tracks, and television singing competitions? And

Overview

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

Why is it that Leonard Cohen receives the sort of reverence we reserve for a precious few living artists? Why are his songs, three or four decades after their original release, suddenly gracing the charts, blockbuster movie sound tracks, and television singing competitions? And why is it that while most of his contemporaries are either long dead or engaged in uninspired nostalgia tours, Cohen is at the peak of his powers and popularity?

These are the questions at the heart of A Broken Hallelujah, a meditation on the singer, his music, and the ideas and beliefs at its core. Granted extraordinary access to Cohen’s personal papers, Liel Leibovitz examines the intricacies of the man whose performing career began with a crippling bout of stage fright, yet who, only a few years later, tamed a rowdy crowd on the Isle of Wight, preventing further violence; the artist who had gone from a successful world tour and a movie star girlfriend to a long residency in a remote Zen retreat; and the rare spiritual seeker for whom the principles of traditional Judaism, the tenets of Zen Buddhism, and the iconography of Christianity all align. The portrait that emerges is that of an artist attuned to notions of justice, lust, longing, loneliness, and redemption, and possessing the sort of voice and vision commonly reserved only for the prophets.

More than just an account of Cohen’s life, A Broken Hallelujah is an intimate look at the artist that is as emotionally astute as it is philosophically observant. Delving into the sources and meaning of Cohen’s work, Leibovitz beautifully illuminates what Cohen is telling us and why we listen so intensely.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/14/2014
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.)
Marc Dolan
“In A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen, Liel Leibovitz neatly limns the spiritual quest that underpins most of Cohen’s work, from Montreal to Tel Aviv and beyond. Less about Suzanne than ‘Suzanne,’ Leibovitz’s book highlights the novelist behind the songwriter, the poet behind the novelist, and the would-be prophet looming over them all.”
Alan W. Petrucelli - Examiner
“This is a wise book, and it asks poignant and incisive questions… The time is right for an elegant examination of the man’s work: his passions, his fears, his poetry, his anger, his loneliness, his redemption. The time is right for Leibovitz’s A Broken Hallelujah.”
Washington Post
“Lively, erudite and affecting. . . . Leibovitz makes a convincing case that Cohen has claimed his rightful place within the prophetic tradition that inspired him all along.”
David Yaffe - Christian Science Monitor
“A spiritual odyssey. . . . Thoughtful, ruminative . . . learned, eloquent
. . . artful and precise.”
Ruth Rosen - Truthdig
“An elegant, beautifully crafted book that Cohen's fans will instinctively understand.”
Naomi Tropp - Jewish Book Council
“Absolutely outstanding.”
1Heckofaguy. com
“Well crafted and captivatingly written.”
Library Journal
11/01/2013
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.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-06
A slightly different look at rock royalty. Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is one of rock's most polarizing figures. Those who love him do so rabidly and will soak up every morsel of music (or prose or poetry) that the baritone-voiced artist releases. One can assume that's also the case with biographies, since less than two years after Sylvie Simmons' phenomenal I'm Your Man was published, here comes another study of the revered Canadian troubadour. Though Tablet writer Leibovitz (co-author: Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization, 2011, etc.) doesn't add much new material to the Cohen biographical canon, his approach is certainly different than that of Simmons; it's considerably more academic. Religion was (and is) among Cohen's pet topics about which to write, and Leibovitz follows suit, at times even quoting the Bible to illuminate a concept. In one instance, he pulls a line from the book of Romans in a discussion about the Doors, noting, "The New and Old Testaments alike are books of waiting; the humans who populate them speak of salvation and cataclysm, but more than anything they linger in anticipation for God to act." That sort of academic verbiage permeates the discussions of Cohen's relationship with Judaica. On the plus side, Leibovitz's research and sources are impeccable, and there are plenty of good anecdotes to lighten up what could have been a dry study of this important performer. In an account of a 2008 performance, Leibovitz writes: "In true Zen fashion, it turned out that all he needed to do to let his songs state their case was nothing but accept Lorca's definition of duende and allow the tightly closed flowers of his spare arrangements bloom into a thousand petals." It's a tall order to follow up what is, in effect, a definitive work, but Leibovitz delivers a different sort of biography that Cohen fanatics should appreciate.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393244205
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/07/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
468,800
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet magazine and teaches at New York University. He is the coauthor of Fortunate Sons, Lili Marlene, and The Chosen Peoples. He lives in New York City.

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