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The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff…

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely…

by Alan Light

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Some of the early chapters were interesting - Cohen originally released this more than 30 years ago and wrote some 80 verses before deciding on the three or four usually sung. It was unknown in the popular community until it was used in the movie Shrek, and then later as background music for some of the disturbing 9/11 video montages.

It exploded into popular culture and is now a 'universal' song joining others such as 'Imagine' and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.'

I started out enjoying some of the earlier versions available on Youtube (Buckley, Cohen, the strangest rap version ever by Bono) - but there just isn't enough story here to fill a book and it devolves into almost tabloid accounts of lawsuits and the million-dozens who have recorded it.

Barely skimmed the last half of the book looking for nuggets. There weren't any. ( )
  streamsong | Jan 14, 2019 |
Rufus Wainwright's version is the one I've probably heard the most. K.D. Lang's version is my absolute favorite. I've only heard Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley's versions a few times. I love the song Hallelujah and I enjoyed this book.

I enjoyed hearing the differing interpretations of the meaning of the song. What I didn't know was that after first recording the song, Leonard Cohen continued to tinker with it and added, changed and deleted lyrics on a continual basis. So not only have there been many different arrangements of the music, there have been many different combinations of the lyrics performed.

Because of the fact that so many different verses and combinations of them are out there it makes sense that it's difficult to pin down the meaning of the song. Different combinations emphasize different sets of verses and therefore can make the song tragic, uplifting, sorrowful, sexual, or celebratory.

This book follows Cohen's original writing and recording of the song and then follows the song through many of its most important performers and performances. I will probably be scouring You Tube to hear many of them, but apparently there are a few pretty awful versions out there too. Because it's been covered by so many artists it's been on and off the charts in many countries many different times. In December 2008 there were two versions of the song (Jeff Buckley's and X-Factor Winner Alexandra Burke's) in the top two spots on the UK Singles Chart.

I liked this book. It's essentially a biography of a song and just happens to be about a song I like. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Jul 30, 2018 |
Great read - chronicles the evolution of the song Hallelujah from Cohen writing it to Buckley singing it and all over the world. Very informative and highly entertaining. ( )
  BethEtter | Dec 20, 2015 |
Can you knock an author down for being just too sincere? Alan Light's biography of the iconic song "Hallelujah", written by Leonard Cohen, enhanced by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, and Rufus Wainwright, and then destroyed by a zillion American Idol contestants, begins with an excellent introduction that could have served as a fine magazine article and that could have ended it. But he proceeds to do a good job, for the most part, of expanding the roles of John Cale and Jeff Buckley in their differing versions and recognition of Leonard Cohen's genius with a melody and with verses rarely if even sung. For those who have not read the riveting biography "I'm Your Man" by Sylvie Simmons (and you should!), the details of Cohen's exile and late life triumph are well told here.

The author does a fine job of enhancing our knowledge and appreciation. The kd lang and Regina Spektor sections are particularly winsome, and Bob Dylan's small but significant role is a treat. But the book is about 3 chapters too long, and I just wish the lesser lights had never been turned on. ( )
  froxgirl | Nov 10, 2014 |
If you really love the song "Hallelujah," you want to read this book. If you want to read the book for pleasure rather than just to be informed, sit near your computer or smart phone while you do so.

Most people probably discovered this song in the 21st century. Even if they know it was written by Leonard Cohen, they will probably be surprised to learn that he wrote it during the 1980s. And, no, he didn't just sit on it all these years. He really did include it on one of his albums at that time. But hardly anyone noticed it, and it was never released as a single.

In THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN, Alan Light covers "Hallelujah's" history since then and gives various artists' opinions about the meaning of the song and the reason it took so long to achieve the status it has today. This book can be fun to read, too; you can let it be interactive.

In relating the history of this song, Light covers the many artists who performed it over the years, especially Jeff Buckley. If you have a computer, you can search the particular name and "Hallelujah" and find a youtube.com video of that performance. So you can see and hear what Light talks about. I kept my iPhone next to me while I read the book so my reading and listening could be smooth, without much interruption.

THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN is not for everyone. It's great if you read the book interactively and if you enjoy this song so much that you won't get sick of hearing different people sing it over and over and over. If you are one of those people, then, in the end, you'll have a favorite. Mine's Justin Timberlake's version.

I won a copy of THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN as part of an Atria Books giveaway. ( )
  techeditor | Sep 7, 2014 |
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For Suzanne and Adam, with all my love
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The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum sits on the Columbia Point Penninsulaof Boston's Dorchester neighbourhood.
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Acclaimed music journalist Alan Light follows the improbable journey of Cohen's "Hallelujah" straight to the heart of popular culture and gives insight into how great songs come to be, how they come to be listened to, and how they can be forever reinterpreted.… (more)

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