Saturday, 20 June 2009

I'm Your Fan

Longer-serving readers of this blog may recall the post I wrote back in December 2008 about Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" (Hallelu-you, or, Look What They Done To My Song, Ma). In it, I proposed that the song inoculated itself against appropriation because of the way the rhyme with "hallelujah" insisted on "do ya," "to ya," "outdrew ya," rather than "do you," "to you," etc. I thought it was a subtle but telling argument, and I admit I was rather pleased with myself.

Well, wouldn't you know? Last night the BBC4 TV channel had a bit of a Leonard Cohen night, and showed several bits of Cohen-iana, including Leonard Cohen Live in London -- a 17 July 2008 gig at the O2 Arena (sorry, it'll always be the Millennium Dome to me) from his recent, pension-plan restoration world tour. It was really very good, even though I was continually struck by how much the elderly Cohen has started to resemble not so much a ladies' man as a raffish cousin of William Burroughs (the hat may have had something to do with it). "Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire" were predictably moving, and I was impressed all over again by the prescience of "First We Take Manhattan." Is it really 21 years old?

But the thing was, when it came to "Hallelujah," he crouched forward and, grinning at the front rows, sang "But you don't really care for music, do you?" Not "do ya" but "do you." I was amazed. No doubt every other fan was stunned, too. All the way through, too. Every verse; no accident; absolutely intentional. Well.

It's almost as if he knew what I was going to write just four months later, and decided to have a little fun. Well, thanks a lot, Leonard.

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