The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah

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The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah

by Alan Light

Atria Books | December 4, 2012 | Hardcover |

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"A venerated creator. An adored, tragic interpreter. An uncomplicated, memorable melody. Ambiguous, evocative words. Faith and uncertainty. Pain and pleasure."

Today, "Hallelujah" is one of the most-performed rock songs in history. It has become a staple of movies and television shows as diverse as Shrek and The West Wing, of tribute videos and telethons. It has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, and k.d. lang, and it is played every year at countless events-both sacred and secular-around the world.

Yet when music legend Leonard Cohen first wrote and recorded "Hallelujah," it was for an album rejected by his longtime record label. Ten years later, charismatic newcomer Jeff Buckley reimagined the song for his much-anticipated debut album, Grace. Three years after that, Buckley would be dead, his album largely unknown, and "Hallelujah" still unreleased as a single. After two such commercially disappointing outings, how did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy, a song each successive generation seems to feel they have discovered and claimed as uniquely their own?

Through in-depth interviews with its interpreters and the key figures who were actually there for its original recordings, acclaimed music journalist Alan Light follows the improbable journey of "Hallelujah" straight to the heart of popular culture. The Holy or the Broken gives insight into how great songs come to be, how they come to be listened to, and how they can be forever reinterpreted.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 5.12 × 8.27 × 0.79 in

Published: December 4, 2012

Publisher: Atria Books

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1451657846

ISBN - 13: 9781451657845

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– More About This Product –

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah

by Alan Light

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 5.12 × 8.27 × 0.79 in

Published: December 4, 2012

Publisher: Atria Books

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1451657846

ISBN - 13: 9781451657845

About the Book

A fascinating account of the making, remaking, and unlikely popularizing of one of the most played and recorded rock songs in historyNLeonard Cohen's beautiful and heartrending "Hallelujah."

Read from the Book

The Holy or the Broken INTRODUCTION The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum sits on the Columbia Point peninsula of Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. It is housed in a striking I. M. Pei building, situated in dramatic isolation on a reshaped former landfill. This brisk February Sunday in 2012, President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, is opening a ceremony by invoking one of her father’s speeches. “Society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him,” she quotes him as saying in a 1963 address at Amherst College, honoring Robert Frost. “The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist, is to remain true to himself.” The occasion is the inaugural presentation of a new award for “Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence,” given by PEN (Poets/Playwrights, Essayists/Editors, Novelists) New England. The award committee, chaired by journalist/novelist/television executive Bill Flanagan, includes Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Paul Muldoon (poet and poetry editor at the New Yorker), Smokey Robinson, Salman Rushdie, and Paul Simon. The first recipients of the award are Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen. The honorees are both dressed in their latter-day uniforms: Berry in a sailor’s cap and windbreaker, Cohen in a dark suit with a gray shirt, topped by a fedora. In truth, the spotlight mostly stays squarely on eighty-five-year-old Berry. Paul Simon presents Berry’s award—which
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From the Publisher

"A venerated creator. An adored, tragic interpreter. An uncomplicated, memorable melody. Ambiguous, evocative words. Faith and uncertainty. Pain and pleasure."

Today, "Hallelujah" is one of the most-performed rock songs in history. It has become a staple of movies and television shows as diverse as Shrek and The West Wing, of tribute videos and telethons. It has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, and k.d. lang, and it is played every year at countless events-both sacred and secular-around the world.

Yet when music legend Leonard Cohen first wrote and recorded "Hallelujah," it was for an album rejected by his longtime record label. Ten years later, charismatic newcomer Jeff Buckley reimagined the song for his much-anticipated debut album, Grace. Three years after that, Buckley would be dead, his album largely unknown, and "Hallelujah" still unreleased as a single. After two such commercially disappointing outings, how did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy, a song each successive generation seems to feel they have discovered and claimed as uniquely their own?

Through in-depth interviews with its interpreters and the key figures who were actually there for its original recordings, acclaimed music journalist Alan Light follows the improbable journey of "Hallelujah" straight to the heart of popular culture. The Holy or the Broken gives insight into how great songs come to be, how they come to be listened to, and how they can be forever reinterpreted.

Editorial Reviews

"Reads like an investigative oral biography of a song. A true songography."
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