We have always had a special place in our hearts for the music and bohemian lifestyle of Leonard Cohen. We can still remember the first time we heard him croon "Suzanne" and we knew that he had the magic touch of a poet and was a genuine explorer of love. In the documentary Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man we learned a lot more about this Canadian singer/songwriter's wry sense of humor, thirst for beauty, and ongoing spiritual quest. We also savored his many revelations about himself in the Book of Longing.
Now we have another great resource on the man, his music, and his adventures in A Broken Hallelujah by Liel Leibovitz, who teaches media and culture at New York University. He begins with a dramatic account of the gutsy singer and songwriter demonstrating his moral fiber by calming down a riotous crowd with his commanding presence during a mesmerizing rendition of "Bird on a Wire."
With enthusiasm and deep respect for Cohen's body of work, which revolves around theology, rock and roll, and orgasms, Leibovitz shines a light on Jewish eschatology, Zen Buddhism, Canadian poetry, and the rigors of wanderlust and melancholia. As a latecomer to a performing career, Cohen was hobbled for a while by stage fright but finally managed to get into the swing of things with a small coterie of fans.
After Bob Dylan got over his religious phase, Cohen stepped in to play the role of prophet and the spiritual seeker. Whereas other rock singers enjoyed the pleasures of sexual abandon, this Canadian, according to the author, saw sex as a pathway to redemption.
Leibovitz does a fine job wrapping things up with his account of Cohen's success with "Hallelujah" (recorded in 1984) and the rejuvenation of his popularity as an elderly performer in a jaunty hat. The ultimate gentleman, in his latest concerts the singer and songwriter is lavish in his praise for the musicians working with him! That's a sure sign that his Zen training has reached his heart and soul.