I am deeply offended by the latest “cold opening” of Saturday Night Live, now widely disseminated around the Internet. It features Kate McKinnon as a pretend Hillary Clinton singing Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” then urging her supporters not to give up.
Such lack of taste, to co-opt the man’s legacy for partisan political purposes just as soon as he is no longer able to do anything about it. Cohen was always careful not to identify with or endorse any political tendency.
SNL and those reposting with praise show here an unforgivable lack of human decency.
And then this sick comment on a repost of the video on Facebook:
“Leonard Cohen would have approved. I have to smile when ‘christians’ use this song, not realizing that Leonard Cohen artfully blended his life, love, and personal worship with a metaphor of an orgasm. The song is too sacred to fall from their lips.”
Ironic: she says herself that orgasm is a metaphor to Cohen—as it is in Song of Songs in the Bible, in Kabbalah, in the Western mystical tradition as a whole. And yet she does not understand what she just said, and still supposes it is “really” just about getting laid. If it were, why even have a poem?
Lucky for Cohen that he is inscrutable to boors.
Time, perhaps, to repost this.
Leonard Cohen's Hat
In his current and recent tours, Leonard Cohen always appears on stage wearing a generous-brimmed fedora.
Maclean's magazine asked him why. His answer sounds like a dodge: he simply said “I’ve been wearing a fedora for a long, long time. This particular hat is from a little hat store just opposite my daughter’s antique store in Los Angeles. They have a very good hat store there.”
Changing the subject, in other words.
The immediate, cynical suspicion, might be that he is going bald. But he is not. That can be easily proven—he doffs his hat at times, and shows it hides a silver mane:
Nor is it a question of style—for it is not, despite the hint in his answer to Maclean's, a question of one particular hat, or style of hat. In Dallas, he appeared in a cowboy hat. For a long CBC interview recently, he wore a slouch cap:
And he wore it, in this case, even though he was at home, indoors.
The real reason he wears the hat is obvious. Leonard Cohen has become (or has long been) an Orthodox Jew.
Orthodox Jews, in line with the Halacha, traditionally keep their head covered at most if not all times. Even indoors, directly counter to the traditional Canadian practice.
Cohen's “fedora” is in fact a black trilby, the most traditional style of hat among North American Orthodox Jews. The rest of his standard dress also conforms precisely to the traditional halachic norms: covered arms, covered legs, shirt buttoned at the throat, no view of skin below the neck, and black in colour.
He dresses like a Rabbi.
It is remarkable that no one has noticed this; it is a measure of just how out of touch mainstream culture has become with the single most important subject of all, religion.
Cohen, accordingly, is probably wise to dissemble on the point. He knows what happened to Bob Dylan when he went evangelical.
Cohen has always been deeply religious in his sentiments; but everyone wants to believe that he is a Buddhist. Adherents.com lists him as the fifth most famous Buddhist alive:
This is particularly odd, since Cohen so far as I can tell has never claimed to be a Buddhist, and, when asked, has always said he is Jewish. In this, his experience is very much like—and probably informed by—Jack Kerouac, whom everyone also thinks is Buddhist, although he always claimed to be, as he was raised, Catholic.
It is, I think, the general experience of great artists. Most of them end up, if they do not begin, deeply religious. But their public, and even more their critics, academic and journalistic, are rarely able to follow them there. Either they lose their audience, and become uncool, or they conceal their true message behind parables and smokescreens of superficial beauty, hoping the truly discerning will yet have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Buddhism is a good screen, in the modern West. People think it is cool; people think it is an amoral religion, and so they feel safe around it.
Judaism, like Christianity and Islam, is uncool, because it comes with all those tiresome moral precepts.
But Leonard Cohen, I suspect, really believes in all those tiresome moral precepts.
“You don't know me from the wind
You never did, you never will;
I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible...”
By the way, notice who else always wears a hat?