OK, so you probably cannot read my name in that list unless you click on the image and enlarge it. But in the "Song of the year" songwriting contest I didn't make the finals, however I did make the list of suggested artists. It's a list of people the staff of the competition, not the voters, considers being worth a listen. I'll settle for that. They listen to EVERYTHING. I doubt the people who vote in this competition can claim that!
As I've said before, songs can start from a variety of things...a melody, a subject matter, a chorus, a line...or in this case a few words.
As yet I have no idea where this song will take me, I only know it's powerful and dangerous ground. I was reading the news from around the world and couldn't help but notice how many problems were ultimately tied to religion. Either the goings on within a religion, the clash between two religions or the strained relationship between those of faith and non-believers. (It's interesting, given all the fanfare about whether or not America was ready for an African-American President, to realize that the appointment of an openly atheist President is even less likely for a long time to come.)
Anyway, I wrote this on a little notepad I keep by the side of my computer. I'm curious to see if it gets developed.
"Today in Washington, some are promising that [big government] will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.
"Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina -- we have our doubts." - Governor Bobby Jindal
Can someone tell me what planet this lunatic is living on? How does the Bush failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina suddenly become Obama's fault and the fault of big government?
Has he forgotten Bush was a Republican? Has he forgotten that his state would be a wasteland if not for outside money and help? Has he forgotten that his own party's lack of regulation of the financial markets is what started this crisis?
Chris Matthews got it right when he said the republicans had to have someone from outside Washington to deliver the response to Obama's masterful speech because nobody in Washington could have said half the things Jindal said without appearing completely stupid.
The republicans are digging a hole for themselves...and they cannot even see the shovels in their hands.
2/21/09 - OK, so one or two of my friends were dissatisfied with my rather glib review of Mr Cohen at the Beacon Theater. So here's a little more detail.
The band was, albeit slightly, better than when I saw him in Montreal. I just think it was time on the road and comfort with the songs. The differences were subtle - but real.
Leonard's voice was incredible. I was expecting some wear and tear from the touring schedule but apart from one missed high note in Hallelujah it was as good as it's ever been. The missed note had more to do with bad timing than bad singing - he was getting up from his much-liked kneeling position at just the wrong time to be hitting the high one!
The only noticeable absence (for me, as it's one of my all time favorite Cohen songs) was Avalanche. His performance of this haunting songs was one of the highlights of the Montreal performance. Sadly I notice it's also missing from the London performance that was captured on disc and DVD for the upcoming Live In London release. Clearly it was not part of the regular set but was included in his home town for reasons we'll never know. I'm just real glad I was there to hear it. Chilling. It's on YouTube if you want to track it down.
It was interesting to see which songs got the biggest reactions from the audience. It varied greatly between Montreal and New York. As you might expect, the songs clearly set in Montreal - especially Suzanne - got a huge reception in his home town, whereas Chelsea Hotel and other songs (Famous Blue Raincoat) with their overt references to New York got the biggest reaction in this city. And he did what I'm sure he's been doing at every port of call when he inserted the current location into Hallelujah...
"I did my best, it wasn't much - I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come (to New York City) to fool you"
One of the most startling moments in a stunning performance is when Leonard recites rather than sings A Thousand Kisses Deep - as I said to my friend Jeff who came to the concert with me. "...and those are the verses he chose not to use in the recorded version!" As I've said before, most writers would be thrilled to pen the verses that Leonard can choose to leave out.
Sharon Robinson's version of Boogie Street has been much applauded but personally, while I totally respect and enjoy her singing ability, I find the words need Leonard's gravitas to pull them off. The interplay between the two on the album version of the song works way better.
The Webb Sisters on the other hand totally make If It Be Your Will their own - it's simply a match of song and artists that achieves another unworldly level.
All I can say is if Leonard does a full US tour as they are saying he might, get tickets! If you are a fan you will feel you've witnessed the ultimate experience. And if you're not, you might just realize what the rest of us have been raving on about since 1968.
I am a great fan of technology and of the Internet in particular. But there is no question that the unregulated nature of the digital world allows for some weird happenings. Like my $20 book - or words to that effect - being offered by an English company for more than double the price! But since the book is only available in the US it would have to travel from here to England and back again if anyone bought it from this company and I guess that costs money. One thing is for sure, if they sold any copies I bet I wouldn't see a penny! So, Langton Info Services, England, email me and explain your business model.
I am leaving New York. My wife and I are leaving New York.
Two sentences I never thought in my wildest dreams I would write.
First because I never thought I'd get married. Second because I thought I'd live in New York for the rest of my life.
If I ever needed more proof that life takes you by surprise it's in the fact that not only are these two sentences true but I am very happy for them to be true.
I cannot get into the reasons why, after many relationships that were special and had chemistry and all that other good stuff, I married the woman I married. Let's just say that after 49 years of great experiences I found that "something extra" - something I didn't even know existed. Greater writers than me have taken entire books to try to capture what I mean, so I'm not even going to try.
But what about the city? The city I dreamed off as an English kid. The city that blew me away the first time I entered it - in a cab over the Brooklyn Bridge (I remember what I saw and what I felt like it was yesterday, not nearly 30 years ago). The city that I finally managed to live in from 1988 onwards.
This is the city in which I got married. It is the city that introduced me to the world of big business - managing to achieve the heights of being an Executive Creative Director of a worldwide advertising agency. And the city that made me write "You climb the mountain, you do what you have to do. You reach the top to find you don't like the view."
This is the city that brought me many friends and taught me that not all business leaders are truly leaders. I met idiots who failed upwards. And I met geniuses who slaved in the lower ranks.
This is the city, that for all its faults, I had to return to after an experimental four years in San Francisco.
I couldn't deal with the "niceness" of the city by the bay. I couldn't deal with the "political correctness" that had yet to travel East. I needed every other word to be an expletive beginning with F! I wrote a song about the years in San Francisco called Jaded Heart. It's on my album.
But, finally, we tired of New York. Even the great 'city of the world' is changing.
We found ourselves living in a neighborhood that was no longer a neighborhood.
We found ourselves living by the rules of the money-obsessed not the life-obsessed.
We found ourselves in a city that has forgotten its art-based history and embraced a dumbed-down future.
We saw local restaurants, coffee shops and bookstores unable to pay the rent that high-end brand stores, high-end, TV-chef restaurants and celebrity hangouts could afford.
The places that made our city special slowly disappeared. And the city itself became less special.
So, what do you do in these circumstances? You don't complain. You accept that right now a young man or woman is riding into New York in a cab over the Brooklyn Bridge filled with the hope that a dream is about to be fulfilled.
You don't deny them that dream - you get out of the way so their dream can be realized.
And so, my wife and I are leaving New York. We are headed for a new life in a home in the desert just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As a final goodbye to New York City we are having a leaving party and I'm giving a final live performance at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village on the 22nd of this month. I have sent out invitations this evening but, please, if you are reading this and do not receive an invitation let me know. Numbers are limited by the size of the club but I'd like to see as many NY friends there as possible.
Because in the end of the day cities may change, neighborhoods may change but life is made special by the people, not the places.
It may be the right time for us to leave New York - but we leave with great memories of great people and great times.