Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Does Leonard Cohen Listen to When He's Sad?

Without a doubt, he dims the lights, pours himself a glass of scotch, and puts on the Jacques Brel.

It kills me that the video cuts off before the music finishes, but that's the video with the best translation. I love that song for the reveal- in the middle you sort of wonder what he's getting all worked up about, and it isn't until the last couplet that you discover that his rising disgust is not directed at the stereotypical sailor in the narrator's imagination but at the narrator himself. "Amsterdam" debuted to a three-minute standing ovation.

If you've known me long enough, you may have noticed me in a state similar to the narrator in "Mathilde". I forgive you if you didn't notice because I'm sure I never articulated it so coherently.

Both of these songs were popularized in English by Scott Walker who used the loose translations written by Brill Building fixture Mort Schuman and Eric Blau for the musical review "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris", which enjoyed an off-broadway revival recently.

A Brel song that still tightens my gut every time I listen to it (like Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat") is "Ces Gen La." The impact of the performance is enhanced, in my opinion, by the sparsity of the arrangement. Unfortunately, the volume is a little low on the video but, again, it has the best available translation.

I hate ending on a downer, so I'll include something a little more upbeat. Heat it up, Marcel!

1 comment:

Gus said...

Wow. Thanks for linking all this great music, Aaron. The guy is bawdy and melancholy and awesome. Oddly, in the final clip with the longer hair he sorta reminds me of Dave Grohl.

Blog Archive