So, which version of the great song is going to hit the Christmas number one spot tomorrow? In one sense, I don’t really care. Cohen goes to the bank and recovers some of the millions his finance bloke nicked and a brilliant example of song-writing gets heard by a generation growing up on pap.
Mark suggests that this is music for adolescents and I wonder how old he is. Why? Because I grew up in the seventies when Leonard Cohen’s songs were called ‘songs to slit your wrists to’ – dour, morose and ‘deep’. But, contrary to Mark’s perception, I have found Cohen’s lyrics still haunt me after all these years in a way that few others’ do. Cockburn is a poet, Dylan gets behind the safe places of the mind and scratches away, Clapton captures the blues in a way few others can – and Cohen is a craftsman who creates lyrics that work at lots of levels.
Whatever we conclude about taste, though, the powerful thing about ‘Hallelujah’ is the way he suffuses spirituality with physicality and vice versa. He refuses to allow the dichotomy that disembodies spirituality and tacitly embraces Plato. This is why I think it is so good that this Christmas we will have a song at number one in the charts that ‘gets’ the point of Christmas: God opting into a messy and complicated world – not helping people escape from it. That, it seems to me, is what the Incarnation is all about. The Word became flesh – and we shouldn’t try to reverse the process just because it is less complicated.
Anyway, I’m visiting my parents in Liverpool and will reflect in the next couple of days on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s interviews on the global financial crisis and the possibilities for disestablishment of the Church of England. I bet you can’t wait…