From The Daily Swarm:
Unmediated is a new feature here at The Daily Swarm where we take two fascinating eminences in the music world who share something in common, and then force them to communicate via the magic of social media. True to the title, this conversation is unmediated by the presence of a journalistic moderator, and is allowed to veer unmoored into topics however esoteric, disparate, and over extensive as the subjects care to be.
For the inaugural column, we’ve chosen two figures bound together by destiny – both acclaimed authors who have chosen the same unique and individual subject, and approached him with distinctly different strategies. Sylvie Simmons is one of the U.K.'s most cherished voices in music writing, from her sprawling, intensive features in MOJO to books like the first-ever book on Mötley Crüe (sorry, Neil) to her gripping biography of Serge Gainsbourg. Nothing previous in Simmons’ career, however, prepared for the masterwork she published in late 2012. Now based in San Francisco, Simmons spent many years crafting I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen – one of the most trenchant music biographies you’ll ever read. In it, Simmons details the rise, fall, and rise of one of rock’s most enduringly iconic songwriters, scissoring through his infamous mythologies with incredible research and insights.
Strangely, in the same year as Simmons put out her tome, Alan Light, a revered veteran of American music journalism, put out his own take on the Leonard Cohen legend – but from a decidedly different tack. In The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah, Light drew upon critical and investigative skills he’d honed during his stints as the top editor of Vibe and SPIN and an illustrious stint at Rolling Stone to explore the impact of just one song: Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” In this idiosyncratically specific exegesis, Light draws out compellingly what transformed this once-unheralded song into perhaps the most ubiquitous standard of recent times, from Cohen’s original to versions alternately rendered by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Bon Jovi, and seemingly every contestant on singing-competition shows. In the process, it becomes an essential view into not just Cohen’s composition, but the various forces of culture, pop and otherwise, that rocketed this song into the collective consciousness in slow motion.
Taken together, these two books become indispensably complementary; reading both of them one after the other, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve finally pieced together the elusive soul of Leonard Cohen’s unlikely ascent into posterity. So, naturally, we wanted to see what happened when we put these authorities together in unloosed conversation via Facebook’s chat function. The oh-so-lightly edited results follow: