Tag Archives: Willie Nelson

Honeysuckle Rose – The Willie Nelson Charm School

Honeysuckle Rose – The Background

”Honeysuckle Rose” is a 1980 movie that has little going for it other than Willie Nelson, Slim Pickens, and a fine soundtrack, including “On the Road Again,” which was written for this flick.

It turns out that for many of us those two characters and the music are enough. In any case, the final scenes are a treat for anyone who can tolerate humor and happiness.

Only a superficial understanding of the plot (a good thing, given that the story line does not offer much beyond superficial) is necessary to provide the setting. This summary is extracted from The New York Times:

Buck Bonham (Nelson) is a country singer/songwriter with a loyal following in his native Texas and the neighboring Western states. However, Buck hasn’t yet had the hit record that would make him a star nationwide; in the meantime, Buck and his band keep up a busy tour schedule, much to the annoyance of his wife, Viv (Dyan Cannon), and son, Jamie (Joey Floyd), who would like to see Buck at home every once in a while. As Buck wonders if he should press on with his musical career or call it quits, his close friend and longtime guitarist Garland Ramsey (Slim Pickens) announces he’s retiring, and suggests a good replacement — his daughter, Lily (Amy Irving). Lily had a crush on Buck as a child, and now as a full-grown and very beautiful woman, her infatuation has only increased with time. Consequently, Buck must choose between Viv and Lily as well as his home and his career.

Honeysuckle Rose – The Good Stuff

Absent from the Times account, however,  is the highlight of the movie – the concluding sequence which begins with Buck and Garland in Mexico wrestling over a pistol (Garland, you see, is trying to kill his best friend for fooling around with his (Garland’s) daughter. It’s funny. Trust me.), drinking copious amounts of tequila, and driving  the band’s bus (a school bus decorated as the Texas Lone Star flag)  back to the States in time for Garland’s annual ’s music festival. It ends, of course, with the salvation of Buck,  the charming ne’er-do-well, thanks to the love of a good woman.

Honeysuckle Rose – Buck & Garland In Mexico

Video from dynocounter

We join the music festival, already in progress. The key moment, by my lights, takes place when Viv, who has conveniently begun singing “Two Sides To Every Story,”  turns around to see that Buck, her adulterous husband, has returned. Buck flashes just the right semi-smile – and all is forgiven.  (I’ve been working on duplicating that same semi-smile since 1980.)

Willie Nelson and Dyan Cannon, Two Sides To Every Story

Video from dynocounter

And, just in case anyone is in doubt about the outcome, the denouement is unmistakeably laid out (along with the final credits) in an outstanding rendition of the hymn, “Unclouded Day,”  which  closes the show.

Willie Nelson and Dyan Cannon, Unclouded Day

Video from dynocounter

Other Heck Of A Guy Posts Featuring Willie Nelson

New & Improved Leonard Cohen Concerts


Dreaming The Impossible Dream – Producing A Concert  Worth What Ticketmaster Charges

To: Leonard Cohen Business Management Team
From: DrHGuy, Ghost Lyricist, Marquee Manager,  & Concert Consultant
Re: Improving Leonard Cohen’s Concerts To  Increase Gross Revenues and Enhance Return On Investment

The Problem

While initially disappointed that you opted to forgo my previous offer to improve Mr. Cohen’s Lyrics, I now see that this choice, its incomprehensibility notwithstanding,  may have been one of those blessings in disguise about which one  hears so many good things.

After attending the New York Beacon Theatre concert, I realized that in Mr. Cohen’s case,  the low hanging fruit that would fall directly to the bottom line, bang for your buck-wise,  lies in modestly altering the content and arrangement of his concerts.

Of course, Mr. Cohen can continue to limp along with a string of sold-out concerts, standing ovations, and positive reviews, but even if he’s  willing to settle for just getting by, what’s  going to happen in 15 years when that next World Tour comes around?

Unless  seeds of interest are sown now in a new generation of concert-goers  and the current fan base is continually nourished, Mr. Cohen may take the stage in 2024 only to gaze upon the ignominy of an empty third balcony seat that Ticketmaster couldn’t peddle even after slashing the price to $17,322.

The Proposal

I’ve included some preliminary ideas to prevent that catastrophe. We can negotiate fees and other details later.

Covers:  Mr. Cohen may not be aware of this phenomenon, but singers performing songs originally sung by another entertainer is quite popular in some circles. Including one or two  such numbers would offer a change of pace in the program. I suggest, however, that the benefit would be far greater if  the cover ties in to the performance somehow.

For example, the first concert of the official US tour is, I believe, in Texas. Imagine, if you will, Mr. Cohen being  joined by Willie Nelson to open that concert with a stirring rendition of “Whiskey River”  (by the way,  does Mr. Cohen still have that buckskin coat because I know Willie has one and the two of them dressed like that would be a hit in Texas), and, at the start of the song, the unfurling of  a massive Lone Star flag  behind – are you ready? – Leonard Cohen and Willie Nelson, The Texas Troubadours.

Makes you want to stand up and cheer – maybe even heave a beer bottle, doesn’t it?

Or, for something less rowdy, Leonard could sing Waylon’s part on “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).”

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There’s only two things in life that make it worth livin’
That’s guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women
I don’t need my name in the marquee lights
I got my song and I got you with me tonight
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love

Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas with Leonard and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’ got us feuding
like the Hatfield and McCoy’s
Between Hank Williams pain songs, Newberry’s train songs
and blue eyes cryin’ in the rain, out in Luckenbach Texas
ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain

Now, you can’t   tell me that doesn’t fit. There’s even a nice tie-in with Hank Williams for a segue right into “Tower Of Song.”

Or, instead of tying the song into the location, it could connect with something topical.  Mr. Cohen has been admirably straightforward about money being a major motivation for the current tour because of his fiscal losses due to fraud. Why not take it to the next level?

The audience seemed taken with his performance of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” in a poem format. We could add a second recitation of, say, the 1959 Barret Strong hit that everyone from the Beatles to Paul Revere and The Raiders have covered.

The lights dim except for the spotlight on Mr. Cohen and his back up singers. He gazes soulfully into the audience and, after a long pause, begins the incantation in those deep, raspy tones only he can produce,

The best things in life are free
But you can keep ‘em for the birds and bees;

Now give me money, (that’s what I want)1 that’s what I want,
(That’s what I want) That’s what I want (That’s what I want) yeah,
That’s what I want.

Your lovin’ give me such a thrill,
But your lovin’ don’t pay my bills;


Money don’t get everything it’s true,
What it don’t get I can’t use;


Well, now give me money, (That’s what I want)
A lotta money, (That’s what I want)
Oh yeah, I wanna be free, (That’s what I want)
Oh, lotta money, (That’s what I want)
That’s what I want (That’s what I want) yeah,
That’s what I want.

Well, now give me money, (That’s what I want)
A lotta money, (That’s what I want)
Wo, yeah, You need money (That’s what I want)
Gimme money, (That’s what I want)
That’s what I want (That’s what I want)
That’s what I want.

For comparison, here’s how the Flying Lizards handle the same song.

In fact, it’s hard to go wrong with covering any of the classics such as

  • Build Me Up, Buttercup
  • In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
  • Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (I Got Love In My Tummy)
  • Louie, Louie
  • Shout
  • Margaritaville

Turning The Excitement Level Up To 11


Yep, I’m thinking Lenniepalooza.


I suspect Mr. Cohen’s presentation is too dignified and, well, I’ll say it – too sophisticated to translate well into traditional souvenirs such as t-shirts.

On the other hand, the audience response to the line, “I’m your man,” led me to the obviously desirable Leonard Cohen retail remembrance.


Low production price and high consumer demand – a marketer’s dream.

Managed Audience Participation

The problem is that everybody wants to be the one handing roses to Leonard Cohen or calling out songs suggestions to him or yelling “I love you, Leonard” so he’ll respond with “I’m fond of you too.”

What if we stretched the participation model as far as possible by emulating the followers of the  Rocky Horror Picture Show?



Think about an entire audience wearing fedoras and double breasted suits. There could be batches of sublime Webb Sisters and irreplaceable Sharon Robinsons as well as band member doppelgangers carrying their tenor saxophones, ouds, and other instruments. Think about hundreds of Leonard Cohen wannabes in the crowd. And there would be no reason to limit characters to those working the show that night. Lots of folks are bummed about Anjani not being on the tour but she could certainly be represented in the audience, and the same goes for Perla Batalla, Julie Christensen, Jennifer Warnes, … .

The world’s inventory of blue raincoats would be instantly depleted.

Peer pressure would keep everyone on script.

Just think – Cohen starts with “I was just a kid” and the crowd, in unison, joins in, “With a crazy dream.” And when he comes out for that encore singing, “I tried to leave you,” the audience responds “But we tied you to this table in the Tower of Song.”

Opportunities for props and enactments abound. When the list of  pharmaceuticals begins with “I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, … ,” cascades of capsules would fill the air.

What could highlight the wonderful insight, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in” better than a theater full of flashlights being turned on when that line is sung?

Or, how about “And if you want a doctor I’ll examine every inch of you” signaling the onset of half the audience performing a focused physical on the other half?

Picture the audience flocking to the stage to demonstrate “White man dancing” and “White girls dancing.”

Or, even better, men dancing on polka-dots and women tearing their blouses off.

The mind reels.

Anyway, you get the idea. Have your people call my people.

  1. Parenthetical portions are sung as background by backup singers []

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – The Fun Facts


It’s Everywhere

This morning,  A Thousand Covers Deep,  the database of covers of Leonard Cohen songs at LeonardCohenFiles.com, contained 181 versions of Hallelujah. For the record, Suzanne is still (barely) the most covered Leonard Cohen song, with 185 versions listed at  A Thousand Covers Deep.

Of those 181 versions,  Willie Nelson provides The Heck Of A Guy  Hallelujah cover du jour.1  This version is neither especially obscure or well-known and lacks the intensity of, say, kd lang’s or Allison Crowe’s, but I have a fondness for Willie and, after the X-Factor stylings of the song, it is a pleasure to listen to a professional rendering of Hallelujah.

Willie Nelson – Hallelujah

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My Old Kentucky Blog has collected a chorus2 of the Hallelujah covers and made them available for downloading.

The BBC News offers an audio quiz on the Hallelujah covers at Do you know your Hallelujahs?

Wikipedia’s incomplete  list of movies and TV shows featuring Hallelujah follows:

Basquiat, The Edukators (Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei), Shrek (covered by John Cale in the movie and by Rufus Wainwright on the soundtrack), St. Ralph, Deliver Us from Evil, Kissed by Winter, Feast of Love, Barfuss, Lord of War, When Night is Falling and TV series such as Holby City, House, Falcon Beach, The L Word, The O.C. (twice by Jeff Buckley, once by Imogen Heap), Hollyoaks, The West Wing, Without a Trace, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, ER, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Crossing Jordan, Drama and Nicole, Rescue Me, LAX, Roswell, Ugly Betty, Numb3rs, Scrubs, Mum, Heroin and Me, Friends, Nearly Famous and One Tree Hill.

In an editorial context, the song has been used in the Third Watch and Without a Trace episodes dealing with the 9/11 events. “Hallelujah” was played at the closing of NBC’s Dateline on April 17, 2007, covering the Virginia Tech massacre. During the playing of the song, a montage of photographs regarding the events of the tragedy was displayed. Additionally, Cale’s cover was used for the closing of the Stuff, a short film about John Frusciante in 1994 by Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes. After the shooting massacre at NIU, the song was covered during a montage of YouTube users’ responses to the massacre. The song, as covered by Christina Marie, could be heard at the end of the montage on Fox News Tonight with Shepherd Smith. On the September 29, 2008 broadcast of Late Show with David Letterman, the song (performed by Rufus Wainwright) was played over a farewell montage for actor Paul Newman, who had died three days earlier.

The most significant response to the publicity and sales garnered by the X-Factor use of Hallelujah has been from fans of the 1994  Jeff Buckley version:

Buckley’s version of Cohen’s song is sitting at #43 on the U.K. singles chart because, according to NME.com, Buckley fans have been buying it in protest of the X Factor releases. A Facebook group has even been set up to encourage Buckley’s fans to buy his version of “Hallelujah” and send it to #1 over the X Factor contestants’ covers.3

Speaking of Jeff Buckley, Rolling Stone reports that

During his famed early gigs at the New York club Sin-e, Buckley … called it [Hallelujah] an homage to “the hallelujah of the orgasm” and had misgivings about his sensuous rendition: “I hope Leonard doesn’t hear it.”

Still speaking of Jeff Buckley, there are several versions (covers?) of jokes on the net that have to do with the X-Factor renditions of Hallelujah causing Jeff Buckley, who drowned in 1997,  to turn over in his grave as a proxy for the still-living and, therefore one assumes, grave-free Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen’s Record Label Must Have Really Promoted Hallelujah For It To Be So Popular

As it turns out, Columbia refused to release it, let alone promote it. On the other hand, the Columbia exec did contribute a telling quote (see bold portion in excerpt below):

Wikipedia explains,

Cohen’s label Columbia Records refused to release Various Positions in the United States. Walter Yetnikoff, president of the company, called him to his office in New York and said, “Look, Leonard; we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good4  It was subsequently picked up by the independent label Passport Records. The album was finally included in the catalogue in 1990 when Columbia released the Cohen discography on compact disc. A remastered CD was issued in 1995. [my emphasis]

What Does It All Mean?

Let’s start with a couple of quotes from the writer:

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means “Glory to the Lord.” The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say: “All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value.” It’s, as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion. Leonard Cohen5

Here there is an ironic and warm “feeling.” I wanted to get into this tradition of the composers who said “Hallelujah,” but with no precisely religious point of view. And then I realize there is a “Hallelujah” more general that we speak to the world, to life… It’s a rather joyous song. I like very much the last verse. I remember singin’ it to Bob Dylan after his last concert in Paris. The morning after, I was having coffee with him and we traded lyrics. Dylan especially liked this last verse, “And even though it all went wrong, I stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.” Leonard Cohen6

Long, dense explications of Hallelujah on the Internet may well outnumber the covers of that song. For a serious but not ostentatious or pseudo-scholarly consideration of Hallelujah, I suggest Hallelujah!, a London Times article by Bryan Appleyard. This piece, which examines Hallelujah’s content vis-à-vis its popularity in movie and TV soundtracks,  is succinct, accessible, and insightful, albeit not groundbreaking. An excerpt follows:

What then became really odd about the song was the utterly contradictory way in which it was used and understood. This was, in part, due to the fact that Cohen seems to have written at least two versions. The first ended on a relatively upbeat note:

“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah!” It was this ending, curiously, that Dylan especially liked, as he told Cohen over coffee after a concert in Paris. Cohen sang him the last verse, saying it was “a rather joyous song”. (Incidentally, during the same conversation, Cohen told Dylan that Hallelujah had taken a year to write. This startled Dylan. He pointed out that his average writing time was about 15 minutes.) Anyway, for once, Dylan’s taste had led him astray, because the bleaker ending in the Buckley version is much better, in the sense that it is more consistent. There is no redemptive Lord of Song, the only lesson of love is “how to shoot at someone who outdrew you” and the only hallelujah is “cold and broken”.

Encouraged by this apparently official duality, subsequent covers tinkered here and there with the words to the point where the song became protean, a set of possibilities rather than a fixed text. But only two possibilities predominated: either this was a wistful, ultimately feelgood song or it was an icy, bitter commentary on the futility of human relations.

Is There Any Other Bob Dylan Angle?

Well, as a matter of fact, there is this story Cohen tells:7

That [Hallelujah] was a song that took me a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Then I praised a song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, “Fifteen minutes.” [Laughter]

Why Did It Take Two Years To Write 4 Or 5 Verses?

As you may have heard, sometimes “it don’t come easy.”  Cohen wrote at least 80 verses to get it right, an effort that he recounts this way:

I filled two notebooks and I remember being in the Royalton Hotel [in New York], on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, ‘I can’t finish this song.’8

John Cale, whose cover of Hallelujah has been  used on Scrubs and in Shrek, reports that after deciding to sing his own version of Hallelujah in a tribute album, …

I called and asked him [Cohen]  to send the lyrics.  I had one of those old fax machines. I went out to dinner and my floor was covered in paper. There were 15 verses of this song. I went through and just picked out the cheeky verses.9

Show Me The Money

Sorry, the best I can do is show you how much money might be involved and what the news stories report about the money, but where the money ends up is one of those timeless mysteries.

From Music Downloads Have Got The X Factor and several other sources, we learn

This year’s X Factor winner Alexandra Burke has had the fastest selling download single ever in Europe this week. Her debut single, a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic ‘Hallelujah’, was released at midnight on Saturday, just 2 hours after she was crowned the winner of the show. It sold 105,000 copies on the first day of release, smashing the previous record set by the 2006 X Factor winner Leona Lewis, who sold 82,000 copies of her debut ‘A Moment Like This’.

Remember the bits about Jeff Buckley? Well, according to Hallelujah Set For Chart Trinity,

Jeff Buckley’s version of the song Hallelujah is set to shoot up the singles chart after X Factor winner Alexandra Burke released her own cover. According to midweek sales Buckley’s version, from the 1994 album Grace, is set to be number three, but Burke’s single will debut at number one.Burke, 20, has already broken the record for the fastest-selling download single in Europe.The original Leonard Cohen version of the song is currently at number 34.

If Buckley’s cover climbs any higher, this could mean two versions of the same song sitting at number one and number two in the Christmas charts. … Burke, who was crowned the X Factor winner on Saturday, has shifted 149,546 copies of her single so far this week. … However, fans of Buckley – who died in 1997 at the age of 30 – have united online in various groups and forums in a bid to get their icon to number one this Christmas.

There are 5-10 stories in different publications that are mirrors of Leonard Cohen To Net A Million?

Leonard Cohen could become £1 million (about $1.9 million Canadian) richer before the new year.

The Canadian singer, songwriter and poet is set to collect £1 million in royalties from the U.K.’s X Factor television show because the Canadian Idol-like program’s three finalists — Alexandra Burke, Eoghan Quigg and boy band JLS — have recorded their own versions of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as a single. One of them is expected to hit the top spot on the U.K. singles chart over Christmas, which means it could sell a million copies and downloads.

I had planned, in fact, to devote an entire post to this story. It was demoted to this afterthought of a paragraph when, after a batch of Internet searches, e-mails, and phone calls, the only confident conclusion I could generate, other than muttered scatological asides about sloppy reporting, was “Huh?” None of the million pound stories I found provided attribution. None even explained if the one million pounds was the result of a deal with the X-Factor show, royalties from CD sales, or, for that matter, hedge fund investments. None addressed the fact that Leonard Cohen had sold part but not all of his rights to Hallelujah. None mentioned that the record label might not pass along 100% of the funds to the artist. A partial exception is the Times story, Leonard Cohen makes it big from X Factor, which has it this way:

It is expected that Burke’s cover version – already the most downloaded X Factor single ever – will sell a million CDs and downloads. Based on the usual 10 per cent royalty, this will make 74-year-old Cohen £250,000 while, according to a leaked X Factor contract, Burke will receive only £150,000 of her £1m prize contract, the rest going on recording costs, videos and promotion. (There are, of course, other bonuses: the makers of the Mini have already given her a pink one as a gift.)

At least this article offers some rationale for the calculations even if the other need facts (e.g,, how the “usual 10% royalty” is divided between artist and record company) are missing.

For comparison, consider TV Scene Stealer Is New Star Of Itunes Generation, a March 14, 2008 Boston Globe article by Geoff Edgers, which backs up its assertion that “the rights to use a big song like ‘Hallelujah’ can cost as much as $40,000″ by attributing that estimate to Alyson Vidoli, “music coordinator for GO Music Services, which finds music for House, Dexter, and several other shows.”

Isn’t All This Play Going To Lessen The Significance Of Hallelujah?

I agree with Amanda Palmer of the The Dresden Dolls, one of my favorite groups, on this:

If you were to tell me that playing this song [Hallelujah] as a cover is totally cliche, I’d tell you so is breathing.10

  1. To Duke Of Derm: “Your faith was strong but you needed proof.” []
  2. On the Heck Of A Guy Blog, a group of Hallelujah covers is known as a chorus.” []
  3. Leonard Cohen To Net A Million? by Kate Harper.  CHARTattack  12/15/08 []
  4. Cohen, quoting Yetnikoff, in “Yakety Yak, 1994″ []
  5. Guitare et Claviers interview, 1985 []
  6. Paroles et Musiques interview, 1985 []
  7. Leonard Cohen From Songwriters On Songwriting by Paul Zollo Los Angeles 1992 []
  8. Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah!, Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick, June 14, 2008 []
  9. ‘Hallelujah’ emerges as life’s soundtrack by Geoff Edgers, New York Times News Service (published in Orlando Sentinel, March 20, 2008) []
  10. TV Scene Stealer Is New Star Of Itunes Generation,, by Geoff Edgers. Boston Globe March 14, 2008 []