Song Of The Day – “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen

leonardcohennewskinToday’s Song Of The Day is a track from Leonard Cohen’s fourth studio album New Skin For The Old Ceremony. The song derives from the Unetanneh Tokef prayer that is said on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Days. The song is sung as a duet on the album with fellow Jewish folk singer, Janis Ian.

Leonard Cohen: “That song derives very directly from a Hebrew prayer that is sung on the Day of Atonement…according to the tradition, the book of life is opened and in it is inscribed all those who will live, all those who will die for the following year…In that prayer is cataloged all the various ways in which you can quit this veil of tears. The melody is, if not actually stolen, is certainly derived from the melody that I heard in the synagogue as a boy. But, of course, the conclusion of the song as I write it is somewhat different…”who shall I say is calling”…that is what makes the song into a prayer for me. In my terms, which is who is it, or what is it that determines who will live or who will die.”

The album also includes the Leonard Cohen classics “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a song about a sexual encounter Cohen had at the Chelsea Hotel with Janis Joplin, “Take This Longing” and “Field Commander Cohen.”