Judy Collins sings ‘Hallelujah’ over new Leonard Cohen doc at Tribeca Film Festival

Judy Collins is singing the praises of Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan, not so much. “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” unspools Sunday, June 12, at the Tribeca Film Festival. A tribute concert featuring Collins follows the screening. She is driving through Colorado when we chat. She says she loves the film, but this song? Not at first. And she wasn’t alone.

GD: It’s remarkable that this song ever got recorded, isn’t it?

JC:  (Laughs) It was a bust at first. No one wanted it. It had something like 4,000 verses when it started. Then people started recording it and the rest is kind of history. I didn’t like it at first. Now I’m entranced by it. He’s an icon and my story with him is a kind of fairy tale.

GD: How did you two meet?

JC:  He came to my apartment. It was 1966. He was a published poet.

GD: They can be romantic, those published poets.

JC:  (Laughs) We never had an affair, thank god. We did big favors for each other. He wrote songs for me, but he said I should write my own songs. We went out on the road after his manager stole all his money. When I write a song sometimes now I think, “That’s Leonard talking to me.”

GD: How important was New York to the two of you?

JC:  It’s just an incredible resource for all artists. I moved here in ’61 and never looked back. I couldn’t live anyplace else.

GD: We are all about awards, but I think this is our first time covering a Nobel. Bob Dylan won in 2016 and even though you’re friends that didn’t sit well?

JC:  A poem is not a song, the actions of the Nobel Committee not withstanding. They simply aren’t. Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize (for literature) does not change that fact. Unfortunately they did that instead of creating a new section for Dylan and they cut out a Nobel poet out of a prize that year. I’m sorry to say this but it’s true.

“Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” is directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. It features Collins, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Brandi Carlile and Eric Church.

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