Humans of St. Luke’s: Mr. Henson

Georgia Rosenberg, Lynden Steele, Emma Tarleton ’19, Staff Writers 


This short story, told by seventh and eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Henson, is the first post of the new Sentinel series “Humans of St. Luke’s.”  This series was inspired by a New York based blogger, Brandon Stanton, who publishes photographs of people along with short stories or quotes. We decided to include this series in our newspaper in order to share the interests and experiences of our community. We gave Mr. Henson the freedom to share an event or story that resonated with him.


“I love the song Hallelujah. Your generation probably heard it through the movie Shrek. That version was done by a famous rock and roll singer named Jeff Buckley, who’s been dead since 1997. He died tragically at the age of 31. That song, by him, has been taken into the national historic record for the United States. I’ve always loved that song, but I knew, being a student of music, that it wasn’t actually written by him. It was written by a singer songwriter named Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen wrote that song in 1984, and it took him five years to write it. He ended up writing over 80 different couplets of lyrics. He was never ever happy with it.


Fast forward a bunch of years, and he was performing it in Greenwich Village, and another very famous musician named John Cale came in. He heard the song and he said, “Hey, do you mind if I record the song?” and he said,“Send me the lyrics.” So, Leonard Cohen sends him the lyrics – and it’s 15 pages of lyrics – for this song that, as we now know it, maybe only has 60 lines of lyrics. John Cale took the lyrics and basically took the ones that he thought all went together, and he put them together. And then John Cale recorded it on an album called “I’m Your Fan” which was a tribute album to Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen’s original recording of it was just panned, nobody liked it. John Cale records it on an album that nobody listens to… But then a girl happens to get the CD, and she’s friends with Jeff Buckley, whose career was just starting, and she plays the CD for him, he falls in love with the song, and he records the song.


The song that became famous was Jeff Buckley’s cover of John Cale’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s original song.


The point to this whole thing is that here was a guy who wrote this song, and it was a genius song, but he was never finished with it. He couldn’t sign his name to it. It was like a painting, he kept reworking it over and over and over again. Nobody ever liked it. Then he records it live for another musician. That musician has to make sense out of the song – he makes sense out of it. Then, along comes another guy who says “I’m gonna do it.”


So, there’s two different types of geniuses. This is a theory. There’s what’s called a conceptual genius and what’s called an experimental genius. And a conceptual genius is Picasso. Picasso would think of something and paint it right away, and it would just come out, and then he would move along to another thing. A lot of songwriters are like that. An experimental genius is like Cezanne. Cezanne would take his wife as a model and he would paint her over and over and over again and never be happy with it. He would sometimes try to destroy the canvases – he would never finish them. And the ones he ended up not finishing ended up becoming the best ones he ever did.”

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