Olana

Album: Burning the Daze (1998)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is a tough one to understand, but fortunately Cohn has told the story to give it context.

    Olana is the name of the picturesque estate in New York's Hudson Valley owned by the landscape painter Frederic Church (1826–1900). In 1967, it was designated a historic site and opened to the public. The mansion is an architectural wonder, and in 1997 was featured in a story that ran in Architectural Digest. Cohn picked up a copy of the magazine when he was staying at an inn in Connecticut.

    Cohn learned that Church was a very popular artist whose career was curtailed by crippling arthritis. He turned his passions toward his estate at Olana, filling it with art and other treasures. And while he loved Olana, he was devoted to his family.

    In a Facebook post, Cohn explained: "His story about his family life and his creative life and his deep love for both resonated with me. Immediately after reading the article I started writing the lyric. As soon as I hit upon the idea of writing it in the first person - as Frederick Church - I was off and running."
  • The word "Olana" (like "Ophelia") is a great one to sing, as it's bookended by soothing vowels. "I loved the WORD," Cohn wrote. "It drew me in. It sounded pastoral and mythic and it rolled off the tongue. I even remember thinking it sounded like the name of a song Don Henley might write. Glad I saw the article before Don did!"
  • After Cohn got the idea for the song, he retreated to his room at the inn and started working on it, using a cheap keyboard he had with him to compose the music. Using a preset drum pattern and a "Springsteen-esque synth sound," he put the track together.

Comments: 1

  • Volker from HamburgMarc Cohn explained the meaning of the name "Olana" as follows: Frederic Church "called this house Olana, which means treasure house, house filled with the things that are important to you."
    Wikipedia (Olana State Historic Site): "Church and his wife Isabel (1836–1899) named their estate after a fortress-treasure house in ancient Greater Persia (modern-day Armenia), which also overlooked a river valley."
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