Leonard Cohen was a lyrical genius. He was unique in popular poet putting poems to music rather than a songwriter writing songs, making him stand out from the crowd. He was a very special, deep person who made a mark on this world with his poetry and of course, his music.
It’s perhaps the most famous song written by Leonard Cohen, yet “Hallelujah” almost didn’t get released; and when it was, it passed almost unnoticed.
(“Various Positions” Version)
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, HallelujahYour faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, HallelujahYou say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did—well, really—what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, HallelujahI did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, HallelujahHallelujah, Hallelujah
Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for “Hallelujah”. The full version of the song has 15 verses
There are well over 300 versions of this iconic song From cover bands to some of the best musicians known, including Bob Dylan’s live version…
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I love this version with Celine Dion and The Canadian Tenors. Watch the sweet surprise…
It has also been sung by Bono in it’s original form, But this unique, lounge version by Bono is quite interesting…
Cohen’s lyrical poetry and his view that “many different hallelujahs exist” is reflected in wide-ranging covers with very different intents or tones, allowing the song to be “melancholic, fragile, uplifting [or] joyous” depending on the performer:
Bon Jovi’s popular version…
The Welsh singer-songwriter John Cale, the first person to record a cover version of the song (in 1991), promoted a message of “soberness and sincerity” in contrast to Cohen’s dispassionate tone;
Cale’s version forms the basis of most subsequent performances, including Cohen’s performances during his 2008–09 world tour. It was the version used in the film Shrek (2001), although it is Rufus Wainwright’s version that is used on the soundtrack album.
A beautiful Musical Interlude:
Jeff Buckley’s unadorned version, which is undoubtedly one of my favorites, is probably one of the more well known. It was on his 1994 Grace album. Buckley’s version was used in the soundtrack to the American TV series, The OC.
The cover by Jeff Buckley is more sorrowful and was described by Buckley as “a hallelujah to the orgasm”;
Crowe interpreted the song as a “very sexual” composition that discussed relationships;
Wainwright offered a “purifying and almost liturgical” interpretation
I find this to be one of the most crisp versions. So simple yet K.D. sings it with such passion, rather compassion. K.D. said in an interview shortly after Cohen’s death that she considered the song to be about “the struggle between having human desire and searching for spiritual wisdom. It’s being caught between those two places.
Her version brought me to tears. It is a great rendition of this song. Clearly, K.D. shows some emotion too…
AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON
Here is Il Divo’s Spanish rendition of the song…
Yiddish version translated and performed by Daniel Kahn:
And BRAVO to Fabio De Vincente’s Italian Version…
This Dutch unplugged version…
it doesn’t always come down to the famous that can make a song like this sound incredible. Listen to the sweet melodic sound of this girl singing into a well. The echoing, soothing sound of her voice is literally breathtaking.
And this beautiful, acoustical version…
And school choirs, especially this Killard House Special School choir…
“Hallelujah” is a Hebrew word, meaning “praise God”; but with its reference to Bathsheba, there’s sex as well as spirituality in the song. There is no “narrative”; it is, rather, a series of meditations.
As Cohen himself said: “The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.”
In honor of the celebration of Easter, here is Kelley Mooney’s spiritual version. Chilling….
Kelley Mooney’s, The Easter Story, “Hallelujah”
A crown of thorns placed on His head He knew that He would soon be dead He said did you forget me Father did you?
They nailed Him to a wooden cross
Soon all the world would feel the loss
Of Christ the King before His Hallelujah
He hung His head and prepared to die
Then lifted His face up to the sky
Said I am coming home now Father to you
A reed which held His final sip
Was gently lifted to his lips
He drank His last and gave His soul to glory
The soldier who had used his sword
To pierce the body of our Lord
Said truly this is Jesus Christ our Savior
He looked with fear upon his sword
Then turned to face his Christ and Lord
Fell to his knees crying Hallelujah
Took from his head the thorny crown
And wrapped him in a linen gown
And laid him down to rest inside the tomb
The holes in his hands, his feet and side
Now in our hearts we know he died
To save us from ourselves oh hallelujah
Three days went by again they came
To move the stone to bless the slain
With oil and spice anointing hallelujah
But as they went to move the stone
They saw that they were not alone
But Jesus Christ has risen Hallelujah
With all that said, I will end this story with an AMEN and a HALLELUJAH!
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