Meaning of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah Song

Welsh musician John Cale compared the history of the Hallelujah song to a “lingering snowball effect”. The author of the composition Leonard Cohen, having performed his creation, did not impress the public. But his “snowball”, rolling down the mountain, began to acquire cover versions that conquered numerous charts and, in the words of the same Cale, turned Hallelujah into “one of the most beloved, most performed and most misunderstood compositions of all time.”

History of Hallelujah song

It is known that Leonard Cohen composed “Hallelujah” for several years and wrote about eighty verses, of which he later chose four.

The work on the song was a lot of work. As he later recalled, it got to the point that he literally hit his head on the floor, sitting in his shorts on the carpet in the hotel room.

Meaning of Hallelujah

The author was often asked what “Hallelujah” was about. Cohen briefly explained the main idea of ​​the Hallelujah song in an interview:

“Hallelujah” is a Hebrew word that means “glory to the Lord.” The song explains that there are actually many types of hallelujah. I say: “All the perfect and defiled hallelujahs are equal. It is a desire to affirm faith in life, but not in some formal, religious way, but with enthusiasm, with emotions.”

Guitare et Claviers, 1985

He also explained his understanding of the word “Hallelujah” as follows:

This world is full of conflicts and things that cannot be reconciled with. But there are times when we are able to … come to an agreement and accept this whole mess. That’s what I mean by Hallelujah.

The text of Hallelujah in the original version, published in 1984, is full of references to biblical stories: Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, as well as some others. However, Cohen emphasized that this is not a song about faith in God and religion:

I deliberately said hallelujah. There are religious hallelujahs, but there are many others. When you look at the world and your personal life, all you can say is “Hallelujah” … The literal translation is “glory to the Lord”, but this is not exactly gratitude, but a statement that there is a will that we cannot resist. What can we do in front of her.

Actuel 1985

Subsequently, Cohen gradually tried to move even further away from the biblical interpretation of the Hallelujah text, for which he significantly changed the text. Here is what he said in 1988, speaking in Antwerp:

I wrote this song… five or six years ago, and it had a hallelujah in it. And in this song there were references to the Bible, although they became more and more distant … Finally, I realized that it was no longer necessary to refer to the Bible. And I rewrote this song. This is the worldly Hallelujah.

That same year, Leonard similarly commented on Hallelujah at a concert in Reykjavik:

I wanted to move Hallelujah far into the secular world, into the ordinary world. Hallelujah – David’s Hallelujah – was also a religious song. And I wanted to point out that “Hallelujah” can manifest itself in things that have nothing to do with religion.

However, many interpreted the meaning of the song Hallelujah in their own way. For example, it is widely believed that it deals with the relationship between a man and a woman, from which love has long gone. And Jeff Buckley, one of the performers of the composition, once stated:

Anyone who listens carefully to Hallelujah will understand that this is a song about sex, about love, about life on earth. “Hallelujah” is not a bow to a revered person, idol or god, but the hallelujah of orgasm. This is an ode to life and love.

OOR

It will be interesting to know your opinion about the main idea of ​​the Hallelujah song.

Song recording and release

Hallelujah is featured on the album Various Positions, recorded in 1984 at New York’s Quadrasonic Studios. The president of Columbia Records, with which Leonard Cohen collaborated, refused to release it on his label, so the record was released by the independent company Passport.

Neither the album nor the song were particularly successful. It peaked at number 36 on the UK Singles Chart and failed to chart at all in the US.

Hallelujah cover versions

Hallelujah’s huge success story began with a John Cale cover that he recorded for the Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. They say he asked Leonard to send him the lyrics, and he faxed fifteen pages. As Cale later recalled, all he had to do was choose the most shameless of all the verses. John’s version is based on the style Cohen sang Hallelujah in concert.

Cale’s cover inspired many musicians to follow his lead and perform the song as well. One of the more famous versions of Hallelujah is by Jeff Buckley. It was she who first rose to the top of the charts and was awarded a place in the list of the 500 greatest songs of all time according to Rolling Stone.

In addition, Hallelujah has been performed by Bob Dylan, Rufus Wainwright, kd lang and many, many others. In total, over three hundred cover versions were recorded for the song. It is very often heard in films and on television. In addition, in many countries the composition is performed at almost all weddings and funerals.

Such a number of song performers is no longer to the liking of even Leonard Cohen, who once said:

I just read a review of a movie called “Watchmen” that uses it , and the author said, “Can you please put a moratorium on Hallelujah in film and TV shock?” And I feel about the same… I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.

CBC Radio, 2009

True, a few years later he changed his mind a little:

A couple of times there were other people asking if there could be a moratorium on Hallelujah. Should we listen to it at the end of every melodrama or every Idol? Once or twice I myself wanted to lend my voice to drown it out, but after thinking carefully, I realized that I was very glad that it was being sung.

The Guardian, 2012

John Cale’s Hallelujah is featured in the Shrek cartoon, but Rufus Wainwright’s version was included on Shrek: Music from the Original Motion Picture.

Pentatonix’ version of Hallelujah is now very popular. Watch the music video “Hallelujah”.

Questions and answers

Here is a short FAQ on composition.

  • Who wrote the song “Hallelujah”?

The author of words and music of the work is Leonard Cohen.

  • Isn’t Hallelujah a Beatles song?

No, this is a common misconception.

  • Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” song about God?

The author claims that this is a secular song.

  • What is the song “Hallelujah” about?

Read the breakdown above.

Hallelujah Lyrics

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and he 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 hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Your 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 hallelujah

You 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 hallelujah

I 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 hallelujah

“Hallelujah” Lyrics – Leonard Cohen

So I found out that there was a mysterious chord,
Which David played and pleased God
But you don’t really care about music, do you?
It sounds like this:
Fourth fifth,
Decline in minor, rise in major
The perplexed king composes: “Hallelujah”

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her taking a bath on the roof
Her beauty and moonlight won you over
She tied you to the kitchen table
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And made you say “Hallelujah”

You say I take the name in vain
But I don’t even know that name
But if so, what is it to you?
In every word
Flash Light
It doesn’t matter what you heard
Holy or desecrated “Hallelujah”

I did what I could, though not much
I didn’t feel so I tried to touch
I told the truth, I didn’t mean to fool you
But even so
Everything went wrong
I will stand before the Lord of song
And on my lips only “Hallelujah”

Chords of “Hallelujah”

C Am
I heard there was a secret chord
C Am
That David played and he pleased the lord
FGCG
But you don’t really care for music, do you
CFG
Well it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
Am F
The minor fall, the major lift
G Em Am
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Chorus:
F
Hallelujah
Am
Hallelujah
F
Hallelujah
CGCG
Hallelujah

Can you play “Hallelujah” on the guitar or other musical instruments? Can you sing Hallelujah beautifully? Share the video in the comments.

Song quote

It’s a pretty upbeat song. I remember singing it to Bob Dylan… He especially liked the last verse.

Leonard Cohen, Paroles et Musiques, 1985

Download “Hallelujah”

On Blimey you can not download for free the song Hallelujah performed by Leonard Cohen or other artists. You can listen to the track online and watch clips in good quality. Look for tabs, notes, backing tracks and versions for karaoke “Hallelujah” on thematic musical resources.

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