Hallelujah once again

Hallelujah was written by Leonard Cohen and first recorded on his 1984 album Various Positions. Since then the song has been recorded or sung by dozens of artists including Willie Nelson, k.d. Lang, Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi and Bob Dylan to name a few. Bono even did a horrendous spoken version of it to honor American artist Jeff Buckley, a fan of the spoken word, shortly after his drowning death. Of course, Cohen’s version is untouchable, but a few of the other efforts are noteworthy.

I’ve already posted Rufus Wainwright’s beautiful rendition of Hallelujah from the Shrek soundtrack. But this version, sung by a regular-Joe Norwegian Idol winner and a couple friends, apparently on a coffee break, has got to be my favorite. Kurt Nilsen, a gap-toothed former plumber with a beautiful voice, was told by an Idol judge, “You sing like an angel, but you look like a Hobbit.” Well, perhaps, a talented Hobbit about to go off into the blue for a mad adventure.

These four Norwegian lads, casually called the New Guitar Buddies by the local press, embarked on what was to be a low key six-show gig. Their unexpected popularity led to an amended schedule, a 30-show tour for more than 100,000 concert goers. The Buddies then released a live album, not part of the original plan, which became the fastest-selling recording of all time in Norway.

What the hell is it about this song?

13 thoughts on “Hallelujah once again

  1. AvatarPCMULKEY

    OMG! I do~ love that song! The sweet sensual version by Jeff Buckley – mmm mmm mmm – so sexy! From the biblical references to the musical references ” the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift ….” The whole song is according to LC, I believe, a reference to sex – the BIG “O”.

  2. AvatarMarie Walden Post author

    PC, I can tell by the upwelling of emotion I feel when I hear this song that it must have spiritual significance. It must!

    I think Hallelujah is about the loss of innocence and vitality that results from heartbreak. About giving up childish notions of perfect love and finding hope in a deeper and wiser understanding of it. Love is not a victory march/It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

    In the first stanza when Cohen talks about the chord, the disagreeable minor fall, the subsequent major lift. The implication is that both the fall and the lift are necessary to create something pleasing to the Lord.

    Hallelujah means Glory to the Lord. So couldn’t Cohen be celebrating the brokenness that comes through love, and rejoicing in the beauty of the paradox? Brokenness is, after all, the condition that precedes resurrection and rebirth.

    An alternate ending to Cohen’s song went like this: And even though it all went wrong / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.

    Maybe with the hope of ultimate joy ahead, he can discover beauty in the midst of pain and worship not the elusive creature, but instead her perfect Creator.

    Or maybe the song really is about orgasm. I don’t know.

  3. AvatarLuAnn Faucet

    I don’t know Marie, I mean have you ever experienced heartbreak or perfect love? I think everyone is just guessing at it. Don’t you think you would know if it’s about worship or just another orgasm. Besides, who really gives a fuck about some Norwegian jam band…i heard that the Irish can really throw down on the dance floor

  4. AvatarMarie Walden Post author

    LuAnn, I don’t think that there is anything perfect outside of God. And of course I’ve experienced heartbreak.

    I was kidding about the orgasm idea. A beautiful song written by a poet like Leonard Cohen could never be so base.

    I think I was attracted to the Norwegian band because it somewhat illustrates what Hallelujah is about–finding beauty in the midst of, well, brokenness.

    And I’ve heard that same thing about the Irish.

  5. AvatarDiann

    It’s just another beeyootiful ballad from the source of most of the greatest poet/songwriters of our time. I have several theories about why Canada is the birthing nation of such auspicious talent and vision. Whether it’s the long, cold winters that gather the muses to search within for inspiration and dreams outside the icy confines of their nests, or more likely a lot of them share their Buddhist spiritual development amongst the many extremely active centers up there. Besides Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, K.D. Lang, Rufus Wainwright and many others, my all time favorite is Bruce Cockburn and of course, my dear friends Mo Kauffey and Peter Boag.
    Canada, oh Canada!

  6. AvatarMarie

    Political correctness, revisionist history, corporate-controlled media, intrusive government. In the US we are not taught to think honestly, critically nor creatively. Even what we are permitted to feel comes from without, as opposed to within.

    It’s difficult to breed beautiful poet/lyricists in a country of unintellectual isolated automatons.

  7. AvatarDiann

    Agreed.
    I think what Cohen is trying to say is that it doesn’t make any difference how you struggle to get to enlightenment, the paths all lead to the same place and there are many. “It doesn’t matter which you heard…..”
    Definitely, a reference to his own struggle and search…..being Jewish and spending 5 years in a Buddhist meditation center, he is an ordained Zen monk, but still refers to himself as Jewish.

  8. AvatarMarie Walden Post author

    I totally agree. You can tell by my analysis that I am still firmly entrenched in the Judeo-Christian ethic. Intellectually I believe in many paths, but my understanding is limited by ignorance. I don’t have a spare 5 years to spend studying and meditating! Anyone have a copy of Enlightenment for Dummies?

    And, oops, I accidentally got rid of the video. I’ll need Alpha Editor to put it back. For now I’ll just link to it.

  9. AvatarDiann

    You don’t need that book, Marie. You are already on your own path. I absolutely loved a recent interview I heard excerpts of, and I didn’t even know who they were interviewing, and his explanation of “paths” being everything from music, to art, literature, science, and all other areas of work and study, including organized religions, were paths to enlightenment. Some were just faster than others, but they all end up at the same place. There’s a glimmer of hope for me.

  10. AvatarHayden!

    Please, please, please!! Send me the music notes for their version it’s so much better than the one I sing!!! Please. I’m really begging. Please

    From Hayden

  11. AvatarThe 13th

    Cohen obviously has been a soul-searcher all his life. He especially finds the Christian Bible rich in lessons and prime for metaphorical allusions.

    I think it’s great how the song begins “you don’t really care for music, do you?” – then proceeds to sing anyway.

    This song’s been covered so many times and in so many ways – it’s not surprising the lyrics have changed from poet to listener’s interp.

    Obviously it’s about one-sided love – and perhaps not being “singular” at all, even when denied. “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a lonesome ‘hallelujah'” he reveals the crux of the problem: he was deeply in love with her, and to her he was merely a conquest or fancy.

    But I agree, Marie, the final Hallelujah on this person’s lips is not for regret, but to praise that love (even broken love) is a gift.

  12. AvatarJonah

    It mirrors the first chapter of Song of Songs. aka Song of Solomon.

    So Solomon had 2 major hits nearly 2900 years after he died.

    That’s not bad.

    Hank Williams had a hit 35 years after he died with “Tear in my beer”.
    Beethoven had a hit 150 years after he died with “a Fifth of Beethoven”
    (yeah, the old dude rocked! or at least discoed)
    Bach had 2 hits 200 years after he shed the mortal coil, “Lover’s Concerto” by the Toys and Camp Granada–although I might be mis-crediting him with the second.
    Some unknown Irish flautist had a hit 2000 years +/- with Morning Has Broken aka Bunnesan.

    Solomon holds the “record” though.
    …and just think, we already have one generation who just won’t understand that last pun…
    His other hit song was by the Byrds.

    Being ANY flavor of Jewish including Christian is to be immersed in an Eastern mysticism that’s really incompatible with Capitalism or Western Culture in total.

    The story of David and Bathsheba would have been written down either in his own time, at the risk of pissing him off “royally” (another pun there) which, from the records, was a really dangerous thing to do, or in the lifetime and probably at the expense of his son… and, Bathsheba’s son as well.

    Essentially Solomon would have been admitting that Mommy and Daddy were guilty of at least two capital offenses.

    Thus the references to David in the song.

    Solomon himself was notorious for having a quick-release codpiece.

    In an amazing twist on Near East philosophy, though, he doesn’t blame the ladies very heavily, he admits time and again that his troubles with the women were his own fault for being a dummy..

    …and Hallelujah reflects that theme…

  13. AvatarMarie

    Leonard Cohen is obviously a brilliant, spiritual and complex man. I would love to understand the lofty inner workings of his mind.

    Does any one have a copy of Hallelujah for Dummies?

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