Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Quite possibly the most beautiful lyrics ever written.
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"


I heard there was a secret chord
That david played and it pleased the lord
But you don't really care for music, do you
Well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah ....

Well 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 her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah .... .

Baby i've been here before
I've seen this room and i've walked this floor
I used to live alone before i knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah ....

Well there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me do you
But remember when i moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

Well, maybe there's a god above
But all i've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
It's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

--by Leonard Cohen, 1988 lyrics

The original recording from 1984 is noted for containing explicit Jewish references in the lyrics, alluding to David's harp-playing used to soothe King Saul (I Sam. 16:23), and his later affair with Bathsheba after watching her bathe from his roof. The line "she broke your throne and she cut your hair" is likely a reference to the source of Samson's strength from the Book of Judges. The third verse mentions "the name" (Tetragrammaton).

Singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley's copy has eclipsed Cohen's original in popularity. Rufus Wainwright also does a great job of covering it and so does John Cale. [More::]


Anonymous Tue Apr 04, 03:44:00 PM EDT  

I'll admit that this is one of my all time favorite songs. I knew the original from my youth and really grew to love the Jeff Buckley version in my angstful early 20s. :) Now, to have it pop up in places like the Shrek soundtrack - well, I guess it really just trancends, doesn't it?

Neha Wed Apr 05, 03:52:00 AM EDT  

yes I think its beautiful too. I first heard it on the season finale episode of The OC. The song is beautiful.

arratik Wed Apr 05, 11:39:00 AM EDT  

i had a creative writing professor in college who used to get all engorged over any kind of writing that juxtaposed the sacred and profane by combining sexual themes with religious imagery. seriously. all you had to do was write blunt and matter-of-fact sex scenes and make sure that there was at least a cross or a virgin mary painting somewhere in there and you'd be guaranteed an "a". i guess that lends an artifical air of "deep" to almost anything, even if the writer didn't intend it.

anyway, this guy was a huge leonard cohen fan - i remember he brought in a record player and forced everyone to listen to his recording of "suzanne" and essentially declared in front of a classful of freshmen that this was poetry. well, since most of the kids in the class were trying to get an "a" as well, they thought that the best way to do that was to emulate what the professor considered to be "good", so seeing a bunch of teenagers getting up in front of the class and reading their fake leonard cohen poems was very amusing...

it was probably because of that experience - that and the fact that i was heavily into punk rock, no wave and experimental music when i was introduced to him - i've never really been that big a fan of leonard cohen's. i don't think i ever really appreciated just how incredible was until hearing jeff buckley's cover of it. it never fails to give me a chill.

i've since grown to appreciate a lot of cohen's stuff, especially after his voice started to get all gravelly like tom waits'. but i still can't listen to "suzanne" with a straight face.

Sudeaux Lux Wed Apr 05, 02:27:00 PM EDT  

Anathea: It just keeps coming 'round; transcending generations.

Neha: It's such a beautiful melody that's woven throughout outstanding lyrics.

Syntax: I'm really beginning to understand you more and more. I was wrapped around Led Zeppelin, Zappa, Beefheart... how on earth could LC fit in with that? (I should have made that point in my post.) My psychedelic soaked brain happened to grasp the beauty of his lyrics, even if I thought his music sucked royally. Like you, it's only been recently that I've learned to appreciate his song writing skills.

Also not a fan of "Suzanne", I sang it for my supper a few times until I really hated it.

Love to read everyone's comments!


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