Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen song)

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Single by Leonard Cohen
from the album Various Positions
ReleasedDecember 1984
RecordedJune 1984
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Leonard Cohen
Producer(s)John Lissauer
Various Positions track listing
"Night Comes On"
"The Captain"

Hallelujah is a folk-rock song by Canadian singer/guitarist Leonard Cohen. It was first released on his 1984 album Various Positions.

Following its increased popularity after being featured in the movie Shrek (2001),[1][2] it has been re-recorded by many different artists including Jeff Buckley, Anand Bhatt, Rufus Wainwright, Allison Crowe, k.d. lang, Tori Kelly, and Damien Rice.

Background[change | change source]

The song draws references to David ("there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord", "The baffled king composing Hallelujah") and Bathsheba ("you saw her bathing on the roof") in its opening verses.

"Hallelujah" experienced renewed interest following Cohen's death in November 2016 and appeared on multiple international singles charts, including entering the American Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.

Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for "Hallelujah", with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.[3]

Differences[change | change source]

Numerous singers mix lyrics from both versions, and occasionally make direct lyric changes; for example, in place of Cohen's "holy dove", Canadian-American singer Rufus Wainwright changed it to "holy dark", while Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe sang "holy ghost".

Meaning[change | change source]

Canadian singer k.d. lang 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."[4] Former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page, who sang the song at Canadian politician Jack Layton's funeral, described the song as being "about disappointing people".[5]

Charts[change | change source]

Canadian singer Leonard Cohen wrote and performed the original version of the song
Chart (1985–2016) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[6] 59
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 75)[7] 13
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[8] 17
France (SNEP)[9] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[10] 55
Italy (FIMI)[11] 66
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[12] 27
New Zealand Heatseekers (RMNZ)[13] 1
Scotland (The Official Charts Company)[14] 30
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[15] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[16] 16
Switzerland (Media Control AG)[17] 2
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[18] 36
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 59

References[change | change source]

  1. Fetters, Ashley (2 December 2012). "How Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' Became Everybody's 'Hallelujah'". The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  2. "Singer backs Welsh 'Hallelujah'". BBC. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  3. Barton, Laura (18 December 2008). "Hail, Hail, Rock'n'Roll". The Guardian.
  4. Friend, David (November 14, 2016). "k.d. lang 'nervous' singing Hallelujah for Leonard Cohen". The Hamilton Spectator/The Canadian Press. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  5. Friend, David (November 11, 2016). "Powerful, essential, cliche: The complex life of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'". Times Colonist/The Canadian Press. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  6. "ARIA CHART WATCH #395". auspOp. 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  7. "Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  8. "Illegal name entered Leonard Cohen/Leonard+Cohen/chart?f=793 Leonard Cohen Album & Song Chart History" Canadian Hot 100 for Leonard Cohen. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  9. "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés - SNEP (Week 46, 2016)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  10. "Chart Track". Irish Singles Chart. GfK. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  11. "Classifica settimanale WK 46" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  12. "Dutchcharts.nl – Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100. Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  13. "NZ Heatseekers Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  14. "Archive Chart". Scottish Singles Top 40. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  15. "Spanishcharts.com – Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah" Canciones Top 50. Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  16. "Swedishcharts.com – Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah". Singles Top 60. Hung Medien. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  17. "Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart. Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  18. "Leonard Cohen: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  19. Trust, Gary (21 November 2016). "Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' Hits Hot 100 for First Time". Billboard. Retrieved 22 November 2016.

Other websites[change | change source]