The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan Light“A venerated creator. An adored, tragic interpreter. An uncomplicated, memorable melody. Ambiguous, evocative words. Faith and uncertainty. Pain and pleasure.” Today, “Hallelujah” is one of the most-performed rock songs in history. It has become a staple of movies and television shows as diverse as Shrek and The West Wing, of tribute videos and telethons. It has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, and k.d. lang, and it is played every year at countless events—both sacred and secular—around the world.
Yet when music legend Leonard Cohen first wrote and recorded “Hallelujah,” it was for an album rejected by his longtime record label. Ten years later, charismatic newcomer Jeff Buckley reimagined the song for his much-anticipated debut album, Grace. Three years after that, Buckley would be dead, his album largely unknown, and “Hallelujah” still unreleased as a single. After two such commercially disappointing outings, how did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy, a song each successive generation seems to feel they have discovered and claimed as uniquely their own?
Through in-depth interviews with its interpreters and the key figures who were actually there for its original recordings, acclaimed music journalist Alan Light follows the improbable journey of “Hallelujah” straight to the heart of popular culture. The Holy or the Broken gives insight into how great songs come to be, how they come to be listened to, and how they can be forever reinterpreted.
John Cale - Hallelujah (Lyrics) (best version)
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Buckley's version is the most enduringly popular and critically acclaimed cover of the song to date. John Cale selected the verses by Leonard Cohen which most covers have since followed. 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. Since , "Hallelujah" has been performed by a wide variety of singers: over , and in various languages. I think it's a good song, but I think too many people sing it.
Apr 12, It has been adapted, re-interpreted, and re-written countless times. Through " Hallelujah," the song teaches us, is a refrain worthy of times of.
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Hallelujah is the song we will all be singing this Christmas, although not necessarily in praise of the Lord. For all its air of religious devotion, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is a very secular ballad of desire and rejection, failure and transcendence. It is set to become the most philosophically complex Christmas number one in the history of the pop charts. Three versions are currently competing for that honour, Cohen's stately original at a lowly number 34 , the late Jeff Buckley's towering recording currently at three, driven by an internet campaign to save the song from the clutches of Simon Cowell and the firm favourite from X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. Leonard Cohen and the X Factor is not an obvious union. For one thing, if the veteran singer-songwriter had ever auditioned, he wouldn't have got past the first round.