50 Shades of “Hallelujah”

I recently heard a beautiful version of “Hallelujah” sung by The Canadian Tenors. I had heard the song in church before and enjoyed it, but loved the version by the Tenors. Well, here, let me let you hear their version before I move on with this post…
Beautiful, yes? Or, maybe it’s just me, but I love it. So, anyway, having just heard this version live (minus Celine Dion and Oprah) I thought I’d post it here on the blog. But once I started researching it, the song…its meanings, its many variations…became an onion. Peel back a layer and there was something new and different waiting for me. And though I heard this song at a Christmas concert, it is by no means a religious song. 
Leonard Cohen wrote this song in 1984 and while he references the bible and the religious, his intention for the song’s meaning was a wider-ranging praise song about life. 
“Here there is an ironic and warm “feeling.” I wanted to get into this tradition of the composers who said “Hallelujah,” but with no precisely religious point of view. And then I realize there is a “Hallelujah” more general that we speak to the world, to life… It’s a rather joyous song.” (Interview:”Paroles et Musiques,”1985)
“I intended to say “Hallelujah”. There is a religious Hallelujah, but there are many other ones. When one looks at the world and his proper life, there’s only one thing to say, it’s Hallelujah. That’s the way it is….” (Interview:”Actuel” January 1985) http://www.leonardcohen-prologues.com/hallelujah.htm
Here is Leonard Cohen’s version from 1985. His own record label wasn’t interested in the song, and it attracted little attention…
Then, the song was covered by John Cale (of The Velvet Underground) in 1991. Here is that version…and if it sounds familiar it is because Cale’s version was used in the movie Shrek
John Cale’s version attracted attention and inspired singer Jeff Buckley to record it in 1994. This version attracted a lot of attention, although sadly, it only gained critical acclaim years after Buckley’s tragic early death. Here is Jeff Buckley’s version…

We’re not done yet! Because singer k.d. lang came along and sang a version that blew everyone away also. Here is her version from the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

If I haven’t bored you totally at this point, this article expounds in more detail on the many versions and their nuances of the song. Aaaand this post is the perfect display of why I get into trouble when I have to research something for a manuscript. I just needed to look up one thing! But I get sucked into these interesting places I knew nothing about and BOOM! I’m off track. But, honestly, this song has more meaning now that I know it’s beginning and it’s musical lineage.

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