Welcome to PhilosFX, the blog that asks, "If your life were a movie, would anyone watch?" We'll combine philosophy and special effects to explore a wide range of subjects. Some call it, "Technicolor Omphaloskepsis." I call it Life: examined, shared, and truly lived.
You have probably heard many versions of Leonard Cohen's classic song, Hallelujah. If not, do yourself a favor and have a listen right now:
This hauntingly simple melody and powerful, dramatic lyric have captivated me. Hallelujah draws on Biblical, sexual, and emotional themes to tell the story of life as an often bumpy but ultimately rewarding journey.
Cohen wrote the original song and lyrics in 1984, but then added some new verses in 1988. He subsequently performed several different arrangements of four or five verses from the set of seven that I know of. Then various artists began covering the song with their own arrangements. Consequently, there are many versions of the song floating around.
What I have done is to listen to 20 different versions, and captured the lyrics. Many artists have subtly modified the lyrics as well as the musical accompaniment to personalize the story.
I have arranged the verses below as I would like to hear them performed--as if I were going to perform this piece if I had the ability. I would love to hear someone record this complete version with the verses in this order, and with sparse accompaniment. I would like to hear the lyric performed by voice-as-human-instrument. These words deserve a singer who can sing with all the soulful expression of one who has fully and unashamedly lived the pain and the passion of this human life.
1 Holy mystery
Now I've heard there was a
That David played, and it
pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for
music, do ya?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, and the major
The baffled king composing
2 Lustful passion
Your faith was strong but you
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew
She tied you to
Her kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she
cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the
3 Sacred or profane?
You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really,
what's it to ya?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you
The holy or the broken
4 Cold and broken
Baby, I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked
I used to live alone before I
Yeah I've seen your flag
On the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
No it's a cold and it's a broken
5 Sad and wistful
There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to
me, do ya?
When I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
Yes every breath we drew was
6 Lost and lonely
Maybe there's a God above
As for me, all I've ever learned
Is how to shoot somebody who
Yeah but it's not a cry
That you hear at night
It's not some pilgrim who has
seen the light
No it's a lost and it's a very
7 Defiant: Down, but not out
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I learned to
I've told the truth, I didn't
come all this way to fool ya.
Yeah even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand right here before the
Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but
Versions I’ve heard, in order of preference
deep, soulful, powerful, the pinnacle, no one will ever top it
2.Rufus Wainwright: nasally, whiny, wimpy, but
somehow very touching and moving
3.Damien Rice: Clearly a Buckley knock-off, but he
out-Buckleys Buckley, in my opinion
4.Jeff Buckley: creepy caterwauls in the
candlelight are like a stab in the heart
5.Kurt Nilson: amazing voice, especially if you
like the country twang, but I want to hear the whole song, where’s the rest?
6.John Cale: a bit too mechanical and technical,
good, but lacking soul
7.Imogen Heap: hauntingly beautiful, just her
voice and only 2 verses, I want more
8.Renee Fleming http://bit.ly/Jk02XJ
Even the opera great cannot improve the stubbornly cultish standard. Her album
version on Dark Hope is a respectable attempt, but live versions on BBC and A
Prairie Home Companion grate on my ears. Her over-pronunciation of words sucks the soul
out of the original.
9.k d lang: many versions, all similar, with piano
accompaniment and soulful vocals, but I don’t care for her use of “our love”
instead of Cohen’s broader comment on love itself.
10.Sheryl Crow: good, solid acoustic version
11.Alexandra Burke: incredible voice, reverent,
soulful, just feel the Whitney Houston orchestration is overboard, this song
needs simple instruments
12.Allison Crowe: piano, a little fast, good volume
moderation but vibrato sounds like wavering, pronounce halleeluyah properly, lose
the smirk, what’s with Holy Ghost? Holy
Dove is a Pentecost reference; don’t change it until you don’t know what you’re
13.Damien Leith: slow the hell down and let that
nice voice wrap around the words
14.Willie Nelson: sings the older version, might as
well be singing Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
15.Jason Castro: nice try, son
I expected much, much better. This song deserves serious treatment
17.Bob Dylan: incoherent, just completely destroys
the power of the lyrics
18.You-Tube reeks of countless amateurish basement
home video covers which deserve no mention here.