Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hallelujah: The power of music


Hallelujah was written by Leonard Cohen and first recorded on his 1984 album Various Positions. Since then the song has been recorded or sung by dozens of artists including Willie Nelson, k.d. Lang, Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi and Bob Dylan to name a few. Bono even did a horrendous spoken version of it to honor American artist Jeff Buckley, a fan of the spoken word, shortly after his drowning death.

I've already posted Rufus Wainwright's beautiful rendition of Hallelujah from the Shrek soundtrack. But this version, sung by a regular-Joe Norwegian Idol winner and a couple friends, apparently on a coffee break, has got to be my favorite. Kurt Nilsen, a gap-toothed former plumber with a beautiful voice, was told by an Idol judge, "You sing like an angel, but you look like a Hobbit." Well, perhaps, a talented Hobbit about to go off into the Blue for a mad adventure.

These four Norwegian lads, casually called the New Guitar Buddies by the local press, embarked on what was to be a low key six-show gig, Their unexpected popularity led to an amended schedule, a 30-show tour for more than 100,000 concert goers. The Buddies then released a live album, not part of the original plan, which became the fastest-selling recording of all time in Norway.

What the hell is it about this song?


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6 comments:

Klayton Elliot Kendall said...

Yeah, those fat, lazy vikings can sing, but I still prefer the original. (Probably because I've worshiped Leonard Cohen as a god since I was a teenager! Still, I admit that Cohen was always more of a poet than a vocalist.)

Marie Walden said...

I agree that Leonard Cohen deserves the throne. But these boys could share the seat at His right hand.

PC said...

OMG! I do~ love that song! The sweet sensual version by Jeff Buckley - mmm mmm mmm - so sexy! From the biblical references to the musical references ” the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift ….” The whole song is according to LC, I believe, a reference to sex - the BIG “O”.

Marie Walden said...

PC, I can tell by the upwelling of emotion I feel when I hear this song that it must have spiritual significance. It must!

I think Hallelujah is about the loss of innocence and vitality that results from heartbreak. About giving up childish notions of perfect love and finding hope in a deeper and wiser understanding of it. Love is not a victory march/It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

In the first stanza when Cohen talks about the chord, the disagreeable minor fall, the subsequent major lift. The implication is that both the fall and the lift are necessary to create something pleasing to the Lord.

Hallelujah means Glory to the Lord. So couldn’t Cohen be celebrating the brokenness that comes through love, and rejoicing in the beauty of the paradox? Brokenness is, after all, the condition that precedes resurrection and rebirth.

An alternate ending to Cohen’s song went like this: And even though it all went wrong / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.

Maybe with the hope of ultimate joy ahead, he can discover beauty in the midst of pain, and worship not the elusive creature, but instead her perfect Creator.

Or maybe the song really is about orgasm. I have no idea. But that would seem to be too simple for a poet like Leonard Cohen.

suesun said...

One of the best songs.... EVER. I've loved it for years and years and years and I never tire of hearing it. I enjoyed this version. Thanks for sharing. If there were a CD with all the covers ever made of Hallelujah, including the Leonard God's original, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Marie Walden said...

Sue, follow the link attached to the word artist and it'll take you to at least 30 different versions of Hallelujah. They are all free MP3s so you can download them all, which is what I did.

Some renditions are pretty great, others completely suck. This is a song that speaks for itself so when the artist tries to put too much of him/herself into it, I think it wrecks it. Just spoutin' my personal o-pinion agin'.