July 17, 2006


You may remember a couple Christmases back, we got absorbed, Chez Althouse, in playing all the versions of "Blue Christmas" we could find. Here's a look at all the versions of "Hallelujah," the incredibly beautiful Leonard Cohen song. I found that via Metafilter, where they are talking about this entrancing rendition of the song. Then there's this Ask Metafilter discussion of what the lyrics mean.


Joseph Hovsep said...

I love this song, especially these beautifully bitter lyrics:

"All I ever learned from love is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you"

PatCA said...

Lovely...I think I like the Wainwright version better. I can still remember the first time I heard it.

Oh, and Leonard Cohen is a genius.

Internet Ronin said...

If anyone wants to sample about 20 different versions of this song, check out My Old Kentucky Blog Ann - there is even a Dylan version recorded live (just for you ;-)

After listening to far too many versions already, I guess my favorites are Rufus Wainright and k.d. lang with Jeff Beckley right behind. Depending on my mood at any given moment, I could just as easily say one was much better than the other.

That said, when Wainright sings "you don't care for music, do you," he says "you" not "ya" and that bugs me every time I hear it. I think Wainwright expresses the deepest emotion from the get-go.

I love k.d. lang's voice. Her start is standard k.d. fare but it builds so beautifully after that.

To me, Beckley's is intentionally understated but no less powerful (although I read that many interpet his quieter emotion as being non-existant).

Contrary to many who posted comments on Metafilter, neither I though the Cale and Cohen versions weren't in the same league.

Dave said...

Jeff Buckley's versio is best, IMHO.

Ann Althouse said...

Internet Ronin: Thanks, I didn't notice that I hadn't done the link for the main thing I was trying to link to!

PatCA said...

I think it's about emotion and faith, two things that must be experienced, not explained. The 'secret chord' is that mystery; we search for it without knowing what it really is because its experience is beautiful, terrible, and grander than ourselves.

The Catholics say a prayer before communion that goes "Lord, I am not worthy, say only the word and my soul shall be healed." I always wondered what the "word" was--I guess Cohen would say it's hallelujah.

Ann Althouse said...

The Dylan one is pretty excruciating.

Internet Ronin said...

The Dylan one is pretty excruciating.

You notice how I said it was there just for you? Well, I figured if I had to endure that, you should too, although I bet I turned him off faster than you. ;-)

Wm said...

I love it when this song appears in "Shrek."

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Only 5 months and 8 days until Christmas.

You know Mel Torme wrote "The Christmas Song" in the hottest part of the summer. They wanted to think cool, Christmasy thoughts.

Smilin' Jack said...

These discussions of the "meaning" of the lyrics remind me of the guy who stands in front of a modernist painting trying to figure out what it "is." It's poetry--it doesn't "mean," it evokes.

And Jeff Buckley's version is the best...it's overplayed for a reason.

Sharon said...

Almost all of these are wonderful, but the most deeply moving cover of it I've ever heard is by Ari Hest. He finger picks a 12 string (which is very difficult), his falsetto is heartbreaking, and his restraint is impeccable. You'll get the chills listening to him. Here's the link to download it: