According to the internet, the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, is the most beautiful song of all time. Internet users' favorite version of this often covered song was recorded by Jeff Buckley. Following is some information about this amazing song.
"Hallelujah" is a song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, originally released on his studio album Various Positions (1984). Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a cover by John Cale, which later formed the basis for a cover by Jeff Buckley. In recent years several cover versions have been performed by a large number and broad range of artists, both in recordings and in concert.
Musical composition and lyrical interpretation
"Hallelujah", in its original version, is a song in "12/8 feel", which evokes the styles of both waltz and gospel music. Written in the key of C major, the chord progression follows the lyric "it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift": C, F, G, A minor, F.
Cohen's original version contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and traitorous Delilah from the Book of Judges as well as the adulterous King David and Bathsheba: "she cut your hair" and "you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you".
Following his original 1984 studio-album version, Cohen performed the original song on his world tour in 1985, but live performances during his 1988 and 1993 tours almost invariably contained a quite different set of lyrics with only the last verse being common to the two versions. Numerous artists mix lyrics from both versions, and occasionally make direct lyric changes, such as Rufus Wainwright, a Canadian-American singer, substituting "holy dark" and Allison Crowe, a Canadian singer-songwriter, substituting "Holy Ghost" for "holy dove".
Cohen's lyrical poetry and his view that "many different hallelujahs exist" is reflected in wide-ranging covers with very different intents or tones of speech, allowing the song to be "melancholic, fragile, uplifting [or] joyous" depending on the performer: The Welsh singer-songwriter John Cale, the first person to record a cover version of the song in 1991, promoted a message of "soberness and sincerity" in contrast to Cohen's dispassionate tone; The cover by Jeff Buckley, an American singer-songwriter, is more sorrowful and was described by Buckley as "a hallelujah to the orgasm"; Crowe interpreted the song as a "very sexual" composition that discussed relationships; Wainwright offered a "purifying and almost liturgical" interpretation to the song; and Guy Garvey of the British band Elbow anthropomorphised the hallelujah as a "stately creature" and incorporated his religious interpretation of the song into his band's recordings.
In recent years "Hallelujah" has been performed by a large number and wide variety of artists. In addition to its first cover by Cale, the song has since been performed by almost 200 artists in various languages. Statistics from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); the Canadian Recording Industry Association; the Australian Recording Industry Association; and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry show that, prior to late 2008, more than five million copies of the song sold in compact-disc format. It has been the subject of a BBC Radio documentary and been featured in the soundtracks of numerous films and television programs. Different interpretations of the song may include different verses, out of the over 80 verses Cohen originally wrote.
In an April 2009 CBC Radio interview, Cohen said that he finds the number of covers of his song "ironic and amusing" given that when he first wrote the song, his record company wouldn't put it out. However, he now thinks the song could benefit from a break in exposure: "... I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it and the reviewer said - 'Can we please have a moratorium on "Hallelujah" in movies and television shows?' And I kind of feel the same way...I think it's a good song, but I think too many people sing it."
John Cale's cover first appeared on I'm Your Fan (1991), a Leonard Cohen tribute album, and later on his live album Fragments of a Rainy Season (1992). Cale's version featured vocals, piano, and lyrics that Cohen had only performed live. Cale had watched Cohen perform the song and asked Cohen to send him the lyrics. Cohen then faxed Cale fifteen pages of lyrics. Cale claims that he "went through and just picked out the cheeky verses."
Cale's version forms the basis of most subsequent performances, including Cohen's performances during his 2008–2009 world tour. It was also the version used in the film Shrek (2001) (although it did not appear on the film's soundtrack album).
In 2004, Buckley's version was ranked number 259 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The same year Time called Buckley's version "exquisitely sung," observing "Cohen murmured the original like a dirge, but ... Buckley treated the ... song like a tiny capsule of humanity, using his voice to careen between glory and sadness, beauty and pain... It's one of the great songs."
In September 2007, a poll of fifty songwriters conducted by the magazine Q listed "Hallelujah" among the all-time "Top 10 Greatest Tracks" with John Legend calling Buckley's version "as near perfect as you can get. The lyrics to Hallelujah are just incredible and the melody's gorgeous and then there's Jeff's interpretation of it. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of recorded music I've ever heard." In July 2009, the Buckley track was ranked number three on the 2009 Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, a listener poll held every decade by the Australian radio station Triple J."
Still, Buckley's version was not an instant hit, nor did Buckley live to see the full measure of the reception his recording would ultimately have; he died in 1997. The album on which it appeared did not go Gold in the U.S. until 2002, nine years after its release. In fact, like Cohen's original, the Buckley version was never officially released as a single, and the singer's cover first charted posthumously in 2006. In March of that year, Buckley had his first national Top 10 bestseller when "Hallelujah" went to number seven in Norway. In 2007 it made the top 3 on the Swedish charts. In March 2008 it hit number one in France. In April 2008 it topped Billboard's Hot Digital Songs in the U.S., where the sudden resurgence of interest catapulted Buckley's version past both Gold and Platinum status, the RIAA certifying the digital track on April 22, 2008.
The Buckley version has been widely featured in film and television dramas, including the series The West Wing, Crossing Jordan, Without a Trace, The O.C., Scrubs, House, Criminal Minds, ER, Third Watch, Ugly Betty and LAX, and the films Feast of Love, The Edukators, Vinterkyss and Lord of War. "Hallelujah can be joyous or bittersweet, depending on what part of it you use", Time quoted the late Buckley's publisher as saying of the track, and the magazine opined that its liberal use in some cases was "a tacit admission that neither the writers nor the actors could convey their characters' emotions as well as Buckley."
Canadian-American musician and singer Rufus Wainwright had briefly met Jeff Buckley and was struck by the singer, recording a tribute to him after his 1997 death. That song, "Memphis Skyline", referenced Buckley's version of "Hallelujah", which Wainwright would later record, though using piano and a similar arrangement to Cale's. Wainwright's version was featured on the album Shrek: Music from the Original Motion Picture, although it was Cale's version that was used in the film itself. The Shrek soundtrack, containing Wainwright's cover, was certified Double Platinum in the United States in 2003 as achieving sales of over two million copies.
k.d. lang recorded a version of "Hallelujah" in 2004 on her album Hymns of the 49th Parallel. She has several times been chosen to sing the song at major events, such as at the Canadian Juno Awards of 2005, where her rendition "brought the audience to its feet for a two-minute ovation." Lang also sang it at the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on the occasion of Cohen's induction into the Hall of Fame. Of that rendition, Cohen's partner, singer Anjani Thomas, said: "After hearing k.d. lang perform that song at the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2006 we looked at each other and said, 'well, I think we can lay that song to rest now! It's really been done to its ultimate blissful state of perfection'." Lang sang the song at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, before a claimed TV audience of 3 billion.
In 2006 the Norwegian quartet of Espen Lind, Kurt Nilsen, Alejandro Fuentes and Askil Holm released a cover of the song which became the fastest-selling hit ever in Norway, reaching #1 on VG-lista, the Norwegian singles chart, going double platinum (100K+ sales) in two weeks and eventually selling over 250,000 copies (8 x platinum).
The song remained listed on the Norwegian Top 20 for 37 weeks (week 26/2006 to week 11/2007)
The song also appears on the 2006 album Hallelujah Live, credited to Espen Lind with Kurt Nilsen, Alejandro Fuentes and Askil Holm, that also reached the top of the Norwegian albums chart.
Alexandra Burke, the winner of the fifth series of British reality television show The X Factor, released a condensed cover version of the song as a prize for her victory. It reached the Christmas Number One spot on the United Kingdom charts on 21 December 2008.
The release of Burke's cover created interest in the previous versions of the song, including a Buckley fan campaign to take Buckley's cover to the top of the Christmas chart in order to deny Burke the top spot. The campaign was fuelled by Jeff Buckley fans' dislike of The X Factor's commercialism and the song's arrangement, as well as a desire by this contingent to introduce younger music fans to Buckley's version. Burke herself was not enamoured of the choice of song, remarking "It just didn't do anything for me."
Burke's version broke a European sales record after selling over 105,000 digital downloads in just one day, breaking the previous record set by Leona Lewis. It sold 576,000 copies in its first week, becoming the fastest selling single released by a woman in the United Kingdom and the 2008 Christmas number one, while Buckley's cover charted at #2 and Cohen's original version at #36. On 28 December 2008, the UK Singles Chart listed Burke's version as the biggest selling single of the year, with NME announcing sales of over 1 million copies since its release. Burke's version is the 56th biggest selling single of all time in the United Kingdom. In the UK, it has sold over 1,200,000 copies.
Other cover versions
Bob Dylan was among the first to perform Cohen's song in concert with his earliest noted performance being in Montreal on 8 July 1988. Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe recorded a critically praised version of "Hallelujah" in a single take for her album Tidings (2003). Crowe also performed the song for a national television special broadcast annually across Canada each year from 2003 through 2008. Other notable artists who have covered "Hallelujah" include Brandi Carlile, Willie Nelson, Alter Bridge (Myles Kennedy) and Bono. Bono's version, which is mostly performed as spoken-word, was included in Tower of Song, an all-star tribute to Cohen in 1995. Bon Jovi has covered the song several times in concert, including on their 2008 Live at Madison Square Garden DVD.
British singer Kathryn Williams performed the song at an open-air concert in Regent's Park, which was later released on her 2004 album Relations. Acclaimed English songwriter and singer Imogen Heap covered the song as well. Progressive rock singer/songwriter Kevin Max covered the song on his album Between the Fence & the Universe (2004). In 2005 blues singer and guitarist Popa Chubby released Big Man Big Guitar containing a live version of "Hallelujah". Rea Garvey sang a version on the soundtrack to the German romantic comedy Barfuss.
International group Il Divo released a Spanish-language adaptation on their album The Promise (2008), which topped the charts in the UK. The song was performed by singer/songwriter Damien Rice at the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions when Cohen was inducted. That same year Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins recorded a classical-crossover version for her album Sacred Arias. Kate Voegele performed the song in character as Mia Catalano in the U.S. teen drama One Tree Hill. Also appearing on an album, her version made the Hot 100 Billboard charts and reached number 53 in the UK shortly after airing of the episode there.
Although Alexandra Burke won the fifth series of X Factor resulting in the release of her version, unreleased versions of "Hallelujah" sung by other of the show's finalists, Diana Vickers, Eoghan Quigg, and JLS, have since leaked on the Internet. Paramore covers the song as an introduction to their own song by the same title, "Hallelujah", in their live album The Final Riot! Lisa Hordijk, winner of the 2009 Dutch X-Factor released "Hallelujah" as her debut single, which went double platinum and remained at the top of the Dutch charts for ten weeks.
On April 16, 2010, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Richard Eaton Singers conducted by Jack Everly premiered a new arrangement for orchestra and chorus by Claude Lapalme. Also in 2010, the Maccabeats of Yeshiva University released Voices from the Heights, featuring an a capella version of the song to the words of the Jewish liturgy "Lecha Dodi". In May 2010 on Australia's Got Talent a version sung by 15-year-old boy Bobby Andonov led judge Dannii Minogue to declare, "Bobby, I have heard so many versions of that song, that is now my favourite version of that song and you can print that tomorrow". Tangerine Dream also covered the song in their 2010 album Under Cover - Chapter One. Neil Diamond recorded the song for his 2010 album, Dreams.
Accolades and achievements
- In 2005, "Hallelujah" was named the tenth-greatest Canadian song of all time in Chart magazine's annual readers' poll.
- The BBC commemorated the 25th anniversary of the first recording with an hour-long radio documentary, The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall, in which the song's history and numerous cover versions were presented and discussed.
- On 21 December 2008, "Hallelujah" became the first song in 51 years to occupy the first and second positions on the UK Singles Chart; The X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke's and American singer Jeff Buckley's covers were the two highest-selling songs in the week beginning 15 December 2008. Leonard Cohen's version attained the number 36 spot in the same chart.
- In the February 2009 issue of Blender, "Hallelujah" was featured as that month's "Greatest Song Ever" (a monthly feature).
I want to play in your town for you and 2 of your friends.