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Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah": In a wild journey from rejected songs to "unstoppable" classics

In 1984, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Madonna dominated the pop charts with"Born in the America" ​​and"Purple Rain". Each of the same year"Like Our Lady"— There was another classic that never saw the light of day.

Leonard Cohen'stowering song "Halelujah"was performed by Walter Jettnikov, then head of CBS Records, along with the rest of the"Various Positions" album. was denied. "He said,'Lenard, I know you're great, but I don't know if you're good,'" recalls the singer-songwriter who died in the new documentary. , Song "It will be held in the theater on Friday.

However, it turned out to be just a slight stumbling block of the song's long rise to the iconic song Pantheon. A victory for both patience and unmistakable brilliance, from the covers of John Cale and Jeff Buckley to "Hallelujah" to "Shrek" and "American Idol". It was a decisive decades of journey that I followed. Ubiquitous.

"Like a great wine bottle, it took years to prepare, so when it finally hit, it couldn't be stopped," said Cohen's original version of Hallelujah. John Lisauer — told the post.

A new documentary, “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song,” looks at the late singer-songwriter's classic song.
Courtesy of Cohen Estate
Leonard Cohen's "Various Positions" album

Today, it's a song that adds elegance, grandeur, and gravity to any significant occasion. "This is a song that people use at funerals and weddings, and it's used when a baby is born," said the newly updated book"Sacred or Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff. Buckley,&"says. The unlikely rise of "Halelujah"influenced the current documentary.

Cohen has been writing "Halelujah" for many years when he first performed for Lisauer in 1983. He said. "He was trampling on it with this little nylon [string] guitar, so we sat down in front of the piano and started playing like the gospel."

The lyrics are a mystery It's sloppy and the meaning is incomprehensible, but Lisauer quickly learned that "hallelujah" was special. "This is a really important song. It can be ridiculously huge. It can affect everyone." That was exactly what we expected. It was only 20 years too early.

Bob Dylan
Longarella Collection via Getty

Columbia Records, a division of CBS, said " "Various Positions" —and its future classic “Halelujah” —the album finally received an unprecedented US release on an indie label in 1985. Meanwhile, Cohen began experimenting with different versions of the lyrics for "Hallelujah" in his performance. Spiritual origin to a more secular and sensual realm.

When Bob Dylan discovered "Hallelujah" andcovered it on a tour in 1988, Cohen got a "great affirmation" as explained in the documentary. .. It was Bob Dylan who saw something interesting in the song at the time, "Wright said. "That's why he's Bob Dylan."

John Cale
Getty Images

Later, Velvet Underground co-founderCale covered "Hallelujah" {78 of the 1991 tribute album "I'm YourFan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen"}. In fact, it was Cale who edited multiple versions of the lyrics into the standard expressions we know today. And the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley first heard a remake of kale, which inspired therecord "Hallelujah"on his 1994 debut album "Grace." rice field. 

After Buckley drowned at the age of 30 in 1997, his more angelic and friendly "Hallelujah" take became the definitivefor many. became. "Wright said. "It feels like Jeff is whispering in your ears, and it's much younger. Leonard recorded this song when he was 50."

Jeff Buckley

However, "Hallelujah" is an important emotional scene of the blockbuster "Shrek" animated in 2001. In the documentary, Shrek co-director Vicky Jenson explains how edited the "naughty part" of the lyrics, truncating the songs in the movie. Shrek sings in the moviea version of Cale, but the hit soundtrack includes Rufus Wainwright's performance. 

After "Shrek" made the cross-generational home song "Halelujah", this song was "American Idol", "The Voice", "X Factor." In fact, 2008 After Alexandra Bark sang "Hallelujah"on the British "X Factor" at the finale, her version of the song became number one in the UK.

A scene from "Shrek"
© DreamWorks / Courtesy Everett Co

"Hallelujah" has become a timeless song. Cohen was "tickened about it," Lisauer said. In fact, a few days after Cohen's death and Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election, the song captured culture when Kate McKinnon played as Hillary Clintonat the cold opening of "Saturday Night Live." I did.

"It was that song that allowed you to turn around and get the feeling they were looking for," Wright said.

Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton on "Saturday Night Live."
NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via